Lockhart, Katie, and Boston got down, with Harpalus and his soldier behind them. At that point, two lights flashed up to Boston, and they spoke.
“Lady Boston. They got a witch,” Maren, the young, and Boston thought very young fairy wife screeched.
“They got a cowboy,” Philoxes said, some excitement in his voice.
Katie smiled. “And do you want to be a cowboy?”
Philoxes and Maren both looked surprised at being seen. Most humans who tried to see fairies saw only swirls of light and colors, and heard only faint sounds unless the fairies fully manifested. These travelers seemed able to see them clearly, and Harpalus saw them, which suggested he spent plenty of time in his youth hanging out with the Kairos, Diogenes.
“That is the temptation, Ma’am,” Philoxes said. “I reckon.”
Lockhart laughed before Maren got serious. “But they have a witch.”
Wallace, who spent so much time with Diana, and Justitia, had no trouble hearing, and he turned in the direction of the enemy fortifications. “Nanette,” he yelled once. He knew his voce would not carry that far.
“Harpalus,” a young man, roughly the same age, rushed up and gave Harpalus a hug.
“Erigyius,” Harpalus named the young man. “I forgot you were assigned to come and hold the pass.”
“The master?” Evan asked, as he, Millie, Decker, and Elder Stow came up from tending the horses.
“Our Tutor, Aristotle of Stagira.”
“Haven’t you graduated?” Millie asked.
“We are all in our last year,” Erigyius said. “Me, Harpalus, Ptolemy, Alexander, Hephaestion…”
“What about Diogenes?” Boston asked.
Erigyius spat. “That left-handed freak graduated last year,” he said. “Lucky for him.” Like Hephaestion, Erigyius did not talk like he had anything against Diogenes, as a person. But he spoke like Diogenes was of no account, and generally to be ignored and forgotten, even if he was Alexander’s cousin.
Erigyius wanted to take Harpalus to Lysimachus in the upper rocks where they could look down on the Athenian fortification, and plan how to dislodge the enemy from their strong place, but he had to wait for Harpalus to settle his charges.
“You can set your tents by ours,” Harpalus said, and pointed to the two big tents that blocked the entrance to the hollow.
“Wallace and Evan, would you mind? Lincoln can help.” Katie asked. “And Millie, you might help Alexis with the wounded.”
“I was just going to do that,” Millie said, and they walked off.
“Alexis will do what she can, but sometimes men die or cannot be fully healed,” Katie explained to the Macedonians, and added, “No promises.”
Harpalus nodded. “Diogenes explained to us more than once, the gods don’t make promises.”
Maren settled down on Boston’s shoulder, and just then, Philoxes accepted an invitation to rest on Lockhart’s shoulder. Lockhart squinted when the fairy settled down, like he thought it might hurt, but of course it did not. Erigyius’ eyes got big as he noticed the fairies for the first time. Decker had to grab the young man’s arm to keep him from running away, and Lockhart laughed.
“I reacted that way the first time I met an elf—an earth sprit. But I am living proof you can get used to anything,” Lockhart said.
“You have an enemy to deal with, soldier,” Decker sad. “Don’t let the little things distract you.” Decker grinned at his own turn of phrase.
Katie had her rifle and her scope. Decker never put down his rifle. Lockhart pulled out his binoculars, and spoke. “So, let’s go get a look at this enemy.”
Erigyius led the way up the hill. Some of the soldiers among the rocks watched, but said nothing. Lysimachus, a man who looked to be in his early twenties, frowned at their approach. Lockhart thought to mollify the man. He held out his binoculars. “Here, try looking through these.” And he helped Lysimachus focus them, who then smiled.
Decker held up his rifle, looked through his scope, and said click, click, as he looked around the Athenian compound. Boston just looked, and could easily see without the need for binoculars. The fairies could see well enough to make out the threads in the enemy clothing.
Elder Stow studied his scanner for a minute, before he began to program adjustments to his screen array. “It is a serious stretch.” He mumbled while he worked. “Like when I stretched it out to keep the werewolf out of that Celtic village. That was a long time ago. Lincoln would know when…” His voice trailed off when Lockhart got his binoculars back, and shared them with Harpalus. He got a good look though Katie’s scope, which she had detached from the rifle.
“So, what are your plans for dislodging the Athenians from the bottleneck?” Lockhart asked.
Lysimachus paused, because he glimpsed something on Lockhart’s shoulder. Besides that, he did not know what a bottleneck was, but he understood well enough. He prepared to speak when they got interrupted.
The dwarf, and four others with him appeared out of the rocks, or they gave up the glamour of looking like rocks so the others could see them plainly. Boston held back from her inclination to hug the dwarfs when Maren offered a name for them. “Grubby Doodles.” It sounded like she had her nose turned up.
The other travelers, who understood that dwarfs rarely traveled alone, hardly blinked; but Erigyius’ eyes got big and his mouth clamped shut. Harpalus saw and laughed. Lysimachus also got big eyes before he squinted and spoke.
“The people of legend,” he named them.
“What?” Bogramus stepped forward and objected. “We live here, local, over in Bog Mountain.” He pointed behind him and then pointed at the travelers. “These are the people of legend.”
