Avalon 7.9 The Inns and Outs, part 2 of 6

Captain Ardacles seemed a rough man, but gregarious in his way.  He liked to talk and laugh, though usually he laughed at the expense of others.  His mate, Pinto, was more the skinny and slick type who kept all his thoughts and feelings to himself and maintained the outward appearance of a stoic.  Boston did not like the mate, but she said it might be a personality thing and not necessarily that he was a bad man.

Captain Ardacles sailed what people in the Middle Ages would call a belly boat.  It appeared roundish, with a big hold where they could squeeze in all those horses.  When loaded, it sat low in the water, so it was not very fast.  It had oars, but mostly moved dependent on the wind in the sails, and to that end, it had a lateen sail in the bow to catch whatever wind might be blowing.

When the tide came in, the ship rose beside the dock until the door to the hold ended up in line with the dock.  The horses could walk straight into the ship, only a little downhill to the hold where they could be safely tied for the voyage.  They had food and plenty of water for the animals, so that would not be a problem for the couple of days they expected to be aboard the ship.

Lockhart and Katie got up a couple of hours before dawn to supervise the loading of their horses, Ghost the mule, and their wagon.  Tony and Boston helped. Tony, from 1905, grew up in a world of horses, and probably had more practical experience with them than any of the other travelers.  Boston, being an elf, proved invaluable.  The horses listened to her.  Besides, she rode in several rodeos in her youth and teen years.  She was probably the second most experienced horse person in the group.

“Come on, Cocoa,” Boston yelled at Sukki’s horse.  “Strawberry is already on board, so it won’t be so bad.”  Strawberry was Boston’s horse, and the two horses often rode side by side.

Lockhart followed.  “Elder Stow’s horse, Mudd?”  He was not sure, but Boston and Katie nodded.  “You would think he is the stubborn mule.”

“Use the carrot, not the stick,” Tony suggested.  He got some fodder to entice the hungry horse, and in that way, led Mudd to the trough.

Later, when the sun came up, Katie remarked on how many merchant ships were in the port, and how many Roman warships were also present.

“How can you tell which is which?” Lockhart asked.

Katie pointed.  “The long ships, like there, and there.  They are the warships, and fast oared ships, triremes and biremes.  They don’t depend on the sails so much.  Besides, they have mounted ballistae and catapults that you can see.”

“I thought catapults were medieval, or maybe for cities.”

“The ram, the big tree that sticks out in front of the ship, just below the water line, is still the main weapon.  It makes the ship like a manned spear.  It is connected to the spine of the ship, so when you ram another ship, the impact is spread more or less evenly throughout your whole ship.  Hopefully, the other ship sinks when your oars pull your ship back.”

“Must be hard to hit a moving ship at sea with a catapult,” Lockhart guessed.

“Not much harder than hitting a ship with an eight-pounder such as they used on the Spanish Main,” Katie responded.  “A good naval artillery man knows how to mentally adjust for speed, pitch, and the rest, to know just when to fire for the most likely hit.  It takes practice.  Not all artillery masters are good at it.”

Lockhart nodded, while Lincoln and Alexis came aboard with Decker and Nanette.  They would take the day watch, not that they distrusted Captain Ardacles and his crew, but they did not want to let the horses and equipment that far out of their sight.  Once Boston, Tony, Katie and Lockhart went ashore, Pinto and the crew moved the ship out into the deeper waters of the port so another vessel could pull up to the docks.

Father Flavius and Deacon Galarius came aboard after morning devotions.  The deacon promptly took a nap.  Decker and Nanette stood apart, by the rail, whispering.  That left Father Flavius, Lincoln, and Alexis to carry on a lively conversation.  They talked mostly about history and current events, and the peace that Constantine finally brought on the empire.  They talked about how the day seemed to be dragging on.

Finally, around mid-day, Lockhart, Katie, Boston, and Tony returned in the long boat which brought very little in the way of supplies that day.  Katie and Lockhart brought lunch, and food they could have for their supper, not imagining the ship’s cook could wring much worth eating out of the larder.

“Where are Sukki and Elder Stow?” Alexis asked.

