Evan and Millie took the travelers to the house of a friend. The man, a senator, lived in a big house on the Via Appia, on the outskirts of the city; or what the travelers called the suburbs. His little girl got terribly sick, and Evan, the Celtic physician, and his lovely wife, Millie, healed her. The senator called it a miracle. Evan confessed the girl had a flu-bug and they kept her in bed and fed her plenty of chicken broth.
When they arrived at the house, the girl, now eight, came running and threw herself into Millie’s arms. Millie smiled and looked at Evan. She did not have to say anything as Evan put his hands up in surrender.
“Okay,” he said. “I want one, too.”
The travelers saw their horses stabled in the barn where the senator’s wife offered the horses sweet grain and a dry bed. The senator was in town on business and would be gone for a few days. Millie and Evan took their old room in the house, but the big house was not that big, to accommodate everyone. Though the day stayed overcast and chilly, the travelers did not mind setting up camp in the back yard. They had the cooking fires to gather around and keep warm. And they all wore that marvelous material called fairy weave, which they could thicken with a word, or break into layers as might be needed.
Alexis, Millie, and Sukki helped the house cooks prepare more than enough food for everyone. When the senator’s wife asked if Katie and Boston might like to help, Katie admitted she was not much of a cook, and Boston said, “You don’t want me to cook. Trust me.”
“I wonder if Arias cooks,” Millie said, offhandedly. “Now that she is going to be a mother, I suppose she will have to learn.” Clearly, children were on Millie’s mind. The young girl in the house stayed by Millie’s side that whole time, and ignored her own mother, as some girls do. The senator’s wife did not seem bothered by that.
“I wonder if the Princess cooks,” Sukki said.
“I am sure she has people who cook for her,” Alexis responded. “I never saw her cook anything.”
“Sophia probably cooks,” Millie said.
“Yeah,” Boston groused. “After the priest slaughters the beast on the altar, the priestess has to figure out how to cook it. Probably gets scullery duty as well.”
“Did I mention?” Alexis said. “The ones who don’t cook get to do the washing up.”
“What?” Boston sounded surprised. “Katie,” she called for help, but Katie just laughed as she and the men came to join the women around the fire.
“To me,” Lockhart said, to enter the conversation. “The interesting thing is the fact that Arias, Sophia, and Althea all lived a second time in the future. I guess I read about that in the Men in Black records, but it did not register in my mind until I saw it in reality.”
“So, if Arias doesn’t cook, maybe Susan does,” Alexis said.
“English food is too bland, even for me.” Lincoln shook his head.
“I thought the Kairos was unique,” Decker said.
“The Kairos is unique,” Boston insisted.
Lincoln tried to explain. “The Kairos got created with enough genetic material to form a complete man and a complete woman, at the same time. By maintaining a balance between male and female, sometimes living as a woman and sometimes living as a man, the Kairos has been able to live well over a hundred lifetimes back-to-back, without any time break in between lives. Everyone else, as far as we know, is stuck being a man or a woman. There isn’t the option of maintaining balance. In that case, three times as the same sex is enough. Five times is about the limit. More than five, and the mind begins to slip.”
“I recall the Princess, or someone, said Rasputin was his seventh lifetime,” Alexis said.
“No argument there about the slipping mind,” Katie said.
“But wait,” Evan interrupted. “Are you saying I could have another lifetime somewhere in time?”
“You mean where you might run into yourself?” Elder Stow grinned at the idea.
“I doubt it,” Lincoln said. “And even if you did, you probably would not recognize yourself… or maybe cause the entire universe to implode.”
“But maybe a second life in the future, where we can’t go,” Sukki said. She looked hopeful about something but did not explain what she hoped for.
“But wait.” Evan tried again. “I still don’t understand why the mysterious future friends of the Kairos gave a second life to Arias, Sophia, and Althea in the first place.”
Lockhart explained this one. “As I understand it, the Seleucids were making guns in a factory in Syria. The Princess needed the extra hands and certain skills to end that threat to history. The girls needed to know what guns were and what they could do. I don’t remember all the details, but apparently, there were several points in the story where those second lifetimes came in handy.”
“The Princess said over the next thousand years, the Masters try to introduce guns and gunpowder before they are due,” Decker said.
“Something to watch out for going forward,” Lockhart agreed.
“I remember something about Soviet operatives, from the old Soviet Union, so the Masters were able to give some of their people another lifetime as well,” Katie said.
“Masters?” Mille asked, only half-listening.
“The bad guys,” Boston said.
“But Wait,” Lincoln borrowed Evan’s term. He looked excited, like a light just went off in his head. “The Masters have a way of giving a second lifetime to their servants. Those soldiers. The ones by the side of the road when we picked up the Appian Way and left Capua. I saw those Greeks, the brigands. Mylo and Philo-crites.”
“Philocrates,” Alexis corrected her husband
“That’s it,” Katie said, nice and loud. “I have had the feeling since Capua that we were being followed by soldiers.” She waved her hands to keep everyone quiet. “I know soldiers have been everywhere, but I mean like stalked-followed. Philocrates and Mylo are behind us, and they know we are here. They are not close enough to be watching, but they are not far behind us.”
“Now, that makes sense,” Boston agreed.
“What can we do?” Sukki asked.
“What are they up to?” Boston asked.
“Can’t be good,” Lincoln said.
People thought, and shared, but the only thing they felt safe doing was keeping their eyes open and finding Bodanagus right away and tell him.