After 1410 BC, Megara, Greece. Kairos 64: Sinon, The General.
No one minded the rain, at first, as long as it did not become another thunder storm sweeping off the ocean. Notere’s Syria had been dry. Padrama’s India was dry, apart from the monsoon rain that broke at the end, which they did not feel because Devi protected them. Then Rachel’s Egypt had been extra dry. Lockhart could not swear he saw a cloud the whole time they were there.
“Definitely Greece,” Lincoln decided. “It looks like the last time we were here, in Amphitrite’s day.”
“I could have guessed that,” Decker mumbled, as they came out from some trees and he pulled away to ride out on the wing.
“Same rain,” Elder Stow said, before he rode out to guard the other wing.
“Amphitrite’s time zone was what?” Katie wondered. “A hundred and fifty years ago?”
“And it has been raining for a hundred and fifty years,” Boston teased.
“About one-fifty,” Lincoln answered Katie.
“The road has improved,” Lockhart said, just to insert a positive thought.
Artie began to cough. It sounded like a sinus-drip gurgling kind of cough. Katie got out the fairy weave handkerchief she had made and handed it to Artie to blow her nose. She did, but complained at the same time.
“Why does it have to be so wet? We should go back and visit my sister some more so we can dry out.”
“Now, we are all cranky from the weather, but we try to make the best of it.” Katie sounded like a mom.
Lockhart stifled his laugh, and after a moment’s hard stare at the man, Katie turned her smile away, so Artie and Lockhart would not see. Artie started coughing again, and Katie whipped her head back to look at the girl. This time her face showed concern.
“That does not sound good,” Alexis, the trained nurse spoke up from behind. “We should get her to some shelter.”
“Boston pulled out her amulet and said, “Corinth should be just up ahead.” She raised her voice and repeated the word for Lockhart.
“Robert,” Katie nudged her horse up between Lincoln and Lockhart. “We need to get Artie under shelter, and soon. She doesn’t sound good.”
Lockhart nodded and looked at Lincoln. He pulled out the database and looked for the relevant map. After a minute, he shook his head.
“I don’t see anything ahead but Corinth. Boston?”
“About an hour, gestimate,” Boston shouted.
Alexis took Katie’s movement to the front to move up beside Artie. She stretched out to take Artie’s hand. It felt warm, and she announced as much.
Lockhart remembered the wristwatch radio. “Elder Stow. Do you see any buildings before the city? Artie may be coming down with something, and Katie and Alexis want to get her out of the rain.”
“Probably a shrine,” Katie suggested.
“Nothing here,” Elder Stow reported.
“We go with it,” Lockhart said into the wristwatch and switched it off. “Hope the god of the shrine is friendly.”
“Are they friendly spirits? Just listen,” Lincoln said. They were not amused. Artie coughed up some phlegm, and there was a touch of blood in it.
“I am bleeding again,” Artie said. “Only this time from my mouth.”
“This isn’t the good kind,” Katie said.
Decker rode ahead so he arrived at the shrine first. He wanted to check it out and be sure it was safe. A small, but solid sheltered area looked pushed back among the trees. He saw a few sheep in a pen, and a two-wheeled wagon with no ox or mule to pull it. It will do for the horses, he thought. “Needs a steeple,” he said out loud at the building he still imagined as a country chapel. He approached the shrine, warily. He sensed people about, but after seeing and hearing nothing, he holstered his rifle. He tried not to appear threatening. He had a sick girl. As soon as he got down from his horse, he jumped, though his horse remained steady. An arrow came from the front window and planted itself two feet away.
“Nubian,” a woman yelled from the window. “Men are not welcome here.” Decker heard some sharply spoken words inside the building, though he could not tell what they were saying. He unsnapped his holster, made sure the handgun would come easily to hand, and waited. A pretty, dark haired young woman came out the front door and gave a sour look to the sky. She stayed under the roof overhang to stay dry.
“I have never been here before,” Decker said. “What is this place?”
“This is the place of Artemis. We are the three who keep this place and honor the goddess in all things. I am Meriope. My sisters are Hysphagia and Cassandra. What brings you to our door?”
