Avalon 9.2 The Called, part 4 of 6

The travelers snuck out of town the following morning before dawn.  The mayor and village council wanted them to stick around until this Kairos showed up, whoever that might be, but they figured out that they would likely meet the Kairos right about where the shuttle should be, if they hurried.  They felt the urge to warn her in case she did not know.  No one could imagine why the Kairos would not know there were alien spiders on the planet, but they all conceded that it was possible.

The sky opened up as they got the horses ready to ride.  It had been threatening for the last two days, and looked like it might even snow, but Elder Stow reported that it rained in the west.  “In fact, it has been raining in the west since we arrived, only now it seems we are going to get a share.”

“Ugh,” Tony said, and Lockhart agreed, but it did make their sneaking out of town easier.


Catherine wiped the cold rainwater from her eyes and looked carefully down the hill at the road.  Two dozen Moors paraded along like conquering heroes.  They were not.  She chased al-Alaki from Toro, saved Ferdinand’s life, again, and had spies following him.  She did not kill him, though normally she would never let a servant of the Masters live.  In this case, he had set up a broadcast station and was sending a message to deep space inviting various alien species to invade this world.  She had a hell of a time driving off the alien Honogon.  She called them the new exterminators, like the Balok all over again.

“They will stop in the next village for the night,” Catherine said, though it was not long after noon.  She concluded that they believed they shook off anyone that might be following them.  They appeared relaxed, and only traveled about six hours per day.  “We need to find a shelter nearby where the men can spend a quiet evening.”  She spoke to Jacob, her Jewish sergeant who faked being Roman Catholic well.  Jacob, and three of the ten with her were leftovers from the days when she lived as a highwayman, stealing from the rich, some on this very road.

She looked back at the men, mounted and miserable in the never-ending rain, but quiet, and they kept their horses in line.  Two of the men were knights from her home county.  They attached themselves to her, their Contessa, and would not let her go off to fight without guarding her person.  The other four were members of her castle guard.  They felt pretty attached too.

“The next village is near where the spiders landed,” Leechy said, and Catherine looked at him.  Leechy was a half-imp, half-goblin who hated the sun, but did not mind the daytime as long as it was mostly cloudy.  He wore a glamour that made him look human, more or less, mostly less, and he had a voice like he had gravel in his throat.  Catherine imagined some of her men thought Leechy might be another alien from some other world.  She thought in a way he was.

“We will have to keep our eyes open and double watch tonight,” she said, and she slid down the hill to her waiting horse.  She repeated herself so everyone could hear.  “Double watch tonight.  We don’t want the Moors alerted, and we need to keep our eyes open for giant spiders.”

“Giant spiders?” one of the men asked, and Catherine nodded.

“About as big as you, but with eight legs and poisonous.  Keep your matchlocks loaded and ready tonight.”  She mounted and led her men to a barn she remembered from her highway robbery days.


Sukki rode back from the point, her amulet in her hand.  Elder Stow rode in from the flank, his scanner loose on his belt.  He grabbed the scanner as soon as he stopped, but no one said anything at first.  Lockhart stopped at the top of a hill and had the binoculars out while Katie looked through the scope for her rifle.  They studied the village down below, looking for anything out of the ordinary.  Tony and Nanette came up alongside Lincoln so they could hear what transpired.

“Looks like they have visitors,” Katie said.  “A troop of Moors would be my guess.  Probably from Grenada.  They look like soldiers, not merchants.”

“I would have thought the Muslims would have stayed out of it,” Lockhart said and lowered the binoculars.

“They may be mercenaries willing to fight for pay,” Katie suggested as she put her scope away and Decker rode up to join the group.  “Castile is divided, and Aragon is fighting Portugal.  I wonder whose side they are on.”

Lockhart shrugged and looked to the sky.  At least it stopped raining.  “They don’t seem in a hurry to get to the fighting.  What time is it?”

“Two-forty,” Katie said.  Lockhart generally forgot about the wristwatch communicators, and especially that they were also watches.

“They look settled in for the night.”

