Avalon 9.0 Pestilence, part 5 of 6

Prudenza stood in the doorway and watched the snow fall.  They were not going anywhere in the snow.  In fact, she began to think they might have to find a place where they could wait out the winter.  She did not second guess her decision to leave Genoa when they did.  Staying there until spring only risked everyone being infected with the plague, as Doctor Mishka called the pestilence.

Carlo came up behind her and peeked over her shoulder.  “We are a day away, below the pass.  Augustinus does not recommend the pass in the snow.  You know, I have some money Nina and I were saving for the little one…”

“No,” Prudenza said too fast.  “Thank you.  Not yet.”  She felt bad about being a burden to anyone, even her brother-in-law, but she had very limited funds.  With her uncle’s help, she paid off her father’s debts, but it did not leave her with much.  Tedesca helped, and when her Uncle Bertolo died, Aunt Bellaflore brought some money with her.  They would make do.

Carlo patted her on the shoulder and headed back to the kitchen.  Prudenza smiled for him and noticed the crone Babara and her girl Malore were by the fireplace, looking unmoved from the day before.  Something about those two really bothered Prudenza, but she could not put her finger on the issue.  Again, she shrugged it off and returned her eyes to the snow.

Prudenza searched through every lifetime she could reach at that point. She remembered Sir John of the Hill, the Norman knight who helped William be the conqueror.  He said he knew nothing about diseases and that was it.  Taira no Hideko, the O’Hide of the Taira clan in the days of the first shogun.  She knew something about healing.  She taught as much to her pupils, geishas and ninjas alike, but the plague was beyond her small abilities.  Prudenza imagined Hideko lowering her eyes to her folded hands in front of her, and she smiled to think she had once been so humble.  Prudenza admitted she had a fiery temper at times and wondered if she should have been a redhead rather than blonde.  She decided being Italian was enough.  She continued.

Helen de Lovetot, another blonde, and platinum at that, was the younger sister of Matilda de Lovetot who inherited all the land and titles and all that rot from their father, William.  Helen only got her priest, Father Tucker, alias Friar Tuck.  But with him, she got Robin and Little John, Maid Marian, and the rest, including Milch, the miller’s son.  She had plenty of adventures but had nothing to contribute about the plague.  Then Sung-Ao said he was a shipbuilder; the same excuse he gave Kublai Khan when the Mongols finally overran the Southern Sung.  He made a pretty good guide for Marco Polo but said the closest he had to `a cure-all was chicken soup.  He said Prudenza should ask the good doctor for help.

But she did that already, she complained.

Everyone else she talked to refused to be helpful.  The Princess, the Storyteller, Alice, and the Captain all said she had no business attempting to change history, no matter how horrible it might be.  Diogenes even admitted to dying of the plague in early summer, 323 B. C., he and Alexander the Great.  Of course, Diogenes traded places back then with the Nameless god who played the pied piper and drowned all the rats in the Euphrates, so the plague outbreak that threatened Babylon got nipped in the bud.  She had no such help, unless…

Aha! Prudenza thought, but Nameless thought first to her.  “Far be it from me to contradict the good Doctor Mishka.”

Prudenza pouted.  Not even her most future lifetimes, the aliens Martok and Gallena would help her, and Gallena was a doctor of a sort.  She was an exobiologist who specialized in human beings from Earth.

“Listen,” Mishka spoke into her head.  “History says the plague kills millions in Europe.  That truth must not be changed.  It lays the groundwork for the Renaissance and for the beginning of true science, the enlightenment and on to the modern day.”

Prudenza protested.  “But what if Sancta or Tedesca, or someone I love and feel close to gets sick.  They may die.”

“They may,” Mishka responded for everyone.  “That is just life, and something we have to deal with in every lifetime.”

Prudenza felt as if her heart started breaking already, but she came suddenly out of her introspection as Babara moved and Malore stood.


In the morning, the snow had stopped falling, and a thorough check showed that the travelers had an undisturbed night.  They had more to climb to get up to the top of the pass, but they imagined it would not take them too long now that it had stopped snowing.

