The travelers found a place among the trees and behind a rise in the landscape where they felt they could build a fire without attracting too much human attention. Boston and Katie bagged a deer, and Alexis found some greens that were better, not bitter, and some tubers that boiled up real nice. Decker, Lockhart, Lincoln, and Elder Stow climbed to a place on the rise and in the trees where they could watch the village and the Gott-Druk spaceship. Decker brought his binoculars and night goggles. Lockhart got the same equipment from Katie, which Lincoln kept borrowing. Elder Stow contented himself with what his scanner could show him.
“They have shrines near the middle-top of the hill,” Lincoln said. “I would guess Greek gods with Roman names, like Jupiter instead of Zeus and Pluto instead of Hades.”
“I wonder if Saturn is still around,” Lockhart said. “I recall the Kairos mentioning that he got confined to Italy to keep him off Mount Olympus. The Kairos said in his passive-aggressive way, Saturn insisted on different names for the gods in his jurisdiction.”
“Not really a different jurisdiction,” Lincoln said. “Still part of the Greco-Roman jurisdiction in southern Europe. Zeus threw his father, Cronos into the deepest pit of Hades. He spared his grandfather, Saturn, but confined him to Italy, sort of like a big prison cell.”
“I see three main gates on the wall,” Decker said, interrupting the conversation that neither man knew honestly what they were talking about. Lincoln had the database and could read about it, but that was not what they were there for.
“I have scanned for Gott-Druk life-signs,” Elder Stow interrupted. “They seem to be confined to the island.”
“I see several fires,” Lockhart agreed, and Lincoln reached for the binoculars.
“No indication they have seen us, or even that they are looking in our direction.”
“Atypical behavior for the Gott-Druk,” Decker said. “I would have expected them in the village, making the humans cower and bow down to them.”
Elder Stow frowned. “You have a very low opinion of my people.”
“Nothing personal,” Lockhart said. “But it is the behavior we have seen and what has been reported about your people.”
Elder Stow took a deep breath and nodded. “But here, the ship parked on the island has some armament and weapons, probably a necessity for space travel, but it does not appear to be a warship. I would guess it is more like a merchant ship, a freighter of some sort.”
“There’s a twist,” Decker said.
Lockhart lowered the night goggles. It was hardly dark enough yet to make them worthwhile. “I would say giving these early Romans access to heat rays would be even more dangerous to history than the old Gott-Druk way of taking over and trying to make slaves of the human race.”
“I don’t know how we can get into the village and get Evan without causing an uproar,” Lincoln said.
“The presence of my people does complicate things,” Elder Stow agreed.
“So, we find the Kairos first?” Decker made it a question, but it seemed the only solution to him. Throughout their journey, he had learned that the Kairos inevitably knew what was happening, and had some idea how to deal with otherwise impossible situations.
No one objected as they scooted off the rise and returned to the camp. They found the horses cared for and set for the night, and food cooking, but they all imagined they would be up for a time of debate. Everyone needed a chance to put in their two cents, and then Lockhart needed to keep them together long enough to do whatever the consensus decided.
In the morning, Lockhart felt unhappy, but nothing he could do about it. Lincoln and Alexis insisted on edging up to the farm fields, where they figured most of the people would come out to participate in the spring planting. When the workers came out, they imagined they might find Evan and whisk him to safety. There was one place where the trees came right up to the edge of the fields. They would have a good view of the fields and the village from there, while they could stay hidden. Lincoln insisted someone had to stay and keep an eye on the village. Besides, they found a trail they could ride to the river if they needed to evade pursuit.
“We still have the wrist communicators to keep in touch,” Alexis reminded everyone.
Lincoln got to say it. “I keep forgetting about these things.”
Lockhart could not argue, but he made Katie give Lincoln her binoculars and Alexis the prototype amulet, so Alexis and Lincoln could find the next time gate if they got separated from the rest of the group. He made Lincoln give Katie the database in case Lincoln got captured. He figured if the Gott-Druk could figure out how to read it, they might learn some things about the future that they should not know.
