“What guarantee do we have that we will not be wiped out the minute we return to space?” the commander of the Anazi force on Earth asked.
“None,” Nameless answered. “The gods do not make promises. But I have programmed the location of a pleasant world—a world flowing with milk and honey, as the expression goes. The journey will not be easy, but if by the grace of the Most-High you arrive, you may begin again. Perhaps now, having learned something about freedom, you may make a better start.”
The Anazi commander looked at Lockhart, Katie, Artie and Sekhmet, the family group that the young god insisted be witnesses to their departure. Artie thought to speak, as Nameless knew she would.
“All life is precious. In this broken universe, there may be times to defend yourselves and protect the innocent, but no life should ever be taken lightly. Every person deserves a chance to see what good person they may become, how they may make a positive impact on this sad universe. And yes, I will speak these same thoughts to the dominants and submissives you leave behind.”
The Anazi commander said nothing. He turned and went into his ship. People waited the better part of an hour to watch as sixteen massive ships left the earth and headed out into the unknown. Lockhart followed the trail into the clouds, while Sekhmet and Katie comforted Artie. Artie cried, because the revolution happened, but not in the way Artie intended. Her people destroyed the Anazi home world, and in the end, killed Anazi wherever they found them. Now, her people were diminished, in numbers and in life. They had replaced Anazi cruelty and tyranny with a cruelty and tyranny of their own, becoming as bad as the ones from whom they broke free.
“It is a pattern repeated in the human race, over and over,” Katie said.
“The liberators in the end become the new oppressors,” Lockhart understood.
Katie nodded. “With few exceptions, the slaves become the new masters. Your people merely followed the pattern of life.”
“How very human of them,” Lockhart added, and Artie nodded and cried some more.
Boston sat and moped. Kara of the Valkyrie found her an elf maid named Salaquia, and a fairy friend, named Acacia. They were both very nice, but Boston was not in the mood for company. She sat on a log in front of the fire and magically made the fire big and small; big and small.
“That would be Alexis’ mother,” Boston grumbled, “And my missing husband’s mother.” She made the fire big and small, and then added another log.
“Of course, I don’t know exactly where Mirroway is, but I cannot do such magic.”
“In Elfholm. In Avalon,” Boston grumped, and both faces of the little one’s lit up.
“I would love to go there someday,” Salaquia said, earnestly.
“Could you take us there?” Acacia asked.
Boston did not answer as she watched Alexis and Lincoln walk toward them, with another person, a woman, about forty and motherish round. It took Boston a minute to recognize Nephthys, the goddess in whose house Boston and Roland had been married. Boston began to weep on recognizing the woman. Nephthys merely opened her arms and hugged the girl. Acacia flew up to Boston’s shoulder, where she sat and joined the cry. Salaquia, empathetic elf that she was, cried alone until Mother Nephthys opened her arm and included her in her hug. Nephthys whispered in Boston’s ear.
“There, there. You don’t want to upset your friends. Robert and Katherine deserve a happy day. It will all work out, you’ll see.”
Alexis could not help it, presently being elf empathetic herself. Pictures of her brother and father came unbidden to her mind, and she also began to weep. Lincoln held her, and loved her. That helped some.
Nameless, his arm around Eir, and followed by Hildr and Kara walked up, and Nameless had to speak. “No joy like a wedding day.”
Eir hit him gently in the chest. “I am looking forward to a good cry myself, but I am saving it for the actual ceremony.”
Boston pulled back from the hug and wiped her eyes. She almost laughed a little. That is because it is impossible to cry for long when you are being held and comforted by a goddess, and Boston’s change helped pull everyone together. Alexis blew her nose.
“We have work to do,” Kara spoke.
“Yes,” Nameless said. “I need to borrow Lincoln, if Alexis can part with him. We have a bachelor party to plan.”
“That’s right,” Eir said. “We need to give Katie a bridal shower.”
“Oh, yes,” Nephthys agreed. “I learned long ago how important these wedding rituals are.”
That memory almost got Boston crying again, but she sniffed and held it back. “I’m ready,” she said, and tried to smile again.
Acacia flitted to Salequia’s shoulder and commented. “This is exciting,” she said, as in the way of fairies, she switched from one emotion to another in a breath of time. Salequia, still wiping her eyes, nodded and also tried to smile.
Decker chewed on the jerky the dwarf woman made. He noticed, they were improving their jerky as time went on. He figured by the time he got back to the twenty-first century, the dwarfs would just about have it perfected.
Elder Stow sat on the other side of the Gott-Druk female, Sukki, who only wanted to sit and cry. Decker wondered what it was about female anatomy that lent itself to tears, but Elder Stow did not seem to have a problem with it.
“They are gone. I am sorry. The entire expedition has been wiped out,” Elder Stow said, harsh as it sounded. Gott-Druk did not naturally coddle the truth. “But you have survived. The only question is what will you do?”
“I don’t know what to do,” Sukki wailed. “Burrgh was the only light we had, and now he is gone, all is gone.”
“Hush, no. That is not true. All is just beginning. You are young. You still have a whole life ahead of you to accomplish great and wonderful things.”
“But our world is lost to us,” Sukki complained. “We have no home, and I do not see how we will ever overcome these humans to regain our land.”
“But we don’t have to,” Elder Stow tried to explain. “We have made the new world our home, and it is a good home, in my day, better than we could have ever dreamed of having. You should come and see it.”
“But what if we are forced to move out again? Burrgh said what has been done to us once can be done again.”
Elder Stow raised an eyebrow. “That is true, but there are no others on the new world to compete or to give the world to. We are the only ones there, and we make it what we will, and no one will bother us.”
“And what about these humans? How long before they begin to move into space and claim space for themselves?”
Elder Stow nodded. “Thousands of years to come. But even then, there will always be a wide gap, a chasm between what we know and what the humans have not yet imagined. After you and Burrgh left, we began to learn what made the ships fly. We have not stopped learning.”
“But humans. You travel with them. You have been tainted.”
“I have learned,” Elder Stow said. “These humans have their own ways, but mostly we are more alike than you may imagine. We are all people, Gott-Druk, human, even the Anazi who came here, and their androids as well. We are all people, and these people are good people. I have learned that there is no reason humans and Gott-Druk cannot live and work together, side by side. That was how it was done before the waters came, back when we all shared this world. Burrgh may not have been entirely honest about that. Back in the before time, we all shared this world.”
Sukki frowned, but did not know how to answer that, directly. Instead, she pointed her thumb at Decker. “But how can you be near this one? He smells like too much winter meat.”
Elder Stow nodded and laughed. “You know, I had not put that together.”
Sukki laughed a little. It sounded human enough.
Nameless came to collect Decker for the bachelor party, and Elder Stow, if he wished to join them. Eir came to let Sukki know she was welcome to join the women, if she wished.
Elder Stow shook his head. “Not right now. We still have much to discuss.” He looked at Sukki and she agreed with her nod. “We may each be along later, if you don’t mind, but for my part, I am not much good at such an event seeing as I have sworn off alcohol forever… unless there is some fermented goats milk. I had some in the last time zone and did not realize what it was until later, but it did not seem to bother me.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Nameless said. “Decker.”
“You know, you may find the human mating ritual quite interesting,” Elder Stow said.
Sukki turned up her nose before she understood. “You mean the joining ceremony, not the actual mating.”
Decker took that as his cue to get up. “Good to meet you,” he said, and walked with the Nameless god and Eir. “At least your people know how to make some good brew.”
Nameless nodded, but he started thinking of something else. “So, do we have to change your name to Winter Meat?” Eir hit him gently again in his chest.