I do try to keep my reading posts advertising and spam free, but we are coming to the end of FREE book days. Now, through May 31, Avalon, the Prequel and Seasons One Two and Three are all FREE, and, of course, the Pilot Episode is free everyday. This is something Smashwords set up during the stay-at-home time, so help yourself. You can get all of these books for absolutely zero money, hopefully read and enjoy them, (and maybe leave a good review). Thanks. Happy Reading.
After 323 BC, Sicily. Kairos lifetime 83: Umma of Carthage.
Despite their best hopes, the time gate appeared to be in Thermaic gulf, directly out from Mount Olympus. Harpalus found them a ship with some of the coins that Phillip paid them for saving his life. He got them a crew as well, but they told him the crew could not go where they were going. It would be a death sentence. The crew, however, could teach them well enough so they might actually make it to the time gate without sinking. They stayed a week to learn all they could.
Decker already knew something about sailing. No one asked where he picked up the skill, but being a marine, no one felt surprised.
Lincoln and Alexis knew the basics. They had a small sailboat, a twenty-five-footer that they used to take out on the Potomac and sometimes along the shores of Chesapeake Bay. Of course, it had a small engine, but they sailed enough to know some. Lincoln paid close attention to the instructions offered by the sailors. Alexis spent the week trying to get in touch with Fair Wind.
“I know we are not Ibelam, but it would save me a great deal of effort if you might be willing to help.”
Evan traveled on the PS Cumberland Gap when his family moved from Boston to Baltimore as a child. That was about 1888. He called it the most exciting and wonderful trip in his life. Evan confessed they moved mostly by the paddles, but at one point he watched them set the sails, and he asked lots of questions.
Millie said the big steamship they took to Rome didn’t even have any sails as an option. She worried if the engine broke down, they would be dead in the water.
Katie said, despite being a marine, she had little chance to go sailing behind her desk at the Pentagon.
Lockhart, who knew nothing about sailing, asked what the sailors did in bad weather.
“Well,” an old sailor said. “If it rains, we get wet. If there is thunder and lighting, we ask Zeus to please not strike the boat. I once saw a lightning strike that split the mast right down the middle. It took us a week to limp into the nearest port, half-starved and severely dehydrated because our water stores all got contaminated…”
Another sailor interrupted the story. “When the waves get big, we use the rope to tie ourselves to the boat so we don’t fall overboard. The steersman lashes himself to the paddle. Then we pray, mostly to Poseidon. Personally, I ask his wife, Amphitrite, to calm her husband, if you don’t mind.”
“She could do that,” Lockhart said, like he knew.
“Unless he is upset because she is mad at him for some reason,” Katie countered.
Lockhart nodded. “They have been known to fight. But, usually she is off somewhere else and very busy.”
“Usually,” Katie agreed
“Diogenes,” Harpalus mumbled, before he looked up and waved off the questions. “Don’t ask. It is a long story.”
By the time they got the horses and wagon loaded, and felt ready, though scared to risk the wind and waves, Katie and Lockhart went to say thank you and good-bye to Harpalus. They found him talking to a middle-aged man who limped, just like Harpalus. The man said hello, and seemed to know them. It only took a second. Lockhart figure it was one of the gods, even if he did not know which one. Katie knew.
“Vulcan,” she said as she shook his hand. She used his Roman name, thinking Harpalus would not know.
“Good name choice,” Vulcan affirmed, and he proceeded to say what he wanted, but also used the Roman names instead of the Greek ones for the various gods. “I talked to Salacia. I am sorry to say, Fair Wind remains in the Indian Ocean, but Salacia talked to Neptune, and he has promised to provide clear sailing out of this time zone. No guarantees on what you might run into on the other side. I have taken the liberty of giving your ship a hundred-year stain, so it will age a bit, but still be a solid, sea-worthy craft on the other side of the time gate.”
“You talked to Salacia?” Lockhart grabbed at the one thing he understood. He knew Salacia was the Roman name for Amphitrite, the queen goddess of the sea. He met the Kairos, Amphitrite. He grasped that the god talked to the Kairos, Diogenes.
“Concerning my ex-wife, Venus,” Vulcan continued. “You know, we were married a long, long… Long time. I was not happy with her on and off affair with Mars, but then I had a rather prolonged relationship with Bastet, the Egyptian, and even had a daughter and a son. I really don’t mind the young man. She can even marry Diogenes if she wants, since after all, she will be marrying my daughter, Danna.”
Lockhart looked confused again. Katie said she would explain it later.
Poor Harpalus also looked confused that whole time, until the end when Vulcan said his ex-wife might marry Diogenes. His eyes got big when he realized his fellow cripple was the god Hephaestus.
“By the way,” Vulcan said, and held out a coin filled saddlebag. “Here are the remains of the coins Phillip gave you. Young Harpalus has what you folks call sticky fingers. They may get him in trouble one day. I might have let it pass, but the bag doesn’t belong here. It belongs in the future.”
