After 467 BC, Attica. Kairos lifetime 80: Ophelia, Spartan Princess
A man screamed. It came from the perimeter. One man, and then several men began shouting, “To Arms! To Arms!” The camp scrambled.
The Spartan commander, Styphon, and the Athenian general, Nicias, both jumped to their feet and looked to the tent door. Ophelia shouted.
“Wait. See what it is first. Panic and rash decisions help no one.”
Nicias looked again at the supper on the table.
Shortly, Timocrates, Nicias’ number two, and Antiphas the Spartan came to the door. Timocrates reported.
“They came from the coastal area. No idea who. Several men are dead, torn up, I don’t know how or from what. The sergeants are counting their charges to see if any are missing.”
“Damn!” Ophelia stood and threw her cloth to the table. “Lord Nicias. We are less than a day from the border of the Peloponnesian League, but you better give the Spartans and the others their weapons now, if you want to survive this.”
Nicias shook his head slightly. “I don’t know. The Ecclesia charged me to see the prisoners safely out of Athenian land.”
“You know what we are facing?” Styphon asked, ignoring the general.
“I have a good guess. I fear that I do know, and that is saying something, because you know I fear no man nor beast,” Ophelia responded. “Timocrates, can you take us to the place so we can examine the evidence?”
Timocrates glanced at his general who appeared to nod, slightly. “Follow me,” he said.
General Nicias had five hundred Athenians to escort two hundred and seventy-three soldiers of the Peloponnesian League to their own territory, one hundred and six of whom were Spartiates—Spartan warriors of the highest class. Some did not survive four years of captivity, after the surrender at Sphacteria, though they had been treated well, and fed during those four years. Rightly or wrongly, the men credited Ophelia, a fellow prisoner, with the humane way they were treated and survived captivity, being treated like prisoners of war, and hostages, not like criminals. They knew that being a woman, the Athenians wanted to release her, but being a Spartan woman, she refused. She insisted on sharing the hardship of her people, even though she had a ten-year-old daughter back home. Well, she had two older sisters to count on, and a husband who died an honorable and glorious death on Sphacteria. Helen should be a fine young woman of fourteen by now.
When Ophelia and the men arrived, they found Zeuxides and the Athenian Tellis of Marathon waiting. They looked uncertain. Ophelia bent down to the shredded body of the guard. She did not have to examine much before she swore again.
“Damn. Wolvs.” Ophelia called to her armor and weapons, and they came out of the Second Heavens and replaced the dress she wore. No one blinked. They had all seen her do that before. “Nicias, you better arm the Spartans, even if it is a day early. It may be a scouting party from a small ship, but we cannot count on that.”
“What are Wolvs?” Styphon asked.
“Like the name, but intelligent as a man, and big. They have weapons of fire and explosions.” She pointed to the burn marks on the body. “They travel in ships that fly in the air the way our ships travel on water. And even without weapons, they have claws and teeth that can shred you. In fact, they seem to delight in shredding things like soft, human flesh.”
“Timocrates,” Nicias pointed at his number two. “Arm the Spartans.” Antiphas went with him to see it done.
“I haven’t even said the worst part yet,” Ophelia added, regaining everyone’s attention. “The Wolv are just soldiers. They answer to Humanoid commanders. The Humanoids look like us, but have very sharp teeth. They like to eat humans, raw. They won’t bother to cook us first.”
“Wonderful,” Zeuxides said. The Spartan took it like a challenge.
Evan explained how they came this way before, in the opposite direction. “The time gate stood in the middle of a shallow river well north of Rome…”
“It was fairly shallow, and nearly dry,” Evan continued. “We swam out in the muddy water, and did not know what to expect on the other side.” He paused to see if Millie wanted to add anything. She shook her head. “We landed in the Aegean, somewhere off the coast of Chios. I thought we would surely drown.”
“Last time we moved from water to water,” Lincoln said, thinking a minute. “That seems to be the way it works. If the gate is in the water, the exit gate will be as well. But, in any case, we moved from river to river, but that was before we had the horses.”
“So, what happened?” Alexis asked Millie.
“We got rescued,” Millie said, with a smile.
“We got picked up by a ship out from Rhodes, headed for Piraeus harbor and Athens. That took a week, and the winds were favorable the whole time. Odd, to think of it. The captain and crew acted like they picked up all of us in Chios, and our passage got paid. That is very odd, now that I think about it.”
“What do you mean, we?” Alexis asked.
Millie answered. “We traveled with a very kind older woman, Doris, and her granddaughter, Nyssa. They gave us a cabin, where we ate all out meals; but I did not even know such ancient ships actually had cabins.”
“They don’t,” Lincoln said, as he got out the database to read.
“Another woman, one that Nyssa called Aunt Galatea was there, too. But we only saw her on a couple of days,” Millie finished. “I guess she kept mostly to herself.”
“Doris is Amphitrite’s mother. Nyssa is her daughter. Galatea is her sister, one of the ninety-nine.”
“Amphitrite?” Evan asked. He knew the name, even if Millie did not know it off hand.
“The Kairos,” Lincoln said, and Evan nodded, like he should have guessed.
“Sea goddesses,” Alexis told Millie, and a light seemed to go off in her head.
“Poseidon is Nyssa’s father,” Lincoln said.
“Neptune,” Evan told Millie. “You would know her mother as Salacia.”
Millie nodded. “Amphitrite is Salacia, and the Kairos.”
“And a wonderful woman, from what little I’ve seen of her,” Alexis added.
“Walk ‘em,” Katie spoke back to the four following. She slipped off the back of Lockhart’s horse, and he also got down. Sukki, who had taken to riding beside the mother and father of the group, also dismounted, but looked ahead. Boston was returning from out front, having ridden out to check the lay of the land, and she had her amulet out, no doubt checking their direction.
“Corinth is up ahead. Walking distance,” Boston reported. “My guess is the Kairos is at the other end of the isthmus, on our side of the next big city, but not far from a village.”
Decker rode up in time to hear Katie name the village. “The village is probably Isthmia, or whatever they call it in this time period, or maybe Sidius.”
“That’s it,” Decker said. “The Kairos is insidious.”
“Ha, ha,” Boston spoke without laughing.
“That’s okay,” Katie responded. “I didn’t expect it to still be there after all this time.” She glanced up at the sky and let out a little sigh for Artie, the android that Amphitrite made human, and that she and Lockhart adopted before they were even officially married. She changed the subject as Lincoln, Alexis, Evan and Millie walked up. “I am more unhappy that we came right through Nemea and did not get one whiff of a lion in the neighborhood.”
“The Nemean lion would be Hercules. That would have been ages ago, wouldn’t it?” Evan asked.
“We met him,” Lincoln whispered, to Evan’s surprise, but his whisper got over drowned out by Lockhart’s volume.
“Lunch.” He shouted before he said more softly to Katie, as people turned to first take care of their horses. “I want to get a meal in before we get to the city. Even I can see that herd of sheep down that hill there. That means we are too close to habitation to even technically be in the wilderness.”
Katie nodded. “I wonder if your horse-thief’s inn is still there, in the city.”
Lockhart rolled his eyes.
When they were seated by the fire, Boston looked again at her amulet. “The Kairos was moving in our direction,” she said. “But she appears to have stopped for some reason.”
“We are too far away for a look,” Decker said.
“Indeed,” Elder Stow said, with a look at his scanner.
“Let’s just get through Corinth first,” Lockhart said.
“I’m sure there is a good reason,” Katie said, at about the same time.
“Who can understand the mind of the gods,” Millie said, still thinking about her trip aboard that ship.
“Exactly,” Boston and Sukki said together, but Boston said it louder.