Decker wondered if any of the women were older. This one looked about eighteen. “We have a sick girl. We need to get her to shelter and out of the rain. Artemis has been kind to us in the past. Will you help the needy stranger?”
The door opened, and Meriope leaned back into the opening. Decker heard some more of those sharply whispered words, before Meriope faced front again, and the door closed. She did not have time to respond. The travelers came up the path from the main road, Katie and Alexis leading Artie. They had gotten Artie down from her horse and bracketed her. They practically carried the girl inside without so much as an ‘excuse me’.
Decker waited for the others to come up with the horses. He led them to the shelter, and Meriope braved the rain to follow.
“What do you think you are doing?” Meriope asked.
“Taking care of the horses,” Decker said. “Does Artemis not like horses?”
“She likes all animals,” Meriope said, not expecting that question. “And she hunts them in the wild.”
“We’re animals,” Lockhart said, with a small grin.
“Is Artemis here?” Boston said. “I like her, a lot. She came to the battlefield when Zoe, the Amazon Queen went with Katie and Chloe to fight what’s-his-name. I didn’t meet her, exactly, but the Amazons gave me the name Little Fire.” She rambled like a fairy, flitting from one thought to the next without a breath between.
Meriope’s eyes got big. “You rode with the Amazons when they came to Athens?” The travelers paused. It seemed an odd question.
“No,” Boston said. “We met Zoe a long time ago.”
“She was the first Amazon queen way back when,” Lincoln said.
“Katie is the second elect in the whole world,” Lockhart added, and smiled at some private thought.
“I saw Artemis,” Decker said. “When we were on the mountain, in the snow and ice, before we went over and found that boy who had learned how to make bronze.”
Lincoln shook his head. He did not remember that time.
“Where that ghost kept following me around,” Decker said, to jog their memories
“And we found his body down the crevasse, and took it home so he could be properly buried,” Elder Stow said.
“Oh, yeah.” Boston’s eyes got big.
“I don’t remember hearing about Artemis.” Lockhart looked at Decker, and Decker looked sorry he brought it up. Now he had to tell the story.
“You were all asleep when I heard something in the camp. I looked out my tent and saw a bear, which stood up and put another log on the fire. I remember the bear said Little Fire is not doing her job,”
“Hey…” Boston protested.
“So then a woman showed up, and the bear changed into a woman. The bear-woman seemed very nice. The other woman scared me pretty bad, before they both disappeared.” Decker closed his mouth, but Boston and Lincoln were not satisfied with the story.
“Hey,” Boston said it again, but Lincoln asked an inspired question.
“Who was the other woman?”
“Aphrodite,” Decker admitted. “She pointed right at me, though I was hidden behind my tent flap, and she said I was on her list.” Decker shivered. “Artemis laughed when she vanished.”
“That’s the same thing she said when we visited Amphitrite,” Boston pointed out before they got interrupted.
“Benjamin.” Alexis stuck her head out of the door and hollered. “Bring me my purse.”
“Right,” Lincoln returned the shout. He waved to her and picked up her pack, but then stopped when Meriope spoke.
Meriope had managed to find a seat on a log when the men worked with the horses and talked. She spent most of her time staring, her mouth open, not believing what she heard. But she did not doubt that these people were the strangest strangers she had ever seen, and reconciled in her head that they must be servants to the gods, the way they talked about them, and the way they implied that they had lived so long.
“Wait.” Something clicked in Meriope’s head and she appeared to come back to reality. “You can come in and see your friend, but you must leave all your weapons and equipment here, and you will have to make a place out here to sleep. Weapons are not allowed in the sanctuary.”
Lincoln lifted Alexis’ purse. “Alexis is a physician,” he said. “These are her medical things.”
Lockhart unsnapped his belt, which held his big knife and handgun. He looked at the others. They followed his lead, but Decker especially did not like the idea. Elder Stow merely packed his things neatly away in his saddle bags. Lincoln kept the database in his pocket, figuring it was not a weapon. Boston had access to her invisible slip, as they called it, where she had her bow and arrows, and her wand, if needed.
They trudged up to the sanctuary, and Boston confirmed Decker’s thoughts without any prompting. “It looks like an old country chapel,” she said.