“And good of you to come,” Katie said, echoing Boston’s thought, and Bogramus, and two others took off their hats. The other two stayed busy giving the humans hard, mean stares, which risked appearing comical on those bearded faces.
“Glad to help out, Lady—your majesty. Ragtide and Bellywattle could not be kept back once they found out you folks from Avalon were around.”
“But the princess did not say there was a witch,” one of the dwarfs spouted.
“I hates witches,” another one added.
“We were just about to hear how Lysimachus planned to deal with the witch and dislodge the Athenians,” Lockhart said, and Lysimachus shook his head and got back to the situation.
“They are mostly Thebans,” he said. “Only a few Athenian officers.” He shook his head again and got down to business, doing his best to ignore Lockhart’s shoulder passenger, who he now saw clearly, and the dwarfs, who apparently did not like any ideas. Somehow, they ended with a plan that the dwarfs did not hate.
That evening, around the fire, Lincoln finally got to read some out of the database, which he could not read while others were present. Philoxes and Maren were present, but occupied with each other. Bogramus and his four dwarfs had their own little fire going and had their own deer cooking. Of course, they would eat their deer down to the bones, where the eleven travelers, and two fairies, would not eat half of theirs. Alexis and Millie, tired as they were, planned to share the rest with the wounded soldiers.
“Diogenes,” Lincoln said, in answer to Katie’s question. “The reason he does not appear in the history books is because he is not considered important enough to write about, even if he is Alexander’s first cousin. His mother is the older sister to Alexander’s mother, Olympias. His father was one of Phillip’s bodyguards, which in these days means close, personal friend. No doubt he introduced Phillip and Olympias. She is a Melossian Princess, as is her sister. His father died protecting Phillip when Diogenes was four and Diogenes’ younger sister turned one. His mother went half-mad… that is what it says.”
“So Hephaestion called Diogenes the Melossian,” Katie remembered.
“And they call him fatherless. And he stutters. And he ls left-handed. His friends all respect him,” Lincoln said. “But they consider him of no account, and so do Phillip’s and Alexander’s official biographers. Apparently, Diogenes and Alexander’s official biographer, Callisthenes of Olynthus, had words, and Callisthenes scratched his name out from every place it got mentioned. Alexander, however, found great use for his cousin. Diogenes commanded a Thessalian cavalry troop in battle, but mostly, Alexander sent him out well in advance of the troops, not just to scout and track the enemy, which he did sometimes, but mostly to spy on the enemy, ferret out their intentions, and discern their weaknesses. Diogenes contributed more than maybe anyone else to Alexander’s success in Asia, but he was rarely around, so his contribution never got noticed or recorded.”
“Company,” Boston interrupted.
Bogramus came up, hat in hand. “The boys said I should ask if you have enough to eat. Ragtide admitted to stealing the bigger one, but felt guilty about it after. That is not an easy thing for a dwarf to do.”
“What? Stealing?” Lincoln asked.
“No, feeling guilty,” Boston clarified.
“No, thank you,” Katie said. “You enjoy your feast.”
Bogramus made a face. “Personally, I don’t have much of an appetite right before a fight.”
“I have that same problem,” Lockhart confessed.
“Not me,” Decker said. “You learn to eat when there is food, especially before battle, because you never know when you might get your next meal.”
“There is that…” Bogramus agreed and turned to get back to the dwarfs before the others ate it all.
“More company,” Boston said, softly, and patted herself on the back for knowing when humans were present. It was something all of the little spirits of the earth had to do to avoid contact with the mortal world. Though a learned skill, Boston knew that eventually it would become automatic, like a habit requiring no special effort.
Harpalus, Erigyius, and Lysimachus came to the fire. Lysimachus stayed focused on the human travelers. He had questions. Erigyius came to hear the answers, but he turned his back on the dwarfs and tried very hard not to look at the fairies. Boston considered removing her glamour and showing the man her true elf form, but she imagined that would be mean. Harpalus sat and watched the dwarfs eat, and laughed.
Lincoln put away the database. He figured he would not get in anymore reading that evening with the Macedonians in the camp. Besides, after they ate, he, Boston, and Sukki, helped Alexis and Millie bring the remains to share with the wounded soldiers. Harpalus helped with that, and Erigyius, though maybe because he started feeling uncomfortable with dwarf eyes on his back. Evan and Wallace stayed with Lockhart, Katie, and Lysimachus; Evan because he was curious, and Wallace because he was lazy and did not think to help.
Lockhart kept everyone to the watch, even if Elder Stow’s screens protected the camp. He said in this case, it was not the witch so much as he wanted to watch out for the Thebans and Athenians. He suspected the Thebans might try to get at them in the dark, or at least scout their position and prepare a better defense for the morning. He wanted someone up to watch for that and be able to get everyone up if necessary.
Katie agreed, and sure enough, around two-thirty that morning, Elder Stow said his scanner picked up about twenty men crawling out from the enemy fortification. Decker and Elder Stow had the watch, but Katie and Lockhart were not yet asleep.
“Don’t wake the others,” Lockhart said. “Let’s take a look first.”
“My sentiments, exactly,” Bogramus said, which startled the travelers who did not realize he stood there, listening.