“They are off the scanner,” Elder Stow admitted in the morning. He gave the scanner a little shake, but it did not help.
“They must have moved in the night,” Lockhart said, what many thought.
“I should have anticipated this,” Arias scolded herself.
“With luck, they went into Larissa at first light,” Althea suggested, trying to sound positive.
“Not lucky,” Arias countered. “Larissa is a real city, with a number of gates and a number of roads that lead off in every direction.”
“I wish the Princess was here,” Sophia said.
“Why is that?” Alexis asked.
“Hunting and tracking is what Princesses do best,” Sophia responded with a big grin.
“Gifted by Artemis,” Arias explained.
“Artemis would help,” Katie said.
“Can’t,” Arias said. “The gods can’t interfere in that way, you know.”
The travelers and Amazons crossed the river bridge at Metropolis where they picked up some food for the journey. Only Boston looked for the Daily Planet building. When they actually stopped for lunch on the path they called a road, Elder Stow got excited.
“Great. Wonderful,” people said.
“They appear to be alive, as far as I can tell.”
“Thank God,” Alexis said.
“Have they stopped moving?” Lockhart wondered.
‘Let me bring this up,” Elder Stow said, and the scanner projected a three-dimensional map of light. He zoomed into the city, but when he got to the street level, the map became fuzzy to look at. Only two red dots stood out against the cityscape. Arias and Sophia looked as carefully as they could and agreed.
“They are in the warehouse section by the river,” Arias said. “We need to enter the city and bypass them to talk to Leodis first.”
“Rachel will help,” Sophia said.
“Leodis?” Alexis asked, and Lincoln got out the database to see what he could find out.
Arias nodded. “Larissa is a democracy with a king. The legislature is the city assembly, but the executive is the king. That would be Leodis’ ancient father, but Leodis and his wife, Rachel, run most of the operations these days.”
Decker shared his thought. “If they are in a river warehouse, they might be looking for riverboats to lose us on the water.”
Lockhart agreed. “If we bypass them to go through channels, they might escape.”
“We can set some guards while the rest of us go to the palace,” Arias said, and they spent the rest of their lunchtime planning to do that. The only interruption came when Arias asked Althea a question. Althea did not answer the question.
“This toy?” Elder Stow shook his head. “This is only a little thing such as a ship’s officer might carry on his person to play with when he is bored.”
“Where on Earth did you get that?” Althea asked.
“Not on Earth. It came from the Gott-Druk new home world. My planet.”
“You are Gott-Druk?” Althea’s eyes widened. “I—Erica me—has only heard rumors. You are like legends.”
“Gott-Druk?” Sophia asked.
“Neanderthals,” Lockhart said and left it at that, but Katie thought she better explain.
“Elder Stow and Sukki’s people were taken into space at the time of the flood. They were given a new home world where they could survive and prosper.”
“The flood?” Sophia asked, but quickly figured it out. “Oh. Noah. The flood.”
“Yes,” Elder Stow huffed. “And it has only taken us ten thousand years to figure out the new home world is a good place, and we were not cursed by being taken away from Earth.”
“And Sukki?” Sophia asked. “They don’t look Neanderthal.”
“Thanks,” Sukki said. “I was practicing being human.”
“And you do it well,” Alexis said. “They wear a glamour.”
“And Boston?” Arias asked.
Everyone paused. Boston also wore a glamour to make her appear human, but clearly, Arias noticed something. Boston did not mind.
“Little one,” Althea said in a reverential tone, and lowered her eyes. “The little ones have always been a sign of good fortune for the Amazon nation.”
“Fair enough,” Lockhart said. “But now we need to figure out how to divide our forces and make sure the brigands don’t escape down the river.”
Inside the warehouse, Evan and Millie sat beside each other and nibbled on the bread Philocrates procured for their sustenance. Chloe and Libra, ten and twelve-year-old girls, sat behind them for protection. They did not talk much, but mostly they encouraged each other to hold on. Have faith. The others would find them. Chloe and Libra insisted Queen Arias would save them. Evan and Millie felt sure the travelers would find them, and Elder Stow might already have them on his scanner.
