Reflections W-1 part 2 of 3

Wlvn never said anything, but he had imagined for some time that he had lived other lives in the past and many more in the future. He supposed it was his way of escaping the hardship and hopelessness of his daily life—to pretend to be someone else in some other land and some other time. He also thought at times that it was not exactly a sign of mental health, but then, he had little else to live for. Sadly, most of what he supposedly remembered about those lives seemed a plague of useless information, given his present life and circumstances. He could not remember anything about working in metals or even how to build a plow better than the stone and bone contraption they used. Sometimes he imagined that certain information was being kept from him, deliberately, for some reason. Only now, Wlvn felt certain that, given the opportunity, he could fly the craft he identified as a shuttle. This information did not come to him from the Storyteller, the Princess, Diogenes, or Doctor Mishka for that matter; the four people he imagined as lifetimes he would live one day, far in the future. They were lives with which he was slowly becoming familiar, yet as impossibly far in the future as those lifetimes felt, he knew they were not far enough. The knowledge of the shuttle had to be coming to him from even further in the future, from a lifetime of which he was not even aware. “Unless, of course, this is not the first life where I have encountered whoever these helpers are,” he mumbled out loud.

“Son?” Father looked up.

“Nothing.” Wlvn shook his head. He looked at his feet. He had a great deal to think about as they inched forward, one wagon space at a time. Naturally, the first thing he thought of was more of the useless stuff. He guessed that this line of wagons might be the first traffic jam in human history.

Wlvn took a step and someone touched him square on the forehead and whispered, “My son, even when you are not my son.” The words were spoken with the kind of true whisper where he could not tell if it was a man or woman speaking. He looked up and saw the back of a full-length cloak and hood, which told him nothing. This cloak walked, unnoticed, against the train of wagons. It walked slowly and deliberately away from the center of the universe. Wlvn touched his forehead, but nothing had been put there. When he looked again, the cloak was gone. He stood on his toes and tried to look over and around all of the wagons behind, but the cloak was not there. Whoever it was, had vanished into thin air.

“Son.” Father’s word sounded a bit more urgent.

“Sorry father.” Wlvn tried to assume the right position and attitude. He mirrored his father as well as he could.

They did stop when it got dark, but Father proved right; little sleep came Wlvn’s way. With the first light of dawn, they started again, and Wlvn got his first real look at the helpers. Some walked up the line to be sure everyone got up and started moving. They had whips.

The helpers hardly looked human, being squat, very muscular, with great brow ridges and sloping foreheads. But they had to be human, didn’t they? Wlvn pondered all of this and searched his memory. He searched through time to those few lifetimes he could remember, but neither the Princess, the Storyteller, Diogenes, nor Mishka told him anything. He knew it was pointless to ask Flern, a fifth lifetime he often remembered in detail, and one that made him uncomfortable. Flern was a girl. Wlvn could not imagine living life as a girl. True, the Princess and Doctor Mishka were girls, but they were far enough away in the future, and generally older, so he could overlook that reality. Flern lived too near him in time and shared a similar culture, living almost as Neolithic a life as his own. He could not imagine being a she. He decided not to think about it at all.

By the time their turn came, Wlvn started thinking of his mother, Gndr, Strn, and little Brmr. He managed to get himself into the right position and the right attitude, as his father told him, so he felt a little surprised when one of the helpers came up to him, grinning, holding tight to something in his fat fist.

“How old is this one?” The ugly brute looked hopefully at the one who examined the grain offering. Father had just finished explaining about Mother being home with the baby and the two younger children. Father hid nothing, he did not dare, but when asked the question, he had to blink. An expression crossed his face that looked briefly like fear for his son.

“Fifteen.” Father spoke honestly enough. Wlvn wanted to say nearly sixteen, but something held his tongue.

The one beside the grain shook his head to the disappointment of the other, and then he spoke in words that no one among Wlvn’s people should have been able to understand. Wlvn’s surprise turned to shock. He understood the words, perfectly.

“We don’t take them that young, however tempting, lest they cease producing and we run out of selections altogether,” the chief helper said. “And we don’t take the fathers until the sons are old enough to take over.” With that, the chief helper put a mark on the back of their hands and told them exactly where to put their grain. Father moved them on.

“Quickly,” he said; but Wlvn moved slowly, still in a bit of shock. He could not keep his eyes from staring back, in part for understanding what they said, but in large part for realizing that the bone the grinning one nibbled on was not an animal bone, but the end of a human leg. Wlvn looked away before his empty belly emptied itself further.

“Come on, son.” Father risked speaking again. “Quickly now.” They were the last ones to fill that bin, after which the wagons would be sent over to the other side, and Wlvn tried to concentrate, but again he got distracted. A man that was clearly a man, not one of the ugly brutes, kept staring at them. He seemed to point at them with a boney hand, a hook nose, and a pointed chin, all pointing together. Wlvn thought the man looked crooked in some strange way, yet he was about to smile a friendly smile when the man floated up into the air. It seemed the man was looking for something and thought perhaps a little height might help it come into focus. Wlvn looked away, thinking, this is one of the gods! The man came back down to his feet, walked off to the other side, and Wlvn breathed. Then he remembered the man’s name when a memory came to him from somewhere in time. Loki! Wlvn also remembered his feelings were not kind toward that particular god.

“Son.” Father tried again, and Wlvn began to empty the grain from the cart into the bin, but for a third time he became distracted. This time, it was a face, a girl’s face. The girl appeared to be a prisoner in a cage, a small cage, like one a lion or tiger might occupy in an old city zoo or on a circus train. Wlvn felt his jaw drop because the girl looked absolutely stunning, though she could not have been older than thirteen. Wlvn paused, in part because he was not sure if the girl called to him. Perhaps the call came only in his mind, but it came with enough pull to garner his attention.

“Son.” Once again, father’s voice required his attention. Wlvn hurried to finish unloading, at which point Father was for getting out of there as quickly as possible. Wlvn spoke before they could turn from the bin.

“Turn this way, Father, please. I am asking you to trust me, and I can’t explain just now, but please.” He asked his father to turn the cart around by heading deeper into the camp rather than away from the center of the universe. Father looked at him, dumbly, but there must have been real urgency in his plea because his father complied. Then came the hard part.

“Stop here,” Wlvn said, and he pulled hard on the oxen collar to stop the beast from turning further. “Pretend you are having trouble with the harness, fix the wagon, anything, only stay here for a minute.” Again, Wlvn’s father raised an eyebrow, but he noticed that all eyes were turned in the other direction where they were presently sending the wagons, so he said nothing, and he began to fiddle with the rigging. He watched his son melt away behind the nearest small building.

Wlvn found the back of that building to be a genuine cage with metal bars and everything. The girl stood right there, so close, in fact, she was able to reach her skinny arm through the bars and touch Wlvn’s cheek almost as quickly as he saw her.

“Wlvn.” He whispered his name.

“Eir.” She gave hers as she studied his face. “You are not the one,” she said at last and collapsed. “I saw your hair, it is like his, the color of the sunset, but your eyes are not his. Your eyes are brown, like the mud. His eyes are as dark as the night, though sparkling as if full of stars. And yet…” She sat up a little straighter. “I sense that you and he are very close, that somehow, he must come and stand in your place.” Eir withdrew her hand and withdrew herself into her captivity.

