After 236 A.D. Syria
Kairos 93: Zenobia, the Queen
The travelers arrived at the time gate in the late afternoon. They found it in the town of Dura-Europa, on the Euphrates River. Fortunately, the time gate rested down an alleyway and not inside a building.
“Should we find rooms for caravans and travelers, or go through the gate now while we can?” Katie asked from where she rode in the wagon. Lockhart drove the wagon and thought about it. Though not their first thing in the morning routine, the time gate temporarily vanishing had them all spooked.
“Go now,” Boston said, as she came back from the front and steadied her horse.
“Go now,” Decker echoed, as he pushed up from the rear, followed by Nanette, who pulled Sukki’s horse with her. “The guards in the gate had a seriously suspicious look about them.”
“This is a military town. The Romans here hold it almost like a fort, to protect the trade routes,” Lincoln spoke up from behind the wagon where he read from the database while Alexis temporarily held the reigns of both Katie’s and Lockhart’s horses. “But mostly to protect against Sassanid armies.”
“We came from Sassanid territory,” Alexis said. “We might look like spies for some reason.”
“Soldiers coming,” Tony shouted from the rear.
“Father?” Sukki wondered what Elder Stow was doing with his screen device in his hands.
“Just working on it,” Elder Stow said, and glanced up at the others. They all looked at him. “I need to set a screen wall in the time gate behind us, so some innocent person does not stumble through before the time gate deactivates.”
“Of course,” Alexis agreed.
“Soldiers definitely coming here,” Tony shouted.
“Can you set the wall at the end of the alley first?” Katie asked. “Maybe pull it into the alleyway behind us.”
“Everyone; move into the alleyway,” Lockhart said, not waiting for an answer from Elder Stow. “Decker and Boston. Scout out the other side of the time gate.”
“One minute,” Elder Stow said.
“Come on, Sukki. Let’s get our horses,” Katie leapt from the wagon and mounted. Sukki followed and thanked Nanette for bringing her horse to that point.
“They’re here,” Tony yelled as he pulled his horse’s tail into the alley alongside Lockhart’s horse which was tied to the back of the wagon. Lincoln and Alexis scooted over to make room.
“Friends,” a young man shouted for the traveler’s attention. He appeared in a great flash of light that made the soldiers in the street cover their eyes and take several steps back. He called to them. “Friends.” A great clap of thunder followed the light. The horses hardly flinched, but several soldiers fell to their knees, two ran and at least one wailed.
Nanette recognized the man who appeared right away. “Arman.” He was the young Magi that followed Xalazar to Hatra.
“Arman.” Several others named the young man.
“Quick. Into the alley” Katie yelled back, and Arman came up alongside Tony and Elder Stow.
“There,” Elder Stow said, as he turned on his screen device that set a virtual wall at the end of the alleyway. The soldiers would be blocked out for the moment.
“Lockhart, Xalazar got stabbed” Arman said, as he walked up past Katie, and Alexis to reach the wagon. He repeated himself, nice and loud. “Xalazar got stabbed.” He looked at the concerned faces of the travelers and reported the story as quick as he could. “Sarkis, the Armenian betrayed us. He led us into a trap, and Ramin Lajani, the gun merchant, stabbed Xalazar. Marona, the Assyrian, is dead. Junior Amun, the god, says Xalazar should be dead, but he traded places with Xalazar at the last minute. Do you know what I mean, traded places?”
Lockhart nodded. “The Kairos tends to borrow a lifetime from the past or future as needed, yes, we know. He actually, temporarily becomes another person as near as anyone can tell, though inside, he is the same person, still the Kairos.”
“Junior. Amun Junior,” Lincoln said. “Son of the god Amun and the goddess Ishtar.”
“It must be important,” Alexis added. “The gods don’t normally interfere in life and death circumstances unless there is some cosmic significance.”
Arman also nodded and picked up the story. “Junior Amun saved my life, and he sent me with an urgent message. He said he cannot come and tell you himself because the time gate will move as he moves. He said he can hold the gate stable for now, but he cannot hold it for long. Xalazar must die so his spirit can move on to his next life. He said you must move on now and not wait until morning…”
Three things happened at once.
“You need a place to hide,” Alexis said. “You can’t go through the time gate with us because you will age as many years as the time difference, maybe fifty or more years.”
Her words got overshadowed by yelling from the soldiers who came up to Elder Stow’s screen and could go no further. “You people come out of there! The governor would like a word with you.”
