Avalon 9.2 The Called, part 5 of 6

Lockhart reigned to a halt at the top of the hill where he and Katie spied out the village.  He figured Elder Stow needed to stop to check their direction.  Katie looked behind them to see if they were being followed.  Sure enough, the well-dressed Moor and six others came rushing out of town on their tail.

“Hurry,” Katie told Elder Stow.  “Which way?”  Elder Stow stopped fiddling with his screen device.  He clipped that device back to his belt and pointed across the open field.

“The others are in this direction.”

“Can’t exactly hide in the lack of cover,” Lockhart said, and he started out.  Katie and Elder Stow followed.  Katie kept looking back.  The field was a farm field only covered with winter grass and weeds.  She saw the Moors arrive. She saw them pause and look in their direction.  Then she saw them continue off down the road like they were letting the travelers go.

Lockhart slowed as he led the group in among some trees. When they were far enough in, he asked, “Did they follow us?”

“No,” Katie said with one more look back.  “They continued down the road at some speed.  Maybe the idea of the spiders scared them more than the need to get us.”

“Wait,” Elder Stow said as he juggled his scanner and tried to read it while his horse walked carefully through the underbrush.  Katie looked at Elder Stow, but Lockhart stopped, so the other horses stopped as well.  A knight stood among the woods and blocked their path.  Six men came from the trees, three on each side, and they were armed.  The knight had two matchlock pistols pointed in their direction and spoke.

“Stand and deliver,” the knight said.  It was a woman’s voice, and she started to laugh as she put her matchlocks away, and added the word, “Lockhart.”

“Catherine?”  Katie asked, and with a glance at Lockhart she said, “Well, Lincoln wasn’t here to ask.”

“Yes, Katie,” Catherine said.  “I already hugged Sukki.  We were coming out to get you from the village if we could.  We are following the Moors, looking for their base of operations, but don’t want them alerted if we can help it.  Come.  I’ll tell you all about it when we can relax.”

“My Father,” Elder Stow said.  He stared at his scanner.  “The spiders have invaded the town.  There is a battle there, but most of the spiders have come to the edge of the buildings and continued. There is no doubt they are following us, and they are fast.”

“Quickly,” Catherine yelled and turned her horse.  The travelers and Catherine’s six men followed in her wake.  They crossed several more farm fields, passed by a couple of houses and barns, went through another small woods on a farm trail, and came out at a very big barn next to a stables and a couple of out-buildings. The big farmhouse, nearly a manor house, sat by a road that ran down the hill to the main road just west of the village.

People dismounted.  Sukki, Tony, and Nanette ran up to the travelers, but Catherine jumped and began to give orders to her men.  “Get the servants and Old Miguel from the house.  Check the far field and bring the men and cattle.  Check the driveway-road, but no further than five minutes and come right back.”  She turned to Elder Stow.  “Will your screens cover the stables and fenced in area?”

Elder Stow had to stop and look.  “I will try,” he said.

Catherine grabbed Lockhart’s and Katie’s attention. “The Baron has taken his men to fight for Isabella and sent his family to Toledo to wait the outcome of the struggle.  We have the place to ourselves but for a few servant-caretakers left behind.  We should be safe here for the time being.”

“Not safe if the spiders are following us,” Katie said.

“Just working on that,” Elder Stow spoke, though his eyes were on his screen device.  “Gather everyone in the barn, and the animals.  This will take another minute.”  He began to walk toward the barn even as Tony and Sukki arrived to pace him.  Nanette went straight to Katie and Lockhart.

Catherine continued.  “Get the horses in the fenced area.”  That area stood beside the barn and looked big enough for a dozen horses to run and play.  The cattle might be a problem, depending on how many there were.

Nanette led Elder Stow’s horse and told Katie her news.  “The Moors are servants of the Masters.”

“We figured that out,” Katie admitted.

“Lady Catherine says she has been secretly following them to try and find their base of operations.”

“Understood,” Lockhart said, as they arrived at the fenced area and let their horses in with the others.  Two men closed the gate, and Catherine looked to where the cattle should arrive.  She breathed when she saw the first and the men whipping the beasts to get them to move.

Elder Stow had his screen device in one hand.  He said he was ready.  He had the scanner in the other and kept a watch on the progress of the spiders.  Now, he had no doubt they were after the travelers, though whether they zeroed in on the refined metals in the weapons or the energy signals from Elder Stow’s own devices, he could not say.

