The travelers arrived at an army camp just outside a small village. Lord Lionel dismounted and excused himself for a few minutes while various soldiers came to him and asked what they should do. The travelers also dismounted. The soldiers did not bother them, so Lockhart took that moment to turn on Lincoln. “Joan of Arc?”
“She gets captured this month by…” He pointed at Lionel but did not say anything out loud. “She is a prisoner of the Burgundians for a time before she gets sold to the English to be tried for heresy. Burned at the stake.”
“Stop,” Lockhart said. “Just don’t say anything more. Just keep your mouth closed unless it is something we need to know in private…”
Lord Lionel returned. “Sorry. My poor excuse for an army. We will be joining my Lord Jean de Luxembourg, and then move to reinforce the army that has Compiegne under siege. With luck, the city will be taken shortly. You may find Johanne there. There are rumors that she has come to defend the city.”
“Sukki?” Lockhart asked. Both Sukki and Katie pointed in the direction they would head.
Lionel nodded. “The Paris Road. You might as well travel with us since that is the way we are going. Eh?” He stopped speaking when Sukki got Lockhart’s attention.
“The Kairos has moved out of the big city and is headed in our direction.”
“If they came from Paris, he is with English or Burgundian troops,” Katie said. Lincoln shook his head but kept his mouth closed, like he might have gotten the message, for once.
“We, that is Lord Jean and I are with the Burgundians, who are with the English, in case you did not know,” Lionel said. “I would appreciate you traveling with us. We get an hour of contact with the enemy, but all the rest of the time, days and weeks, is traveling and waiting for something to happen. It is very boring.”
“I don’t know,” Lockhart said. “Armies tend to move pretty slow.”
“A week is all,” the man said. “You could tell me about Charlemagne and about your travels. I would be most interested. And we may stay out front and let the army follow, so no other ears need to hear.”
Katie looked at Lockhart, but he only shrugged.
“We are in a war zone,” Decker pointed out. “Traveling with the army will be much safer.” Lockhart did not disagree.
In the evening, they set their tents next to Lionel’s big tent. The travelers, Lionel and his captains had their own campfire, but they let Lord Lionel’s men work overtime to feed everyone. Lionel insisted. Lionel’s three captains for his horse soldiers camped with them, but they seemed nice. No one told the captains on that first night that the stories they told around the campfire were true stories. They tried to humanize the stories as much as they could, but it was often not possible.
Lionel had a hard time believing in elves, dwarfs, fairies, and the like. His captains, however, and one in particular more than made up for his skepticism. The man’s eyes got big every time they got mentioned.
Lionel, on the other hand, surprisingly had no trouble believing in space aliens, or the Masters trying to change history by introducing things like guns and gunpowder before their time. He knew about cannon, and at least could imagine handheld rifles.
“As for the other,” Lionel said. “I look at the stars at night and cannot imagine they serve no purpose. I have imagined God is very practical. You say they are suns very far away, and they have earths as well. I see no reason to disbelieve you, or to think that the people on those earths would have to be exactly like us. No offence to Decker or Nanette, but the first time I saw a black African, I thought surely this man was from another world. I suppose if God can make such variety on this earth, there may be infinite variety out among the stars.”
“There are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy,” Tony said.
Of course, they all believed in witches and the like. It fit with their worldview.
“I believe your Johanne is a witch,” one captain said. “She has power to twist the minds of men so they become afraid and run away when they might fight and win.”
“No such thing,” Elder Stow said. The Burgundians all respected the elder man like an elder statesman.
Decker spoke up. “As I understand it, she is a virgin, pure and holy. She is uneducated, poor, and no doubt innocent. I heard she refuses to draw her sword against her enemy. She just stands in the front line, waving her banner for all to see. Honestly, she sounds more like a mascot than a general. Like a living banner, and the French see the courage of this child willing to stand up for what she believes. I imagine they are inspired by that, and maybe find some courage in themselves.”
The men nodded some, and Lionel said, “You may be right about that,” but one captain chose to be stubborn.
“She dresses like a man. That’s unnatural.”
Katie let out her exasperated voice. “She dresses like any other soldier when she goes into battle. How would you expect her to dress? In a bright pink frilly dress so she stands out, an easy target for enemy archers and with no protection at all?
“That wouldn’t be a bad choice,” the man said, and he smiled at that point like he knew he was just being ornery.
Lionel thought to change the subject. “Charlemagne,” he said. They had stuck to stories from the deep past, some of which Nanette and Tony did not even know because they happened before those two joined the travelers, but they figured it was safer to stick to ancient history. Lionel wanted to hear something more contemporary, so he asked about Charlemagne, which Lockhart once mentioned. Lockhart and Katie looked at each other, and the rest of the travelers were good to keep their mouths closed. Without a word between them, Lockhart spoke.
“Fair enough. But it is late, and the story is long. We can save it for tomorrow. Give you something to look forward to.”
The next day, the travelers got the impression that Lionel kept slowing things down. He admitted as much when they camped for the night. “We will meet up with Lord Jean de Luxembourg and the rest of the army in the morning, and I did not want to miss the Charlemagne stories.”
“Fair enough,” Lockhart said, and he began the story when Decker first saw the ape-aliens in the woods. Decker and the others only added a little here and there. Lockhart, of course, had to explain about the guns again. The Burgundians had their cannon, but they had a hard time imagining guns reduced to a size where a man could carry them around. One captain said he saw such guns during the crusade against the Hussites. He called them pistala and said they were still heavy. They sat on tripods and were very inefficient to load and fire. Of course, the travelers did not show the guns they carried around.
Lockhart also had to explain about what he called ray guns. That was a bit more difficult, but he got a lantern out of one of the packs Ghost carried and showed them the general idea. “This is just light,” he said. “But when heat is added to the light, it makes for a very powerful weapon.” The Burgundians were amazed enough by the lantern itself, and one of the captains finally had a thought.
“You are not making up these stories, are you?”
“Hush,” Lionel said. “I want to hear about Charlemagne.”
The Charlemagne part of Genevieve’s story might have disappointed the listeners, but by then they had to tell the whole saga of the Apes versus the Flesh Eaters, and that took them through Elgar, Kirstie, and Yasmina. When they reached the end of that story, one captain said he would have nightmares about those Flesh Eaters. Lionel had another thought.
“Tell me about this Kairos. I have the impression that it is not just a title passed down to son or daughter.”
“No,” Katie said. “She is someone not to be talked about. She was counted among the ancient gods but was not immortal. In fact, she claims to feel all the pain and suffering of death but is never allowed to die. She keeps getting reborn, to do whatever work awaits her in her new life, maybe on the other side of the world.”
“He in this life,” Lincoln said quietly.
Katie nodded. “He is charged with keeping history on track, to make sure it turns out the way it has been written. The Masters we have mentioned are his most vicious enemies. But the feeling I get is most often he stays in the background. He tries not to be noticed. It would make his work so much more difficult, so he is not to be talked about.”
“He is an instrument of the Most-High God who is working his purposes out through us, sinners though we are,” Nanette added. “At least that is how I think of her, or him.”
“And through yourselves,” Lionel concluded. “Don’t underestimate the work you do under the hand of the Almighty.”
“And you, too,” Lockhart added. “Each in our own time and in our own way.”
“But what is the right way?” Lionel asked. It sounded like a rhetorical question he had asked many times.
“We live by faith, not by sight,” Lockhart responded.
Lionel nodded at that, but he needed to ask one more question. “The Kairos is not Johanne, the Maid?” Everyone shook their heads.
“Him,” Lincoln repeated, and for once did not give his name.
“But I am sure he is near,” Katie said.