“Boston!” Sukki’s voice echoed down from overhead. A line of laser-like heat and light, reminiscent of Elder Stow’s weapon, came from overhead, and turned the front few rows of horses and men to charcoal. Lincoln chose that time to set off Elder Stow’s sonic device, and the horses behind had enough. They did not seem to care what their riders said.
The cavalry ran off. The battalion of foot soldiers followed them. Decker shot one more man off the city wall in the distance before the wall got deserted. People wanted to cheer, but they still had to contend with the forty or so men across the street that continued to pelt them with rifle fire.
“Elder Stow,” Lockhart shouted into his wristwatch, as Katie grabbed a now visible Boston and dragged her behind the makeshift fort.
“No time soon,” Elder Stow responded. “The wraith busted the device, a pretty thorough job.”
“Why is it always me?” Boston complained.
“Move,” Katie commanded Boston’s fairy weave clothes, and the fairy weave moved aside to expose the wound. Aleah snuck up as Prenner and the boys came with their bows and arrows. Prenner still had Decker’s handgun and looked determined not to miss the fight. Aleah tore a strip off her dress and folded it carefully to hold against Boston’s bleeding side.
“Ouch, ouch, ouch,” Boston said, as Katie turned her rifle back on the enemy.
Word came from Decker, overhead. “They appear to be gathering. Probably going to charge. I think they have bayonets.”
Just then, Sergeant Vespavian, the old Roman soldier that somehow survived and stayed in town after the fall of the city, came up with his local men. They spread out behind the makeshift fort, bows ready, and with sword and knives if needed to repel the attack.
“Get ready,” Katie shouted, as a great flash of light and a clap of thunder made everyone pause.
A man appeared in the street. No one recognized him at first because he had his back turned to the fort. He lifted his arm and every enemy matchlock, all the powder and shot appeared in a pile beside him
“Amun,” Arman identified the man first. Amun Junior, usually just called Junior, was the son of Amun and Ishtar, and also the Kairos from long, long ago. Arman turned to his wife. “Yes, Aleah,” he said. “This is one of the gods.”
She mouthed, “Oh,” and went to her knees.
Amun waved his hand again and every weapon and item in the hands of the enemy that did not belong in that time period vanished, while all of the enemy riflemen appeared. The men looked frozen in whatever position they had been in. A few looked like they were trying to run away.
One man faced Amun, standing in front of all the others. That man’s eyes got big, and his jaw dropped, which told everyone that he was not completely frozen. “You should not be here,” the man protested, and he closed his eyes, like he dared not watch.
Amun waved his hand one more time, and all of the riflemen disappeared. Katie and Lockhart vanished and reappeared on either side of the god. Katie figured out who the man was that faced them, though he had aged, significantly.
“Ramin Lajani,” Katie said, as Arman walked up to stand beside her.
“He did not age well,” Lockhart said. “Arman aged well.” He acknowledged the man. “But Ramin Lajani looks like the stress caught up with him about ten years ago.”
Ramin Lajani opened his eyes to see who talked about him. He recognized the couple. He tried to scream. His mouth opened, but no sound came out. Amun waved his hand once more and Ramin Lajani went away, but another, similar-looking man stood in his place.
“No,” the man shouted. “You should not be here. The gods have all gone away.”
Amun said nothing. He simply pushed his two fingers together, and the man curled up into a ball about the size of a soccer ball. Then Amun spoke. “Ramin Lajani’s future lifetime, the one in contact with the Masters. Now, Ramin Lajani will be cut off from future information and not be able to make any more guns, or anything else from the future… What?” Amun paused, before he said, “Xalazar says it must be handled in the right way.”
The god waved his hand once more, and the ball that used to be a human being went away and Ramin Lajani stood in that spot again facing his accusers once again. Amun himself went away so Xalazar could return from the past and take Amun’s place. Xalazar stood in the armor of the Kairos and held tight to his sword. Ramin Lajani did not know who this relatively young man was at first, but when his eyes adjusted for the age difference, his eyes got very big.
“No,” he shouted, sounding like an imitation of his future self. “You should not be here. I killed you.”
“Yes, you did,” Xalazar said, and thrust with his sword, right into Ramin Lajani’s middle. Xalazar yanked the sword back out, and Ramin Lajani collapsed. He would not live long.
“But you killed my future self. I am cut off from the future,” Ramin Lajani said and coughed. “I killed you. You are dead. How are you here?” Ramin Lajani gasped and died.
“That is actually a very good question,” Arman said.
