Three hours after meeting with the village elders, Artie, Naman, Hatisuli, and three of those elders met the Mitanni just outside of the village. Artie did the talking, and she got straight to the point.
“Are you trying to start a war? Does your king know you are doing this? Do you think he will be happy when he has to pay compensation to the Hittites for attacking a Hittite village?”
The Mitanni commander smiled and kept looking over his shoulder at the man in the corner. Artie felt something about the man that rubbed Artie in an odd way. She felt it as soon as she saw him, and finally put it together in her mind that she felt the same way around Alexis and Boston. She figured it might be that intuition thing Mother Katie talked about, and she felt thrilled to think she had it. Then she understood she would only be guessing.
“Elf. Show yourself,” she said. The man looked around with the others, like he did not know who she was talking to. “Elf, in the name of the Kairos, you have no business leading these men into war. If you are being coerced, then in the Kairos’ name I command that you be free.”
The man stared this time, and began to weep.
“What is this?” The Mitanni commander demanded an answer. “Lugos is the one who told me about the gold hidden away in your village. He is a fine and honest man.” The commander wanted that gold. “I will not attack you if you hand it over.”
“Elf, show yourself, or when I see the Kairos, I will accuse you, and the Kairos will know.”
“No. Please.” The man transformed into a four-foot creature that looked more like an imp than an elf. He might have been a gnome of sorts. Artie honestly was not sure. The Mitanni and village elders alike took several steps back. Only Naman smiled, and he kept Hatisuli steady.
“I don’t know what I am doing. I do not deal with mortal humans. My place is in the wilderness.” He looked directly at the Mitanni commander. “There is no gold in this village. You have been lied to.” That was as close as he could come to admitting that he lied. “May I go?” He looked at Artie.
“Who told you to bring the Mitanni here?” Artie asked, kindly.
“I…” The gnome took off his hat and twisted it. “That big fellow. The Marid.”
“The Djin?” Artie asked to clarify.
The gnome nodded. “I think so.”
Artie smiled. “You can go, my friend.” The gnome smiled for her, and vanished as Artie turned to the Mitanni commander. “So, you have been lied to. There is no gold. Now, unless you intend to start a war and make your king boiling mad at you, I suggest you take your troop back to the trade road and go home.”
“The gold?” one of the sub-commanders asked. The commander hit him and started yelling at his men to get moving back to the road.
Artie turned, and Naman grabbed her and hugged her. Hatisuli and the elders were very pleased. Artie felt the excitement and pleasure in Naman’s arms. She just had to kiss him, but it was all too brief before she said. “I wonder if the Hittite commander got told about the gold. They would find out.
That evening, the whole village threw a celebration. They knew what a battle woould have done to them, not to mention the soldiers that would have rampaged through the town, looking for gold that was not there. Artie became the guest of honor, and got tired of saying, “No, thank you,” and “Your welcome,” and “I’m glad everything worked out.”
As the night wore on, people tired. They began to go home about nine o’clock, and Naman explained. “It is true. We are poor dirt farmers not used to late hours, no matter the occasion. But we are the backbone of the countryside. All of the kings and nobles would not survive without us.”
After a while, when Naman and Hatisuli wandered off to talk with the young men, Sharina waddled up and took Artie to meet Larsa. Larsa looked a little afraid. She heard about the thieves and the lion, and Artie got the credit for driving off two whole armies, even if they barely made up two companies between them. Artie hugged the girl, which made the girl’s whole face express surprise. Then Artie asked a question Larsa did not expect.
“Do you love him?”
Sharina encouraged Larsa to speak. “Oh yes. He is all I dream about.”
Artie nodded. “Then you should marry him,” and she explained what only Naman knew. “My seven companions on their seven big horses will find me. I am certain. And then I will go with them on our journey, and be gone from this place. I thank you for letting me borrow Naman for a few days. It is very scary to be on your own, lost and alone. His friendly face has helped me more than I can say.” She gave Larsa and Sharina both hugs, hugging Sharina carefully around the baby, before she finished her thought. “I may be here a week or so. My friends may come for me tomorrow. I do not know. But if Naman loves you, then you can marry him, and be happy, and I will not be here to get in your way.”
Larsa began to cry and Artie asked. “Are you happy to hear that I am going away?” Larsa nodded, and Artie wondered out loud. “Why do women cry when they are happy?” And all three laughed.
As the party wound down, Naman said they should go, and Artie agreed, but because she had to check on Freedom. He took her hand as they walked to the barn. She gave Freedom a good brushing and plenty of tender care. Then she got out her own brush and sat down beside Naman while she brushed her own hair. They did not say much.
“Do you love Larsa?”
Naman looked away and admitted, “Yes. I think I do.”
Artie nodded. Then they kissed. And then they did everything men and women are designed to do.
As the moon came up, the clouds also moved in. The rain came suddenly, and it came hard. Anat crawled down from the barn loft, and she screamed once when the lightning struck. The wind came up, and the whole barn rattled. Even Naman looked scared in the face of the storm.
“Twister,” Naman yelled. They moved to the back of the barn where Freedom looked ready to Panic. Naman and Artie held Anat between them and made themselves as small as they could. They expected the barn to be blown away any minute, but the tornado stopped. It stood in the doorway, and they heard laughter.
Artie was the first to move. Naman kept two steps back and held Anat so she could not run away. Artie got suspicious. Her intuition acted up, and she yelled against the wind.
“What is so funny?”
A face formed on the outside of the tornado and laughed. “You are despoiled. You have given yourself to a man. You can never get your innocence back, or your purity. Now, no man will ever want you for wife. You have ruined yourself.”
“What do you mean?” Artie shot back. “I had a wonderful experience I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
The face seemed stuck on its own way of thinking. “All of this went according to plan.” He laughed again. “The thieves. The lion. The soldiers. It was nothing more than a ruse to bring you two together. It worked better than I ever hoped. Now, your life is over and you may as well give yourself to the brothel and to depravity.”
“Are you not listening? What Naman and I have and did is special, and I will remember it fondly my whole life. Mother Katie, Boston and Alexis have told me much about the future. I am sixteen, and that is more than old enough for hot, steamy sex.”
“You made me sick, and now I know what it is like to be ill. You gave me a boyfriend, and I am grateful for that, too. We got to sleep together, and it was wonderful. I am not afraid of you, and I am not angry with you. You pushed me to experience things I never would have experienced as an android. I thank you, most deeply.”
The face twisted, and let out a scream. The roof on the barn began to lift before the tornado vanished and the clouds pushed off. An older woman stood in the moonlight, and Artie recognized her.
“Hannahannah,” Artie named her, and ran to hug her. The old woman smiled and turned her right around. She led Artie right back to the barn where Artie saw Naman and Anat sleeping, peacefully.
“You must lie down,” Hannahannah said, and guided Artie to lie so Anat stayed between her and Naman. “Like your own little family.” Hannahannah smiled. “And you have a busy day tomorrow.”
Artie felt warm and content, and she quickly joined her little family in sleep.