After 761 BC Before Rome. Kairos lifetime 75: Valencia, Mother Wolf
“I remember this place,” Boston shouted. “Last time we came here, Roland, Father Mingus, Truscas the Centaur, and I had to try and get Silenus to help us sober up Saturn so he could get all of you out of Pan’s dance.”
“Y’all,” Decker said. “To get all y’all out of Pan’s dance.”
“Yeah,” Boston agreed. “You were going to dance the whole month, but you-all would not have survived that.”
“Hopeless,” Decker said.
Boston turned her joy to sorrow as fast as a fee. “I miss Roland.”
“He is in the future, waiting for you,” Alexis said, quickly. “I feel certain of that.”
Boston nodded, but still sniffed.
“Are we going to get in trouble this time?” Sukki asked. She had not been there the last time, but she grew concerned about needing to be rescued. All told, though she was homo-Neanderthal rather than homo-Sapiens, she behaved, a good girl who did not like conflict, and she did not want to be in trouble.
“We will be fine this time,” Katie said.
“I hope,” Lockhart mumbled, and Katie elbowed him softly.
Lincoln sat up, put a log on the fire, and cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention. “So, Valencia.” People quieted to listen. “She is Etruscan. We should pass through the entire Etruscan home territory. Near as I can figure, judging from Boston’s clues, we came into this time zone somewhere below Naples. We should pass through Rome, which probably isn’t there yet, and exit somewhere beyond Pisa. No leaning tower there yet, either.”
“So, Valencia is in Rome, about the mid-point?” Alexis asked.
Lincoln shrugged. “Rome is on the edge of Etruscan territory, and the map in the database suggests there are two Etruscan towns, I guess cities, close by. I would guess she is somewhere in there, depending on how old she is.”
“Always the question,” Elder Stow said, and he got up to head for bed. They had been in this time zone for three days, but this was the first chance they had to relax and ask about what they might be facing. They spent the previous days avoiding tribes of humans and hostile villages. Apparently, no one trusted anyone else in that part of the world. They had to ride hard to escape several roving bands of men, and had twice been attacked, once in the night. They had to be ready to move at night, and had to get up extra early to be gone by the time the locals arrived. Here, they found a sheltered cove by the beach where a large rock blocked their firelight and rocky ridges sat securely at their back.
“So, Valencia has red hair,” Lincoln started to give the details.
“Woo-hoo!” Red-headed Boston shouted, before she grabbed her tongue. They had visitors, and not ordinary visitors. “Sorry,” Boston whispered. “My radar is set for humans.”
An old gray-haired faun hobbled up from the beach, followed by two younger fauns. it felt unusual to see them. Fauns were notoriously shy. It felt doubly odd to hear the gray-haired one speak.
“Pardon. Forgive me. My name is Aneas, or that is what you may call me. You are the people from the future?”
The travelers appeared shocked. Memories of Pan’s dance that Boston spoke about bubbled up in their minds from more than two years ago in their journey. That happened more than three thousand years ago, real time, but the images felt like yesterday. They remembered goat-hooved Pan, the satyrs and nymphs, the fermented grapes; and most of the images felt embarrassing, like images they would just as soon forget.
Elder Stow, not with the dancers at that time, fiddled with something on his scanning device. Sukki, as usual, looked around and waited for someone else to speak.
Since no one else appeared willing to answer, Boston said, “Yes, that’s right.”
Aneas nodded. “You are the red-headed elf that was once human. And your friend is of the elder race, as is the one who looks like the old man. The dark one is your defender. This man here has knowledge I must not see, and his wife is the black-haired witch who used to be an elf. The other man there is the leader of this expedition, and his wife is the golden-haired one-in-a-million elect. Am I correct?”
People looked at each other before Lockhart finally spoke. “Clearly, you know us, but what can we do for you?”
Aneas and the two behind him appeared to let out collective sighs of relief. No telling what kind of a reception they feared they might get. The travelers got the impression that being seen by humans was a rarity, and talking to humans amounted to something that never, ever happened. The travelers understood that fauns might be more than just shy. The appeared fearful and timid people as well.
“There is another, a human male that does not belong here. The centaurs that still hide in the mountains have discerned that he came here from the future. He has been taken captive by the ones who first came here on ships from the sea. He is made to toil for them, but his labor is not appreciated. We have seen how he is treated. I cannot begin to imagine I know anything about human behavior. Only, I would not care to be treated that way.”
Aneas paused to think, so Alexis asked, “What would you have us do?”
“He cries out day and night for Mildred. I do not know what a Mildred is. And sometimes he cries for Professor Fleming. I cannot imagine such a thing. But his heart cries, not just his mind, you see? His heart cries, and we hear the heart, and feel all the pain he feels. It disturbs the little ones so they cannot sleep.”
“I understand,” Alexis said. “But what are you asking of us?”
“We were wondering if you might be willing to take him back into the future with you. It might be that he can find his Mildred there, do you think? In any case, we might have a little peace.”
“Which direction?” Boston asked, and got out her amulet, the one that showed the location of the time gates. Aneas pointed, and Boston said, “Yes. That is right.”
“How will we find him?” Lockhart asked the practical question, assuming the man, after a time, would appear no different than any other local. Besides, he knew his group needed to avoid human contact wherever possible, knowing that most of the time it would not be possible. They had discussed it and agreed that from this point going forward, it would be best to avoid doing something that might throw history off track. Of course, that had been impossible since entering this time zone, but the sentiment was there. Indeed, their trouble caused the topic to come up, and they agreed in theory. Katie offered the summary.
“Right now, and for a few more centuries, depending on where we land, we probably won’t make much of a ripple. History is still mostly verbal and memories. But we need to practice, because from here on, history is beginning to be written. The future does not need a record of ancient time travelers, even if most in our day would cross it off as an ancient conspiracy theory, like bigfoot or ancient aliens.”
“We have seen our share of ancient aliens,” Lockhart teased.
“You know what I mean,” Katie said, grinned, and elbowed him softly in the ribs.
Aneas answered Lockhart’s question plainly. “We will take you to him.”
“Fine,” Lockhart said. “But we have had a harrowing few days since coming here. We need a good night’s sleep, and the horses are not made for the wilderness in the dark.”
“We will return in the morning to guide you.” Aneas said.
“Would you care to join us?” Alexis asked, pointing to the warm fire and the food still smoking to eat and take in the morning.
“Meat,” Aneas said, with a shake of his head. Without a further word, he and his two companions turned and vanished. Elder Stow let out a sound of surprise that sounded as close as he ever got to an expletive.
“They did not run off faster than the eye could see, or go invisible, or teleport to some other place on the planet,” he said. “As near as I can tell, they slipped out of this world altogether. I mean, they were here, solid and real. The scanner is still analyzing that data. But then they went…somewhere. I would guess, from the data, they slipped into another universe. I don’t mean a temporal universe, like a parallel earth. I mean a spatial universe, or physics universe, or another dimension.” He went back to fiddling with his scanner.
Everyone sat quiet and thought, not sure they understood, so they were not sure what to ask. Decker changed the subject.
“So much for not interfering with the locals.”
“Yes.” Katie and Lockhart agreed.
“Do you think we should find the Kairos first?” Lincoln wondered.
Alexis responded. “If this man is from the future, he is a risk to the present if he does not know any better. I would think the Kairos will be glad to have us take him out of harm’s way.”
“Besides,” Sukki spoke, and everyone paused to listen. “It does not sound like he is being treated well at all.”
No one said the words slavery or torture, but they all thought them.