Wlvn was not sure what he felt, but a storm brewed somewhere in time, and it was such a storm, Wlvn dreaded to think what might happen if that storm ever got loose. “You are a prisoner.” He made it a statement.

“Since I was a baby,” Eir answered softly. “I am a hostage. I barely remember my mother and father, but one day my Nameless, red-haired, black-eyed warrior will come and save me. I have seen it in the setting sun. I have felt it in the earth and heard it whispered in the wind.” She fell silent.

“It will be me.” Wlvn spoke without hesitation in his voice, like he was speaking undeniable truth. “Though perhaps not in this lifetime,” he concluded, strangely. Eir frowned, but only for a moment before her expression changed because of some understanding that Wlvn could not yet grasp. His own thoughts got interrupted by his father.

“Son. They have noticed,” Father said, and Wlvn felt obliged to return to the cart even as Father spoke more loudly. He nudged the ox and they turned toward the road for home.

Wlvn spoke of his encounter several times on the way home, but Father always had the same basic answer. “It is not our concern. There is nothing we can do for her.”

Wlvn finally let out his deepest feelings about the issue. “But I believe she is being held as a hostage against the gods. I think that she, herself, may be a goddess.”

Father looked horrified at that thought, but still he said, “There is nothing we can do.”

Wlvn and his family made it through the worst of the winter, though not everyone in the village survived. Three elderly people and two children died of the winter plague. Wlvn knew it was likely some strain of pneumonia, a disease against which he felt powerless. Despite having access to his future life as Doctor Mishka, the only thing she suggested was near starvation and malnutrition contributed mightily. Wlvn got angry and cried. He imagined his future lives were as bad as everyone around him. There is nothing we can do, he thought.

Reflections W-1 part 1 of 3

WLVN

After 4026 B.C. Moscow in Ancient Days

Kairos 19: Wlvn, God of the Horses

It came time for the selection. The harvest was in and every speck of grain the family had struggled to grow got loaded in the rough, two-wheeled wagon—a heavy load for the old ox, but none of them had a choice. The very survival of the village was at stake, because if they failed to respond to the call, the village would be burned out by the fires from heaven. The helpers would come from the sky and no one and nothing would be left alive. Wlvn heard how it happened to one village in Wlvn’s lifetime.

“But Father,” Wlvn protested as he brushed back his red hair to wipe the sweat from his brow. “How shall we live if we bring all of our harvest to the center of the universe?” The practical question had to come as it always did; but secretly Wlvn felt excited because he was finally old enough to see the Lord of All and the great dome with his own eyes.

“We shall glean.” Father gave the practical answer he always gave. “And other villages, those not called this year, will share as we have shared with them in years past.”

“Oh, my son.” Mama came up, crying. She would stay home with Wlvn’s brothers, Strn and Gndr, and Wlvn’s baby sister, Brmr. Mama reached out to hug Wlvn and gave him great, tear soaked, slobbering kisses. Wlvn, who turned fifteen in the short summer, did not appreciate the attention; but he stayed gracious enough to allow his mother to do as she would. He did not fight her, and deep down, he did appreciate the sentiment, if not the slobbering.

“Now, dear.” Father stepped between mother and son and embraced his wife. Wlvn felt grateful. “He is of age so there is nothing we can do. The Lord of All has called us to the pilgrimage and there is nothing we can do.”

“There is never anything we can do!” Mama spat the words when she stepped back. True enough. Wlvn had heard it all his life. Whatever the Lord of All decided, the helpers enforced, and there was never anything that anyone could do about it.

“Mama!” Brmr came toddling up and Mama groaned as she bent down to pick up the four-year-old girl. Wlvn reached past his mother to give the little one a kiss and a big squeeze, and little Brmr gave it right back to him.

“Mama!” A different emphasis on the word came from beside the house. “Mama!” Nine-year-old Strn came around the corner, his face tear streaked. Eleven-year-old Gndr held back because Strn got knocked down again.

“Gndr!” Father called. “Come and say good-bye before we are last in line and eating dust the whole way.”

“Gndr!” Mama sounded like she had something else to say as she reached out for poor, picked-on Strn.

Gndr came from the side of the house, looked down and kicked the dirt. “Good-bye,” he said softly. Wlvn gave Strn a quick pat of reassurance and then chased Gndr once around the house for old time’s sake. Gndr shrieked the whole way and ended up hiding behind Father who grinned broadly at the exchange.

“Just something to remember me by,” Wlvn said, as he put out his hand in the obligatory peace offering. Gndr looked up and clasped his brother’s wrist, then rushed in for a hug.

“Come back,” Gndr whispered. Everyone heard. People feared the selection, because some people always got chosen with the grain, and those people never came back. Then, sometimes, the helpers toured the villages after the selection, and more people got taken. No one knew what happened to those people. Some said they were forced to slave for the helpers until they died from lack of food and rest. Some said they became sacrifices to the gods, and to the Lord of All. In any case, families were devastated and left without hope when it came time for the selection.

“Got to go,” Father said, and turned his back on the family. He put one hand gently to his eyes as if he had a tear, and that was the end of it. He nudged the ox on the backside with his little whip stick, and they started. Wlvn walked backwards for a long way.

By the end of the day, the people from Wlvn’s village joined people from two other villages. They slept, strung out as they were, made little fires, and visited with neighbors enough to whisper encouragement, or in some cases, to express fears. Poor old man Wlkn, Wlvn’s neighbor, felt certain he was going to be selected. Wlkn quaked under his blanket and slept very little that night.

“They go for the fat ones, you know,” Wlkn insisted. Wlvn knew the man was only fat from age, certainly not from overeating. Their hard and cruel life kept everyone near starvation, even in the years when they were not called to the center of the universe.

“Never you mind, son,” Father countered when they were alone. “Wlkn’s just a worrier. Everyone has their theories about the selection, but I never heard any good reason for why some and not others. It is the helpers that do the choosing. They take people off to a long house and those are never seen again, but those people are fat and skinny, tall and short, men and women and no one knows why them and not others.” Father shrugged as he settled down to rest. Wlvn did not get much sleep that night, either.

The next day, Wlvn lost count of the people that joined the train on that two-rutted path. All he knew was he got filthy, felt exhausted, and wanted to get the whole thing over. He and father talked little on that day. There just was not much to be said, until they came to a complete halt. Wlvn found he had to ask about that.

“No, son, this is not an early stop for the night. I doubt we will sleep at all tonight.” Father whispered so softly at that point, Wlvn could barely hear him. “This is the line. The one in front is being examined before being directed where to put his grain. Then the next will go, and then the next. Eventually it will be our turn. When it is, all that you have to do is keep your eyes down on the ground. Say nothing, do what you are told, and don’t call attention to yourself. If you do these things, we should be all right and on the road home to your mother by tomorrow afternoon.” Father said no more, but he looked now and then at the sky while the sun was still up.

An hour before sunset, Wlvn and his father finally inched to the top of the last small ridge. At first, Wlvn felt discouraged by the length of the line in front of them, but then he saw something that absolutely took his breath away. As he had been told, a dome of golden splendor, five or six stories high, stood at the end of the road—the center of the universe. The outside, plated in gold, sent out a tremendous glare in the low light of the sun. Wlvn stood still, awe struck.