Elder Stow, perhaps worse, insisted on checking out the Gott-Druk present on the island in the river. Sukki would go with him. He made her swallow a big pill which he said would pass in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, he could use his equipment to make her invisible when he went invisible. He had a few invisibility disc relays, but insisted the pill was more certain and better for something like this.
“I will try to talk with them to see what their intentions may be,” Elder Stow said. “I will try to suggest they need to not be here, but I don’t know how they may respond. Invisibility is just a precaution.” Lockhart did not object until Elder Stow added a note. “It would probably be best if you keep the horses with you. I can levitate us to the island, but visible, flying horses would not work well.”
“It is going to be hard enough trying to wend our way through farms and hamlets to get to the back of the hill where the Kairos is located without giving ourselves away.” Lockhart complained, but they took the horses.
Decker and Katie rode out front, armed and ready for whatever might present itself. Lockhart and Boston followed, each bringing an extra horse with them. In this way, they approached the river, prepared to swim across where it got deep, but they found a surprise waiting for them on the riverbank. A centaur.
“Welcome. I am Colon, prince of the mountain pastures where my family makes its home. I have come at the urging of the gray-haired faun, to guide you to the goddess of time.” He smiled. It felt like a big speech for the brute.
“I don’t suppose Dionysus is around anywhere,” Decker said, a frown on his face.
“Silenus in this place,” Katie said.
“No. I am quite sober,” Colon responded
“Eh?” Lockhart asked, and Katie explained.
“The centaurs in legend are well known for their wild, drunken orgies, and attempts to ride off with women, to molest them.”
“Just so we understand each other,” Katie said.
“But to be sure, I have also come to see the red-haired girl, the wisest of the wise. Clopsus the Great said you would be among the travelers, and I am deeply honored to meet the one told of in our legends down through all the centuries.”
“Um…Thanks,” Boston swallowed.
“And it is even as I have been told. You have become as an elf, even a high elf, and a princess among all the elves”
“Princess?” Lockhart asked, and grinned.
“As in, Disney?” Decker smiled at her.
“Shut-up,” Boston said. “Truscas had a big mouth. Can we get going?”
“Of course,” Colon said. “If you will follow, I will endeavor to lead you in a safe way for my distant cousins that you ride, and away from the human scum.”
“Shows you where we rate,” Decker said.
Lockhart had to tug on the reigns of Elder Stow’s horse to get his nose out of the grass at his feet. “Come along, cousin,” he said.
“Yes, father.” Sukki lowered her eyes.
Elder Stow smiled for the girl. “You are a good daughter, even if you are adopted. I wish my daughters by the flesh were as cooperative.”
“Oh, children need to respect their parents,” Sukki said, in complete sincerity.
“My Abella argues all the time, about everything,” Elder Stow said, as he got out his scanner and adjusted several settings.
“Arguing shows a lack of respect. She should at least respect that you are her father. How old is she?”
Elder Stow paused to think before he answered. “She is thirty earth years.”
Sukki drew in her breath.
“I am fifty-two,” Elder Stow said. “And no, I did not have a bite of the apple of youth as Lockhart, Lincoln and Alexis had. I am an honest fifty-two.”
“But…I never heard of many Gott-Druk who lived much after forty. Forty-five is very old. I heard one old woman lived to forty-eight, but fifty sounds unbelievable.”
“You come from the deep past. I understand,” Elder Stow told her. “But in the future, we have found ways to take better care of ourselves. My father died at the ripe old age of eighty-six”
“Thirty-four, and not so old in the future. Now hush.” Elder Stow looked at his results. “It is an ancient Sky-Skimmer; a merchant vessel as I surmised. Crew of twenty, though quite big. Minimal weapons, but new-ion driven. We have made it to the photon age. They might not have a photon bomb, but possibly a gravitron bomb. Honestly, I am not as conversant with that age in history to say for sure.”
“I did not understand a word you said,” Sukki admitted. “Why am I here?”
“So I have company. It is important for families to do things together. Besides, if we have to reveal ourselves, you will not be out of place.”
“Yes, Father,” Sukki said, and with some joy at the idea of being family.
The travelers have split up. Everyone has their assignment. We shall see how things work out… or not. Until Monday, Happy Reading.