“Gegeines,” Althea named the six armed giants. “King Cyzicus neglected to mention them. All he said was the hunting on the other side of Bear Mountain should be good.”
“I expected bears,” Jason said. “I told the crew to stick together in groups of three and not get separated.”
“Lions and tigers,” Althea said.
“And bears,” Boston shouted.
“Oh my,” Lockhart shouted back from down the way where he and Katie were getting friendly with Heracles and Asclepius.
Heracles laughed softly. Asclepius did not follow, but that was all right. Asclepius knew plenty of things about Heracles and Althea that the others did not know, but he hardly knew it all. Heracles spoke.
“I get to be born when the Princess is around, and then again in the twentieth century. It hardly seems fair to struggle so hard, to die and not be able to go to heaven. God makes me stick around to go through the whole process again, and twice more at that, that I know of.”
“God?” Katie asked.
“My guess,” Heracles nodded. “I can’t imagine any bug-eyed aliens that are that smart.”
“None that I know of,” Lockhart said. “And I do aliens for a living. Lincoln thinks they all should be Jello-blobs.”
Katie pointed to Lincoln and Alexis who sat around a fire with Jason, Decker, Althea and Boston, where Meleager, Atalanta, and Argus arrived. Argus took a seat beside his daughter.
“Dear Althea,” Argus said, as he took and patted her hand. “You have no idea how scared I felt for you. You know, it was never my idea to leave you behind on the shore.”
“For you,” Argus said, and glanced at the others.
“I was scared for me too,” Althea said. “Lucky I had such good help.”
“I didn’t see anyone fluttering around,” Jason quipped, referring to her fairy friends without saying it out loud for those not in the know.
“Jason,” Althea scolded. “I would never put such in danger.”
“She is right about that,” Boston said. “We are perfectly capable of getting in trouble all by ourselves without any help, thank you very much.”
“I was talking about help from the men of the Argo, and my friends from the future,” Althea said.
Jason gave a nod that said he almost believed her. Meleager turned to Argus. “Do you know what they are talking about?”
“No,” Argus said. “But her mother was that way. She could talk for hours and not say one intelligible word the whole time.”
“Well,” Atalanta stood on that sour note. “I have an elect to talk to before she disappears. Excuse me.” She walked over to Katie after one long look at Lincoln and Alexis, who were kissing and ignoring everyone, like two people in their own little world. She glanced a Meleager as she walked.
“They are making up for lost time,” Boston explained. “Husbands and wives can do that, you know.”
“Yes,” Meleager said. “And exactly why it is so difficult to have women along on an adventure like this. Men are so easily distracted. Women should stay home so a man has something to come home to. Absence sharpens the mind. Yes, women should just stay home.”
“Ahem,” Althea cleared her throat. “I’m sitting right here. I can hear you, you know.” Meleager smiled for her, but Althea had something to add. “I won’t be little forever, you know. Someday I’ll be a big distraction.”
“I am sure you will,” Meleager kept smiling, and tried to back out of the conversation gracefully.
“Why wait?” Lincoln looked directly at Althea. “Every time zone, you do a pretty good job. It is always something to distract us.”
“I hear that,” Decker agreed.
In the morning, Althea said good-bye to everyone, and then took Sukki aside to talk. She worried about her. Sukki was fully grown, about eighteen, in a world where forty had been a good long life. With Elder Stow’s help, she might double that expectation and live to be eighty. But that would be a long time alone. If she insisted on staying on the earth, she had better adjust to being around homo sapiens.
“You are surrounded by good people. Never mind what kind of people they are.”
“I understand,” Sukki said. She looked at her feet, and Althea shook her head.
“You have to get over being so shy,” she said. “The travelers have all said they like you and are glad you are traveling with them.”
“That isn’t it,” Sukki said, and paused for a long time. Althea pulled up several handfuls of grass while she waited. “They are all so smart, and powerful people. They have instruments of power, and magic. I am as nothing.”
“Not true,” Althea interrupted. “I am a twelve-year-old girl in the midst of some of the greatest heroes in history. If anyone should be nothing, it should be me.”
Sukki looked at Althea like she was crazy. “Not true. You are special beyond all of them.”
“I would rather be loved,” Althea said, and Sukki began to cry softly.
“My love died…” Sukki whispered, and Althea hugged her. It seemed a big confession, and Althea hoped it would also be a big step.
She did not tell the others, though she encouraged Sukki to be open and honest with her companions. What she did say was she hoped the ship would move further east, and since the travelers were headed toward the time gate in the west, they might reach it sooner than expected.
Katie sighed. “Jason and the Argonauts.” She waved to the ship, and felt like cursing, because there were so many questions she had not been allowed to ask.
As the travelers rode around the base of Bear Mountain, Katie kept turning her head back and all around like she was looking for something. Lincoln and Alexis dropped back to engage Boston and Sukki in conversation, even if Sukki said so little, so Lockhart finally guessed.
“No,” Katie said. “That’s not it.” She looked again over her shoulder.
“Okay. What is it?” Lockhart had to prompt her.
“The djin,” she said. “He told us he stopped playing around. He told Artie and me that he intended to kill us. He said the gods had eaten some of his power, but he had more than enough to kill us. That was when Anubis showed up. Remember? And after we left the field of the basilisk, we got surrounded by gods.”
“The Valkyrie,” Lockhart nodded.
“But none here, and yet I haven’t seen the djin.”
“Hercules…” Lockhart started.
No, I thought of that. The gods followed Jason and the Argonauts, so maybe we were safe when we were with them, but we are not with them right now.”
“Whatever, the giants, that they would watch, but not attack such a well-armed group, no matter how protective they might be of their territory. Something had to motivate them, and the djin is the likely suspect.”
“That is what I heard,” Katie said. “Nice theory, but that doesn’t explain where he is now that we have left Jason behind.” She looked around once more as the ground beneath their feet began to shake.