Wlvn squinted as hard as he could before he had something like an out-of-body experience. His mind began to flit around somewhere in the future.

He first wondered how on earth they came up with the technology to construct something like that. He knew that it was more than a wonder of the world. It was an impossibility for his day and age. Wlvn’s people could build crude square huts that passed for houses, but a dome needed more than simple skill with wood. The stresses had to be enormous. As he looked closely, he decided that the spire on top had to be pure silver, or near enough. Wlvn knew that no one in his age was that good with the smelting process, even with soft metals.

Wlvn shook his head and wondered briefly where those thoughts came from, before his eyes got drawn back to the other buildings in the compound. The long houses that had to be barracks for the helpers and the grain storehouses and towers filled the back and both sides of an open square. Wlvn knew that any one of those buildings would have been beyond his own people. But the dome! Something moved and Wlvn let out a peep. He shot a quick glance at his father who frowned in his direction before his eyes darted back to the dome. A man stood outside the edifice, but he had to be twenty feet tall or taller. It had to be the Lord of All, standing beside a three-story door in the dome. The Lord of All went inside. Wlvn let out a shriek. Father whispered this time.

“Quiet son. Don’t call attention to yourself. Lower your eyes.”

He needn’t have said anything. Wlvn felt frightened out of his wits on the sight of that monster. His eyes became pasted to the ground until he heard a strange, whining in the sky—a sound he recognized. A hovercraft came in for a landing out behind one of the long houses—a sky ship of the helpers from which the rain of fire came. Suddenly, the future invaded his mind and a great number of things made sense.

Kairos in the West, Book 1, Reflections

The story of Wlvn and Flern, him and her, two lifetimes of the Kairos, is written in counterpoint, like two melodies that harmonize with one another at different points along the way. Sadly, the story, as written, does not break into little bite sized pieces. I want to maintain the schedule of three easily digested posts per week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but I understand the limited attention span of some people. Twenty-seven weeks is too long, especially when the story jumps back and forth between two people who live 586 years apart. If you held the book in your hand, either digital or in print, and read it in a day, a week, or however long it takes you to read a book, it would be one thing. I am not Charles Dickens to break the story into 3-6 rather large parts to serialize in a monthly magazine. Back then, Dickens did not have to contend with movies, television, streaming, the internet, cell phones, and the million other entertainment distractions we have. So, I have concluded that the only way I can share this story—these stories is to separate them and share them individually, even as I did with the stories of Greta, Festuscato, Gerraint, and Margueritte. and even though it gets strange in the middle I hope you will follow and enjoy.

Flern, after 3440 BCE.  13 weeks (13 chapters).

Her village is overrun by an army from the east ruled by a powerful sorceress.  Flern and her friends escape, but they have a quest, to find the secret of making bronze, to make weapons, and to gather enough brave fighters to set their village free. Of course, the Wicca is a very powerful sorceress, and she seems to be supported by one of the ancient gods. My hope is in the story, every time Flern picks up an empowerment from her reflection (Wlvn) you will recognize what is happening. To that end, it will be best to start with Wlvn’s story.

Wlvn, after 4026 BCE.  14 weeks (14 chapters).

The gods have a reason for empowering the young man.  His people are enslaved by the Titan at the center of his universe.  The gods want the Titan overthrown, but Odin promised that the gods would not interfere in any way. They expect Wlvn (the Kairos) to do the deed, and many of the ancient gods give him what they think he needs to be successful. Unfortunately, the god sent to spy on the Titan wants the Titan to stay in power and is secretly working on his own agenda.  And the Titan has contracted with a space race to help maintain his power; and the “Gott-Druk” find human flesh very tasty.

The Strange in the Middle:

Wlvn and Flern, being genetic reflections, or as the Kairos sometimes says, identical twins of the opposite sex, accidentally double trade places with each other through the time stream and can’t figure out how to get back to where they belong. Wlvn, with all his new god-given abilities should be able to deal with a sorceress, provided the god supporting the Wicca stays out of it. Flern, however, even reflecting in a small way the gifts given to Wlvn is in no condition to face down a Titan. Just to think of him frightens her half to death.

When Flern shows up in the middle of Wlvn’s story, I hope you don’t get confused.  Flern has her own troubles, and her story will follow, so bear with me.  I believe this is the best way to approach this.  You can always let me know what you think.

So,

Wlvn first for 14 weeks

Flern second for 13 weeks

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Avalon Season 9 (The final season) will follow Kairos in the West, Book 1, Reflections.  By my (subject to change) calculations, that should begin posting on March 20, 2023.  The travelers will at last get home to their proper time and place.  Meanwhile, if you enjoyed the Avalon stories, they are available from Amazon as e-books or paperback, or from Smashwords, B&N, Apple, Kobo, etc. as e-books.

 

 

I recommend the prequel, Invasion of Memories which will give a good overview of the many lives of the Kairos as well as introduce some of the travelers.  The pilot episode is still free in most places, though in the paperback (and e-book if you want) it is included with Season One.

To find all these books (and more on the way) look under the author’s name M. G. Kizzia.  And remember, reviews are always appreciated.

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Avalon 8.12 Abomination, part 5 of 5

Jai the Mongol became substantial again as soon as Sung Ao fired the photon canon.  He leaped to cover Sung Ao when the canon got crushed just in case it exploded.  Sung Ao quickly checked it, but Gan Ao spoke.  “I thought it best that the weapon not explode.  I turned it off before it got crushed.  Sorry if I overstepped my bounds.”

“You did right as always.  I am very proud of you.  But what are you doing here?”

“I reserved a time for coming back should I be needed.  Apparently, I am needed now.”

“Sung Ao?” Lincoln asked.  He always had to know.

Sung Ao nodded, but then Lockhart had a question for Gan Ao.  “Who are you?”

The old man smiled as men started to revive all over the field.  They had headaches but would recover.  “I am not surprised you did not recognize me.  I am much older than I was when I traveled with my master, the great lord Zhang She of Xi’an, servant of the Great Emperor Guangwu of Han.”

“From Lydia’s day,” Boston remembered, and smiled, knowing who Gan Ao really was.  Sung Ao reached out and gently hugged Boston, then he said something strange.

“I am going to miss my hugs.”

Alexis and Katie knew who Gan Ao was and Alexis spoke before Boston could ask.  “Didn’t you go over to the other side?”

“I did,” Gan Ao said.  “But I can’t remember anything about it while I am here.  Funny how that works.”  He let go of the old man and became Tien Shang-di, king of the ancient gods, and son of the Kairos, the Nameless god of the north.

Lockhart nodded like he had forgotten.  He looked quickly, but the wagon was close by and Ghost, for once, was minding his own business.  Decker and Nanette were busy being lost in each other, and Lincoln and Tony were failing to comfort Sukki, who looked teary-eyed but maybe finally realized there were times she had to act even if it meant people had to die.

“The cyborgs are all dead,” Tien said.  “The super soldiers are all dead as well.  They were possessed for a long enough time so there was not enough of them to come back.  The rest should recover.  Their time of possession was brief.  So, you see, Elder Stow.  Now, you can report to your people that possession by an abomination does not kill a person right away.  The consciousness hangs on for some time, and the body continues to live, though yes.  I see how terrible that must be.”

