The next day, the travelers climbed into some hills where they stopped for a picnic lunch. Having reached the late medieval world, and certainly in Europe, with the slow recovery of the population since the various crisis of the late Middle Ages, including the plague, the travelers found plenty of village inns all along their route. Those inns had big fireplaces which helped against the winter cold, so even if the food and lodging were usually poor, at least they did not have to camp in the snow and wilderness very often. In fact, when they crossed the hills that separated the coast and Barcelona from the Ebro River valley, they chose to picnic where they might have found a village inn to rest. Katie found a spot where the wind at least blew the snow away.
“I want to hear what Lincoln and Elder Stow have figured out without unauthorized ears listening in,” Katie explained when she picked the stopping place. Decker agreed, and just checked both sides of the hill to be sure they had an unobstructed view. He did not want anyone, or anything, like space alien spiders sneaking up on them without their ability to see and be forewarned.
Lincoln read from the database for the last day and a half and was ready to report his findings to the others. Elder Stow also spent some time reading in his own Gott-Druk database. It was not nearly as detailed as the one Lincoln carried, and particularly with regard to human history it was often wrong, but Elder Stow’s database contained some information that Lincoln did not have, like what to do about certain alien species.
Lincoln began with Catherine, the Kairos. “You remember. English mother, Spanish father who served as a military officer for King John II of Aragon. Her mother died when she was young. Her father died in Naples and the crown supposedly did not know there was a child, a teenager. The house was given to a different family, and Catherine got thrown out. She took up with a man named Smith—a quarter-English descendent of the English troops the Black Prince sent to Castile in support of Peter of Castile in the War of the Two Peters. Smith was an old man who turned to highway robbery having no other way to make a living. He taught her…”
Lincoln scrolled a little before he began again. “She took over the brigand group. People called her The Falcon—the crest she wore on her tunic over her armor, her cloak, and her shield. El Halcon mostly because people did not know it was a woman…” Lincoln found the place he was looking for. “Anyway, she saved John II, the King of Aragon’s life, and his son, Ferdinand, as in Ferdinand and Isabella. She fought off the Moors, servants of the Masters sent to kill specifically Ferdinand… That was before Ferdinand and Isabella married. You can imagine the Masters probably did not want that marriage to take place.”
“Talk about changing history,” Katie said, and Lockhart nodded. Once again, Lockhart figured any names he knew had to be important to history.
“Anyway, Catherine admitted to the king who she was, and the king recognized that he made a terrible mistake taking her father’s title and property. He promptly married her off to the old Count of Chaca—Jaca, the original capital of Aragon that became an Aragonese border county against Navarre, the Basque country, and the French.”
“Okay,” Decker interrupted. “She is a countess. Now it is 1476. What is she doing now?”
“How old is she?” Sukki asked.
“Thirty-nine,” Lincoln said. “Probably thirty-eight, depending on when her birthday is. Anyway, Ferdinand and Isabella married in1469 and Isabella claimed the throne of Castile in 1474 when her half-brother, King Henry died. Unfortunately, Joanna was supposedly Henry’s child and also claimed the throne, and she had the King of Portugal supporting her. Let’s see. Joanna is about fourteen. Isabella, about twenty-four. Castile is divided, and basically Aragon is fighting Portugal. Catherine gets out her armor and brings her people to support Ferdinand. She gets it out one more time in the future when they overrun Granada.”
“Wait,” Katie said, sharply. “We don’t need the details of future events any more than anyone else. Any one of us might accidentally say the wrong thing at the wrong time and to the wrong person. You know that.”
“Yeah, sorry,” Lincoln said. He pulled his cloak tight over his shoulder. The cold wind was picking up, and he was missing his wife, Alexis.
“But wait,” Nanette spoke with a glance at Decker. “What did you find out about the Galabans?”
“The database calls them Conquistadores,” Lincoln said. He looked around the campfire to judge the reaction to that word before he said, “Elder Stow and I talked about it this morning, and I think he has more general information that he wants to share.”
