Elder Stow saw the anomaly on his scanner. He and Decker had moved out to the front in the desert. They were not worried about people sneaking up on the group from the sides when the group could see anyone coming for miles. From the front, they could ride back and warn the group if they were about to run into trouble.
“Normally, they are fairly-good about watching where they are going,” Decker said in the morning.
“Yes,” Elder Stow agreed. “But right now, they all seem so preoccupied for one reason or another.”
Decker understood. He moved out on the flank, but then pushed up to the front and kept his eyes open.
Now, Elder Stow stopped to look, and Decker came over to see why. A stone statue of a man stood there in the middle of nowhere, and it was not just any man. It appeared to be a Gott-Druk, one of Elder Stow’s people, and it looked like he had on a space suit of some sort.
“Friend of yours?” Decker asked.
Elder Stow tapped the statue before he spoke. “No. Yes. Maybe.”
“Do I get to pick which one I like?”
“No.” Elder Stow almost smiled. “I have seen this face before in temporal reconstructive imaging—in pictures. He looks like Burrgh, the Mighty, or, what the genetic reconstructionists think he might have looked like.”
“Burrgh the Mighty. He was one of the original colonists on the new world.” Elder Stow paused and realized he would have to explain. “At the time of the flood, we were taken into space on Agdaline slower-than-light sleeper ships. That was what they were called. Sleeper ships, because the people went into a primitive form of cryogenic suspension, and it seemed like they slept and only woke up when they neared their destination. Burrgh the Mighty was one who objected. He said we should go back to the earth, our native planet, and take possession. He said the flood waters surely receded, and the earth was ripe for the taking. He almost made it a religion.”
“And he made it here?” Decker asked, as the others came up to stop and listen.
“You must understand. At that time, while you people were still living in caves and using stone tools, we were beginning to use copper, tin, and other soft metals—perhaps learning about bronze. We began farming, and taming some of the animals. Much of your earliest learning came from us, or from the Elenar. But we were nowhere near space technology. This was well before we had any idea how the Agdaline ships worked, or what forces they used.”
“That is quite a jump, from the coper age to the space age overnight,” Katie said as she and Artie got down to look at the statue.
“Indeed,” Elder Stow said. “But Burrgh was determined, and he gathered his followers, took one of the Agdaline ships, and managed to get it into space without blowing up. He was never heard from again, and no trace of him was ever found.”
“And you think this is that guy?” Lockhart asked.
“Genetic imaging is accurate to a very fine degree. The imaging I have experienced, assuming the sample was indeed Burrgh, this is the man I saw. Wait…” Elder stow took out his equipment, calculated, and mumbled. “Ten thousand, minus twelve hundred… Distance at near-light-speed… convert to years…”
“Hey, Elder Stow,” Lincoln shouted. “There are more of them over here, and what looks like a bunch of pieces.
Elder Stow walked in that direction as he shook his head. “I suppose he could have run into trouble and drifted for a few millennia. Those sleeper units were not designed with Gott-Druk in mind. The Agdaline built them specific for themselves.”
“I was in one for about five hundred years,” Decker said.
“I am more concerned about five thousand years. The automatic safety is set to wake the sleepers at a thousand years. After a thousand years, the suspension material can begin to break down, not to mention the monitoring systems. Everyone wakes. Systems are rebuilt. Fresh material is injected, and the process can begin again. The further one sleeps beyond a thousand years, the more likely a system will breakdown. At two thousand years, even if the system is still functioning properly, the life support begins to degrade. The man might still be alive, but he might be revived as a mental vegetable.” Elder Stow stopped at the second statue, and exclaimed, “Tughat. That settles my mind on the matter. These are the lost expedition of Burrgh the Mighty.”
“Did they come out of suspension like this?” Lincoln asked.
“No. Something must have happened,” Elder Stow said.
“Medusa turns people to stone,” Boston suggested.
