It took six days to reach Nicomedia, having once again avoided Nicaea. Soldiers met them some distance from Nicomedia to turn them away.
“There’s an outbreak of plague in the city. Best not to go there.”
“Gee,” Boston complained. “I wanted to see if that first mate, Pinto Beans was still hiding around the dock, hoping the authorities did not catch him.”
Decker snickered. He remembered giving the man that name.
“A criminal?” the soldier looked up.
“Never mind,” Alexis told him.
“Last time we traveled by sea and skipped Chalcedon. This time, Katie wants to see the city,” Lockhart said, and Katie nodded.
“No plague in Chalcedon, is there?” Nanette asked.
“Not that I know of,” the soldier answered.
It took a day to get to the coast road and most of another day to reach Chalcedon. They stopped short of the city and stayed at a country inn. The food was good, and even if the beds were not bug free, at least they were soft.
The following day, they spent finding a place to stay near the docks. It was a busy port and they found plenty of places by the sea, but they filled up quickly. They settled into one place, not the best, about three o’clock and had an early supper, or a very late lunch around four. They found plenty of sailors in the room already washing away their sorrows with alcohol, but they managed a table for four and another one that sat eight where six of them could relax. Lockhart, Katie, Lincoln, and Alexis took the table for four.
“This time zone has been very quiet, considering all that has been going on around us,” Alexis started the conversation.
Lincoln frowned. “Now, don’t jinx us.”
Katie and Lockhart smiled, and Lockhart responded. “We paid for the rooms, such as they are, and the horses are settled in, but only if we can’t find a ship to leave this evening.”
“We might find a ship where we can spend the night and leave on the morning tide,” Katie said.
“That is the idea.” Lockhart nodded as their food arrived. The innkeeper paid special attention. These people had money.
“You know,” Lincoln said. “I’m getting used to sleeping with the bugs.”
Lincoln looked temporarily horrified. “Thanks a lot. Now I won’t sleep a wink.”
“Keep it down,” Lockhart said. “You’ll scare Nanette.” He pointed at the other table.
Katie grinned for Alexis.
Nanette sat at the other table between Decker and Tony, across from Elder Stow, Sukki, and Boston. Katie pointed once or twice as Decker touched Nanette’s hand, and once her shoulder. Decker seemed happy, which was a rare thing. Nanette seemed shy, which was the opposite of her evil twin, the one made, and in the end, unmade by Athena. Alexis grinned a sly grin, and Lockhart had to ask.
“What are you two plotting?”
“Nothing,” Alexis said and broadened her grin.
“I’ll tell you later,” Katie said, and rubbed Lockhart’s shoulder.
“Probably Cupid,” Lincoln said in a very flat voice. “It is a game that wives play to get other men trapped in the bonds of holy matrimony.”
Alexis hit him in the shoulder rather hard.
“You sound like Decker,” Lockhart quipped, but then looked at the other table and saw Decker and Nanette talking and touching hands. He looked at Katie, his wife, but she just smiled. He raised his brows, shrugged a little, and went back to his supper.
A priest came into the inn. No one paid attention because there were priests and monks all over the city, but this one pushed through the drunken sailors and stepped up to the table where Katie sat and said, “Excuse me. You are the traveler from Avalon with the yellow hair?”
Lockhart stopped eating and stared at the man, but Katie’s elect intuition did not sense any danger from this man. She smiled and said, “How can I help you?”
“The doctor has asked to see you. He needs your help. That is all I know, but I can take you to him.”
“Doctor?” Alexis looked up. The priest stood at her back. Lincoln put down his spoon and looked as well. “Maybe I can help,” Alexis said.
Lockhart got suspicious, even if Katie did not. “I thought you said that was all you knew.”
The priest smiled a friendly smile, or a nervous one, and nodded. “Indeed. But that was all I was told. If you are having your supper, I can convey a message.”
