The travelers had no problem that next day. They saw Seleucids—soldiers from Syria, but no one stopped them or bothered them. They minded their own business, and the people left them alone. They did stop, however, well before dark, so they had time to plan for the next day’s border crossing.
“The Syrians and Judeans are essentially at war,” Katie said. “We should expect the border to be guarded going both ways.”
“In other words,” Lincoln said, as he sat up straight and gazed into the fire. “The Syrians will want to stop us from crossing the border, and the Judeans will probably arrest us as soon as we cross the border.”
“Crossing should not be a problem,” Decker said. “They will be stationed around the road. They won’t be in the wilderness and should not be paying much attention to the local farmers who might have land on both sides of the border. Boston and Elder Stow can go invisible and fly and run rings around the soldiers to draw them away from our path. The Captain and I can back them up and cover the flank. We just need to scout out a farm trail that the rest of you can get the wagon through.”
“Major,” Katie said. “When you say, we back up two invisible people, what are you thinking?”
“We hold the horses and kill as few Syrians as possible.”
“If you start shooting, you will just draw the Syrians back in our direction,” Lockhart said.
“The object is to make them go away from us,” Katie agreed.
“We have to find a farm path first,” Lincoln said.
“Boston,” Alexis interrupted. “You can give play to your impish impulses this one time, only.”
Boston grinned and rubbed her hands together. Decker spit. They had some talking to do.
When the time came, just after lunch on the following day, they found thirty Syrians camped beside the road as expected. The road went more or less straight at that point, as it had most of the way from Galilee, avoiding the inevitable bends and curves of the river. Lincoln reported the river flowed for more than a hundred miles, but the road ran about fifty-five miles to that point, and that took them two-and-a-half days.
Up ahead, the road entered a forest of poplar and willows trees. It looked like a natural demarcation between Judea and the Syrian controlled territory they traveled through. On the Syrian side, there was not much cover, but Lincoln assured them the gully would hide them most of the way to where the farm trail cut through the trees.
Lockhart and Lincoln went first and took up a position by the woods and above the gully, in case the Syrians had a patrol out scouting the border. Lockhart had Decker’s binoculars. Katie, with Evan carrying her handgun, snuck to a place below the gully, where they could see the Syrian camp in the distance. Decker also pointed at the Syrian camp, but kept well back from the others, near the place where the gully started. He got behind a hill and spied on the Syrians through the scope on his rifle.
Once everyone got set, Alexis, Sukki, and Millie had to help Yusef drive the mule and wagon into the gully. It made for a slow, rough passage. One time, Sukki had to lift the back of the wagon to get it over a rock. Another time, the wagon could clearly be seen, and Alexis had to pull out her wand. She caused a swirling wind to pick up the dust, and made it look as much like a natural dust storm as possible until they passed that section.
When the wagon started, Decker said, “Go,”
Elder Stow walked invisibly, straight to the place where the Syrians tied off their horses. Boston covered herself with a glamour that covered her red hair and made her look like a local. She also made herself look as attractive, that is, as sexy as possible. She got plenty of stares as she walked down the road, which was what she wanted. She made a scene when the Syrians finally stopped her from crossing the border. She screamed and yelled, and all but exposed herself in the process. Finally, she started toward the trees, away from the wagon. The guards tried to stop her but could not seem to catch her. Boston slowly sped up so they could not touch her. When one man tried to run, to get in front of her, she turned on some elf speed. She quickly arrived at the edge of the woods, roughly a hundred yards away, where she went invisible and entered among the trees.
At that same time, the Syrian horses stampeded to the sound of Elder Stow’s sonic device. He had knocked down one side of the makeshift pen. He used his weapon to set fire to the side of the pen that pointed toward the wagon. Then he let the sonic device squeal. The horses bolted away from the fire and the sound, while Elder Stow, still invisible, rose up in the air and chased a few lazy horses. He set the tents closest to the road on fire, with a judicious use of his weapon. He figured the Syrians closer to the wagon would be drawn in toward the road to help put out the fires. He tried not to kill anyone, but briefly felt sorry if there were humans inside the burning tents. He flew, still invisible, back to the wagon. They were just ready to enter the forest, and he thought he might fly cover until they were safe.
Decker caught up to the back of the wagon. Lockhart and Lincoln came down from above the gully, while Katie and Evan came up to the trees. They pushed in amongst the trees on what looked like more of deer trail than a farm road. Less than a dozen yards in, and they became surrounded by twenty rough looking men. The men looked more like farmers, builders, merchants, and teamsters than an army, but they also looked like they meant business.
