After 882 BC Dandaka Forest. Kairos lifetime 73: Lakshme, not Sita.
“Put him over here.” Lakshme walked to the back corner of the room, the only empty space in the building. She worried her hands, while Sita fetched a blanket for the poor man. Devi examined the spider bite. It looked red and swollen, like all the others.
“Same,” Devi said, just to confirm.
“Water,” the man breathed. Libra, the elf maid who attached herself to Lakshme’s side, ran to fetch some water.
Lakshme wiped the sweat from her own forehead. “Well, it is official. Any more victims, and we will have to build a tent to keep them out of the rain.”
“Don’t worry about having room,” Devi said, as she took the water from Libra, let the man drink some and began to clean the bite with the rest. “I can help with that.”
“That is not how we are supposed to do it,” Lakshme said. “We lowly human beings, with our short, short lives, need to learn to love one another, and do good for each other while we are here. The gods can help, encourage, support us in our lives, but at some point, we need to grow up and do for ourselves.”
Sita covered the man with the blanket and got to her knees so she could hold the man’s hand. “This way of works is hard,” she said. Libra nodded and looked at Lakshme.
“Karma Yoga. It is the least we can do. It is our duty,” Lakshme said. “I was reminded recently, several centuries ago, that all life is precious. We do what we can to relieve the suffering and pain along the way.”
Devi looked up at Lakshme, though her attention seemed far away. She changed the subject. “Your friends are here,” she said, before she changed her mind and let out a little smile. “My friends, I hope. They are walking right into it. I must warn them.” Devi vanished.
“Friends?” Sita asked, and Libra looked like she also wondered. Lakshme could only shrug as they heard the door open. The men came in.
“Girls,” Lakshmana stepped to the back of the room. “Where did Devi run off to?”
Sita stood to give Rama a kiss.
Lakshme shrugged again and spoke around Sita to talk to Rama, directly. “We must go,” she said. “This Rakshasa is the worst kind, attacking the people with a pestilence of stinging insects and spiders who carry a venomous poison.”
Rama nodded. Sita looked like she wanted to tell him to stay, and not risk his life yet again; but she held her tongue.
“Can I go this time?” Lakshmana asked. Rama shook his head and placed Sita under Lakshmana’s protection. Rama had come into the building first, and overheard something about Lakshme’s friends walking right into it. He figured Lakshme would go, and he would not trust Sita’s care to anyone else. His brother, Lakshmana, would defend his wife, Sita, against all odds. Lakshme, on the other hand, seemed something like a goddess. She had resources, as she said, and could raise an entire army of protection in the blink of an eye. Rama had no one else. One of them had to stay with Sita.
Libra stepped up, but Lakshme shook her head for the maid, in imitation of Rama. “No, dear.” She patted Libra’s hand and raised her voice to talk to all of her little ones in the room. “You have people to comfort and care for.” She spoke to Libra. “I have shown you how to make Doctor Mishka’s medicine. Only some recover, but it is better than no hope at all.” She turned to Rama. “We will take Pokara and his band of merry men.
Rama frowned, and made a sour face, but he did not say no.
The travelers came through the time gate and checked the sun to gauge how much time they might have before sundown.
“We may have a few hours,” Katie said, not otherwise making the decision. “More if we arrived in the summer.”
“Feels like summer,” Lockhart agreed.
“No telling,” Lincoln countered. “The Indian subcontinent stays pretty hot for most of the year.” He lifted his head to look around. People followed his example. “No telling where we came down in Lakshme’s life. She moved around a bunch, chasing after alien pods of some kind.” Lincoln glanced at Alexis. “I need to do some reading.”
“Mountains behind us,” Elder Stow said as he stared at his scanner, before he put it away.
“Tree free ridge there,” Major Decker pointed, and looked at Boston. She pulled out her amulet and pointed in more or less the same direction.
“What?” Sukki asked, softly.
Lockhart did not wait. He started them toward the top, though after a short way, they had to get down and walk the horses. Decker and Elder Stow moved out a little on the wings. Boston and Sukki straggled behind, as usual.
The ridgetop proved to be mostly meadow, with a few trees beginning down the other side. They saw a river valley far in the distance, where the river cut through an odd combination of mixed jungle and dry landscape.
“I would guess the jungle sections follow the tributaries,” Katie said.
“Yes,” Lockhart understood. “But, would it be easier to follow the path the rivers cut through the landscape, and maybe fight that jungle, or gallop across the drier areas. Less fight, but more chance to get lost or run into people.”
“Dry areas,” Boston voted, though Lockhart did not ask for votes. “I can keep us headed the right way.”
Lockhart looked at the others and better judged the position of the sun. He looked around at the meadow, noting plenty for the horses to chew. “Camp,” he said. “Decker, would you mind looking ahead? I know you can’t look under jungle canopy, but I am curious if the tributary might be a good path to follow. Elder Stow. Can you scan ahead and make a map thing, as far as your scanner can go, and then set up a screen around the camp to keep the horses penned in. We don’t want one to fall off the ridge in the dark.”
“I can do that,” Elder Stow said, as he began to fiddle with his equipment. “But the energy levels are running low. I will have to find some way of charging my equipment soon.” He got down and walked toward the edge of the ridge. “From this height, we should get some good information,” he added.
Decker said nothing. He simple dismounted and stepped over to sit on a large rock. He would meditate and let his eagle totem lift his spirit into the sky where he could fly over the area and see what the eagle eyes could show him.