The priest passed out beside the altar. Alexis could not wait. She pulled the arm with the arrow away from the chest, so the arrowhead slipped out from the man’s side. He still had an arrow through his arm, but Alexis felt one wound at a time. The chest began to bleed, terribly. Alexis pressed both hands against the wound and the whole area began to glow with a golden light.
The Priestess ran up. She paused when she saw the magic glow around Alexis’ hands. “Sophia.” The priestess gave her name before she knelt beside Alexis to look at the man’s arm.
The priestess pushed the arrow further through the arm where she could snap off the arrowhead. Alexis watched as Sophia carefully pulled the shaft from the arm. The man moaned but did not wake. Alexis almost said something. She could not turn her magic on three wounds, and she dared not let go of the man’s chest until the wound closed up.
As the blood began to ooze from both sides of the man’s arm, Sophia covered both holes in the arm with her own hands. A soft, white light surrounded the arm, and Alexis went back to concentrating on the chest wound.
Lincoln arrived by the altar and asked what he could do. “Gauze and tape from my medical bag,” Alexis said. “Better get me a couple of pain relievers. Just give me the bottle. The wounds will stay closed, but the pain relief magic will wear off fairly soon.” Alexis saw Sophia nod.
The priest woke. He spoke through his groggy state. “Tell me again how you are simple travelers and not of the gods.” The healing appeared pretty god-like to him.
Twenty warrior women came from the back of the temple to check on the enemy dead and wounded. Three women came to the altar, not threatening, though they held long knives in their hands. They appeared to want to be sure their priestess remained safe. Lincoln grinned sheepishly for them and knelt closer to Alexis.
Three more warrior women jogged to the entrance even as Elder Stow and Sukki arrived. Elder Stow carried his scanner and spoke to the travelers. “I have Millie and Evan specified in the scanner. We should be able to track them if they don’t get too far ahead of us.”
Althea perked right up. “A real scanner? Where did you get it? It’s so small. How can you specify two individuals? Can I see it?”
Elder Stow looked at the woman, and looked willing, but Decker spoke. “Probably not a good idea,”
“She is from about a hundred and fifty years in the future from us,” Lockhart said, and Elder Stow pulled his hands back with a word that said he would trust Lockhart.
Althea looked disappointed but nodded and backed off while Katie and Arias sized each other up.
“Elect,” Arias identified Katie. Arias was also an elect, a one-in-a-million warrior woman, gifted with strength, agility, a sense when danger came near, and an ability to fight like a she-bear to protect the home and family. The ancient gods designed them that way.
“Second in all the world after Zoe,” Katie admitted.
Arias lowered her eyes briefly. “I thought that might be the case. The Princess would know.”
“Princess Cassandra?” Katie asked, and Arias and Althea snickered.
“Just Princess,” Arias said. “She hates her name, Cassandra.”
Althea added, “You call her Cassandra, and she will punch you in the arm, real hard.”
“I remember. Princess, not Cassandra,” Lockhart said. “From meeting her in the future,” he explained.
“Boss,” Boston interrupted. “They all got horses. How are we going to catch up with them when some of us are on foot?”
“Take their horses,” Arias shrugged at the obvious solution, but then the three warrior women could wait no longer.
“Majesty,” one of the women spoke. “What are your orders?”
“I get to be the Amazon queen,” Arias whispered to Katie.
“Zoe says I’m not allowed to be an Amazon queen,” Katie responded in kind, as Arias turned to the women.
“Help the guardsmen clean up this mess, and then Meriope, you need to lead the women back to Amazon land.” Meriope, an older woman, looked like she wanted to be stubborn.
“But Majesty, we haven’t caught the brigands yet. There may be hundreds of them. We don’t know how many.”
“Fair enough,” Arias said, not willing to argue. “You can help us retrieve the ones kidnapped by this little breakaway group, but you must camp apart from these people, and after we save their friends, you must go back to Amazon land. I will be traveling with these people to the Athol, and I don’t want to debate about it.”
Meriope looked like she might say something anyway, but all that came out was, “Yes, Majesty.”
Cleaning up took time. Boston and Sukki got anxious, but there were seven dead and three badly wounded prisoners for the city guards to haul away. Alexis said one of those prisoners would not last the night. Sophia said good, but then she apologized.
Sophia also had another life in 1976, a young Lebanese woman named Lydia. Lydia escaped Beirut in the early seventies to get away from the bloodshed. She could not stand the bloodthirsty Greece Sophia lived in. There were armies everywhere fighting each other, and everywhere in between, there were brigands, warlords, pirates, and you name it. To be fair, Sophia had limited tolerance for bloodshed as well.