For the third thing, Boston came back through the time gate to report. “It’s full of soldiers, like an ambush. The city is destroyed, whatever city it is, and there are soldiers camped all around the place, and Decker says some of them got guns.”
“Is there room for the wagon?” Lockhart asked. “Can we go without drawing attention to ourselves?” Lockhart had to wave at Boston to get her attention. She was staring around the alley, like she saw it for the first time.
“Huh? Yeah. It looks mostly—exactly like this alleyway, except that wall is missing. You can pull the wagon right in there. I think it is a stable of some kind.” Boston’s engineering brain kicked in. “I didn’t give the structure a stress test. The load bearing logs look sturdy, but they might not hold the roof up if they get disturbed. I’ll check it out.”
“Wait,” Lockhart interrupted. “Katie. Tony, go with her. Katie, check the perimeter and see if it is safe to come through. Send Tony back when the wagon can come, but don’t take too long.” He waved them off and turned his attention to Arman. “Lincoln and Alexis, find a safe place for Arman to go. Elder Stow get ready. Nanette and Sukki, watch out for Elder Stow.” That seemed to cover everyone.
Lincoln turned to the door in the wall that would still be there in the future, if he heard correctly. He could not imagine an exit time gate and an entrance time gate being in the same place, but it had happened once before. He jiggled the door, but it was locked.
“Alexis, see if you can blow the door down.”
“Wait.” Arman butted up front. He closed his eyes and placed both hands on the door. They heard a scraping sound of wood on wood, like a bar being lifted from its place. They heard a clunk as the bar fell to the floor. Arman pushed the door slowly. They saw an older couple and a young woman, obviously their daughter, standing back, staring at them. This had to be their home. The young woman, about sixteen or seventeen, had the Roman Empire equivalent of a rolling pin in her hand, and looked prepared to defend her home, whatever the cost.
“May we come in?” Arman asked, politely, before Alexis and Lincoln butted in front of him. Alexis raised her hands like a true witch, and the wind rose up inside the shelter of the house. It shoved the young woman and the elderly couple back a couple of steps and blew everything off the table. Lincoln spoke up.
“This man needs food and a place to rest. He is a good man. You need to protect him and do not let the soldiers get him.”
“Don’t make me come back here,” Alexis said. “He is a good man,” she underlined that point. “He deserves your help, and I will be very cross if I have to come back here.”
“The wagon is moving,” Lincoln interrupted. “We need to go.”
Alexis hugged Arman before she and Lincoln went back out to get up on their horses. Arman turned in the door to watch. He said, “You might want to see this.” The young woman stepped right up to look around his shoulder. Eventually, the mother and father also came to see, and the old man mumbled.
“Horses of the gods.” They were not surprised to see Alexis and Lincoln slowly vanish as they stepped through the shimmering hole in the air. The last thing they saw was a swipe of the horse’s tail before Nanette, Sukki, and Elder Stow came last in line.
Someone banged on the front door. The family quickly closed the side door to the alleyway as three soldiers forced their way inside the front. The young woman still held the rolling pin, and Arman pulled a small knife he had hidden in his cloak. They stood side by side to protect the house, but the old man pushed to the front and spoke right up.
“Sergeant Vespavian. What is happening in the street?”
The sergeant stopped, so the soldiers with him stopped. “Who is this?”
“My son in law,” the old man said without blinking. “Come all the way from Palmyra. He could not wait until we came to fetch him in the fall.”
“Aleah?” the sergeant looked at the young woman, like he had an interest in the girl. Aleah looked at the ugly soldier, glanced at Arman, smiled, and took Arman’s arm while Arman put away his little knife. The sergeant growled, and with his soldiers, he threw open the side door. The rest of his soldiers were already in the alley, with his centurion unable to push his hand through the shimmering hole in the air. That shimmering hole in the air quickly disappeared, leaving only alleyway and soldiers milling about.
The sergeant growled again, and he and his two men left the door open. The old woman closed it carefully as the old man turned to the couple where his daughter still held on to Arman. The old man smiled as he spoke. “Well, priest,” he said, having recognized Arman as a Magi. “I guess you will just have to marry my daughter and make it legal.”
Aleah glanced again at Arman before she looked away and turned slightly red. She did not let go of him, so it seemed as if she would not mind.
Arman did not know what to say.