“So does a basilisk,” Katie said. “But I did not think they meant literal stone.”
“A holding technique,” Alexis spoke out of her learning. “It’s like a spider web that holds the flies until the spider is ready to feast. These pieces on the ground used to be Gott-Druk as well, but they have had their insides drained, and the remainder has been smashed to look like random rocks, so others don’t know there is a basilisk near, and thus avoid the area.”
“I think that is what we should do,” Lincoln said. “Avoid the area.” Lockhart and Decker were already looking for some sign of the creature. Katie and Artie got ready to ride, and that spurred the others. They rode at a good pace, and did not stop until they came to a grassy meadow where the wildlife suggested the basilisk had not hunted.
Only Elder Stow showed any unhappiness about being out of the area. “There are so many questions, so many unanswered questions.”
“You can’t get blood from a stone,” Decker said.
“Apparently, a basilisk can.” Lincoln countered
Mid-afternoon, the travelers came upon the smoking ruins of what looked like a city in the distance. Lincoln kept reading, but looked up briefly. “Gaza,” he said. “And things have not changed much in our day.”
“These people don’t have missiles, so no Israeli aircraft,” Decker countered.
“Cut it out,” Lockhart ordered. He did not want those two started again on a new tit-for-tat. He wanted to know who attacked the city, and who won. He did not want them mistaken for a new threat to the city, or for reinforcements coming to the city’s aid.
Lincoln got serious. “The sea peoples, so-called, landed here all up and down the coast at some point, depending on what point in Nameless’ life we arrived. Some, were determined to try Egypt. They probably heard the streets of Memphis were paved with gold. You know, the usual motivations. They were driven back at sea, and later they got or get driven back again over the land route. Some stay here and form a ruling class over the locals.”
“Like the Indo-Aryans over the Dravidian people in Padrama’s day,” Katie suggested.
“Like the Normans over the Anglo-Saxons, who were already over the British Celtic people.,” Lincoln gave his own understanding.
“The rest follow Nameless to the Euphrates, down Mesopotamia, across the Iranian Plateau, and up to the Tien Shan where Nameless’ children watch over the eastern end of the Silk Road.”
“Quite a journey,” Artie said, now having been to a number of places and seen first-hand how difficult and dangerous travel could be.
“You’ll like this part,” Lincoln said and turned his head back to look at Katie. “When the Indo-Aryans and Indo-Europeans began their great migrations, a distinctive Celtic culture went out front, like the vanguard of the invasion. Most moved, or were pushed west as we know—to France and the British Isles. But a line of Celts followed the Danube south like a buffer zone between Aesgard and Olympus. They pushed other people groups into Greece; Aeolians, Corinthians, Dorians and so on. Eventually, some crossed the sea and settled in Anatolia, the place the Romans called Galatea.”
“I think I figured that much out already,” Katie responded.
“But wait,” Lincoln was not finished. “What you don’t know is some Celts initially went east about 3000 to 2000 BC, and settled on the north and east end of the Silk Road.”
“Which makes perfect sense,” Katie grinned. “They found caucasian people and tartans on mummies in that region dated back to around 2000 BC. Makes sense.”
“Yes. Nameless is quoted in the record as saying his journey was like one big circle. It seems that Celtic group followed Nameless’ son, Tien, and his brothers and sisters into that region.”
“Hold up,” Lockhart called a halt. “We got company.” Decker and Elder Stow came in to join them.
The company looked like three people in leather and fine bronze armor, riding on good horses with saddles, no less. The horses and saddles, and armor and weapons they carried looked one or two thousand years ahead of themselves, at least. Katie assumed the soldiers would be driving chariots, or if they were on horseback, they would be riding with only a blanket thrown over some Black Sea ponies like they had seen in the past.
The three riders had to get close before the travelers realized that these three were women. Katie’s only comment was they were not Amazons. Alexis said they were Valkyra, and since they were looking for the Nameless god, they did not discount that possibility.