“Anyway,” Sung Ao interrupted everyone.  “Boston.  I have someone for you to meet.  Jai.  He came a long way just to find you.”

Jai stepped up, and Boston knew he was an elf, like her, but she did not know who until he removed his glamour that made him look Mongolian.  Roland said nothing.  He did not get a chance.  Boston screamed and tackled him.  She kissed his face all over.  Then she began to weep great big tears, and Roland was not against weeping himself.  They stood as Roland’s sister, Alexis came up weeping as well, and joined the hug.  They might have continued for a while, but Lincoln shouted from a distance.

“Alexis.  Nanette.  We have wounded here who need help.”

“May I?” Alexis asked Sung Ao.  She felt a slight curtsey was appropriate.

“Of course,” he said, and turned as three men came to ask what they were doing.  Sung Ao put Niccolo, Maffeo, and Marco in Katie’s hands and said she could talk to them as long as she kept her mouth shut.  He went to find Timur the chief and the servants of the Masters.  Tien went with him and waved his hand while they walked.  All the cyborgs and super soldiers, the ship inside the cave and the busted photon canon with the wet spot that had been the abomination vanished.

“Sent to Avalon,” he said.  “To the alien island and museum,” he explained.

“Yes, thanks, but that does not explain why you are here.”

They found Chin Li alive and checking out the bandits.  He had a half-dozen men with him, just to be safe.  Timur, Bozarius and Hakim the Berber were all dead.  Timur got blasted with a super soldier gun and the other two were killed by the travelers. Bozarius got a shotgun slug in his middle.  Hakim got crisped by Sukki.  “No idea what their names were in this life,” Sung Ao mumbled to himself.

Timur’s son, Kohja, knew better than to stick around.  He promised to take the bandits home and not bother them again.  Sung Ao let them go.  Lincoln, who came up to watch the exchange, commented.

“He knew they were out gunned,” and added, “Sorry.”  He knew the Kairos was not a fan of clichés.

In this case, Sung Ao responded, “You were out gunned, but I am glad you butted into a bad situation anyway.”  Lincoln said no more, as they watched the bandits leave. They took their dead and wounded with them, so that was at least one thing they did not have to worry about.  Even so, Sung Ao thought to say something to Lincoln.  “You better go and check on your wife.  You don’t want her working herself to exhaustion.”

“Right.” Lincoln jogged ahead to the camp.

The travelers stayed that night with the Polos, but Sung Ao said it was best if they leave in the morning.  “We will head south, two days to Khotan.  We will rest there a week while our men heal.  You should be able to reach the time gate before we move on again.”

“But Father,” Alexis said, and Sung Ao and Tien took Alexis and Lincoln aside to speak with them privately.

In the morning, Roland stood beside Boston, holding her hand, and repeated what everyone already knew.  “Father is dying.  He never really recovered from his struggle with the ghoul master of the hundred.  Now he is dying.  I came to fetch Boston and Alexis so they could be with him in the end.”

Alexis came out of her tent, an elf again, and she explained for everyone.  “Time is still broken with the Storyteller missing.  Lady Alice can only move her own through the Heart of Time.  I have temporarily become an elf again so I can go and say good-bye to Father.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Lincoln said.  Alexis gave him a kiss and said she was ready.

Tien stepped up, and Sung Ao traded places with the Nameless god, Tien’s father, so the two gods could work together.

“I’ll miss the wagon,” Tony said.  Most of the travelers shook their heads.  They would not miss it.

“I’ll miss my hugs,” Boston said suddenly.  “And Strawberry, and Honey, but I will see you when you get back.  Sukki, sister, take care of the amulet and remember, I’ll be waiting for you.”

Sukki nodded, and Nanette said, “Good luck.”  Nanette carried Alexis’ bag, the one with the vitamins and medical supplies.

Boston said she was ready and looked up at Roland who merely nodded.  They vanished along with the wagon, their Roman saddles and most of their things.  Ghost stood with saddlebags that carried their spare horseshoes and necessary equipment.  They went back to carrying things in saddlebags and having their tents and extra blankets strapped to the back of their western saddles.  The Kairos said they could ride them again.  They were well into the Middle Ages by then.

Tien said good-bye to them all.

Nameless smiled for them and Sung Ao came back to wake up the Polos.

Lockhart spoke as they headed out.  “Sukki, you have the point.  Be careful.  Decker and Elder Stow still have the wings.”  He paused to look at Katie before he turned his head back to talk to Lincoln.  “So, where are we going?”

Lincoln had to look it up, while Katie shouted back to the ones behind.  “Tony and Nanette.  You have the rear.  Keep your eyes open for whoever or whatever might be following us.”

“Yeah,” Lincoln interrupted his reading.  “Watch out for dragons, little green-men, werewolves and vampires, ghouls and genies, witches, displaced people, space aliens and servants of the Masters, and whatever else I can’t think of right now.”  He returned to his reading.

Nanette took his words seriously, but Tony smiled and said, “Hut, hut.”  Ghost, who had his long lead tied to Tony’s saddle stepped up.  Tony did not want to have to drag the mule all the way back to the twentieth century if they should live so long.

END of Avalon, Season 8.

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TOMORROW

Introduction to the twin tales of Wlvn and Flern, two lives of the Kairos separated by a mere 500 years.  They are genetic reflections, or as they say, identical twins of the opposite sex, and it gets them in big trouble.

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Avalon 8.12 Abomination, part 4 of 5

Metal skinned warriors though they were, the cyborgs took advantage of the rocks and boulders strewn on their side of the field.  What few trees there were also got utilized along with the trees on the hillside where the super soldiers hunkered down and returned fire.  Curiously, the super soldiers were not caught unprepared.  The power beams from their rifles split the trees and shattered the corners of the stone.

Sung Ao watched as one cyborg got blasted dead center.  It went down, but after a second, it started to get up again.  It got blasted a second time, and this time it stayed down.  Several super soldiers got struck and they tended to stay down.

Jai came up to Sung Ao’s shoulder and commented on the fight.  “This could go on for a while.”

“Maybe not,” Sung Ao said and pointed.  The cyborgs brought up their machine, or whatever it was.  It floated on a gravity bubble and Sung Ao tried to remember where he saw such a machine before.  He watched as the cyborgs kept the machine behind some rocks.  It appeared to be protected by screens of some sort, but they were not about to expose it until they were ready.  It came to him.  Of course, Kirstie only saw it after Sukki and Elder Stow melted it, but it looked like the photon cannon the Flesh Eaters used in Norway back then…  He wondered who Kirstie was, but then he had to concentrate on what the cyborgs were doing.  The battle was going about even, but there were more super soldiers on the hill than cyborgs down below.  That meant the super soldiers could lose half their men and still be victorious.  Sung Ao wondered if the photon canon might be used to sweep the hillside.

Jai tapped his shoulder and pointed to the wide cave up the side of the hill.  “A docking bay for their ship,” he said.  “The Sevarese used to park in the same way when they came to earth.”

“Of course,” Sung Ao shouted, and quickly looked back from where he hid behind a boulder.  The men in his camp all looked like they were drunk on something.  The bandits across the way looked the same, or even worse.  “The big bad is in the cave,” he concluded.