Xalazar nodded and said what the others supposed was safe to say. “I regenerated my body, and mostly sleep in a kind of cryogenic suspension when I am not going somewhere into the past or future. See? I am young again.”
Arman looked at Katie and Lockhart. “Did he say that in your tongue? I didn’t understand much.”
Katie and Lockhart smiled and Xalazar continued. “It is remarkable how my mind—thoughts, emotions, knowledge, memories, personality—and body things like skills and abilities are all connected, like one package, like one person. Only my spirit, my Kairos spirit moves on from life to life. But here, I should let the one who is alive in this lifetime explain, only, don’t say anything about her future, or whatever. Stern warning, Katie. And tell Lincoln, Tony, and Nanette to keep their mouths shut as well. Got it?”
Katie nodded, and Lockhart wondered what they might say. Xalazar shook his finger at them and disappeared, while a beautiful woman, roughly in her mid-twenties, appeared, still wagging the finger. She stood about five feet-seven, and had long brown hair, and startling green eyes which looked very alive. She put her hand down, with only a curious glance at her finger, and said, “Hi, Lockhart and Katie. Don’t think I am going to let my new husband go off to war without me. Hello Lincoln,” she shouted. “It’s me, Zenobia. Where’s Boston.”
A sad little voice came from behind the stones. “I’m here. I’m hurting. I got a big ouch.”
“I’m coming,” Zenobia shouted back, and started toward the voice. The others followed.
“But what about the Sassanid army in town?” Lincoln interrupted her walk. She stopped and turned her head away from the city wall.
“They left. They will probably burn the bridges across the river. I am sure they will meet up with the rest of the Sassanid army on the other side of the Euphrates and prepare for a big battle. But Odaenathus should not meet any resistance crossing the river, thanks to you guys.” Zenobia finished her walk to where Alexis had Boston standing on one foot. Zenobia hugged the elf and added, “I don’t know why you are the one who keeps getting wounded.”
“I know,” Boston, now a happy elf responded. “That is what I keep asking.”
“Bringing Nanette down,” they heard Sukki say over the wristwatch communicators. She landed with Nanette carried easily in her arms. Alexis went there to check on her work. Zenobia dropped Boston to go coo over the girl. Boston would have fallen from her own wound, but fortunately, Arman’s wife, Aleah was there to catch her.
Decker clambered down the outside of the wall and came around through the hole in the collapsed front of the building, where Tony sat with Prenner and the boys, watching everything. Old Sergeant Vespavian and his men stood around, not quite certain what to do, when Zenobia threw her hands up in the air and raised her voice to get everyone’s attention.
“I know. Let’s have a party right here in the street. Let’s have a street party. We need to celebrate driving out a whole Sassanid army before my husband even arrived. Prenner, get the dwarf wives cooking up a storm.”
“Odaenathus is your husband?” Katie wanted to be sure.
Zenobia nodded, as Lockhart spoke up. “I see smoke rising in the distance. I guess the Sassanids are burning those bridges.” Zenobia nodded for him, too, as Elder Stow walked up.
“I will be able to fix it,” he said, about his screen device. “But it will take serious time. I will have to test all the miniature circuits and pray none are broken.”
Four hours later, a centurion, the Roman spy, went meekly into his general’s tent to report. “Lord Odaenathus. We entered the city, as you commanded, and found the streets deserted, but signs of Sassanid military occupation all over the place. We hurried to the other side of the city and caught the rear guard of the Sassanids crossing the river and preparing to burn the bridge. Most of the men remain there, holding the bridge for your arrival. Meanwhile, a few of the men followed me to one street where the people were having a celebration.” He cleared his throat before he continued.
“A strange young woman grabbed me, and said, “Tell Odaenathus my friends broke the Sassanid ambush and drove off the enemy. Now, you will have no resistance in crossing the Euphrates. Tell him to hurry so he can meet my friends before they have to move on and remind him, he is not allowed to go off adventuring without me.” She let me go. The food was really good. She said the dwarf wives outdid themselves. I don’t know what that means. I felt very confused with some of the things the people said. Lord, it seemed such a strange encounter, I hurried here to report with the hope that you might make sense of it.”
Odaenathus stared at the city, called for his horse, his guard, and his second in command, before he turned to the centurion and offered what explanation he had. “My wife, who I left back in Palmyra. She is the definition of strange encounter.”
Back to the regular 3 posts per week (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) and 6 posts (two weeks) per episode. Next week the travelers arrive in Constantinople where there is peace in the empire if not in the church. Avalon 7.9 The Inns and Outs. Happy Reading