Avalon 5.12 Bad Wine, part 4 of 5

The travelers found themselves in a pleasant grove of trees beside a river.  The horses all appeared unharmed.  They also appeared to have their equipment.

“My guess is the Jordan River,” Lincoln said.  “It was the way we were headed.”

“Good guess,” Boston said as she checked her amulet.  “We are about a day from where the Kairos appears to be.  We got a whole lot closer without having to move ourselves.”

“Any idea where the djin might be?” Lockhart asked.  Everyone shook their heads, including Boston, who spoke.

“The amulet doesn’t show the djin.”

“The other side of the Jordan River,” Alexis said, and sighed her relief.  Everyone got it.  When Moloch threatened to send them over to the other side, the way the gods talk about the other side of death, he did not mean to kill them.

“We need to find the Kairos as soon as we can,” Lincoln said.  “Hopefully before the djin finds us.”

“Agreed,” Lockhart said.  “But we need to rest, and heal, and so do the horses.  We take eight hours.  Two for each pair on watch.”

“I could put the screens back up, just in case,” Elder Stow suggested.

“No,” Lockhart said.  “The djin might more easily find us that way.”

“I don’t suppose we could stay long enough to hunt,” Decker asked.

“Bread crackers,” Katie said, with a shake of her head.  “Be glad it is not cold.  I don’t think even a fire would be wise.”

Decker did not argue.  He was military, and knew better than most the trouble any delay might cause.  Tents were teken back from the horses and went up.  Horses got some extra care, then Lockhart started the eight-hour watch.  He knew they would be sleeping after the sun rose, but not for long after.

###

“Still no sign of the djin?” Lockhart asked, as he tried to wake up.

“No.  Nothing,” Boston answered.  “It has been quiet since Sukki and I got up to watch.”

“The sun is well up,” Katie said, as she checked her saddle.  “We still have time to get to where the Kairos is?”  Boston nodded.

“And we go around Jericho,” Lockhart said.  He underlined that for Lincoln.

“We have not been there since that first time, way early in our journey,” Lincoln said.  “I am curious to see how it has changed, that’s all.”

“It is where I joined the others,” Elder Stow explained for Sukki, who nodded, but held her tongue, as usual.

“We ready?” Decker asked.  The others mounted, and they set off through the wilderness.

The travelers found a village and a well-worn path to Jericho.  They asked the way to Jerusalem, and got shown the cut-off that went around the outside of the city and pointed straight at the capital.  Soon, they picked up a better path, almost a road between Jericho and Jerusalem, and they made very good time.

“Much better than the first time we came through here,” Lockhart said, when they paused to walk the horses, to rest them.  “Back then, Old Salem was ruled by the Kairos whats-his-name as an independant city.”

“Yadinel,” Katie told him.  “The Elohim people lived there, but the Jebusites were on the verge of overrunning the city.”

“Now, David might be king,” Lincoln spoke up from behind, his nose in the database.  “But I suspect we will deal with Solomon.  It says here that Nathan was the student of Samuel, and Korah was the student of Nathan.  Korah has two students, Shemaiah and Ahijah.”

“Elijah?” Boston asked from behind Lincoln.

“Ahijah,” Lincoln corrected her.  “Elijah comes further down on the list.”

“So, Korah is a prophet?” Lockhart wanted to get it straight.

“No, technically, he is a musician.  So was Nathan.  Apparently, with some other Korahites, not named after the Kairos, Korah… they composed and play most of the temple music that made the Psalms into songs.”

“Korahites?” Alexis asked.

“Yes…” Lincoln paused to read before he spoke.  “They are levites, the ones who specifically carried all the sacred items all those years in the wilderness, including…” he paused to read.  “Including the Arc of the Covenant.”

“So, now that there is a temple, he has turned to music?” Katie said, like a question.

“So, what do we call him?” Lockhart asked.

“Can’t be Elvis,” Boston spoke up.  “Because we aren’t in Memphis… Egypt.”

“Rabbi, I think,” Lincoln said, and read some more.

“There were Rabbi’s this far back in history?” Boston asked.

“No, I don’t think it’s that kind of Rabbi,” Alexis said.

“Rabbi just means teacher,” Katie shouted back as Lockhart stopped the column.

“Mount up,” he said.  “We have really pushed our luck.  We need to get to Jerusalem, and whatever the Kairos, Korah is doing, I hope he can help us with the djin.”

“I hope we get there before the djin finds us,” Lincoln agreed.

###

“I see the gate,” Boston shouted from the back.  At four in the afternoon, they would easily get there before dark.  Even with that encouragement, everyone dragged toward the gate.  They, and their horses, were exhausted from a whole day of fighting the wind and sand, and then getting very little sleep in the night, and then riding all day without a stop.  They dared not stop for lunch.  They all felt hungry, sick of plain bread crackers.  Mostly, they sweated and were thirsty.  The idea of food and water, and maybe rest kept them going, but they had no speed in them.  That changed when Sukki shouted from the rear.

“I see a black cloud following us.  It looks like it is catching up.”

Everyone looked.  Lockhart shouted, “Ride.”

The road they were on seemed better than most they had seen.  Even so, they probably rode faster than it was prudent.  The wind began to pick up around them and blow dust into their faces, but Alexis pulled out her wand, and the wind detoured around them.  She did not have the power to counter the djin, but she could divert the wind.

Fire came up from the ground, like a living thing.  It shot at them, but Boston had her wand out already.  She could not delete the fire, but she could cause it to bend away from them long enough to pass by.

Decker and Elder Stow came in from the wings to cover the rear.  As the cloud came closer, lighting began to shoot out and explode on the ground where it hit.  The lighting tried to hit them, but Elder Stow had prepared his screens in advance for just this possibility.  He flipped the switch, and the lightning struck the wall of screens he made come up behind them.  It struck the screen and dissipated.  Otherwise, the djin had to fire his lightining too far in front of the group, or too far to either side to be effective.

The travelers galloped flat out where they could, and near that speed in every other place.  They looked like they might make it, but Boston shouted, and made herself heard, as elves can.

“The gate is closed.”

Elder Stow touched something on his screen device and sprinted his horse to the front.  They all understood if they stopped to ask permission to enter the city, the djin would catch them.  Elder stow did not ask permission, or even think clearly of the consequences.  Somehow, they all imagined if they got inside the city they would be safe.  Elder Stow pulled his weapon, adjusted the setting on the run, and fired.  Whatever small part of the door around the edges that did not vanish, exploded and caught fire.

The travelers raced into the city, and the soldiers and watchers in the gate dared not stop them.  Dead ahead, they saw a pool of water.  They rode into it, and after a moment, they got down into the water.  It felt glorious.

They all looked, of course, and noticed that the cloud of the djin stopped outside the city.  It almost seemed as if the wall kept him out.  It made no sense, that a wall could stop a cloud that could easily fly over top.  But something kept the djin out.

As the travelers, and their horses reveled in the water, the guards in the gate pulled themselves together.  After only a minute or so, the soldiers came.

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