“That would be my guess,” Jai agreed.

Sung Ao heard a soft whine over the sound of battle. His eyes went to the photon canon.  The cyborgs pushed it out from the rocks.  He heard an answering whine come from the cave. Several cyborgs stood in front of the machine, like willing sacrifices.  They got cut down with two or three shots, but the photon canon fired before the ship in the cave had a chance to return fire.

Sung Ao saw the screens in the cave turn red and rapidly climb the color scale to purple before they blacked out.  Sung Ao ducked, and Jai ducked with him.  The cave exploded.  It was a massive explosion, but fortunately, mostly absorbed by the hill and mountain that contained it. The front of the cave completely collapsed.  Perhaps the whole cave collapsed.  The ground shook, and a few more good-sized rocks fell from the cliff.  Then only little wisps of smoke came out the cracks left in the cave entrance, and Sung Ao had to say something.

“Thanks.  I have to clean that up.”

Jai laughed.

The super soldiers collapsed.  The five remaining cyborgs checked them briefly before their feet fired up, their legs stiffened, and they sped away at a good clip about two feet off the ground.  They left the photon cannon where it was.  Sung Ao had to run out and turn it off.  Then he looked at his people and at the bandits.  They all appeared to be unconscious.

Hardly two hours later, Sung Ao and Jai saw a ship take off for the outer atmosphere.  “The cyborg ship, I presume,” Jai said.

Sung Ao nodded before he said, “God, I hope so.”

After another five minutes, the super soldiers woke up along with Sung Ao’s people and the bandits.  roughly a third of the super soldiers went to join the bandits.  They forgot their rifles but took their handguns with them.  The men returned to their positions to fight.  The bandits dismounted and prepared to do battle.  Sung Ao and Jai both looked at the collapsed cave.  They saw something slithering through the trees and Sung Ao swore.  He turned the photon canon back on, but it would need a minute to warm up.

The super soldiers in the field fired on the men behind the wall and boulders.  Some men died.  The super soldiers that joined Sung Ao’s people returned fire, and some men in the field fell.  A rain of arrows fell on the boulders.  More died or were wounded.  The men behind the boulders fired back and a few in the field got stuck, including a couple of super soldiers.  Then came the charge and more arrows from the boulders.  Super soldiers were firing in both directions, and Sung Ao saw Niccolo, Maffeo, and Marco pick up swords and run to get in the middle of it.

“No!” Sung Ao yelled, and curiously, everyone stopped, and all eyes turned on Sung Ao and Jai.  Sung Ao vaguely remembered this happening before, maybe more than once.

The nearest men yelled at Sung Ao.  “Why can’t I possess you?”

Jai put his hand to his head, but there was no way an abomination could possess a nature spirit, even in manifest form.  It might give Jai a headache, though.  Jai turned insubstantial so the abomination had nothing to latch on to.  “Forgive me,” Jai said to Sung Ao.

“Quite all right,” Sung Ao responded before he shouted to the trees.  “Even the gods of this world were not allowed inside my mind.”

“I am a god,” the abomination said through the nearest man, and it echoed among many men, bandits and super soldiers included.  “I am the god.”

He no sooner finished speaking and Boston and Sukki came from the trees, followed by Lockhart and Katie, Lincoln and Alexis, Decker and Elder Stow.  The wagon stayed in the woods with Nanette and Tony riding shotgun and Gan Ao driving the mule.  Nanette complained, if only she had her magic back.

Everyone got down right away and pulled their weapons.  Nanette and Tony whistled and got the horses back in among the trees.  People raced to get behind the rocks and boulders in the field.  Alexis pulled her wand and sent a great wind that scattered the bandits’ horses.  Boston laid down a line of fire to keep everyone back.  And Sung Ao yelled.

“Lockhart.  Go for the trees on the hill.”

Elder Stow got confused.  There had been a battle.  They were in a battle.  He thought to put the screens up against the people turning on them.  He thought to pull his weapon to rake the enemy with fire, or maybe his sonic device.

Katie and Decker figured it out right away.  They opened fire on the trees, and the bandits, Sung Ao’s men, and the super soldiers turned on the travelers, heedless of the wind or fire.  They heard screams coming from the people but did not know if it was screams of anger or pain.  They assumed it was the abomination verbalizing its pain.  Bullets were a new thing.

Lockhart turned with his shotgun and started blasting the men and super soldiers that got too close.  Those men forgot all about their bows, spears, and guns, and acted like animals that would only be satisfied with ripping the travelers apart with their bare hands.  Lincoln and Tony came up to join in the melee, shooting men at random when they came close.  Sukki finally reacted and threw out her hands.  The whole front row of oncoming men became like charcoal.  Sung Ao had one brief fear to lose the Polos, but by then, Elder Stow just about decided.  Sung Ao fired the photon canon, and the trees lit up, showing exactly where the abomination was located.  The abomination, however, figured out how to mentally project screens of its own, and they were strong enough to protect it from the photon cannon, at least for a bit.

“No!” Sung Ao yelled again and turned the canon back on.  He held the switch against the abomination turning it off again.  The abomination started to strain, and in a last effort, it ripped a boulder from the ground and heaved it at the machine.  The people scattered when the photon canon got crushed, but by then, Elder Stow figured it out.  He fired his weapon full blast at the thing in the trees.  It tore through whatever flimsy screen the abomination could project and fried the thing.  The men and few remaining super soldiers in the field collapsed again as the abomination rapidly burned to a crisp.  The trees there also burned and would soon be charcoal themselves.  It fell to the ground and appeared to shrivel up before it liquified, and Sung Ao pronounced it dead.

“Dead as a doornail,” Gan Ao said.  Sung Ao hugged the old man with a word.  “You should not be here.”

Avalon 8.12 Abomination, part 3 of 5

Sung Ao had his people camp up against a cliff face where it rose from a sparse grassland on the edge of the Taklimakan Desert.  Boulders sat here and there around the field, stones that fell from above at some time in the distant past, or perhaps got planted by glaciers long ago.  He made the men dig trenches between the boulders before dark.  They piled the dirt and added what fallen trees, branches, and rocks they could lift to make about a one- or two-foot wall.  It would give his men something to lay behind in case of bandit arrows.  And while horses could probably leap over the wall, any bandits on foot would have to pause and crawl over, making themselves targets for arrow fire in return

Sung Ao and the Polos camped in the corner beside where the cliff collapsed making the field full of stones and big rocks where no horses could go.  Sung Ao noticed a big and wide dark spot up that side of the hill, but he did not imagine anything would be there worse than a bear, and any bear would avoid such a large number of men.

They had a pleasant night.  The Polos argued.  Marco read and conversed haltingly with Chin Li after dark.  Jai the Mongol laughed with Sung Ao now and then.  The stars came out that night and the moon appeared nearly full.  Sung Ao expected no trouble in the night.  It was the morning he was worried about.

###

At dawn, Elder Stow’s alarm went off.  Lockhart, Elder Stow, with Katie and Decker who carried their rifles went to the edge of the screens Elder Stow set up.  It did not take long for three cyborgs to show up and face them.  One cyborg reached out to touch the screen.  He appeared to try several different energy pulses, but the screens barely registered that they had been touched.  The cyborgs had no way of getting through.