“Thank you,” Katie said, as she accepted the bag.
Vulcan gave Harpalus a hard, but kind look before he spoke again. “If you ever get to Mount Etna, look me up,” he said, and vanished.
Harpalus grinned, sheepishly, as he handed over Elder Stow’s sonic device. The travelers laughed about it as they boarded the ship and headed out to the sea, Alexis only magically helping at first with the wind.
The day proved wonderful, as promised, with a perfect wind and a calm sea. Lockhart and Decker took turns on the tiller, and Katie stood with them in the stern, checking her prototype amulet to make sure they stayed on course for the time gate. Boston stayed in the bow where she could feel a bit of the sea spray as they plied through the water. She only checked her amulet once in a while.
Sukki did not feel comfortable getting that close to the edge. She stayed amid ship with Elder Stow, who spent most of the day double-checking his equipment and grousing about how his sonic device got stolen without him knowing it. Lincoln and Alexis were there most of the day, seeing to the horses, and they laughed at some of the thoughts Elder Stow expressed. They assured Sukki, at least, that Harpalus was not an irredeemable son of perdition.
Evan and Millie stayed with Wallace, to comfort him in his distress. Wallace was still upset that Nanette did not wait for him to find her and save her. He said, when he caught up with that cowboy, he would kill him. He would take a gun and shoot that cowboy. Nanette was innocent, like a sweet child, and clearly that cowboy turned her head. She needed Wallace to save her and protect her. No amount of sense or reason could get through to Wallace, so mostly Evan and Millie just sat with him, and listened. Millie hugged the man now and then.
Late that afternoon, everyone gathered by the tiller so Lincoln could share his insights from the database. Only Boston stayed in the bow. She said she could hear well enough without having to vacate her spot.
“We need to do this while we can,” Lincoln said. “Last time we waited until we found Diogenes, and after that, there was never a convenient time when others were not around, listening in.”
“Yes,” Lincoln said, and he paused to get his bearings. “She has a bunch of names, and a very big family. A merchant family that owns a bunch of ships in Carthage. She is Carthaginian; Phoenician rooted. A different jurisdiction of gods from the Greco-Roman jurisdiction.”
“Does that matter?” Millie asked.
Lincoln shook his head.
“Persia tried to invade Greece a few times,” Katie tried to piece it together, and maybe explain. “I got the feeling the gods sort of backed off by then.”
“The Persians were Zoroastrians. They did not really worship the gods, per se, or they had a very different take on the gods,” Evan inserted.
“The Persian Empire held land in several jurisdictions,” Lincoln said, and looked at the database. “Anatolia, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and central Asia. In the old days, that would not have been permitted.”
“Right,” Katie continued. “The Phoenicians settled North Africa, at Carthage. Trojans from Anatolia settled among the Etruscans. The Gauls, that is, the Celtic people invaded and sacked Rome. Maybe the gods figured the human race started growing up, or at least advanced to the point where hard and fast jurisdictional lines were no longer realistic.”
“It says here…” Lincoln spoke, and took back the conversation. “Alexander received a special dispensation, of a sort. The geis of Alexander said whatever territory he could take, he could keep. We know he took the near east, the middle east, a big chunk of central Asia, and Egypt. The Persians also took that, more or less, but none of that counted the Greco-Roman land of Alexander. He also invaded and took a chunk of India, so he captured land in several jurisdictions, and the gods did not prevent him.”
“So, how is that important to Umma?” Lockhart asked, to get back to the subject at hand.
“Pyrrhus of Epirus invaded southern Italy… Okay, Greco-Roman and Greco-Roman, but by 277, he was facing the Carthaginians in Sicily. Carthage is North African, or Phoenician. Anyway, Pyrrhus opens the door for the Punic wars, a cross-jurisdictional struggle, and Umma gets in the middle of the whole thing, both with Pyrrhus and with Rome.”
People stared at Lincoln for a minute, before Elder Stow said, “So?”
Lincoln waved his hand, like they should all understand. “So…,” he said. “Wherever we land, there is likely fighting going on, so we will have to be careful going forward not to get caught up in it.”
People nodded a little, until Decker turned the conversation with a question. “So how old is Umma?”
Lincoln did some quick math in his head based on the time Millie and Evan were there. “She should be forty-seven, or maybe forty-eight.”
“Forty-eight is like sixty in twenty-first century terms,” Decker said. “I doubt she is swinging a sword.”
“We should be able to avoid the Greeks, or the Romans and Carthaginians well enough, between Boston’s natural elf radar and Elder Stow’s scanner device,” Katie said. “Whatever is going on, we should be able to skirt around it.”
“Better to keep our eyes open for the witch,” Lockhart said.
People nodded at that when Boston shouted back from the front. “Here we go.” She had her amulet in her hand. They snuck up on the time gate without realizing it. The whole ship began to creak and moan. The ship shook like the wood might splinter and fall apart any minute as the ship aged more than sixty years in a Nano-second.