The horses and locals had no protection from the rain. The travelers walked the horses, who kept their heads lowered, but did not seem to complain. At least they seemed willing to trust their masters. Ota said he did not mind the rain, but Mister Crow sat in Misty Gray’s saddle and appeared miserable.
By the time they reached the river, the rain had stopped, and Boston thought to add another word. “Thank you Chac.” Chac was Maya’s eldest son, the one Maya once described as the stormy one. Boston had no reason to believe Kuican the wind or Chac the storm helped them; but she saw Ixchel and figured her brothers had to be around somewhere.
The river looked deep, wide and swift. They would have to think how to cross. A hundred yards beyond, on what looked like an island, they saw a six or seven-foot wall that suggested Shemsu work. The big stones appeared fitted perfectly together without any need for mortar.
Decker remembered there were plenty of Shemsu in the original group that they helped escort at the end of their journey when they came into the land all those centuries ago. “You know,” he said. “The ones who felt obliged to carve those giant sculptures of my head.”
The others tried not to laugh as Boston and Sukki stepped down toward the water. “Let me try something,” Boston said, with a look back at Alexis, her teacher in all things elf. Boston tapped the surface of the water. “Water babies,” she called, and Sukki slipped. Her leg went into the water up to the knee.
Immediately, the water paused and separated, much like the red sea must have separated for Moses. Lockhart did not question the sign.
“Walk the horses,” he said, and he and Katie started out front.
When they all got up the far bank, they watched the water crash back into the riverbed and resume its journey to the sea. The travelers turned to the stone wall, covered mostly in moss or a green lichen which was no doubt the source of the green sheen that could be seen for miles.
“City of Jade?” Boston asked, and Sukki nodded.
“The green color?” Alexis suggested.
“Probably full of jade artifacts,” Lincoln imagined. “The survivors probably brought every precious artifact they had or could get.”
“No doubt,” Elder Stow spoke up from the rear. Decker fingered his rifle, having thoroughly checked it over after Boston used it.
Lockhart and Katie ignored the conversation as they walked everyone to an archway entrance to the city. They saw no people, but they found several large gourds there where they stopped. Lockhart said, “ding-dong,” but Katie pulled her knife. With the handle, she knocked on the top gourd. The echo sounded loud, echoed in all the gourds, and reverberated into the city area. It did not take long for a gray haired old man to show up, supported by some twenty younger men with spears. They said nothing. They just growled.
Boston butted up front. “Maya sent us,” she said, knowing her words would be heard and understood. The men changed their expression immediately, and the old man responded.
“Well. That should be all right. Come in.” All the men relaxed, and people came out from wherever they were hiding and welcomed them.
The city looked way overcrowded, and not just with humans. Gnomes came and took their horses. Several elf-like women made a special point of welcoming Boston. And all of the travelers, including Elder Stow and Sukki, who still wore their glamours of humanity, got treated to warm baths, soft couches, and plenty of good food. Even Mister Crow got groomed and treated with great deference, once the people found out he could talk.
They all loved it, and relaxed, but by mid-afternoon, Lockhart roused the others to look for Ozma. The old man interrupted their quest.
“No one speaks to Ozma. She has saved us, but she is set apart. Sometimes the gods visit her, we have been told. Some believe this, but in any case, she stays in her place and wishes her privacy.”
“But we’ve come such a long way already,” Katie said. She looked up at Lockhart’s frown. “Well, someone had to say it.”
It turned out, Ozma came out to see them. Ixchel came with her.
“And here they are,” Ixchel smiled. The people gathered, bowed and stepped back to give the goddess Ixchel, Ozma, and the travelers plenty of room.
Boston ran forward, but hesitated, until Ozma opened her arms for a hug. Boston hugged her hard and loved her goddess equally hard. She spoke when she stepped back.
“Darn. I wanted to go down a spooky hallway and see what hid behind the curtain.”
