After 588 BC Babylon. Xanthia lifetime 78: Sister of Cyrus the Great
Muhamed groused the whole way through Assyria. Nothing appeared to work or go his way. The diseased natives died anyway. They came back to life, but the local gods ended that quick enough. He honestly dared not stick around to see. There had been one god in that place. He tried to explain his mission, but the pig-headed fool rushed him to the time gate and kicked him out of his world.
Muhamed groused and stopped walking.
He saw a farm house up ahead. He imagined he was being generous to call the slat and mud brick shack a house. No doubt a farmer and his wife lived there—a farmer who would die young from too much heavy labor. He would see if the wife had any bread. He might use the wife if she proved good looking. Not like marriage meant anything to unbelievers.
He walked and thought again.
After his failure with the Native-Americans, he got stymied. India proved far too dangerous. He whipped up some insect repellant, but got out of there as quickly as he could. The next three, count them, three time zones were filled with space alien monsters. In the first, he brought those horrible skeletons to life, but before he could do anything with them, he got caught by his enemies. Then he found the aliens, and they had real weapons of mass destruction. He escaped and got out of there. The third alien time zone looked like all-out war any minute, and he almost got eaten. The middle one, Rome, might have worked. The space aliens were quiet, and the thought of ruining Rome might have made it worthwhile; but nothing was there, yet. He remembered how early in time he traveled. Mohammed had not come yet, but neither had those Christians, thank god.
Muhamed stopped walking to check on something.
He thought he might kill a Jew if he found one. He pulled out his big steel knife, the one he took from the black-haired witch. “Hello,” he called to the house. They would not understand him, and he would not understand them, but he could make his wishes known well enough. He hid the knife in the folds of his clothes. “Hello,” he called again.
He got his feet moving again, and let his complaints finish.
Finally, in this last time zone, he thought he had them. The city appeared quiet. The walls would give the dead nowhere to wander. They had many graves within the city. He found a whole catacomb full of the dead, and had to move swiftly to drop on them all on his way out. He could not claim to have gotten them all, but he got most.
Muhamed stopped. A man came to the door of the farmhouse. “Hello,” he called, smiled, and waved at the man. The man might have been thirty, but he already looked fifty. Muhamed got a good grip on the knife hidden in his clothes and walked. He considered what went wrong, last time.
Muhamed imagined zombies would work much better than skeletons, but if some of the dead were virtual skeletons, he would not mind. The enemy all sat up on the ziggurat, a pagan, ungodly artifice that should be torn down and turned to rubble. All he had to do was convince enough zombies to go up the steps and attack his enemies. It sounded simple enough.
“Do you have any bread?” Muhamed asked, and pointed to his mouth, like he was eating.
The man smiled for him and the man’s wife came to the door. She appeared quite young and good looking, like the years of toil had not yet had its way with her. Muhamed came close, and shoved the knife into the man’s heart. He might not be a doctor, but he had to know his anatomy from pharmacy school. The man did not live long enough to struggle or fight back.
He pulled out the knife and went for the woman. They conveniently had a bed in the one room hut. He enjoyed himself, even if she screamed, but in the back of his mind, he kept thinking about what went wrong last time.
The zombie brains were too rotten to follow even simple commands. He had to get a torch to defend himself. Then he hit upon an idea, as other people decided torches were a good option. He got the people to corral the zombies. Apparently, their brains were not too rotten. They still recognized fire as a threat, and backed away. He did not come up with the idea, and some of the zombies got driven into the river, but plenty of them got driven toward the ziggurat. He felt elated. Surely, the people built the monstrosity for their dead gods. He guessed they were hoping their gods would deal with the living dead.
He saw when the enemies up top reacted to the zombie attack. He saw that man with his weapon of incredible power reduce his zombies to piles of dust. He gagged, when suddenly all of his zombies became dust, all at once.
He hit the farmer’s wife as he remembered in this ancient world, there were some people who masqueraded as gods. Ashtoreth was one. She found him. She rushed him to the next time gate. She yelled and threatened him, again.
He hit the farmer’s wife again. He thought Ashtoreth had to be a very powerful sorceress. He knew he dared not make her cross. He knew he needed to succeed in his mission if he ever hoped to get home again. But he did not have to be happy about it. He could be angry. He could hate Ashtoreth in his heart.
He beat the woman beneath him until she was raw.
The farmer’s wife stopped crying and probably passed out for a while. He did not kill her. He would use her again after he calmed down, and he might actually enjoy her. He sat at the table, found what food the house had to offer, and he watched the woman. His mind kept thinking about the living dead. Then it hit him. He found a cup and some water. He put two drops of his elixir of life in the water, and gave it to her to drink. It never occurred to him to see what his elixir would do to a person who was not dead, or diseased and about to die. He figured the woman might have a couple of broken bones, and her face and arms were badly bruised and cut, but she would live. He made her drink the water. Then he went back to the table, ate what he wanted, and watched and waited.
“Xanthia, female. 588-529 BC,” Lincoln reported. “The database calls her Cyrus the Great’s crazy baby sister.”
“Cyrus the Great?” Katie and Evan spouted at the same time.
“Yeah, that guy,” Lincoln said, before Katie and Evan took turns spouting information about who “that guy” was. Alexis and Millie might have followed some of it. Millie in particular spent five years sitting in on Professor Fleming’s lectures, which to be fair, covered a fair amount of history up to the time of Julius Caesar, where they thought they were trapped. Certainly, when they talked about the Roman Empire to come, they could hardly say the word empire without mentioning Cyrus the Great and the founding of the Persian Empire. That was about all Lockhart and Lincoln got; that the man started the Persian Empire, though to be fair, it registered that he would be a rather important person to history, in the grand scheme of things.
When Katie and Evan wound down, Lincoln got back to reading.
“Xanthia’s father, Cambyses, married her off to some general when she turned eighteen. He got killed in battle, so he married her again, at twenty-four, to another general. That was in 564. Cambyses had a stroke in 559, and Cyrus took over running the kingdom, under the Median king, of course, who was also Cyrus’ grandfather. But then, Xanthia’s second husband died in battle. Despite his stroke, Cambyses tried to marry her one more time, and this time to a noble administrator in Ecbatana, Media, when she was thirty. He figured the man had no interest in war. That was actually in 557. Cambyses died in 551, and Xanthia’s third husband died in battle the same year.”
Lincoln raised his eyebrows. “Let’s just say, she did not want for affection.” He thought it best not to explain that comment. “But in 550, the year after Cambyses died, Cyrus overthrew his grandfather, took the Median throne along with the Persian throne, and without much trouble, apparently, since he was the king’s own grandson. That began the Persian Empire. But anyway, Xanthia begged Cyrus to let her follow him around like she did when she was four and he was sixteen. He couldn’t say no.”
“Did she have any children?” Alexis asked.
“One son, but he died young. Four daughters. Three lived to adulthood, but by 550, she turned thirty-eight, and her youngest daughter, Roxane, turned nine. The girl stays mostly with Cyrus’ wife, Cassandane, while Cyrus and Xanthia went off conquering the world.”
“Enough,” Lockhart said. “Too many names. I’ll never remember them all. Xanthia and Cyrus the Great is about my limit, though I suppose he isn’t great yet.”