“You don’t belong here,” Lockhart said right away.  “This planet is off limits to space travelers.”

“We understand,” one cyborg responded in a relatively normal sounding voice.  At least Lockhart was surprised that it did not make a scratchy-metallic sound.  “We will not be here long.  The enemy has come here.  We will destroy the enemy and be gone.  Stay here until we have finished.  You will be safe.”

Elder Stow spoke.  “You know, there are limits on what a species can do with cybernetics.  You will not live forever, and the collective mind destroys things like creativity and initiative.”

“So we have discovered.  Our kind will not last, but first we must end the abomination.”

“Abomination?” Katie asked.

“The enemy.  They abused themselves in unnatural ways making horrors as evil as the Acca that we drove from our world.  They created the great abomination that ruled our world with its thoughts.  The poor souls have become no more, but our collective being found a way to block the thoughts of the evil one.  We destroyed it, and the lesser abominations it made, but one escaped.  It came here.  When we destroy it now, our work will be done.”

The three cyborgs turned and lifting slightly from the ground, they flew away.

The others turned back toward the camp but looked at Elder Stow for an explanation.  He had his own database out to read before he spoke.  “The Acca are Flesh Eaters.  The Flesh Eaters invaded their world and they drove them off by making super soldiers in one place and cyborgs in another.  The cyborgs have learned that there are limits on their ability to adapt and grow.  They will cease soon enough.  The super soldiers, however, continued to experiment until they altered their genetic code to create a massive world-mind that took over the planet.  The normal, original people on that planet got wiped out.  The super soldiers became its slaves, but the cyborgs, with their collective mind, resisted, maybe because some of them were off world using space technology made by the Flesh Eaters.  They discovered a way to better block the mind of the abomination, and the weapon to kill it.  The cyborgs then invaded their own planet and, at great loss, killed the super soldiers, the abomination, and the lesser abominations the first one made.”

“Thank God for that,” Katie said.  “Telepathic control?” she asked.

“Essentially,” Elder Stow nodded.  “It can project itself into the mind, memories, feelings, everything, and take complete control so the person is no more than a puppet.  Complete possession, though it is unclear in my record when the person dies.  One theory suggests they die instantly when possessed in that way, but most believe the consciousness continues for a time.”

“That must be horrible,” Decker said.

“Indeed,” Elder Stow agreed.  “Fortunately, this lesser abomination can only take over and control an area of several hundred miles radius.  It can’t take over the whole world.”

“I wouldn’t call several hundred miles fortunate,” Lockhart said.

Katie asked.  “When you say control, you are talking about possessing people?”

“People.  Animals.  Plants.  As far as I can tell from my record, the whole landscape and environment can be reshaped.”

“Wait.”  Decker stopped shy of the campfire, and everyone waited for him to speak.  “We have to be within the radius, unless Elder Stow’s screens are keeping the abomination out.”

Elder Stow shook his head.  “There is one screen set to block telepathic projections.  Yes, we have that, but it is not nearly strong enough to hold back anything as strong as an abomination.”

“My guess is it is hiding from the cyborgs,” Lockhart said.

###

“Bandits,” one man shouted, and soon there were many shouts.  The bandits appeared on horseback, about two hundred, but a few rode in front of the others and got down.  They waited, like they expected the merchants to come out and talk.  Sung Ao, Chin Li and Jai were willing.  They took the time to set the men in the best positions they could to fend off an attack, and they came dragging the two that normally rode on the point.  Sung Ao made sure the three Polos stayed in the camp and kept the fire going.

Sung Ao hardly had to get close before he recognized two of the bandits.  He shouted ahead.  “Lord Bozarius and Hakim the Berber.  Sorry you had to be killed, several times I imagine.  You must be about out of lives by now.”

The men growled at Sung Ao, and one even said, “Kairos,” but they let a third man do the talking.  He was a big and ugly one that appeared to enjoy looking down on his opponents.  Sung Ao heard from the Princess.  She said he appeared very Xitides-like, and she wondered if he was actually mean or if it was all bluff and bully like Xitides.

“I am Timur,” the big man said.  “You cannot cross my territory without tribute.  Bring out your gold and the three foreign men you have, and I may let you go unharmed.”

“You mean Niccolo, Maffeo and Marco?”  He saw that was exactly who Bozo and Hakim wanted.  Timur stood and thought about it.  It looked painful.

“I guess so,” Timur said.

“But what do the Masters have to say?” Sung Ao turned to stare at the two men he knew were repeats.  Lord Bozo spoke.

“The Polos will not finish their journey.  The gifts from the Pope will never reach the Great Khan.  Europe will remain in darkness for ages to come.”

“Yes,” Sung Ao understood.  “The Travels of Marco Polo is one of a dozen books that impacted the history of the whole world.  Sorry.  No Venetians. But I do have three strangers for you to meet.  Slymer, Dragos, and Cruncher,” he called.  Slymer was an imp from the Taklimakan Desert. Dragos was a dwarf and Cruncher was and ogre from the Kunlun Mountains.  Timur stood shocked by the imp and dwarf, but he screamed when he looked up at the eight-foot ogre.  He turned and ran screaming, ignoring his horse who backed away from the smell.  His men grabbed their horses and rode after him.  Lord Bozarius and Hakim were the last to leave, and not without another growl.

“Thank you,” Sung Ao said, and waved his hand.  The three little ones vanished and went back to where they came from.  He looked at Chin Li and his men and pointed at the big man running away.  “We should change his name from Timur to Timid.”

Jai laughed.

Sung Ao and his crew went back to the camp and adjusted the defensive position a little according to what they saw among the bandits.  The bandits would argue, perhaps for hours before they did anything.  The Polos all asked but got told they had to wait.  “Stand off for now,” Sung Ao told them.

In less than an hour, laser-like weapons got fired in the direction of the rock pile beside the cliff face and the long cave in the side of that hill.  Jai moved the Polos to the other side of the camp in case a stray shot came in their direction.  Sung Ao watched closely.

************************

MONDAY

The showdown. Don’t miss it.  Happy Reading

*

Avalon 8.12 Abomination, part 2 of 5

Sung Ao sat across the fire and laughed occasionally at the two Venetians.  Niccolo and Maffeo, two brothers, argued about everything from maps to lunch.  The hand gestures made it especially entertaining.  Chin Li, Sung Ao’s captain of the escort tried to ignore the two.  He usually ate fast and excused himself saying that he had to check on the men.  To be honest, he did not speak much Italian other than a few words like go, stop, and get down, so he couldn’t catch the humor.  Maffeo mastered comparing apples and oranges, and often made no sense whatsoever.  Niccolo mastered sarcasm as his standard response.

Sung Ao looked to the third man of the party.  Marco, sometimes called Il Milione, as his father, Niccolo sometimes got called Emilio.  Marco just turned twenty.  He had the good sense to let the older men argue without him.  He had the habit of reading and rereading the same three books they brought on the journey.  More importantly, he often wrote in his diary, what Sung Ao knew would one day be transformed into a book about his travels.  Sadly, Sung Ao had to avoid the young man to stay out of the book as much as possible.  He tended to talk to the older men and let Chin Li ride with Marco.  Both young men somehow had passable conversations in some combination of Turkic, Arabic, and Persian. They both knew some of each language.

