No one could see well in the fog, smoke and ash cloud that covered everything. They managed to bring the ship alongside something, but armed men were waiting and jumped the ship.
“Pirates,” Jason yelled, and men who rowed with shields and weapons ready to come to hand, grabbed their swords and spears, and fought back. The group that jumped the ship was a small number, easily defeated; but the men found themselves on a dock and saw many more torches coming.
“Get ready to fight,” Meleager shouted, and the men on the dock got into some hastily formed ranks. That was when Althea recognized where they were. She shouted over and over, but no one listened to her. Finally, she did what she so rarely did. She cried out to others.
“Athena. Apollo. Father Zeus. You are about to lose all your heroes.”
The fight started. Some men died before a flash of light and some force separated the fighters. A figure appeared between the two sides and the yelling got intense, though Althea could not hear what was said. A beautiful young woman with long golden hair that matched her golden wings appeared beside Althea and her father. Argus kept his eyes on the happenings on the dock and did not appear to notice the stranger, or hear the conversation.
“You are a young one,” the woman said.
Althea struggled before she came up with a name. “Iris.”
Iris smiled at being recognized. “Young and cute.” She hugged Althea like an old friend, and kissed her like a sister.
“You have a message for me?” Althea did not know what else to say.
“Indeed,” Iris became serious. “Zeus says you are welcome to call upon the gods, and in your case, maybe one in ten times we will answer; but you should know in every lifetime, it has been the policy of the gods to let you handle most situations yourself. I think it comes with the territory.”
“I thought of that,” Althea said. “But I feared some divine intervention would be necessary. I suspected the eruption of the mountain was not a planned event. I feared some god might be working behind the scene to transport the ship back to the Doliones port; like someone had it out for King Cyzicus or something. I had no right to interfere with that, and besides, I did not know who I could call on, legally speaking. I supposed Junior, if he was willing, but then this is buffer zone land, so maybe Nameless would not be out of line. With the Greeks, I almost called Amphitrite.”
“My cousin,” Iris said.
Althea nodded. “But then I figured everyone was watching, and I didn’t want to interfere, you know…”
“Young, but as usual, thoughtfully wise. You were right in one way, that King Cyzicus is dead, and his wife may also die before the fog is lifted. And you were right, that this eruption was not planned by the gods. The djin following your friends broke the natural crack in the earth at this spot, and let loose plenty of your fire sprites who may not cooperate with your djin, and woe to that djin if he should return to this jurisdiction. Some on Olympus have long memories.”
They stood and watched the events on the dock for a moment before Althea spoke again. “There is more?”
“Yes,” Iris smiled again. She placed her hand to Althea’s forehead and tapped gently, like she was turning the switch to the on position. “The gifts of certain gods were place within you when you were a child. They have been hidden, but are now revealed, now that you are becoming a woman. The gods of the gifts may come to mind when you discover and begin to use the gifts, I cannot say. But you follow Heracles, and some are concerned about him. The unhappiness of Hera is strong, and she has made Heracles the symbol of her unhappiness. She does not dare attack him directly, but there are other ways. Some feel there may be a time when extraordinary help may be necessary.”
“You mean to help Heracles do something?” Iolaus stuck his nose in.
“Yes, Iolaus,” Iris smiled for the boy. “You must help Heracles, whatever his task may be.” Iris vanished. Althea figured Iris smiled for the boy because she did not have to put up with him. Then she felt sorry. She wanted to see Iris use those wings.
“I think they have stopped fighting,” Argus said.
“It is not over,” Alexis said to Lockhart and whatever travelers might be listening. “There will be aftershocks. When a fault line ruptures like this, it will take a while before it will settle down again.”
“Yeah, but you mean over the next few days,” Lincoln suggested.
“I mean at any time,” Alexis spoke honestly.
“What?” Lockhart interrupted, directing the question to Boston.
“We found Opuker, but he says the way we need to go is cracked. He is not sure what that means.”
Lockhart thought for no time at all. “We go with it. It is still the quickest route out of the area. Lincoln, watch Sukki. Elder Stow, let us know if you need to stop and shut down the screens.” The screens were collecting the dust and ash, but fortunately, the prevailing winds were blowing most of it out to sea.
The travelers walked their horses, but following Opuker on dwarf ways, they traveled twice the distance in an hour they might have traveled at a full gallop. Neither Alexis nor Boston could explain it. The others just had to accept it on trust.
When they reached the place of the crack, they found it formed a crack in the earth, and red lava flowing down seemed about to swallow their path. People made fairy weave scarfs to cover their mouths and noses against the toxic fumes. They paused to make similar scarfs for their horses.
Elder Stow admitted. “The screen is not strong enough to keep out a relentless river of lava, and I dare not harden it enough to keep out the toxic fumes. Ash and dust are tangible, but I cannot keep out gasses, at least not without time to fine tune the device.”
“Boston? Alexis?” Lockhart asked, without asking an actual question.
“I would just make it hotter,” Boston said, about her fire magic, though it was doubtful she could make molten rock hotter.
“I might cool the end,” Alexis said. “But it would just roll over and keep on coming.”
They stood on a ridge and looked down on the path. It remained open, but the lava looked to be getting too close for comfort.
“Sorry to say, any detour would be a long way around and with no guarantees that the new way not be blocked,” Opuker said, and tugged on his beard. Then he confessed something the travelers had not expected. “I had family down in Bear Mountain. We had no warning about this one. I can only hope they got out in time.” He sighed and everyone felt sorry for him until the elves returned with a couple of friends.
“These are scorch and char, a couple of fire sprites,” the elf said. “They are going to turn the lava flow back east. We can crust the end of it near the path.” They went to work, Alexis adding her wind to the mix, while the others all marveled to see the lava river turn uphill to get over a hump in the path and start in another direction.
“That has to be harder than making water flow uphill,” Lincoln said. Sukki and Decker both nodded, and Elder Stow suggested that science could do much the same thing, if given the right equipment. No one argued with him, they just moved on.
Once they got free of the fault area, Opuker, the elves, and the sprites said goodbye. The sprites confessed they got the dwarfs out of the mountain before it blew its top. Everyone felt glad for Opuker, and Boston even hugged him and ignored the turned-up noses from the elves and from Lockhart.
They camped that night and the next without further incident. Decker suggested the djin got his pants burned by the local gods for setting off the mountain. Boston, Alexis and Katie all said probably Zeus, given the proximity of Jason and the Argonauts. Sukki, as usual, said nothing, but she spent plenty of time looking around. Both Lincoln and Lockhart tried to reassure her with the notion that the djin probably escaped into the next time zone to escape the gods.
“Hush,” Katie said. “You are suggesting it will be there waiting for us.”
Elder Stow managed to keep Sukki grounded until an hour before sunset on the last day in that time zone. They made it to the next gate, and set camp, unwilling to enter the next time zone in the dark. The djin showed up, and this time, everyone saw him.
He came in the cloud, and only formed a face where the setting sun would be at his back. It gave his face an eerie, glowing, enflamed look.
“The ash should have burned you. The dust should have blinded you. The smoke and gas should have choked you. The lava should have buried you. But now, even the small spirits of the water, earth, wind, and flame refuse to do as I command. Even so, I will find a way to kill you all.” They watched him move, like flying on the wind, and he vanished into the next time zone.
Boston remarked. “He looked sort of like Voldemort after he drank the unicorn blood.”
“Not a good image,” Katie told her.
Avalon, episode 5.10 will be posted in 4 parts
That is, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and THURSDAY of next week
Don’t miss Avalon 5.10, Family Feud, where the travelers find themselves outside Troy…