Avalon 5.11 The River Circus, part 1 of 6

After 1057 BC The Wei River.  Kairos 70: Shang Feyan


Katie waited by the time gate, her rifle at the ready.  Decker and Elder Stow came through last, and Lockhart yelled for them to ride.  No one moved.  Decker and Elder Stow swung around, so Decker and Katie could get the night creature in a crossfire.  The creature came through.  The marksmen did not miss.  The creature roared and jiggled back and forth, slammed by the bullets, but it did not stop until Elder Stow fried it with his energy weapon.

“Now,” Decker yelled.

“That was the scout,” Katie also yelled, and they started to ride.

They rode, but slowly.  The sun touched the horizon and looked ready to rise, but presently, it remained dark enough to require care.  It also felt dark enough so when the main body of night creatures reached that point, they could come right through the gate before they needed to go to ground.

“Damn,” Lincoln said, as they rode into a ravine.

“Who are you thinking?” Alexis asked.  Clearly, the night creatures had help from one of the Greek gods to catch up with them.  Thrace was a long way from Troy, and across the Bosporus besides.  They covered that distance instantly with Aphrodite’s help.  No way the night creatures covered that same distance, and crossed the water, without help.  So she asked who her husband thought the traitor god might be, without spelling it out.

“Eris or Hecate.  Probably not Ares.”

They came to a place where they could gallop, so talking got put on hold.

“Sukki,” Boston reached a hand out toward the Gott-Druk.  As an elf, Boston could make herself heard even over the thunder of the horses.

“I’ve got her,” Elder Stow responded, though it was not exactly clear in what way he had her.

When the travelers came up out of the ravine, the sun broke above the horizon and bathed them in light.  Lockhart did not let them stop, though they had to slow to a trot.  Lockhart merely looked at Katie, and she got out the prototype amulet, and pointed.  They weren’t too far off, but adjusted their trajectory accordingly.  They headed toward a forest where they finally had to walk the horses.

“Down,” Lockhart said, and the travelers grabbed the reins and led their horses through the brush and into the shadows.  Most kept their ears open for sounds of a baby crying in the dark places.

“So, Eris or Hecate?” Alexis asked.

Lincoln nodded, and took a couple of minutes to get out the database.  Alexis took the reins to Cortez, Lincoln’s horse, so he could use both hands to access the relevant data.  Then he spoke.

“We are in China,” he said, to begin.

“Hecate,” Alexis reminded him of what she asked, as the others listened in.

“I just wanted to be sure we were out of range of the Greek gods,” Lincoln said.  “Yes, Hecate.  She has no love for the Kairos after Althea beat up Madea, her pupil.  Then Eris is discord.  She was the one with the golden apple that began the family argument that started the whole Trojan war.”

“Diomedes said it was a political thing,” Alexis reminded him.

“I am sure it was, on a human level,” Lincoln agreed.  “The database suggests the Hellene invaded Greece just after the war, when so many of the Dorian Greek heroes were dead, and their sons were not yet grown.  It also says the iron made a bloody mess of everything.”

“You said probably not Ares?” Alexis asked.

Lincoln shook his head.  “The Amazon queen was his granddaughter, and Diomedes wounded Ares on the same day he cut Aphrodite, but Ares is in the thick of the war and Zeus is too likely watching him, especially, since he is the god of war and on the Trojan side, which as you know, was decreed to lose the war.  Ares would not dare.  Besides, Ares knows the gods have set a hedge around us, and he has nothing against us, personally.”

“Neither do the others,” Boston spoke up.

“No,” Lincoln agreed.  “But Eris is discord, and proved she would not hesitate to do something that would cause the gods themselves to be at odds with each other.  And Hecate is just ornery.  Think Tiamut.”

People understood, and stopped, because Katie stopped.  Something roared.  No one saw it, but everyone recognized the sound, and Lockhart yelled.  “Ride,” though they were still among the trees.

The travelers rode, and kept riding until noon, when Katie finally got them to try walking the horses again.  She had a thought that no one wanted to think.

“Maybe one of the Chinese gods is also working with the djin.”

Lincoln got the database out again and read before he spoke.

“The Shang-Di went demonic-crazy, and Nameless had to kill him.  I won’t read the details, but the hierarchy of the Shang gods over the people collapsed.  Tien is now the king of this jurisdiction.  Many are calling him Tien Shang-Di.  You may remember back in Yu-Huang’s day, the Shang-Di was already threatening the west and south, and Tien, with his brothers and sisters, and some rebellious Shang gods set up a hedge to prevent the Shang-Di from breaking out of his place.”

“I remember Nagi and Shengi-god were on the side of the Kairos, and they said some others were secretly ready to rebel, and declare back then for Tien.” Alexis said.

“Yes,” Lincoln said.  “Well, Tien Shang-Di is now in charge, and I am sure his brothers and sisters, as well as some others are giving their full support, but you know any such transition has got to have rough spots. I’m thinking there may be some old Shang gods that may be willing to gum up the works in a passive-aggressive way.”

“Or maybe rebel indirectly by assisting the djin against us,” Boston said, before Alexis got ready to say the same thing.

The travelers did stop for some lunch, but then rode through much of the afternoon.  They stopped near sundown, but only to eat a meal.  The moon had come up, nearly full, so they rode through most of the night, until moon set.  Even then, they walked their horses until the sun began to glimmer again on the horizon.

All along the way, they passed houses, farms, and villages, but they never stopped until daylight.  A village lay up ahead, and though they were tired, they thought shelter, like a barn, would be preferable to being out in the open.  The sky had clouded over, and it looked like rain.

The travelers got the usual slack-jawed, staring reception in the village.  They had shaped their fairy weave to imitate the local dress for men and women.  There was not much they could do to disguise the big horses, the saddles, or their equipment, but they did what they could.  Boston and Alexis could put up a glamour to make themselves appear Chinese, but there was nothing they could do about the others.  Katie’s blond hair stood out, and Lincoln remarked that at least Sukki and Elder Stow had glamours to make them appear human.

Some of the locals ran away when they approached.  Some of the men grabbed old spears and farm implements, and kept a wary eye on the travelers.  It took three tries before they were able to explain that they rode in the night, all day, and all night again, and all they wanted was a roof and a chance to rest during the day.  One old man finally agreed that they could stay at his farm, but it was some distance from the village.  From the looks of the locals, everyone imagined that was for the best.  They walked the old man home.

“This is not a good time.  These are dangerous days,” the old man explained to the group as they walked.  “The king, Di Xin, and his consort Daji play in their palace in Yin.  They care nothing for the people, and it is said they kill and eat those who displease them.”

“Human sacrifice,” Katie mumbled, with a nod to the others.

“Lord Wen?” Lincoln asked, without actually asking anything specific, but the old man shook his head.

“It once looked like Wen of the Zhou might rebel against the Shang, but he died, mysteriously, about three years ago.  His son, Lord Wu is raising an army, and the Zhou are strong in battle, but the Shang have ruled forever.  They claim to rule by right, being descended from the gods, and no one has ever successfully escaped their hand.

Lincoln nodded and said to the others, “I’ll tell you later.”

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