Sung Ao knew enough Italian to communicate with the brothers.  He figured Alice of Avalon filled his mind with the language, and because of that, he also figured these three Venetians had to be important to history in some sense.  He got the word that he had to wait in Kashgar for Marco to arrive and escort him to the court of the Great Khan.  Kublai Khan sent him with the ambassadors to the court of Chagatai in Samarkand, but he had to let that mission go.  He had to wait and kept only the young commander Chin Li and his thirty men.

“Time to go,” Chin Li said as he finished his lunch and stood.  Marco also stood and put his book in his pouch.  This time, Niccolo got in the last word, and it was a doozy.  Sung Ao stood and laughed as men came to put out the fire.

The Polos and their hired men rode on horses, mostly Arabians.  The twenty men of mixed middle eastern heritage with them also brought a dozen pack animals to carry their supplies.  Chin Li’s men mostly rode on camels, which did not mix well with the horses.  But Li had seven on horseback as well, so they moved out in what was becoming a standard formation.  Two men rode out front to watch the road.  Sung Ao rode beside a third man, an old friend named Jia who claimed to be Mongolian, and who acted something like a sergeant to the men.  He also kindly spoke very little.  Niccolo and Maffeo came next, followed by Marco and Chin Li, and the four additional men of Chin Li on horseback.  Behind them were the men contracted by the Polos with their pack animals.  Twenty-two poor excuses for soldiers on camels brought up the rear dragging another ten camels that served as additional pack animals for Sung Ao and his men.

They hardly got started after lunch and Chin Li pushed up to talk to Sung Ao.  “I’m seeing men up in the rocks watching.  This is the second day I have seen them.  They appear to be marking our progress.”

“Yes,” Sung Ao said calmly.  “The bandits are watching and reporting back to their leader and his men.”

“This is not good,” Chin Li said.  “I have only thirty and the Polos have but twenty more.  If there are a hundred or more bandits in the mountains, we will be in big trouble.”

“Have you mentioned it to the men?”

“I don’t want to frighten them.”

Sung Ao shook his head.  “Your men are not cowards.  Better they be prepared if the bandits decide to try us.  Better they are not caught off-guard.”

Chin Li dropped back.  He would have to think about that.

About an hour later, Marco shouted.  He was the kind of man who noticed everything, and he looked around at the scenery all the time, though the desert and mountains never really changed.  “Up.  Overhead.  What is that?”

Sung Ao knew right away what it was.  A scout craft, and he heard from Alice that it was a craft of super soldiers.  When he hoped that there were no cyborgs around, Lady Alice promptly told him that they were, and the travelers were just over a day away right in the middle of them.  “Damn,” he said, probably in English.

“You know what it is?” Niccolo asked.  Maffeo, Chin Li, and Marco all wanted to know as well.  Jia, his Mongolian sergeant laughed.

“I hope not enemies,” Sung Ao said, and he began to look for a defensive position where they could camp for the night, even though it was still too early to stop.

###

The travelers found an oasis in the desert where they could stop for the night.  Lockhart went to Elder Stow and asked about the cyborgs.  Elder Stow anticipated the questions.

“Yes.  They are easy to trace carrying so much metal.  There are twenty that have moved out from their ship carrying what I would guess is a weapon of some sort on a gravity bubble.  They appear to have stopped, possibly for the night, but when we get back to the road in the morning, they will be ahead of us.  We will be between them and their ship.  Not generally a good position to be in, I would say.  I can set the screens for the night, and the scanner alarm in case they should be tempted to come and check us out.  After that, we will not know until morning what is what.”

Lockhart nodded as Katie came to fetch the two of them.  Supper was ready, and Boston was talking.  That was generally a good sign.  Boston had been quiet since the last time zone when all that business came up about Roland being in the future and her being stuck in the past, assuming Roland had not died.

“I bet those helmets are to protect the cyborgs from some mind-numbing thing, like the Vr energy,” Boston said.

“The Apes wore helmets against the Vr energy,” Sukki said in support of her sister.

“The super soldiers showed some signs of telepathic ability,” Decker said.

“Oh, yeah,” Tony remembered.  “They tried to get inside my head and gave me a headache.”

“We are hedged by the ancient gods against that,” Alexis said.  “To keep people from reading about the future in our minds.”

“Your father Mingus used his mind magic to totally confuse you,” Lincoln said.

“Just my memories,” Alexis said.  “I knew who I was, and I knew my father, but I did not remember much.  I had no choice but to believe what he told me.  But eventually it came back to me.”

“I think the gods later corrected that part,” Katie said.  “With your memory suppressed, you might have been fooled into revealing all sorts of things about the future that ears don’t need to hear.”

“We started with ghouls making us see and hear things that were not even there,” Decker said.

“I know for fact that got corrected,” Boston said.  “Tien himself helped to fix that one.” she explained for Nanette and Tony who were not there at the time.

“Then there was the genie,” Alexis said.  “The big bad genie got down deep in our personalities and messed with our self-perceptions.”  She explained like Boston because Tony and Nanette were not there, and Sukki.  “He had us all thinking we were Amazons and put us all in a position where we had to defend ourselves, and without our guns.”

“Zoe started the correction on that one,” Katie said.

“I am sure plenty of others contributed,” Lockhart added.

“I’ve thought about this a lot,” Lincoln said.  No one looked surprised.  Alexis smiled and said he worries about these sorts of things.  Lincoln returned Alexis’ smile and continued.  “I’m no expert, but I can’t imagine any other way someone can get into our heads.  We have memories, personalities, and illusions all covered.”

“Projected illusions,” Boston corrected.  “I can still put a glamour on myself, like now to appear Asian, and you see it too.  Plus, invisible.  You can’t see invisible.”

“Thanks,” Lincoln grumped.

“Even so,” Alexis said.  “I don’t see how those things could help someone get inside our heads.”

“I do,” Nanette said.  “Someone could disguise themselves as Boston and get me and Sukki to talk about things without realizing it.”

Sukki grasped the idea.  “Any one of us could be a pretend person and not the real person at all.”  People looked around the circle.

“Like the Were—shape shifters taking on the appearance of one of us,” Boston said.  “I could be back in Khotan under a spell and some alien may have taken my place.”

“No,” Katie said.  “I asked about that early on, and Danna herself explained it to me, and to Lincoln.”

Lincoln agreed.  “According to the database, the Were could become animals, like wolves or bears, but the gods made them unable to transform into other people for that very reason.”

Katie nodded.  “Danna said the hedge of the gods covered all that, knowing how sneaky some of the gods could be.  No squirrel, or someone invisible, or someone wearing a glamour will hear anything.  She said we were covered against hypnosis, or drugs, or anything like that.  All they will hear is garbled noise, so it won’t do them any good.”

“Good to know,” Lockhart said, and Decker nodded.

“Anyway…” Elder Stow interrupted and looked up from his scanner. “The cyborgs will certainly never fool anyone.  They have definitely stopped for the night.  I don’t know their sleep pattern, but maybe they are not inclined to move at night.  They might need light or some way of moving in the dark, and that might give them away.”

Lockhart stood.  “Standard watch,” he said, and he and Katie went into their tent.  The old man Gan Ao finished eating and said nothing.

