The sanctuary shook, but it did not fall down. Hysphagia’s prayers sometimes became verbal. Every time the big bad wolf huffed and puffed, Alexis caused the wind to blow back, away from the house. Thus the house stood, but Alexis knew she could not keep it up for long.
“I figured it had to be the Djin. He hides in the clouds and rain, but I wonder why the gods permit him to do his thing.”
“What?” Artie asked and blinked as Alexis gave her some water.
“The big bad genie that has been following us through time,” Alexis said. “It is the same one that invaded Yu-Huang’s mountain with Iblis, Ifrit, and Ghouls.”
Artie nodded and laid her head back down. She listened to the thunder and did not know the Djin was trying to knock down the whole building.
Katie and Cassandra came to the edge of the woods and saw whole trees bending, and the shrine tottering and ready to fall.
“No,” Cassandra yelled, and something happened. Katie was not sure, but she heard a shriek out of the wind and it stopped, suddenly. They sky began to clear.
“This is a big animal for us four women and Lincoln,” she said.
“The others will be back,” Cassandra assured her, and Katie did not doubt it.
“Okay, cloud.” Malichron, the chief thief stood outside the temple of Apollo and shouted at the sky. “We have done all that you asked, now pay up.” The rest of the gang stood lazily in the doorway to the temple where they could stay dry.
“Here,” Meriope drew in the mud. “The temple is laid out in this manner, and here, in the back, is the quarters for the priests and workers.”
“Simple enough,” Lockhart said.
“I could take them all out with one shot,” Elder Stow suggested.
“We would like to get our weapons back, if you don’t mind,” Decker said as he aimed carefully at the head of the man on the temple steps that had a rifle. Malichron had the other rifle, but he figured to take him out second since he would be running back into the temple. Decker had Artie’s Anazi gun and pulled the trigger. The weapon made a straight line of bright white energy before it cut off. The man’s head exploded, and he fell.
The thieves panicked and rushed inside, leaving the rifle on the temple steps. Malichron saw where the shot came from and turned to rush back inside. Decker aimed, but Meriope stood on her tip-toes, right in front of him, to see.
“Get down,” Decker yelled. She did, as she realized she blocked his shot, but by then Malichron made it, and they had to assault the temple.
“Arm up,” Lockhart said, and they went in the back way Meriope knew. They caught the thieves unprepared. It did not last long except for Malichron, who got behind a column with the rifle.
Decker had the other rifle, and his own column, but he was afraid to use Artie’s weapon for fear it might put a hole in the wood columns, or set them on fire, and bring down the ceiling. Elder Stow did bring down the ceiling in a back section of the temple. Fortunately, it only came down on the thieves.
Lockhart had Katie’s handgun, but no better angle than Decker. The only one with a good angle was Meriope with her bow and arrows, but she got busy. Her father found her, and she kept trying to get him to keep his head down. To be sure, Malichron was no marksman. Meriope’s father got hit by a stray bullet. He died mercifully fast, and Meriope’s anger became nearly palpable. A young priest came up behind her as she took aim. He put his hand on her shoulder. Her arrow was no accident, and Malichron did not die nearly as swiftly as Meriope’s father.
Decker retrieved his rifle as Lockhart bent down to the dying man. The man spoke. “But the cloud man said we would be rewarded with riches if we killed all the healers in the temple.” He did not understand what happened when he died.
“Excuse me,” the young priest said, and he stepped outside as Boston and Elder Stow came in from the back rooms.
“All of my equipment is safe and sound,” Elder Stow reported.
“All the guns except my Baretta that got melted by Elder Stow,” Boston whined. “Why is it always me and mine?” She complained, until, like a fairy, she completely flipped her conversation. “That’s okay. I need to learn to use my bow and arrows. Great shot, Meriope.”
“I had help,” Meriope admitted, as she stepped up to Decker and let him hold her while she cried. They heard thunder, and it suddenly stopped raining. The young priest came back in, and Boston said he looked remarkably like the boy from Philoletes’ place.