Mylo stared at Millie from across the room, but Philocrates slapped him in the arm. “Hands off,” Philocrates said. “You know used goods don’t fetch nearly so much in market.”
“If they catch us, we may never get to market,” Mylo countered. “And I will have left a prime female untouched.”
“Chief,” one of the men spoke. “Why are we dragging around the man?”
“He will fetch something at market,” Philocrates hedged. “Besides, if they catch us, as Mylo suggests, we may need him for bargaining.”
“I don’t like hurting a servant of the gods,” a second man spoke, and several men nodded in agreement. When Philocrates looked at him, the man explained. “Where else would they get those Seleucid weapons? I heard after Athens, they all got rounded up and destroyed.”
“Gumbs,” one of the men tried to remember the name of the weapons.
“A quick strike to steal the temple gold and race out of town did not work too well,” Mylo teased a little, and Philocrates slapped his arm again.
“Maybe that village was not such a good idea,” one man dared to say it.
“We had no idea it was an Amazon village,” Philocrates raised his voice.
“But now we got no money.”
“We are going to be caught,” one of the men said.
“Now, just hold on,” Philocrates raised his hands to calm the men. “No one knows we are here. And since Phillip V and the Romans made peace, the whole city has relaxed. The prince of the city isn’t out looking for spies or enemies. Larissa is a big place, with plenty of gates and roads. We just need to keep quiet, and by the time they get done checking all the ways out of the city, it will be dusk, and we can steal a riverboat and be gone. They don’t know we are here. Just don’t be loud and stupid today, and we will get away in the dark.”
“Then what?” Mylo asked.
“Then…” Philocrates had to think a minute. “We take the road off the river and make our way to Herakleion, where we can sell our wares and get some new horses. Then we just follow the coast road around to Chalkidiki. I have some family there and we should be safe enough.”
The men grumbled, but no one objected to the plan. As the men returned to their lookout duty, Philocrates slapped Mylo’s arm again. “Hands off,” he said.
At that same time, Althea, Meriope, and some thirteen Amazons climbed on to boats and scrunched down behind ropes, barrels and boxes of merchandise on the dock where they could cut off the brigands from the riverboats. Decker watched the front door, while Elder Stow kept one eye on his scanner. Boston and Sukki found a side door, where all the brigand horses had been tied up, out in the sun.
“We found the horses,” Boston spoke into her wristwatch communicator.
“Front door covered,” Decker said. “Amazons have the river.”
“Good,” Lockhart responded through his wristwatch. “Hopefully, we won’t be long.”
“Boston,” Alexis spoke into her own wristwatch. “You are not allowed to go invisible and try to sneak in to see Evan and Millie. You need to wait until we get there, or until we get the go ahead.”
They sat in silence for a minute before Sukki asked, “Are you going to do it anyway?”
“I’m thinking about it,” Boston answered.
At the palace, Lockhart grabbed his shotgun and Katie grabbed her rifle. They did not expect trouble, but they did not want the palace guards playing with the equipment. Lincoln carried the database, and Alexis carried her medical bag, and her own wand, if she needed it. Arias and Sophia got down, and with an honor guard of six Amazons, they all marched into the palace.
A woman ran to Sophia and gave her a hug. “Leodis was just asking about you.” The woman appeared obviously pregnant. Alexis and Katie wondered about Sophia, and Katie especially wondered about Arias, because Arias did not appear to be in the kind of perfect shape Katie expected from an elect. Sophia could not keep her mouth closed. She explained.
“Rachel is in her sixth month. I’m just starting my second. Arias is in her third.”
“The Princess is in her seventh month,” Arias said. “She is ahead of us all.”
“No,” Sophia said. “Rachel is ahead. She has a three-year-old son.”
“Jacob.” A man down the hall yelled for the three-year-old boy that escaped his hand and went running to his mother. Rachel paused, and moaned while she picked up the boy who wanted to hide his face in his mother’s shoulder in front of all these strangers.
The man, Leodis, Prince of Larissa arrived, and Arias immediately began to explain their situation.
Millie and Evan appear to be safe, but the brigands have them prisoners in a warehouse, so nothing is for certain.