The ground trembled under the Greek soldiers, and those who were not knocked down by the lightning stroke, fell from the earthquake. It seemed a curious earthquake, because the travelers did not feel it at all. All that happened was the Greeks lost their footing, and a hole opened up in the side of a very small ridge.
Everyone stared at the figure in the field. The helmeted figure of a woman looked like the avenging angel of Almighty God. The sword she held looked impossibly big and unquestionably sharp. It seemed the very scythe of the angel of death, the reaper come to harvest souls. The Greeks wailed and tried to hide themselves in the ground they felt surely they would be buried in.
“Athena,” Galatea said, and clapped. “I mean, Minerva.”
The Eporites did not hear, being too busy prostrating themselves. The travelers vaguely heard, as the struggled to shut their mouths. Minerva roared.
“Tramp!” Nanette appeared in front of the goddess, and trembled. “I don’t need Apollo to laugh and point at me. And I don’t need the Kairos to tell me this is not how it is supposed to go. I made you, and this is what you have done with your life?”
“It’s not fair,” the witch complained. “Why are the gods on their side? They have the weapons and the power. They have everything. It isn’t fair. I should have it. I should have it all. I want it now. Give it to me.” The witch may have put every ounce of compulsion and magic into that demand, but in the face of a goddess, that would have been like a drop of water trying to put out the sun. Not only is that nonsensical in terms of size and strength, but the sun is not even the kind of fire that water can affect.
“Your other half does not feel this way,” Minerva said, silencing the girl to interrupt her. “Don’t ask me how I know, but clearly you were corrupt from the beginning. I will find the source of that corruption.”
“No.” Nanette shrieked. “We serve that one. She is my source.”
“Of whom do you speak? Who is your source?”
“No,” Nanette, the witch screamed and instantly caught fire. She continued to scream for a few seconds before she entirely burned up, leaving only a small pile of ashes on the dirt.
Minerva reached out to put her hand over the ashes before they blew away on the wind. The ashes came up to Minerva’s hand, and they saw a small clay jar in that hand. Somehow, the ashes squeezed into the jar so not one escaped, and Minerva put a stopper in the top of the jar. “And there they will stay until the opportune time.”
“Is that it?” Lockhart whispered.
“I don’t honestly know,” Katie answered in the same soft voice as Minerva looked at the travelers.
“Go home,” Minerva said, not only did the cavalry troop vanish, and the soldiers on the ground, but Petracles and the Eporites, and all of their horses vanished as well. Only the travelers remained, and Galatea, who suddenly looked miffed. Minerva ignored the girl as she talked to the travelers.
“I did not look close at this one. She is no more. She will neither bother you nor hinder you any longer.” Minerva waved, and Katie vanished to reappear beside Minerva, well out of ear shot. “I went and saw her. My daughter. She is beautiful.” She began to cry. “She is so smart. She reminds me of him. I love her so much.” She began to weep, and Katie held her and offered what comfort she had. Minerva did not have it in her to cry for long, and shortly, she pulled back. “Don’t tell. Please. Keep this our secret.”
“Your secret is safe. You just love that beautiful girl.”
Minerva nodded and nearly smiled. “And you and Lockhart should have a girl.”
Katie looked in the direction where the others stood. “I hope. Someday.”
Minerva nodded again, and disappeared.
As Katie slipped back down the little ridge, she found the others excitedly talking to someone. She could not see him until she practically stood on top of him. “Bogramus,” she said. It was the dwarf from the last time zone, and after sixty years, he only had a touch of gray.
“Well you see, Miss Boston, it was like this,” Bogramus spoke like a grown man to a young child. “Hephaestus, er, Vulcan said he wanted some minerals dug out of the Nebrodes Mountains, and since I had a whole crew of bored fellas, we said we could do that. We are dwarves, you know. Digging for gold is our specialty, but we take work where we can.”
“So, we go this way?” Lincoln asked, and pointed into the cave.
“But wait,” Katie said, trying to catch up in the conversation. “Where is the time gate?”
“This way,” Lincoln said, pointing again.
“But it would not be right to come all this way and not say hello to Vulcan,” Millie added. “You said he invited us.”
Katie agreed before she said, “Wait. Where is Wallace?”
No one wanted to say it. Alexis stepped up. “He didn’t make it. He waded into the soldiers and Nanette screamed and pointed right at him, so they killed him first.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Katie said, especially to Millie and Evan. Evan nodded and Millie sniffed and nodded with him.
Katie returned the nod and started toward Lockhart and the entrance to the cave, but this time Galatea said, “Wait.” She hugged all the women and shook hands with all the men, including Bogramus. “I don’t do underground stuff. Well, I do grottos and sea caves, but with water and high tide. Smokey, hot underground? No, no.” Galatea waved and vanished with the words, “See you next time.”
Then they began to walk into the cave and found it well-lit with torches. “So how many dwarves are working here?”
“Seven,” Bogramus said with a straight face. “And all bachelors. Ah, this is the life. No females to make us miserable, and no children running around getting in the way. Ah. Mind you, I wouldn’t mind if you knew where some unattached females were hanging around, bored, maybe.”
“Do you whistle while you work?” Lockhart had to ask.
“No, not especially. Ragtide likes to sing, but we gag him as quick as we can. He is what they call stone deaf.”
Within an hour, they came to a big open cave, well ventilated, but full of iron works and coal fed boilers and furnaces. It got hot in there, but Vulcan stood by a forge, waiting patiently.
“Elder Stow,” he called, and the Elder went to the god, meekly, wondering. “Put your equipment on the table here. Put it all down, and don’t leave anything out.”
Elder Stow looked briefly at Lockhart and Katie, who both nodded and encouraged him. He had misgivings, but did as instructed, and stepped back with a word. “It would probably be best if even you did not get a good look at the inner workings of some of my equipment.”
Vulcan laughed. “Your secrets are safe. It is your power source I am concerned about. Apollo says the time of disillusion is drawing near, and I am thinking the gods might not be around to charge up your equipment next time you need it. There. Everything is charged except your scanner. Now here. This is a new piece for you to carry. It is a charger. It should build up a full charge in a few minutes under a light source. Let us say there are a few things you don’t need to know, either. Then you touch it to the power source point and it should charge whatever piece of equipment you have in seconds.”
Elder Stow took it and tried it on the scanner. “Thank you.” It worked perfectly, and did not overcharge the scanner.
“Sure, sure. You can have your people take it apart to see how it works if you haven’t already come up with something similar by the time you get home. Meanwhile, I might copy that material, your substitute metal there, for a couple of swords I have in mind. Probably my last gifts to the Kairos before I go away.”
“Hey Boss,” Boston shouted. The time gate is right in front of us.”
“Yes,” Vulcan laughed. “Didn’t you wonder why it was only two days’ distance? I thought it would be better to keep it on shore. Otherwise, the time gate would have been across the sea, half-way to Epirus.”
“It is noon,” Katie said. “We could go now.”
“You are welcome to stay here and leave in the morning.” Vulcan said, and smiled, knowing how hot it was for the humans.
They all said thank you and hurried before they melted.
Avalon 6.12 The Road Ahead is the final chapter in Avalon, season six. The travelers from Avalon confront the three outlaw-cowboys who are giving the First Emperor of China some unnatural help. Don’t miss it. Until Monday, Happy Reading.