Avalon 5.12 Bad Wine, part 1 of 5

After 999 BC Jerusalem.  Kairos 71: Korah, Musician and Prophet

Recording…

The travelers came prepared.  Too bad for the djin.  They took their blankets and their horse blankets and shaped them into water carriers, where the water would evaporate slowly over the next four days to a week, depending on how much of it they drank in that time.  They draped one carrier just behind their saddles where it would cool the horse’s rear, and the other, just in front of their saddles, where it would drape down and cool the horse’s neck.  They separated a piece of fairy weave from their clothes to make a mask for the horses to protect them from the sand.  They protected themselves with sold clothes where they could sweat, and masks and hats of their own.

“Tien said desert,” Alexis reminded everyone several times, before she finally asked, “Are we ready?”  Their canteens were full, and the horses had a long drink.

Katie looked at Lockhart before she nodded, and they left China behind.  They came out on a plain where they saw only sand for as far as they could see, and it felt like it would be a hundred degrees in the shade, if they ever found any shade.

“I don’t like it,” Katie said.  “It feels unnatural.”

“About what I expected,” Lokhart said, and with a glance at Katie, who checked her amulet and pointed, they started right out at a slow, walking pace.

“Looks like nothing but bread crackers for a while,” Lincoln said.  “Unless Decker or Elder Stow can find something.”

“How can we eat bread crackers without hot water to make the bread?” Sukki asked Boston.  Alexis heard and leaned back to answer.

“We may have to just eat the crackers.  Don’t worry. They won’t expand into full loaves of bread in your stomach, though they will fill you more than you would normally expect from crackers.”

“It will be fine,” Boston assured her.  “We have eaten the crackers before.”

“My mother.  My father,” Elder Stow interrupted and moved up beside Lockhart.  He had his scanner out and shook his head.  “I do not understand what I am seeing.  I am picking up a hot and dry land, but there are bushes and some trees.  I would guess olive and fig trees, among others.  I see a farm and a village that we should be able to see from here.”  He pointed off to their right.  “But my eyes see nothing.”

“Boston?” Lockhart shouted back, though Boston’s elf ears would have heard his whisper.

“Sorry, Boss,” Boston responded.  “All I see is sand.”  She got out her amulet, which offered more information about the location of cities and towns, and the general terrain than Katie’s prototype amulet.

“An illusion?” Alexis asked.

“Boss,” Boston raised her voice for Lockhart’s attention.  “I don’t see the village in the amulet, but we should reach a city by the end of the day, or a bit less.”

“We’ll look for it,” he said and turned to those around him.  “I want to keep Elder Stow with the main group to keep an eye on the terrain, in case we come to a cliff or something.  Katie, would you mind taking the wing with Decker?”

“Really?” Katie asked, and appeared to smile about it.  It could be dangerous by herself out on the wing, but previously, Robert would not let her get in a dangerous position.  It almost separated them at one point.  She thought, maybe he was growing, willing to let her be the elect she was.

“If you don’t mind,” Lockhart said.  “Lincoln needs to use the database to figure out where we are.  Alexis and Boston are trying to figure out how to pierce this illusion, or whatever it is.  Sukki is too new at all this, and not military trained, and as I said, Elder Stow needs to keep a watch on the terrain.”

“Oh.”  Katie lost a bit of her enthusiasm.  “So I am the only choice?”

“Not exactly,” Lockhart admitted.  “You have elect senses.  You might sense something that none of us can see.”

That helped.  Katie rode off to one side, and Decker rode off to the other.  Lockhart watched them to make sure they did not disappear in the sand.  Then he spoke into his wrist communcator.  “Testing, testing.  Don’t get out of range in case we need to pull you back quickly.”

“Roger.”

“Yes, Dear.”

Lincoln looked at Lockhart, who turned slightly red but did not turn his head.  Lincoln kindly changed the subject as he pulled out the database.  “I would guess our equipment has been taken out of the djin’s hands.  He had to teach the men in Sinon’s day to fire the weapons, and Elder Stow’s radiation detector still worked.”

“Zoe took away his ability to control our minds, way back when,” Lockhart responded.

“Looks like he still figured out a way to control our senses, though.” Lincoln said and turned to read.

“This way,” Elder Stow said.

“Why?” Lockhart asked.

“Trees.  A grove,” Elder Stow replied.

Lockhart shook his head.  “I don’t see them.  Let’s see if they are there.”  He kept them moving straight ahead.

Elder Stow grunted, raised his eyebrows and grunted again before he spoke.  “You…We appear to have walked right through them.”

“That doesn’t mean if we come to a cliff or crevasse we won’t fall off or fall in,” Lockhart said and turned his head.  “Alexis.”

“We seem to be partly out of sync with the environment,” Alexis responded.  “Like we have one foot in another world.  Boston.”  Boston looked at her.  “Try to go invisible.”

Boston had to concentrate, but she eventually succeeded, and though they did not see her, just Honey, her horse, plodding along in the heat, they heard her well enough.  “I’m in regular land,” she said, and everyone knew what she meant.

Sukki had a question, after she got over her shock of seeing Boston disappear.  “Is it as hot there?  I’m melting.”

“Still hot, but not as bad,” Boston said.

“The benefits of a green environment,” Alexis said.

“Elder Stow.  Want to try it?” Lockhart asked.  Elder Stow had a disc with which he could simulate invisibility.

“Wait until we stop for lunch,” he said.  “It is still tied to the screen device.”

Lincoln looked up.  “Hey, I was wondering.  Can your screens cut the glare of the sun, like sunglasses—or those glasses that darken out in the sun.”

“Like shade,” Alexis said.

Elder Stow looked up and thought about it.  “I believe so, but I may need to take extra time at lunch to work on the program.”

“Sandstorm.”  Katie’s word came from every wrist communicator.  Lockhart looked up and saw Decker, and then Katie riding hard.  Behind them, he saw a wall, like a giant cloud pursuing them.

“No time like the present,” Lincoln said.

“Over here,” Boston spoke.  “Follow Honey.”  Honey wandered to a spot that looked, to the others, no different than anywhere else.  But they followed, and Decker and Katie angled in to join them.  Elder Stow got down and worked feverishly on his scanner and screen device.

“Why here?” Lockhart asked to Boston’s horse.  He heard an answer over his head.

“We are behind a hill and great rock outcropping.  I can kind of see the desert, if I concentrate, and I don’t know if the natural barrier will help, but I thought it was worth a try.”

“Everyone, get out your tents,” Lockhart shouted.  “See if it will expand enough to cover yourself and your horse.”

“Wait, wait,” Elder Stow said, and he judged where Katie and Decker rode in the distance.  He hit a button with a word, “Now.”  Suddenly, the sound of the wind that they hardly noticed cut off.  Elder Stow continued.  “I made the screens as big as I could and still keep out the sand and dust.”

“Why make it so big?” Sukki wondered.

“Because, I would not put it past the djin to try and bury us in sand, at which point the only air we will have to breathe will be the air inside the screens, until we dig ourselves out.”

“Well, if he buries us, it should cut the glare from the sun,” Lockhart said.

“And bake us, like in an oven,” Alexis responded.

“Cheery thought,” Decker said, as he dismounted.

Katie got down to stand beside Lockhart as they watched the sand strike and begin to build a wall of sand on the outside of the screen dome.

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