“Blame the weather,” Katie said.  “I imagine six hours in the morning moving miserably through the rain is enough for a day.  They stop early enough to dry off before supper and sleep.  That is pretty much our pattern in the rain.”

Lockhart nodded and turned to Sukki first.  “My Mother and Father,” Suki said in good Gott-Druk form.  The Gott-Druk measured everything by the family unit, even military matters.  “The Kairos appears to be stopped off the road, south of the village.”  She pointed.

“Farm country,” Decker said, having just scouted the area.  “Plenty of cattle, sheep, and barns against the rain.”

“Elder Stow?” Lockhart turned to the Gott-Druk.

“My Father and Mother.  The Spider shuttle is just north of the village.  It is in a clearing in the midst of a small woods and looks undisturbed.  They may have sent out more than one scout ship, but they appear to be content to wait until they get the report on the lay of the land.  The villagers have not gone there in the weather and probably don’t know the spiders are there.  I say that because I see no dead bodies.”

“Can you show us?” Katie asked.

Elder Stow pulled up his scanner and called up a hologram of the area.  They saw farms to the south as Decker said, a large chunk of the village, and grazing land north to the trees which quickly climbed a steep and rocky hill.  Elder Stow tilted the projection so he could point to the clearing where they saw the shuttle craft.

Lockhart nodded and decided what he and Katie had discussed.  “Elder Stow, we need your scanner to beep if the spiders begin to move in our direction.”  He looked at the sky.  The rain might hold off for the rest of the day.  He wondered briefly if the spiders were being wary of the rain and the mud and not just waiting for their scout ships to return.  “Decker, you can take Sukki, Nanette, Tony, and Lincoln to the Kairos.  Katie, Elder Stow, and I will go into the village to get something for supper and check out these Moors.  We will figure out what to do about the spiders when we talk to the Kairos.  We have the communicators to keep in touch if there is a problem.”

Ten minutes later, Katie, Lockhart, and Elder Stow reached the edge of the village.  They found the Moors gathered around the village square in front of the town hall that had a flag of Castile hanging from the second story balcony.  Katie pointed and spoke.  “It does not say which side this village is on.  Probably Isabella being this close to Aragon, but you never know.”

“The Muslims appear to be bargaining for food for themselves and their horses.  I imagine the inn is full,” Lockhart said, and Katie clicked her tongue.

“I have a bad feeling about them,” she said.  “A Masters-creepy kind of feeling.  As bad as the spiders, but in a different way.”

They watched as one of the men bargaining with the Moors broke away from the group and came to confront them.  “And what do you want?” the man asked.

“We are simple travelers,” Lockhart said.  “We left our people back along the road. You appear to be busy.”

The man turned his head.  “The Moors want everything for nothing…”

“We can pay,” Katie said quickly.  “We have French and English coins.”  They had a purse full of whatever coins Quentin gathered for them in the last time zone.

The man seemed to like the idea of being paid, but his frown deepened as he mouthed the word, “Gypsies.”  His conclusion was unwarranted, but understandable for simple travelers who stayed on the road, sent a few in for supplies, and offered to pay with foreign coins.  “I suppose you will be wanting fodder for your animals as well as foodstuffs.  So you know, here at the end of the winter, our supplies are limited, and much of that was taken by the soldiers fighting in the west.  There won’t be much left when these Moors finish taking what they want.”

“We don’t need much,” Lockhart said, as two things happened at once.  A rich looking Moor, probably the leader of the military group came out of the inn across the street and walked toward where several soldiers were yelling back and forth with the village council.  And Elder Stow’s scanner went Beep, Beep!  That may have attracted the eyes of the well-dressed Moor.

The Moor recognized who he was looking at and yelled.  “The Travelers from Avalon.  Get them.  Kill them.”

Elder Stow shouted over everyone to be heard.  “Spiders.  A hundred or more coming this way.”

Lockhart told the village man, “Run and hide,” before he turned his horse around.  Katie grabbed her rifle and shot at the Moor.  The man ducked behind one of his soldiers who took the bullet.  Katie quickly shouldered her rifle.  There were too many innocent bystanders in the square.  She rushed after Lockhart and Elder Stow who quickly got back to the road and away from the town.

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