Three men came up the road, riding all out.  The spiders appeared to be catching up.  Tony pointed at the spiders rushing across the field and crashing through the woods.  Elder Stow held off as long as he could.  The last of the men and cattle crossed the boundary.  Two of the three road riders made it, but the third rider got snagged by a shot of webbing and pulled from his horse.  The horse made it.  Elder Stow turned on his screens.  Three spiders got trapped inside the screens, but fortunately, Decker and Kate were right there to blast the spiders.  The rest of the spiders crashed into the screen wall and could not get through.  Tony, Lincoln, and Lockhart added fire from their handguns, though they were not nearly as effective as the military rifles.

Some spiders tried to climb the screen wall which actually made a dome shape—a globe above and below ground, but they had nothing to hold on to and slid back to the bottom.  Some kept trying.  Others tried to dig to see if they could get under the screens.  While most continued to press forward, some spiders split left and right to follow the screens—to see if there was an edge or a way to get in from behind.  The spiders were smarter than most realized.

Catherine split her crew and had them follow the spiders left and right toward the back.  She said they had to fire their matchlocks and hoped the kinetic energy would be enough to carry through the screens and still strike the target with some force.  She was not sure, but she said clearly the crossbows they carried were not strong enough.

Nanette used her telekinetic energy to rise up about ten feet.  She grabbed whatever fallen branches and lumber she found in the woods and began to pin spiders to the ground.  Sukki, on seeing this, flew up beside her and said something about hating spiders.  She put both hands out and let her power fry dozens of spiders that were up against the screens.  Elder Stow, having handed his screen device to Tony, flew up to join them.  He had his weapon out and prepared to join the girls when the spider-shuttle came over the top of the trees, and after a moment, fired its main weapon on the screens.

The screens barely registered the hit, and Elder Stow mumbled that it was a good thing he did not set them over a larger area.  “The larger, the weaker,” he said, and returned the ship’s fire.  Elder Stow’s little hand weapon melted the shuttle’s main guns and after only a second, the shuttle’s guns exploded.  The ship began to spin and fall slowly as Nanette and Sukki struck.  Nanette crushed the middle of the ship—more an act of will than simply her telekinetic magic.  Sukki fried the engines in the rear of the ship and that explosion lit up the sky for miles around.

All the defenders inside the screens and their animals were protected by the screens.  Outside those screens, the manor house, one unprotected out-building, and the woods all caught fire.  Hot shards of metal rained down on the spiders still alive outside the screens.  The dozen surviving spiders, a few of whom were badly wounded, ran off, back toward the village. Catherine could not let that happen.  She stepped aside and the goddess Danna stepped into her shoes.

Danna said the word, “No,” and waved her hand.  Everything happened at once.  The surviving spiders all died, including the three that remained in the village.  The fires all got put out.  A twenty-foot-deep pit appeared in the field where the cattle had been grazing.  Every last shred of spider got put in the pit, and the pit covered itself like nothing happened.  All the shards, down to the smidgen size vanished, presumably sent to the island museum on Avalon, and Danna smiled for everyone.  “They breed quicky and massively,” she said.  “They would be right back at it by the end of the summer if they were not dealt with.”  She vanished, and Catherine came to live her own life in her own time.  And Catherine said, “Tony, you can turn off Elder Stow’s screens.”  Tony did so, carefully, and Catherine turned to Lockhart and Katie with a question.  “Tell me about the Moors.”

“The main one and six or seven others raced off down the road toward Barcelona.”

Catherine nodded.  “Al-Alaki is carrying a relay.  He is broadcasting to the stars to come and invade this world.  He sent assassins to take out Isabella, and twice to kill Ferdinand.  I am sure Columbus will be in danger the minute he shows up.  Like him or hate him, Columbus sets history in motion, and no, I cannot think of any alternative that would not be worse.  I have no power to make the human race play nice with one another.  All I can do is try to minimize the damage.”

“A relay from where?” Decker asked.  He cradled his rifle, just in case Danna missed one, though he knew that was impossible.

“That is the question,” Catherine said.  “We are following him, hoping he will lead us to the broadcast center so we can blow it up.  I hated leaving Ferdinand under siege in Toro, but this will destroy the whole world if we don’t stop it.  So far, I had to get the Gott-Druk to remove the Honogon, permanently.  Now the spiders landed here, and I have Galabans in Barcelona that I don’t know what to do with.  I contacted the Elenar to try and remove them, but that is just the few to begin with.  There are others, far more powerful and worse out there that may be on their way.  These landed in the Al-Andalus area.  They zeroed in on the broadcast.  Others…” she shrugged.  “They might swallow the whole planet.”  She looked at the couple and hugged Katie. She said to Lockhart, “You have to move on while you can.”

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