In the morning, Decker and Lincoln went missing. Once Alexis and Katie figured out what they were up to, everyone hurried. Horses had to be readied and saddled. Ghost had to be hitched to the wagon, and the equipment all had to be accounted for. Lockhart and Katie told the others to stay at the house. They rode off, but Boston followed them.
Near the city gate that led to the Appian Way, Lincoln and Decker waited, since the first wisps of light touched the horizon. They had crawled up on a roof of a barn where they had a good view of both the gate and the street. When they first arrived, they watched new guards replace the night guards, and since that time, they watched people enter the city in dribs and drabs.
“You realize, they could have entered the city yesterday afternoon, depending on how far behind they were. They might already be lost in the city,” Lincoln said, but kept his binoculars turned on the gate.
Decker looked through his scope, and relaxed, having taken a prone position on the roof. He had a little stand for the rifle that would steady the front end. “If they are not here by noon, we will have to assume that and head back to the others.”
Lincoln also lay on his stomach. He had his elbows on the roof and the binoculars held up to his eyes, like he did this sort of spying often with the CIA. He knew how to get comfortable. “You think the others won’t find us long before noon?”
Decker grunted, as the sound of Lockhart’s voice came over the wristwatch communicators. “Lincoln. Decker. Where are you. We are ready to go.” It sounded loud. Decker turned his off. Lincoln turned his volume down as best he could and whispered.
“On a roof by the gate. You know perfectly well where we are.” Then he turned his communicator off as well. Soldiers had come to the gate, ready to enter the city. It was the third group already. Lincoln examined every face he could through the binoculars, but none of them were Philocrates or Mylo.
Twenty minutes later, Lockhart, Katie, and Boston found Decker’s and Lincoln’s horses tied off in the alleyway beside the barn. Katie pointed to the roof of the building across the street, but Lockhart shook his head. “Boston,” he said. “Since you insisted on coming, make yourself useful. Go up there and tell Lincoln and Decker we are ready to travel.”
“I’m not a fairy,” Boston complained. “I can’t just fly up there.”
Katie said nothing. She got up on a box beside the barn and paused to gauge how far she had to jump to reach the opening for the hayloft.
“Oh, forget it,” Boston yelled, and virtually ran up the side of the building. She was young and strong and could climb like a monkey when she was human. Being an elf just made that sort of thing so much easier. She came back down, and Lockhart and Katie were not sure how she did that. “Decker said noon. Lincoln said, maybe they came in yesterday, but they probably camped in the soldier’s field outside the city and planned to come in this morning. We will see.”
Katie pointed across the street again, and Lockhart sighed and nodded. He radioed their decision back to Elder Stow at the house. They led their horses to the building across the street and found a place to tie them off. While Katie retrieved her rifle, Lockhart took a couple of steps back and looked up, to see if they could get up on the roof without disturbing the residents. No need. They came.
Katie and Boston felt the disturbance, and both looked up at the soldiers in the gate, before Decker’s rifle sounded out across the way. One of the soldiers fell, but one pulled out a handgun of some sort. Two had primitive looking rifles, and they all returned fire as they got behind whatever cover they could find. Katie raised her rifle and shot the one with the handgun, while Decker killed one that had a rifle. That ended the killing, as fifty spit and polish soldiers stormed the gate. The men there threw down their weapons and surrendered.
Bodanagus in his armor, and another old man dressed in senatorial robes stepped into the street and walked casually to the gate. The centurion commanding the group in the gate, the only one on horseback, had been taken completely unprepared. He got down, prodded as he was by the many spears around him. He did not look happy at having his plans interrupted, but he fell to his knees, and at least faked a submissive attitude when he saw who approached.
Katie, Lockhart, and Boston caught up with Bodanagus and the senator. The senator spoke, “And I can’t have any of these weapons?”
“Not on a bet,” Bodanagus said. “They don’t belong here at all. Not for another thousand plus years.”
“Too bad,” the man said. “I can imagine some serious use for such weapons.”
They all stopped walking as a woman appeared in front of them. The travelers recognized Minerva. Katie and Boston felt something behind them and turned to see Artemis, that is, Diana following them. Diana put a finger to her lips as if to say, don’t tell.
“Pretty sloppy,” Minerva said. “You destroyed the rebuilt factory in Syria well enough after Tarsus, but your little ones missed some of the guns.”
“Pokra!” Bodanagus called, and even the strictly human man beside Bodanagus dropped his jaw when an imp appeared in the street.
“Lord. They must have hidden some. We got everyone we found. We did just like you said. It must have been Lingle’s fault. We can double-check everywhere. Triple-check. It isn’t my fault…”
Bodanagus said nothing. He just waved his hand and the imp vanished. The old man beside Bodanagus laughed hard and loud.
“Sounded like Xitides all over again,” Katie whispered.
Minerva moved. The primitive guns vanished as Minerva spoke. “I will get your little ones to take whatever guns and such they find to Avalon for safe keeping. At least my jurisdiction will be clean. I can’t speak for others.” She vanished, and the man beside Bodanagus laughed again.
“Not you,” Diana said quietly to Boston and put her hand on Boston’s shoulder. Boston stopped wiggling.
“I just had a sudden, uncontrollable urge to go searching for guns and gunpowder and such and take it to Avalon.”
“You have a task, already set for you,” Diana told her. “You need to finish your journey through time.”
Boston lowered her head and nodded. She knew that. What could she have been thinking?
The old man with Bodanagus spoke again when he finished his laugh. “And I thought Roman politics and all the backstabbing that goes on in the Curia was complicated and strange. I don’t envy you. And these people, and the two coming down from the roof?” He noticed, like a man who noticed everything.
“These good people, time travelers, from Avalon, have helped clean out some monsters and situations in history where there was danger of driving the human race off track. The human race is on a journey, and like any journey, you want to arrive at the correct destination. Ill winds and unexpected enemies or circumstances can drive you off course. These people have helped right the ship more than once. Now, I leave you to clean up this mess as you see fit. Diana, if you don’t mind.” Bodanagus knew she was there. He turned his head and smiled for her. Diana stuck her tongue out at the old man.
All of the travelers, including the ones from the house, found themselves instantly at the north gate where the road would take them to the next time gate. Lincoln and Alexis had the wagon, their horses tied to the back. Tony and Nanette rode side by side in front of them. Boston and Sukki rode in the very front, but Lockhart and Katie, in front of Nanette and Tony, would actually lead the group when Boston and Sukki rode out on the point. Decker and Elder Stow, of course, came in the rear as a kind of rear guard whenever they came through a town.
Bodanagus appeared with them, up on the steps that led to the wall above. The guards in that gate stood and stared dumbly at the travelers who appeared out of nowhere. The guards hardly dared to move.