“Doctor Mishka?” Lincoln spoke to the other table. He saw Boston who was eavesdropping already had her amulet out.
“No,” Boston said. “The Kairos is still on the other side of the water in Constantinople.”
“Is it an emergency?” Katie asked.
“I don’t do diseases, except nursing,” Alexis said, thinking about the plague.
The priest did not know.
Katie stood, so Lockhart stood. “Is the doctor far from here?” she asked, and the priest shook his head.
“It might not hurt to take a look,” Alexis said and stood, so Lincoln stood. Katie felt Lockhart’s suspicion. Lockhart left his shotgun in the wagon, in the stables with the horses, but Katie started carrying her military rifle with her, like Decker. She dropped her rifle with Tony. She wore her belt with her handgun and knife. They all started wearing their belts and their handheld weapons since the Khyber Pass, except Alexis who still had an elf-slip where she kept her wand and otherwise carried her small first aid pack like a purse. The pack held their vitamins and whatever first aid supplies they had plus a few elf bread crackers and a few coins in case Alexis got separated from the group.
Decker spoke before Lockhart could say anything. “Tony and I can secure a ship to take us to the capitol, and we can get the horses and wagon loaded.”
“This port probably has regular ferries that cross over to the capitol,” Tony said.
“Getting a ship should not be hard if you spend a little money,” Nanette added.
“I may be able to help,” Elder Stow said, and he meant help with whatever this doctor wanted them for. They all understood what he meant. He had plenty of gadgets, as Lockhart called them. He could be a remarkable help with injuries at times, and identifying various diseases, but Lockhart waved for him to stay seated.
“We don’t know what the trouble is. You stay and work on your screen device.”
“Should we come?” Sukki asked, but Boston held her hand down.
“No,” Boston said emphatically. “The adults are going off to do grown up things and leaving us children to have fun and tear the house up while they are gone.” Boston grinned. Nanette laughed.
Once outside, the priest led the couples toward the water and the docks. They came to a warehouse, and the priest invited them in first. Katie jumped as her elect radar went off, but she reacted too late. A dozen men stepped from the shadows. The travelers might have been able to fend off swords and spears, but there was nothing they could do about the rifles and primitive handguns the men carried.
“Damn.” Lincoln said, as the men made them hand over their gun belts. “Double damn,” he added when they saw the man who came out from the back of the big room. “Lord Bozo.”
“Bobo,” the man said. “And in this life, it is Bozarius. But this time, you won’t catch me unaware. The invisible ones are still at the inn with no idea anything is amiss. By the time they figure that out, you will be on your way.” He handed a small bag to the priest who bowed and smiled.
“Thirty pieces of silver?” Alexis asked. The priest looked temporarily horrified before he pursed his lips, lowered his shaking head, and scurried away like a rat.
“So, what is it this time?” Katie asked, boldly. Bozarius paused at the question but appeared to have no qualms about answering. Like before, he did not mind talking when he felt he had the upper hand. He led them toward the back of the warehouse where they saw several large cannons. They looked of a size to break down city walls.
“I am still interested in your guns that never seem to run out of bullets. Too bad you did not come with one of those rifles. I would like another look at that. But, you see, this time I am not interested in small arms. I have made some for my crew, but I am focused on the big guns. I have smaller, ship sized cannon to mount on the Muslim ships.”
Katie drew in her breath. “You plan to beat down the Theodosian walls. You want the Arabs to take Constantinople.”
Bozarius smiled. “You found me out. Yes, the Masters have decided that an Islamic Europe will be more conducive to the future. But come, let me introduce you to Doctor Theopholus. He will be taking you to Constantinople where I believe he will have a surprise for you.”
They found three doors at the back of the warehouse and figured the one on the end probably led to the outside, maybe a back alley. They heard terrible moaning behind one door. They went through the middle one and found a chemistry lab set up, not in the most sterile condition, and an old man in a kind of makeshift lab coat. “Doctor,” Bozarius said. “I have your subjects here.”