“Elder Stow says he is at a critical point in his repairs,” Katie responded.  “He says it has been hard enough trying to make repairs while we are moving all the time.  He has not had that much free time to work on his device, but if the makeshift part works, we may have our screens back.”

“And if it doesn’t work?” Lincoln asked.

“Back to the drawing board.”  Katie shook her head.

“Sukki is staying with her adopted father to keep him company, and make sure he is not disturbed in his work,” Boston said.  “They will be along later this afternoon.  Meanwhile, I have to go pick on my sister Nanette.  She is getting too comfortable with Decker.”

The others knew enough to leave Decker and Nanette alone to work out whatever they worked out.  “But try telling an elf to mind her own business,” Alexis said with a laugh at the thought.

The afternoon dragged on.  Captain Ardacles showed up around four, but went straight into his cabin, to check the charts, he said.  The little castle in the back of the boat held the cabin that belonged to the captain.    The forecastle cabin held the larder and the kitchen.  It also had something of a bathroom, right next to the food.  The travelers tried not to think about contamination.  The crew quarters were below, squeezed extra tight because of the horses taking so much room.  The passengers were expected to sleep on the deck and hope it did not rain.

Six o’clock, the captain came barreling out of his cabin shouting orders.  “Get that sail up.  We have a favorable wind,” he yelled at Pinto.  “The tide is beginning to go out and we can ride it straight to the Bosporus.”

“Wait.”  All of the travelers yelled.  “Elder Stow.  Sukki.  Wait.”

“We have to go now,” Pinto told the group.  “Otherwise, we have to wait until the morning.”

“Elder Stow,” Katie spoke into her wristwatch communicator.  “The ship is pulling out into the straight.  You need to try and catch us.”

“I just talked to the long boat people at the dock,” Sukki interrupted.  “They said it is too late to catch the ship.”

“It is okay,” Elder Stow responded.  “We can fly out to the ship.”

“What?  Wait,” Lockhart said, but he did not say it into his communicator.

Elder Stow hooked his screen device to the other devices he carried on his belt—the belt Boston called the Batman belt.  “Are we ready?” Elder Stow asked, and held out his hand.

Sukki shook her head.  “I would like to try it on my own.  The goddesses gave me a Lockhart heat-ray power, super strength, pressurized skin, and one gave me the gift of flight, though I am not sure which one did that.  But I haven’t had much chance to practice.”  She lifted herself about five feet above the dock and smiled at the feeling of being weightless and being able to control it.

The long boat men ran off, except one who appeared frozen and staring.  One screamed as Elder Stow touched his anti-gravity device and rose up to join her.  In only a moment, they headed out over the water and would reach the boat in a few minutes.  When they got near, they found Nanette had risen up to join them in their landing.  All three flew, but in different ways.  Sukki had been gifted, and Elder Stow had a device.  Nanette had her magic, which was rooted in a telekinetic ability to move objects with her mind, like a Shemsu, Katie said before she changed her mind.  The Shemsu lifted things in a fourth way, because their genes had been manipulated to give them that ability in the ancient days.

They landed on the ship, Sukki still smiling and happy, but tired.  She had not been gifted to fly long distances.  “Me neither,” Nanette confessed.  

“I can’t fly at all,” Boston grumped.

“But you are speedy girl,” Sukki said, and Nanette nodded.

“Only with Roland,” Boston answered, and both the true cave woman, Sukki, and Nanette from 1905 covered their mouths and looked embarrassed, while Boston grinned her best elf grin.

Elder Stow ignored the girls and went back to work on his screen device, while he still had some daylight. Alexis stepped up and made a comment.

“I think you scared Pinto half to death.  He escaped to the kitchen and may hide down in the crew quarters.”

Lincoln, who never let Alexis get too far away, added, “Captain Ardacles looks pretty pale, too.”

Lockhart, Decker, and Katie all looked at the captain and wondered what he might be thinking.  Father Flavius explained to Deacon Galarius.

“These folks are from a future full of wonders.  Be glad they are friends with his grace.”

Deacon Galarius tried to smile and swallowed.

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