In the morning, when everything got packed up and ready to go, Boston shouted at the trees. “Yusef. Tama and Aleah. It’s okay to come back now. We are ready to get going. Come on. We don’t mind.”
They waited and watched as something like a white mist coalesced into three people. They looked like they had at first. Aleah held on to her mother’s skirt. Tama held on to Yusef, and Yusef looked pensive and worried his hat.
“Very different from the dark mist of the wraith,” Sukki whispered to Boston, who nodded.
“You don’t mind?” Yusef asked.
“Naw, come on,” Boston said.
“We don’t mind,” Katie smiled, and Tama smiled for the first time.
“We carried a ghost once before,” Alexis said, and added her smile.
“Carthair.” Decker spit. “The careless,” he said, and rode out to the wing.
Yusef looked curious, so Lincoln explained. “He lost his body down a crevasse in a glacier. We had to retrieve his body before we could do anything.” Yusef seemed to understand something.
“You drive the truck,” Lockhart said, pointing to the wagon. Tama and Aleah got right up in the back. Yusef got up on the buckboard, having no trouble understanding Lockhart, even if he did not know what a truck was.
The travelers passed through a few more villages, and a couple of towns along the lakeside. Alexis, Lincoln, Millie and Evan rode in front, talking away, and sometimes included Yusef in their conversation. Katie and Lockhart followed the wagon. It would have been their turn to drive the mule.
“Curious that the people today are not showing any of the fear the people did yesterday. How do you explain that?” Katie asked.
Lockhart shrugged. “I don’t know, but they seem to be ignoring us, and I prefer it that way.”
Around ten-thirty, Boston came riding back to the group, and the group stopped moving. “City up ahead,” she said, and Lincoln got out the database. Lockhart rode to the front.
“Philoteria,” Lincoln decided. “That is where the Jordan comes out of the lake and heads south. Unavoidable,” he concluded.
“City,” Boston told Lockhart. “Full of army men. Sukki has her eyes on it.”
“Perhaps we should disappear,” Yusef suggested.
“No,” people said, but he waited to hear from Lockhart.
“No. We have not had any trouble today, or even notice in the places we have been this morning. I don’t see any reason for that to change.” He called Decker and Elder Stow to pull in before he went back to Katie.
The travelers got into the city with no problem. They stopped in the market and got some things for lunch and supper. Yusef, Tama, and Aleah stayed in the wagon, but their heads turned here and there as they watched the activities of the living. Lincoln tried to bargain with the sellers, but Lockhart got the better price. They were not going to argue with a giant, especially when he had a second, black giant looming over his shoulder.
“That went reasonably well,” Lockhart said.
Surprisingly, the only time the travelers ran into trouble was in leaving the city through the river gate, where the river road headed south. They found a dozen soldiers there, and they appeared to be checking everyone headed south.
“The Gulf of Suez,” Lincoln answered, giving the general location of the time gate. Katie, Alexis, and Lockhart had all yelled at him for being so free with the information that they were headed to Jerusalem. Presently, Judea and the Syrians were at war. Mention going to Jerusalem from outside the territory of Judea, and he risked them all being taken for spies, or enemy combatants.
Lockhart and Katie came to the front in time to hear the chief in the gate say, “Ah, Ptolemy bound. We got no use for those Egyptian scum.”
“They trade,” Katie said, quickly.
“We are simple travelers,” Lockhart tried his line.
The chief looked twice at Katie’s blonde head before he got rude. “And in what merchandise?”
“Horses and weapons from the Athol, in Thessaly, Greece,” Katie responded. “We were just there, not many days ago. You may have heard of that place.”
“I heard of it,” one of the soldiers spoke.
“Best horses in Greece,” Lockhart added.
“I can see that,” the chief said. “I might let you go for one of your horses.”
“And the mule,” a different soldier said. “He looks like a strong one.”
Several of the soldiers got to the back of the wagon and got ready to rifle through the traveler’s things. Yusef turned to the man admiring the mule.
“Not a good idea,” Yusef said, and he distorted his face in a way that made the soldier scream
“Did we mention the ghosts?” Lockhart said.
“Don’t push it,” Katie whispered. “I think we can go,” she said more loudly, and they started through the gate. Yusef got the mule moving, and Decker and Elder Stow brought up the rear. Elder Stow turned on the screen device he worked on while they were stopped. A screen wall got projected behind them. The chief, and the few who did not see the transformed faces of the ghosts, tried to fire some arrows. They bounced off Elder Stow’s wall, and the chief quickly decided that maybe it would be best to let these people go after all.
When Elder Stow and Decker moved out again on the wings, and Boston and Sukki rode out front, Lockhart sent Lincoln and Alexis to the rear. They would stop for lunch as soon as they got far enough down the Jordan River to be away from the city, and Alexis and Lincoln would have the afternoon shift in any case.
“You should not lie like that,” Yusef said, once they got in the clear.
“About the Athol, and the Greeks. I heard about that valley, even in my day, and again, when the Greeks came through to ruin the Persians. I know what you said about the Athol making weapons and raising horses is real, but that valley is a long way from here, far across the sea. One of the commandments is you shall not bear false witness.”
“Not false witness,” Katie said.
“We were there just two days ago, and maybe fifty years ago,” Lockhart said. “It is kind of hard to explain. You see, we are time travelers, people out of time, and we are trying to get home to the far future.” Lockhart paused, so Katie added a thought.
“I don’t think the people in the Athol would be upset if we made a few sales while we travel.”
“You need to go to Jerusalem, and we don’t mind taking you there,” Lockhart said. “Our journey is a bit longer—about two thousand years longer.”
Yusef shook his ghostly head. “We are dead, but sadly, not gone. But you people are stranger still. I do not understand.”
“Don’t let it bother you,” Evan said.
“I don’t understand it either,” Millie said. “And I am in the middle of it.”
The travelers and their ghosts head for Jerusalem and hope they don’t run into any more Seleucids. Until Monday, Happy Reading