Don’t forget. 4 posts this week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Don’t miss it.
After 529 BC, The Himalayas. Kairos lifetime 79: Rajish the Defender
The travelers came out of the time gate and landed in a snow storm. They stopped and thickened their fairy weave clothing to imitate the best winter coats, scarves, hats and boots. The fairy weave tents got repurposed to cover the horses against the cold. Then they walked and rode very little over the rough ground, looking for shelter against the storm. They found a rock overhang where they and the horses could at least stay out of the wort of it.
By lunchtime, it did not look like they would make much progress on that day. They huddled around the fire, watched the deer cook, and talked quietly against the silent, falling snow.
“I’m not picking up any signs of human habitation,” Elder stow said, with a shake of his scanner device.
“I couldn’t find anything either in this storm,” Decker agreed. “Only the mountains in the distance, and we appear to be heading that way.”
“But, where is this place?” Evan asked. He looked at Millie, who shrugged. “We came this way, well, reverse, mostly through a storm, stronger than this one. There is a monastery up the mountainside, about a week from here. Chinese, I think, though not exactly. They saved our lives, let me tell you.”
“Let’s see,” Lincoln said, as he pulled out the database. Alexis imitated Katie, pulling her blanket up and hugging Lincoln, but without the obvious shivering. “Rajish. He is from the Ganges river area. My guess would be we are somewhere in the Himalayas, and it appears our path is uphill.”
“In winter?” Millie dreaded the idea.
“Spring.” Boston took a big whiff of air. “Really early spring.”
“But, he is from India?” Lockhart interjected.
Lincoln nodded. “He went up into the mountains on rumors of Skudsu in the snow.” He paused when he saw curious faces, so he reminded everyone. “You remember Lakshme, and her faithful elf companion, Libra.” People smiled and nodded.
“Lucky girl…” Boston whispered.
Lincoln finished his thought. “Apparently, one piece of the stuff landed this far north, and froze. It stayed dormant until a human found it. Of course, we don’t know if that has happened yet,” Lincoln added. “We have to assume it has not, but at least we know he made it into the mountains, or we would be on the Ganges, or the Indus in the heat.”
“And he has been here for a while,” Millie said.
“We came this way before,” Evan repeated, and nodded. “I imagine he has dealt with any rumors by now. So, what is Skudsku?”
“Intelligent,” Katie added.
“Spreads like wildfire,” Alexis said, and Lincoln cleared his throat.
“Kills everything in its path.” Lincoln shivered, and not from the cold.
After a moment of silence, Evan said, “Sorry I asked.”
“Hush,” Boston said, sharply. She looked behind her. Katie sat up and looked in the same direction. Decker’s head followed a moment later.
“What is it?” Millie asked.
“Shh!” Boston insisted.
“Something out there,” Decker said. Sukki moved to the other side of the fire. Elder Stow started up his scanner, but it would take a moment to change it from wide range to short range.
“Not a bear, or tiger, or whatnot,” Boston said.
“I’m not picking up danger,” Katie agreed.
“Gone,” Boston said.
“I’m not seeing anything,” Elder Stow admitted.
“Maybe just a squirrel or something,” Lincoln suggested. Lockhart frowned at him, but no one contradicted him.
The snow stopped falling by four, but the gray clouds never went away. They were not going anywhere that day, so they settled in for the night, giving the horses some extra attention since the horses had so little to eat.
The standard watch in the night became Evan and Millie from eight to ten, with Lincoln and Alexis from ten to midnight. The leaders of the expedition, Lockhart and Katie, took the middle of the night when they should have been sleeping. Decker with his rifle and Elder Stow with his scanner took the dark of night, between two and four in the morning. They woke the elf, Boston, so she could rise with the sun, and Sukki got up with her. In this case, the watchers not only needed to watch over the camp, they had to keep a special eye on the horses, and keep the fire burning bright, and as warm as possible. Though it stopped snowing, and the sky cleared around midnight, that just made the cold wind feel worse.