Arias later explained. “That is why so many women, widows and children, have run away to the north where we made a small enclave of Amazon women. We protect and defend each other from the madness all around us. That doesn’t always work. Some years ago, a half-Celtic, Macedonian general pushed a whole army through our land. He had help from the Gallic people up by the Danube. That was when the Emperor Phillip of Macedon was thinking of invading Epirus, and he wanted to clear the land to send through supplies. Hundreds died. Now, the warlord Xitides came through from Epirus. God knows what he stole in Dodona. But they burned, looted, and raped through one Amazon village. I think Xitides knew better, but he could not stop the sex-starved men. Now he is racing to Thermopylae, so he can get lost in central Greece and not have to worry about Phillip turning out the Macedonian army to chase him.”
“But he must have known you would chase him,” Katie said.
Arias nodded. “But I know Xitides. He will give me the ones responsible, or tell me where I can find them, and that will be that.”
Lockhart and Katie got a mule to pull the wagon, so Katie, Lincoln, and Alexis all got cowboy horses. The twenty Amazons brought the warlord horses that used to belong to the dead and wounded men. Two would be available for Millie and Evan, once Millie and Evan got rescued.
The travelers and Amazons left the temple and the city before noon. They rode as hard as the mule could handle. They got close, but finally had to stop before dark. The horses needed to rest and eat, and so did the humans. Arias assured them that they would catch up before the brigands reached the city of Larissa. Elder Stow more or less confirmed that.
The Amazons set up their own camp in the wilderness as instructed. Katie, Boston, and a curious Lincoln had questions, but they refrained when Sophia explained.
“The Princess says the less exposure to future things, the better. Too much information in the hands of smart people could change history in unpredictable ways.”
“She says knowledge of the future can be as dangerous as guns,” Althea added.
Heads nodded as Arias changed the subject. “Let me get this straight. You say Lady Alice, the Kairos we know as the Princes, has a crystal on Avalon that is recording all of human history. And you were able to travel through the crystal to a point deep in the past.”
“The Heart of Time,” Alexis named the crystal.
“The Tower of Babel,” Katie mentioned where they ended up.
Arias responded with a nod. “Then you say something like a time zone surrounds the Kairos—whichever life she is living at the moment.”
“Or he,” Lincoln said, and got quiet.
“And you say bracketing the time zone are two of what you call time gates. One gate, the one you came through on Mount Olympus, brought you from the previous time zone, in the past. The other will shoot you to the next time zone, in the future, and that might be a year, or it might be more than sixty years into the future all at once.”
“Yes,” Katie said. “And we are trying to get home, one time gate at a time, but in every time zone we run into one snag or another.”
Sophia smiled about it. “The Princess does tend to live in the eye of the hurricane, while everything dangerous swirls around her.”
“I hear that,” Decker said, and got up to cut another piece of lamb.
“Hey, I know,” Sophia continued. “Why don’t you let the Princess send you back to Avalon? Can’t you go back to the future through the crystal, the same way you came?”
“The Heart of Time only records what has happened up to the present,” Lincoln said. “It doesn’t have a record of the future.”
“That hasn’t been written yet,” Arias understood. “Even if it has been written in the future.” It sounded confusing, but people grasped the concept well enough.
“No way back through the Heart,” Lincoln concluded.
“Actually,” Lockhart shared a thought. “I believe the original plan was for Lady Alice in the future to reach back through the Heart and pull us out, sort of like she sent us into the past in the first place. Unfortunately, the only way we could succeed in our task was for the Storyteller to leap into the void in the second heavens, back before history began.”
“The void?” Sophia asked.
“Sort of a swirling, pastel colored cloud of stickiness about the consistency of cotton candy,” Boston said. “I didn’t taste it. I should have tasted it.”
“Glen went missing?” Arias asked. “But the Princess can still access him, you know, like make contact through time and even trade places with him through time.”
Althea interrupted. “Her contact with him right now is to the year 2007.” She turned to Katie. “You said you came back into the past from the year 2010, and you have been traveling over three years so it is now 2013 for you, estimated.” Althea paused to look at the others. “My future life works records and such. She is good with numbers and dates.”
“But that means the Princess is about three years behind,” Katie said, doing some figuring of her own.
“Six years,” Lockhart said. “You say it is 2013 back home. From 2007, that is six years.”
“No,” Katie said. “I meant three years behind 2010, the year the Storyteller disappeared into the void and everything got confused.”
Alexis had a thought. “Maybe all of the persons of the Kairos are a little off time sync with each other. That may be why Alice can’t bring us home the quick way.” She explained for the others. “That is why we have to get home the slow way, by way of the time gates.”
“But that gives us three years,” Lincoln said. “And maybe more like two and a half years to get home before everything goes haywire and maybe everything shuts down, and we can’t get home at all.”
“What can we do?” Sukki asked, the fear and worry evident in her voice.
“Don’t worry about it,” Alexis said to comfort her. “Two years from now I will let Benjamin worry about it. He is a much better worrier than I am.”
“Thanks.” Lincoln groused and Alexis kissed his cheek.