Ozma laughed. “I am sure if the wizard were here, he would gladly take you to the next time gate in his hot air balloon.”
“Stop.” Lockhart finally had enough. “There is no wicked witch going to fly across the sky and sky-write surrender Dorothy.”
“Surrender Boston,” Boston said, with a grin.
“Whatever,” Katie supported her husband.
“The question is, what can we do to help in this crisis?” Lockhart finished his thought.
“Sadly, nothing,” Ozma said.
“More important,” Alexis interrupted. “What can you do for Ota and Mister Crow?”
Before anyone could answer, a man came shooting to the ground like a meteor, leaving a contrail across the sky. He arrived as a jaguar and let out a great roar before he transformed into an angry looking man. He stared at the travelers who hardly shrank in the face of the angry god. He waved his hand, and the glamours fell away from Boston, Sukki, and Elder Stow. The people, who had already fallen to their faces in the face of the gods, shrieked on sight of the elf and the two Gott-Druk; at least those who peeked.
“Clever,” the man said. “You should have all slept. You should be eaten by now.”
“Sorry to disappoint,” Lockhart dared to breathe the words.
“Quetzalcoatl,” the man said. “I am Tezcatlipoca, and you will not interfere. The sun of the wind must be destroyed. The sickness of the Monkey must finish the work.”
Ozma stepped up and put a hand on Lockhart’s arm. “I thought we might invite Quetzalcoatl to be king of this city and bring magic cures from the future.”
“No.” Tezcatlipoca yelled, but paused as the inevitable bubble came softly to the earth to reveal Maya standing beside Ozma. Ixchel stepped up to stand on Ozma’s other side. One woman could be hard. Two could be dangerous. Three felt like a serious threat. Tezcatlipoca appeared to think.
“I suppose,” he said. “If you went quietly to your gate without disturbing things, I could be persuaded to let you go in peace.”
The goddesses nodded. “We accept your offer,” Maya said. “Now be gone, before somebody drops a house on you.”
Tezcatlipoca roared again, but vanished. Everyone breathed, except Boston and Katie, who both laughed and told Maya she said that just right.
Maya smiled for them, but said, “Get your things. No telling how long you have before he changes his simple, little mind.”
“What? The god has a simple mind?” Lincoln asked.
“No,” Maya said. “He is just a man.”
The women laughed, as the travelers went off to pack their things and get their horses. Maya stepped up to Ota and hugged him. He began to weep.
“Do not weep,” she said. “Your family will rest in peace and be happy in the afterlife.”
Ota nodded. He did not doubt, but he wept all the same.
Maya stepped to the crow and frowned. “You are no end of trouble,” she said. She touched the crow and he turned back into a man. When the travelers returned, they found Ozma busy kissing that man.
“Her husband,” Ixchel said, and raised her arms. The travelers found themselves in the jungle. The time gate sat in front of them. Ixchel spoke.
“When the fever settles into the monkey population, some people will go north to get out of the area entirely. They will find a lake and build a city there. Maya will bring some here, to build a city in the jungle and begin a new civilization. Some will move back into the cities they abandoned five years ago. They will begin again, but it will all be different. It will all be changed.”
Katie understood. “The Toltec, the Mayan, and the remnants of the Olmec civilization.”
Ixchel nodded. “Only, you must not stay to see it. I know it is your habit to enter the time gate first thing in the morning, but in this case, though it is late in the afternoon, I say you must go now, while you can.”
“Thank you,” Boston said, and Sukki echoed, “Thank you.” Boston got down to hug the goddess, but her arms went right through.
“I am not really here,” Ixchel said. “But I appreciate the sentiment. Go. Be safe.”
They moved through the time gate.
Avalon, episode 6.1 Little Things. The travelers arrive in the Dandaka forest in search of the Kairos Lakshme (not Sita). They face swarms of deadly insects and grow concerned about who might be directing and guiding this pestilence, and to what end. Until Monday, Happy Reading.