“I’m inclined to let Philoletes wonder, and sweat. He could lose some weight.” The young priest looked around at the devastation to the temple. “Needs stone columns,” he said and waved his hand. The travelers with Meriope, all the horses and all the equipment appeared outside the shrine in the wilderness. Katie and Cassandra were still standing there, but at least it stopped raining.
“Hello sis. Lose something?”
Cassandra hushed her brother. “I’m undercover.”
Artie, Alexis, Lincoln and Hysphagia came to the door and stepped out into the sunshine. Artie said she was feeling much better.
The priest of Apollo, who everyone knew was Apollo, stepped to the door. He put his hand on Artie’s forehead and stepped back. “She should not be bothered with diseases again,” he said. “It was not the lack of immunization, though. It was the hedge of the gods is not around her. That is why the Djin could still affect her.”
“Exactly,” a man said, as he appeared out of nowhere. He was a big man with a full, gray beard and hair, and no one doubted that this was Zeus himself. “And by myself, I cannot hedge her for other lands, but she will be safe in the lands of Olympus, and others may add to my work which may become a hedge.” He smiled. “Children.”
“Father,” Apollo said.
“Daddy, I’m undercover.”
“Cassandra?” Zeus raised an eyebrow at the name.
“She is only my very best friend in the whole wide world, forever.” Cassandra said, like a real ten-year-old, but then she sighed and instantly grew into a beautiful, fully grown woman, and people gasped at the appearance of brother and sister. They were male and female, but they looked like identical twins.
“Thank goodness,” Katie said and shrugged the stag off her shoulders.
“You guessed,” Artimis wondered.
“I would never tell,” Katie said, and Artemis hugged her for her many kindnesses to a poor orphan girl.
“What about the Djin?” Alexis asked, though she thought it wise to get down on her knees next to Boston.
“Well,” Zeus said. “I was not authorized to end his life, but I see some have been reducing him, slowly. Still, you will have to deal with him again, I imagine. I assume he will serve some greater purpose at some point in the future. So I let him go.” He looked at Boston. “But I burned his butt pretty good on the way out the door.” Zeus smiled as Boston giggled. He looked at Artemis and added, “I like the little girl. The old woman, not so much,” and he vanished.
“Up everyone,” Apollo insisted, and everyone stood before they realized that was what they were doing. “I came here because father wanted to know why it was raining so much. This is not the rainy season. But now that the mystery is all cleared up, I have a bone to pick with Uncle Hades. He is trying to tell me the thieves cannot be held fully responsible because they were under the influence of the Djin. I think they should burn in the deepest pits for what they did, and just to be clear, I don’t hold any of you in any way responsible for the damage to my temple.” He smiled, and everyone felt the sunshine. “Merioipe, sorry about your father,” he said, and he vanished.
“I better go too,” Artemis said, but first she stepped over to hug the weeping Hysphagia and Meriope. She paused at Alexis and Boston. “Healer,” she said. “And Little Fire. Now that Alexis is with you, I expect you to learn everything, and the next time I see you, I want to see a perfect little nymph.” She hugged Katie once more and whispered, “I’ll look for my wedding invitation in the mail.” She stood tall. “Gentlemen,” and she vanished, just in time for a chariot to appear on the path with two dozen soldiers, following.
The man who got down from the chariot looked like a gruff older man with the same kind of gray beard Zeus had. He also wore armor—the armor of the Kairos, which at least the travelers all recognized.
“I’m Sinon, if you were looking for me,” he said, and opened his arms to give Boston a hug. “I’m headed for Mycenae. I’m raising an army to invade Akos, that’s Crete for the scholars.” He pointed and winked at Katie. “With any luck, you might find the exit gate somewhere around my home in Megara…” He looked around at the piles of equipment, the wandering horses, the weeping women, the quiet travelers who looked like they had been through hell, and he said, “What did I miss?”
A New Year’s Greeting, and the first of 6 posts where the travelers return to Egypt.
In Avalon, episode 5.6, Notes from the Underworld, they run into Kiya, the queen forgotten… Also ghosts, the lions of Egypt, poltergeist, the serpents of the deep, and love… you know, typical Kairos stuff.