They started out like they had been traveling, with Decker and Elder Stow staying close or riding with the group along the narrow mountain road.  Only Lincoln said something significant that morning.  Tony wondered where the brigands had gotten to and Lincoln added, “And Dagnanus, the sorcerer.”

About mid-morning, Sukki rode back from the point.  She stopped twenty feet from the others and pulled out the amulet that pointed to the next time gate.  She had to study it and squint some just to see the map. Boston showed her how to zoom in and zoom out, but that feature did not especially clarify what she was seeing.  Lockhart and Katie stopped when they reached her, and Lockhart spoke.

“Something up ahead?” he asked.

“I’m not sure,” Sukki answered.  “I think the Kairos stopped moving if I am reading this right.”  She looked worried, but Katie smiled for her, so she smiled.

“You will get the hang of it,” Katie said.  “It took Boston a long time to figure out what all the dots and symbols mean.  My prototype amulet is not nearly as sophisticated—not so many dots and symbols—but I am still learning how to read mine.”

Sukki nodded and put the amulet back under her shirt where it could hang hidden from the world.  “Over the little rise, the trail starts going downhill again.”

Lincoln came up from behind.  “Good.  This wind is biting cold, and there is plenty of snow up here for the end of October.”

“Halloween,” Lockhart said as he checked the back of the group.  Decker and Elder Stow had moved in from the wings.  Decker pushed in to ride beside Nanette.  Elder Stow brought up the rear beside Tony who led Ghost the mule on a long lead.  He turned front in time to hear a loud shout from overhead.  They heard the ground rumble, and while Katie looked up at the mountainside, Lincoln yelled.

“Avalanche!”  Everyone but Lincoln looked up.  “Move uphill to that little cliffside.  Everybody. Put your backs to the cliff.”

They all heard the Rumble, Rumble and did not have to be told twice.  Fortunately, they had been through enough terrors in their journey, so no one panicked.  Unfortunately, everyone felt the need to talk at once.

“This isn’t just snow collapsing.”

“What was that shout?”

“No time to set the screens.”

“The whole side of the mountain is falling.”

“I can’t stop that much,” Nanette yelled.

Sukki screamed so no one heard Lockhart.  “Where is a good dwarf home when you need one?”  He was not a fan of the little spirits of the Earth.  They creeped him out, as he said.  But he could deal with it when he had to, and to his surprise, a small head appeared to pop right out of the rocks in the cliff face.

“Right here,” the head said.  “I suppose you can come in.”

A cave entrance appeared in the middle of the rocks and the travelers pushed in.  Seconds later, the snow, earth, and rocks covered the hole.  Even up against the cliff, they would have been crushed.  The travelers were temporarily in the dark, but the dwarf that saved them soon lit a torch.

“Gonna take some work to clear that out,” the dwarf said.  “Name’s Radmiser.  I don’t like human beings, but you folks are different, I suppose.  Where is that red headed string bean?”

“Boston had to go home,” Katie said.  “Her father-in-law is dying.”

Radmiser nodded.  “I had one of those once.  Now all I got is a wife.”  He made a stinky face.  “Well, come on.  Prudenza is not far.  I’ll take you, but be warned, the tunnels big enough for your horses will take us through a Troll Haus.”

“How much do they charge?” Decker asked, even while the words were forming on Lockhart’s lips.

“Just a pinky finger, and a horse.  Trolls don’t get enough horsemeat.”  Radmiser glanced at the travelers to see how his lie got received.  Seeing as they did not bat an eye, he admitted, “But I imagine in this case they might not require the price, seeing as the Kairos is so close and all.”

The travelers had all gotten down, and Lockhart indicated the dwarf should lead the way.

“There is one more thing, so you know.  There are a couple of wicked witches at the house where the Kairos is staying.  Be on your guard.”

“Understood,” Lockhart said.  “We just left a sorcerer behind us.”

Katie interrupted.  “I bet he was the one who shouted, and maybe with a little magic started the avalanche.”

“Quite possible, Missy Elect,” Radmiser said to her.  “He is a poor excuse for a wizard, not a sorcerer by any means, but he is a bad one.  I’ll give you that.”

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