All that day, and the next, they traveled under mostly gray skies. It felt warmer than hard winter, but not by much. On the second day, they found some green patches in the snow. They stopped in one large patch of green and let the horses nibble on what they could find. The horses did not appear picky, and several nibbled on the trees, crunchy as the bark might be.
“I’m getting concerned about the horses,” Katie mentioned privately to Lockhart.
“How so?” He had his own thoughts, but wanted to hear what she had to say.
“These horses have carried us through sixty time zones, according to Lincoln. That is about two-and-a-half years, as Lincoln figures. Decker, who has been counting the days, more or less agrees.”
“How do you figure?”
Katie paused a minute. “It is ten days to two weeks between time gates, on average. It was less when we began, but the time between gates has grown, so I am counting the average. We sometimes stop and rest with the Kairos in the center for a few days, but sometimes we get hurried up by the gods or Tobaka’s Android ship, or some such thing. Altogether, that makes a rough two week per time zone average. That puts us somewhere in the sixteenth week of the third year since we got the horses. Decker figures we are forty-five days’ shy of three full years, though he counts it from when we arrived on the plains of Shinar, before we got the horses. Putting it together, I would guess we are a hundred and sixty-four days into our third year with the horses.”
“One-sixty-four sounds pretty accurate for an estimate,” Lockhart said, and smiled.
Katie returned the smile. “I try,” she said.
“But I figure we got them when they were six or seven, so fully mature, and well trained to the saddle. At age nine or ten, they aren’t even middle-aged yet,” Lockhart said, doing some figuring of his own.
“But we have worked them pretty hard these three years.”
Lockhart nodded. “But we walk them as much as ride them. We stop by six or sooner, and leave at six or later. Figure a two-hour lunch, and that is only a nine or ten-hour work day. Plus, we do take three or four days of rest about every two weeks.”
“I understand,” Katie agreed. “But I would guess we have another two to three years to travel to get home. When we get into landscapes like this where there is so little for them, beneath the snow and all… I don’t know. I worry about them. This is some rough duty, day after day.”
“Rough for all of us. Aren’t you afraid I will wear out?”
Katie reached for his hand. “Poor baby.”
He stopped to kiss her.
When they got to the end of the third day, Boston shouted from the rear. “He’s here again.” As soon as she shouted, Katie looked in the right direction. For three days, on each day near the evening, they heard and sensed something. Elder Stow, who did not wander out far on the wing, given the conditions, and the fact that there did not appear to be any people in the immediate area, quickly got out his scanner.
“No, nothing,” he said. “I am not picking up anything. Wait… No.”
Decker came in from the other side. “I saw something big moving through the woods.”
“Dragon big?” Lockhart asked.
“No,” Elder Stow interrupted. “The scanner is set for dragon. Can’t hide such a thing.”
“So, some life form the scanner does not recognize?” Boston asked. Elder Stow nodded.
“How big?” Lockhart got back to his question.
“Seven or eight feet, maybe nine. Bi-pedal. It moved among the trees where I could not actually see it.” Decker checked his rifle.
People stood quietly thinking before Lincoln blurted out, “Bigfoot?”
“Yeti,” Alexis corrected him. “In this part of the world, it would be the yeti. I know that much.”
“Just a myth,” Lockhart said, and everyone looked at him like he lost a screw. “Okay. Forget I said that.”
Katie helped him out. “I don’t sense any hostile intent.”
Lockhart looked around. They stood in a large field where some grass tried to poke through the snow. They seemed surrounded by forest, but some distance away on all sides. The wind was down. Lockhart did not think for long.
“We camp here, in the middle of the field. Be careful gathering wood. Let the horses loose and build the fire nice and big. Maybe we won’t be disturbed in the night, but at least we should see something approach.”
People looked up, but the clouds did not appear threatening, so they got busy making camp. Meanwhile, Boston had to explain to Sukki what she meant when she said, “Bumbles bounce.”