Lockhart frowned. He figured the family had probably been stuck there for some time and might know more of what made those creepy sounds. He stood.
“We have wasted enough time, fascinating as ruins may be. Pack it up.”
The travelers did not object. The mule objected briefly to Yusef, but they got Yusef up on the buckboard to drive the beast while his wife Tama and daughter Aleah rode in the back of the wagon. Until then, they had worked out a schedule for the married couples to take turns driving the wagon. Lincoln and Alexis had the morning shift. They tied their horses to the back of the wagon, and Lincoln played at driving a Conestoga across the plains, though he admitted it felt more like driving a chuck wagon for a cattle drive in the wilderness.
With Yusef driving, everyone could ride. Millie and Evan, who were supposed to have the afternoon turn, volunteered to bring up the rear and follow the wagon. That left Lockhart, Katie, Lincoln and Alexis to ride in front and get into some kind of conversation. Boston and Sukki joined them now and then, but they mostly rode further out to scout the trail, while Decker and Elder Stow stayed out on the wings to guard their passage.
In this manner, they came down out of the heights, mostly on a poor dirt road of some sort. In some places, the road got reduced to two wagon wide ruts, but even that was better than trying to drive through the rock-strewn hillside. They had to be careful in a couple of places where the road got steep. But their new wagon had a brake of some sort, and they showed Yusef how to use it to slow his descent.
When they got down from the highlands, they came immediately on the sea of Galilee, which the Greeks called, Lake Gennesaret. Katie checked her amulet, but it did not help, not showing the details like Boston’s advanced model. Katie could see the next time gate, where they were headed, but she would need a map to find Jerusalem. Fortunately, she felt familiar with the area.
“We follow around the lake shore until we come to the Jordan River. Then we follow the river south to Jericho where we can cut across country to Jerusalem, like we did the last time we came through here.”
Another half-hour, and they came to a fishing village. The people there did not receive the travelers well. Most of the people hid. A few who were caught outdoors screamed and ran into their houses to peek out the windows.
“Not expected,” Lockhart said. Lincoln sniffed at his underarm, and Alexis reached over to slap him.
“Gee,” Boston said. “And we got Roman saddles and everything.” She and Sukki had moved back to ride at the front of the column. Decker and Elder Stow moved in to act as rear guard.
“Makes me think my glamour has slipped,” Elder Stow said.
Millie turned her head back. “No. It must be something else.”
Fortunately, the village was not that big. They were soon out of it, and on a rough, but better road, which unfortunately, led to several more villages where they got more or less the same reception. The travelers began to get discouraged.
When they came to a Katie approved defensive place in the wilderness, between the villages, Lockhart called them to stop for the night. They pulled the wagon off the road and set about caring for the horses and gathering wood for the fire. Alexis and Lincoln walked back up the road to a farmhouse, where they bought a goat. When they got back with the beast, and Decker and Boston butchered it, Alexis asked the obvious question.
“We have been wondering that ourselves,” Lockhart answered.
“They seem to have disappeared,” Elder Stow said. “And don’t ask me to get out my scanner, because I got it out when we went through that first village. Given the reaction of the people, I wondered if there might be soldiers about causing trouble, and I thought they might have seen us as connected to the soldiers. But when I checked the area, I did not find anything peculiar. Then the scanner fell on our group, and I noticed Yusef and his family did not show up as being there. It is possible the scanner has developed a flaw, but I checked several times, and they don’t register.”
“I know,” Millie interrupted. “I Spent all afternoon trying to get Tama or Aleah to say something, anything. They just stared the whole time.”
Boston looked up from her cutting. “Oh, they’ve gone to sleep until morning.” She went to wash up and would let Decker do the rest of the butchering, while Alexis and Sukki prepared the meat for the fire, along with what few vegetables they found.
“What do you mean, they’ve gone to sleep? Lockhart wondered.
“Goat is not off the Jewish diet,” Alexis said. “I just need to ask if I have to prepare it in a special way.”
“Boston.” Katie said, and put some insistence in her voice.
Boston scrunched up her face before she decided something. She shouted to the trees. “Sorry. I have to tell. Sorry. But it will be all right. You will see. Everything will be all right.” She turned to the group and sheepishly said, “They are ghosts. Yusef asked me not to tell. He was afraid you would drive them away, and they have to get to Jerusalem, or they will never be able to rest. And in their condition, they cannot move far unless someone takes them. It is complicated, but I said it would be all right. Tama and Aleah don’t talk because they have given everything they have to Yusef so he can talk and drive the wagon. You don’t mind if they go with us, do you?” Boston took a breath.
Decker Spat. “We put up with Carthair. A few more ghosts should not matter.”
“That’s right,” Lockhart said. “I forgot about him.”
Alexis worried about Sukki. “Oh, Boston told me,” Sukki said, having made some peace with the idea.
“That was up in the alps,” Katie explained to Evan and Millie. “Carthair was an early Celt who died in between the Greco-Roman and the German worlds. He did not want to go to Hades. He preferred the idea of going to Valhalla. We took him into German lands.”
“But then he ended up going into the new Celtic jurisdiction,” Lincoln said. “And he was not happy about that.”
“I remember,” Katie said. “It was fascinating to watch. The Kairos Danna, the mother goddess for the Celts was there, and Odin showed up. They bargained right in front of us about dividing up the Celtic and Germanic people.”
“The Kairos lived as the Gaelic mother goddess?” Evan said, but quickly added, “I don’t know why that should be surprising.”