“Right,” Elder Stow said as he got out his own database for reference. “There is not really much to tell, but essentially the term Conquistadores is correct. Their world was destroyed in a battle between the Flesh Eaters and Apes. Most of their world is radioactive. In the end, there were only small places that remained habitable, and the population got squeezed into those places. They were…” Elder Stow paused to think. “About Roman level of technology. No gunpowder. They had concrete and steel, but they were experimenting with steam engines, so not an exact parallel. The war left a lot of broken space race technology around, and some of it was serviceable. Over a few hundred years, they not only got space flight, jumping straight to faster than light flight, but they also got the weapons technology to take to whatever worlds they discovered.”
“Conquistadores?” Tony asked.
“Yes. They visit and plant a small colony. In a short while, they bring supplies and more settlers. Maybe start a second colony. Eventually, the native population figures it out. They resist, but the Galabans use their superior technology to crush the resistance and maybe make slaves. More come, and if they carry a disease that the human race has no resistance to, too bad for that. Eventually, the human race will be pushed to the edges, or forced to try and fit in with the Galabans that now own everything. As I understand it, that is the technique.”
“Conquistadores,” Lockhart said in a grumpy voice.
“The Priest said Barcelona was a temporary settlement until the Kairos has time to make better arrangements. Maybe she will move them off world—like to an uninhabited planet.”
“They drowned their ship,” Lockhart pointed out. “And the Kairos does not have any spaceships I know of.”
“Yes,” Elder Stow agreed. “But I have learned on this journey not to underestimate what the Kairos may do.” People understood and agreed with that.
“What about the spiders,” Sukki asked, while they talked about the aliens.
“Ah!” Elder Stow put up a finger to take back the conversation. “They are called Panknos in my Gott-Druk database. They are human size and poisonous, both. The females are intelligent enough to figure out space flight. cryogenics, and even repair the ships they take to some extent. They do not have any technology to build ships, but they can figure out how to fly any ships foolish enough to land on their world. The males are not so smart and tend to be eaten by the females after their egg sack is fertilized. They birth hundreds of babies at a time, so the Galaban was right about them breeding fast. Their world is way overpopulated, so they are quick to find ways to escape their world and would dearly love a world like Galabar or Earth where there is a ready food supply.”
‘Great,” Lincoln said and frowned. “Flesh Eaters—no, Wolv all over again.”
“Similar,” Elder Stow admitted. “They don’t have ready access to ships, like the Wolv had whole fleets of Humanoid ships. But the Wolv and Flesh Eaters who went there both lost. Poisoned, mostly. They got overwhelmed with numbers of Panknos and got eaten.”
“Serves them right,” Decker said.
“So let us hope they did not follow the Galabans to this world,” Nanette said, and people began to clean up from lunch. No one had any appetite left.
On the fourth day out from Barcelona, having ridden due west, Lincoln suggested they were nearing the Aragon-Castile border. “Sometime tomorrow, we will be getting into where the war of the succession is going on.” He pushed the slop around his bowl and stared around the inn. The slop was supposed to be chicken something, but Lincoln was not sure it ever got near a chicken.
“We just need to keep a low profile,” Lockhart said, and Decker agreed, but Katie shook her head.
“These kinds of civil wars don’t give people a choice of staying out of it. Even peasants get asked which side are you on? We need to be prepared for that.”
“If it helps,” Sukki said, and pulled out her amulet which showed the next time gate and the general contours of what lay around them. “The Kairos appears to be getting closer. We might meet her tomorrow, and if she keeps moving east, we might find the time gate before we reach the war. You said the war was mostly in the far west, over by Portugal.” Sukki smiled. She did not normally say that much, but these people were really becoming family, so she did not feel so shy.
Elder Stow whispered to Nanette. “There are still Panknos in the future, but they are confined to their home world. Everyone knows not to go there.”
Nanette nodded as Tony spoke up. “Anyone find any chicken in this goop?”
Decker smiled. “I ate something that may have been chicken. No guarantees.”
“Tasted like chicken,” Katie said with a grin.
“It’s all Greek to me,” Lockhart said and returned her grin.
“Land of Goshen,” Lincoln said and added his grin.
“Land a Goshen,” Decker responded with an “Ouch.” Nanette kicked him under the table.
“Family,” Elder Stow said with the biggest grin of all.
Tony just frowned and stirred the goop in his bowl. Someone out in the kitchen screamed, and Tony jumped up as he mumbled the word, “Saved…”