After 14 A.D. Bactria on the Silk Road
Kairos 89: Lydia, the Prophetess
The travelers came through the time gate early in the morning. The sun just hit the horizon at their backs. Anyone watching might have thought they came right out of the light. And there were about two hundred people watching; at least the ones that were awake.
“Company for breakfast,” Boston announced, seeming more her affable self, now having forgiven herself for getting carried away in the last time zone. Boston and Sukki came through first and stopped to stare at the people watching at them.
“What do you think they want?” Sukki wondered, as people came to the other side of a rough road, to stare.
“That is probably what they are wondering about us,” Katie said, as she and Lockhart came through next, followed by Elder Stow and Decker.
“No guns,” Elder Stow reported, looking at his scanner. He looked up at Lockhart. “Unless the Masters changed the composition of their metal.”
Decker spit. To Lockhart’s disgusted look, he said. “Last piece.”
Lockhart and Katie got down to face the people, some of whom found weapons of some sort or other. At the same time, a fat and sleepy looking middle-aged man, still slipping into his jacket, came to the other side of a road. People made room for him. A young man of about twenty years came with him, to help him dress and present himself properly. The fat man whispered in the young man’s ear, and the young man nodded and turned to face the travelers.
“My master, the great lord Zhang She of Xi’an, servant of the Great Emperor Guangwu of Han asks, who are you to disturb his rest at such an early hour?”
“Hold that thought,” Lockhart said. “Decker and Elder Stow. You need to step back to let the wagon through.”
“Of course,” Elder Stow said. Boston and Sukki also stepped back on the other side as Ghost the mule crossed the threshold of the time gate. The wagon followed, driven by Tony, his horse tied to the back. Lincoln, Alexis and Nanette all came through on horseback, but stopped short when they saw the men across the way. Some of those men now looked like soldiers.
The fat man, Zhang She appeared to open his mouth and stare as the wagon and riders came out of nowhere. His young servant stayed more composed, even when Lockhart, the giant man, and Katie, the woman with yellow hair, stepped across the road to talk to him.
“Do you have a name?” Katie asked.
“I am Gan Ao, your humble servant.” He bowed, but he smiled for some reason, almost like he might have been expecting them.
“Zhang She?” Lockhart asked and pointed at the fat man. Gan Ao nodded. “Tell Zhang She we come in friendship. We humbly apologize for disturbing his slumber. Where are we headed?” He directed the last to Katie, but Gan Ao answered while Katie pulled her amulet from beneath her dress.
“To Lanshi, home of the Daxia people.”
Katie pointed while Lincoln and Boston came to add their two cents. Lincoln had his face in the database, and Boston had hers in her amulet. Lincoln spoke first.
“Lanshi is Bactra, and the Daxia people are the Bactrian people.”
“Boss,” Boston said. “We are about ten days, maybe two hundred miles from a small city. The thing is, maybe we can take our time. It looks like the Kairos is moving, except he is coming toward us instead of away from us this time.”
“She,” Lincoln said. “Lydia of Tarsus.”
Boston confirmed Katie’s direction. Lockhart turned to Gan Ao. “We thank you for your kindness. It was good meeting you, but if you will excuse us, we will be moving on and out of your hair shortly.”
Gan Ao put his hand to his head to feel his hair. Zhang She shouted. “No. Wait. We are headed in the same direction and there is safety in numbers on this miserable excuse for a road. Please stay with me and break your fast. I have many questions.” He turned to the people, many of whom still stared in awe. “These strangers are “Hands off.” If you have something you must say or ask, come and tell me or my faithful servant, Gan Ao.” He turned to Lockhart. “Come.”
“Free breakfast,” Boston said.
Lockhart shrugged when Lincoln said they appeared to be on the Silk Road, and Katie said, “Safety in numbers.”
They came to a big fire outside a semi-circle of tents with one extra big tent in the middle of the group. “Come, come,” Zhang She said, as he went into the big tent. Eight people could stand comfortably there around a table covered in paper. Someone appeared to be making a map of their travels. Lockhart, Katie, Boston, and Lincoln all pushed inside. Besides Zhang She and Gan Ao, a fat, one might say, blubbery old man by the name of Djo-Djo sat by the table with ink and brushes. Evidently, the map maker. A Han soldier, the commander of the soldiers, came in to keep a wary eye on the strangers. He got introduced as Captain Ban.
“Paper,” Katie noticed right away. “Real paper.” She said no more.
Outside, Elder Stow and Sukki helped Alexis and Tony get the wagon off the road and into a position where they could ride as soon as they were ready. Decker dismounted by the fire outside the tents where he could keep one eye on the tent and one eye on the wagon. Nanette came to join him, sent by Alexis to see what might be cooking for breakfast. There appeared to be several men running around in a panic, trying to figure out how to cook enough and stretch the food to feed so many strangers.
When Nanette tied her horse with the other horses, and she came near the fire, Decker stared at her and said something unexpected. “I heard you could have married anyone in Rome you wanted. Why didn’t you?”
“I was something strange and different, like a toy. I never would have been accepted. and they never would have understood the experience of my people.”
“They have slaves. They had plenty of people uprooted from their homes and carted off to Rome as slaves.” Decker spit. “On this journey, I have come to realize that back home we have some people that make such a big deal out of an historical no big deal.”
“Is that what you think? It has nothing to do with slavery. I know nothing about that beyond stories from my grandmother. I am talking about being dark skinned in a light skinned world.”
Decker nodded. “We got rid of segregation in the sixties, though we are far from a perfect world on that score.”
Nanette affirmed what he said. “When I marry, it will be to a dark-skinned man, like myself.”
Decker and Nanette stared at each other until Decker spit. “I’m thirty-six. Maybe old enough to be your father.”
“I’m twenty-six. You could not be my father unless you had a child when you were ten.”
“At ten, I wouldn’t have known where to stick it.” He spit again.
Nanette looked shocked and disgusted. “Where were you born? In a barn?”
“In the hood. Low-income housing in Charlotte, North Carolina,” he said. “Besides, I was married for five years. It didn’t work out.” He turned and Nanette watched him walk away to help with the wagon, and he mumbled. “Aphrodite is as cruel as I always imagined her to be.”
Nanette shivered at her thoughts, but she could not take her eyes off the man as he walked away.