“Where are you headed?” The man who appeared to be in charge, asked, but he looked uncertain how to take these strangers. Two men looked in the back of the wagon but did not touch anything. Most appeared interested in the horses and equipment.
Lockhart got down and said, “We are no friends with the Seleucids. We are newly arrived from Greece, though we are not Greeks. Our home is far in the west, beyond the sea. We must go to Egypt and beyond to reach our home, but first we have a task. We told this family we would take them home to Jerusalem.”
While Lockhart distracted everyone’s attention, Elder Stow landed behind the group, unseen. He became visible and walked to his horse without incident. Likewise, Boston ran up to the group and became visible, returning to her normal red-headed self, covered in her glamour of humanity. A few of the men may have looked at her twice when she went to her horse, but they may have been startled by her red hair.
“We cannot help you right now,” the man in charge said. “The temple and the city are being cleansed of outsiders and outside influence.”
“And Acra?” Katie asked.
The leader paused to stare at the yellow-headed woman. “You know something… But no. The fortress on the hill over the city remains in enemy hands. My brother will not spend his forces on direct confrontation. Better we cut off their supplies so that they surrender peaceably.”
“But we promised Yusef and his family that we would see them buried in Jerusalem.”
The leader smiled. “He looks healthy enough, and not so old. I would say there is time for that.”
“There is no time,” Yusef stood in the wagon. His wife stood and held his cloak while their daughter stood and held on to her mother’s skirt. “The time is past and is now over. Listen Simeon, son of Mattathias. I am Joseph, eldest son of Jotham, king of Judah. Son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, son of Amaziah, son of Jehoash, son of Ahaziah, son of Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, son of Abijah, son of Rehoboam, son of Solomon, son of David the King. From David to my father is twelve generations, and I am the thirteenth, cut off from my home for all these years.
“I was sent by my father to Samaria, to speak peace to the kings of Israel and Damascus. My younger brother, Ahaz, thought the time ripe to rebel. He and his Assyrian friends locked my father away and demanded my return in chains. My own servants turned against me, as Ahaz had long since planned. But I was warned in a letter from the prophet Isaiah, and I took my wife and my child and fled, not knowing who else to trust. We eventually came to Hazor, far in the north country, but there, the Assyrians caught us. We were killed along with the city, and we have waited all these years to return home.
“Now these good people have pledged to see us buried in the place of the kings. See that it is done. Do not fight against the Lord your God. The word of the Lord, given to the prophet Isaiah, has been plainly spoken, and now it is done.” Yusef pulled a very old parchment from his cloak, but it immediately crumbled to dust and blew away on the wind. “The time is over,” Yusef said to the sky, and he, Tama and Aleah began to glow. They became too bright to look at before they vanished in an instant. Everyone heard the clump, clump, clump as three bones fell to the wagon bed.
To their credit, none of the Judeans screamed and ran away, but to be fair, they might not have dared to do so. The travelers acted much less surprised. This seemed in line with so many of their other experiences, but not, in a way. They all felt moved in a different way than the gods might have moved them. This felt holy.
Katie and Alexis moved first. Katie fetched the empty bag they had used to carry grain from a village they passed through the day before. Alexis caused her fairy weave clothing to form gloves for her hands. She carefully picked up three bones, one from the buckboard, and two from the wagon bed. Being a nurse, she identified them as femur bones.
Lincoln, who stepped up to help Katie hold the bag, commented. “Probably the only bones they could save after five hundred and sixty-eight years.”
“Simeon?” Lockhart asked. The man nodded, closed his mouth and looked up at Lockhart. “We promised to see them buried in Jerusalem.” Simeon nodded a little but said nothing.
“The City of David,” Evan interrupted. “He belongs in the sepulcher of the Kings, with his fathers.” Simeon looked at Evan and nodded again, slightly.
“Now, we need someone to drive the wagon,” Decker pointed out.
Simeon appeared to come to himself. He waved for two men to take the mule, but the men shook their heads and backed away. None of them would touch the wagon, especially when Katie placed the bone-filed bag gently in the back.
“That’s okay,” Evan said. “Millie and I will take the day.” He looked at Millie to be sure, but she nodded.
“Tama and Aleah seemed very nice, even if they never said anything.”
Katie complained. “Now that I know his heritage and story, I have so many questions.”
“We all do,” Evan agreed, and Simeon nodded again.
“But now he is no longer available to ask your questions,” Lincoln said.
“Probably on purpose,” Lockhart suggested, and no one argued.