Avalon 8.12 Abomination, part 1 of 5

After 1245 A.D. between Kashgar and Aksu

Kairos 109: Sung-Ao, slave of Kublai Kahn

Recording …

They met the old man Gan Ao at the inn in Khotan on the Silk Road.  Gan Ao said he was waiting for them.  “You are headed for Osh, are you not?”  The people nodded and looked at each other.

“Maybe further,” Lincoln said.  Their examination of Boston’s amulet and the map in the database was not clear.  The Kairos appeared to be headed in their direction, though where the time gate might end up was a question.

“He left Kashgar and is headed south along the edge of the desert toward us,” Boston said, but hesitated to say more.

 “I am an expert wagon driver,” Gan Ao said, and smiled.  Several of the travelers figured he could not be that old.  He still had his teeth.  “Besides, I know the road well and can guide you safely.”

“Looks like we have another passenger,” Katie said.

“We have had mixed luck with that so far,” Decker said, and patted Nanette’s hand.  She had her arm intwined around his arm and smiled for him.

“Don’t tell me,” Gan Ao said.  “Newly married.  He smiled for the couple and so did the rest of the travelers.  Curiously, none of the travelers questioned the man closely, and much later, looking back on it, they realized that should have felt very odd.

The next morning, the Mongol officials in the gate went through all the things the travelers carried.  The travelers had no choice.  They entered the Chagatai Khanate from Yuan land.  Though they came through the time gate on the far western edge of Yuan lands and traveled five long days to get to Khotan, it made them suspect.  Their disguise as peaceful merchants did not sound convincing.

The Mongols were not impressed with the western saddles and skipped right over the stirrups, not knowing what they were or what they were used for.  They did not know what to make of the horseshoes, and no one was going to show them the bottom of their horse’s feet.  They did like the nails, however, but they could not imagine such small nails would be of much use.  The foodstuffs were no big deal and beginning to turn in the heat.  The tarps were interesting, but they left them alone.  They did not find the last two big bags of coins because Elder Stow and Sukki held the bags and Elder Stow managed to make them invisible just in time.

The chief stared at the travelers again and shook his head.  “Your leather is good, but I doubt you will sell any saddles in Samarkand.  They look awkward.  Your metal work is good, but I do not understand why you form it into such an odd shape.”

“To show the ability of our craftsmen.  We would challenge the local metalsmiths to make the same and of the same quality,” Lockhart said.

“Uh,” the chief nodded before he shook his head.  “Your guns look interesting.  I have seen real guns.  But yours are so thin.  I would fear they will explode in your hands.  Besides, you have no powder or shot for them.”

“We had some,” Lockhart said.  “But the road is not free of bandits and not safe for peaceful travelers.”

The chief nodded to that one and stopped the hand of his soldiers.  “No.  Leave their mule alone.  A fine beast, but they do not breed, and it will be old soon enough. These wretched people have far to go to get to Kashgar.  Here.”  He returned the few coins he found, the ones the travelers deliberately left in the wagon to be found.  “It is not my way to beggar the wretched souls.  Good luck.”

The travelers quickly moved out from the town, but Boston, with her good elf ears, heard what the chief said.  “We will likely find their bodies somewhere between here and Kashgar.”

Lincoln said one thing.  “I’m surprised they did not take anything, or everything.”  Alexis nodded.

Katie looked back and responded.  “Trade is the lifeblood of towns like that. They would probably all starve if they got a reputation for stealing from traveling merchants.”

Gan Ao smiled at the brief exchange.  He snaped the reins and Ghost responded remarkably well for the stranger.

###

Two days later, late in the morning, the travelers halted beside the mountains.  The road edged closer and closer to the Pamir Mountains all morning, and they at last came to a stretch where they had a choice of scrambling though the rocks or crossing the desert’s edge.  Of course, they did not risk the horses on the rocks.  They rode on the sand, but they roasted from doing that.

Elder Stow came in from the wing.  Lockhart imagined it was because he had no safe way to travel out among the rocks, but in fact Elder Stow picked up something on his scanner that he found troubling.  He looked to the sky as soon as he arrived.  Everyone followed his eyes and saw a large ship of some kind shoot across the sky and land somewhere ahead of them.

“Something to look forward to,” Lincoln got to say it.

“Decker,” Lockhart called on his wristwatch communicator.

“I saw it,” the answer came right back.

“Very fast,” Gan Ao said.  “A big bird?”

“No,” Tony answered.  “But we always hope they may be friendly.”

Elder Stow spoke up.  “Judging from the energy traces used, my guess is super soldiers, unless they are cyborgs.  They may still be around in this age.”

Sukki came riding back but slowed when she saw the rest had stopped.  “You saw,” she said.  “Boston is riding ahead to see if she can spy on them.  They came down in a gully beside the road.”

“Boston,” Katie yelled into her wristwatch, but then quieted, thinking Boston might be close and she did not want to be responsible for giving her away.  She saw Alexis put her wrist down, like she was about to yell the same thing.

“Arm up,” Lockhart said, and they began to move again.

After a short way, Decker came in from the desert side.  Elder Stow stayed with the group.  He rode to the rear and tied off his horse so he could ride in the wagon and work on his screen device.  Decker came in behind, in the very rear, where he could protect them from whatever might come up behind them.  Attacking from the rear is a tactic all people use, human or otherwise.

It did not take long to catch up to Boston.  She had started heading back to the group at a good clip, and she appeared to be excited.  She also appeared to have lost a bit off the end of her hair on one side.  Everything she said came out fast and loud.

“Cyborgs.  I thought they were Cybermen, but they are more like Borgs with big metal helmets that cover their whole head, face and all.  I saw some flesh in their hands and arms.  I bet they picked up traces of my horse and fired at us, but I got Strawberry out of there as quick as I could, and they did not bother to follow.  They look like they are unloading equipment.  I don’t know what they are here for, but I bet there are super soldiers around, or some other enemy.  That is one fight I would not want to get into the middle of, but I checked the amulet, and it looks like the Kairos is continuing to move in our direction from Kashgar.  He is about two days away.  If his group keeps moving, we should run into him in the morning, tomorrow.”

Katie looked up at Lockhart.  “We could stay here and maybe avoid the cyborgs.  We could wait for the Kairos to get to us.”

Lockhart shook his head, and most agreed with him.  “For all we know, the cyborgs may move in this direction.  The enemy they are after may be behind us, around Khotan.”

“I figure they are going our way, toward the Kairos,” Boston said.  “I bet the Kairos will get in the middle of it, like always.  But we can help,” Boston said, and looked back and forth between Lockhart and Katie with pleading in her eyes.  Lockhart and Katie looked eye to eye, and Lincoln offered a suggestion.

“Maybe the cyborgs and their enemy behind us will get in a stand-off until the Kairos arrives.”

Gan Ao spoke up.  “If it helps, I know a way around the gully where young Boston found the aliens.”

People looked at him.  They generally forgot he was there. They did not ask how he knew Boston found the cyborgs in a gully, or Boston did not think to ask.  And no one questioned his use of the term, aliens, which as far as the travelers knew, no one had mentioned to him.  Tony thought it odd. He knew he never mentioned the word to the man, but he shrugged it off, thinking someone must have said it earlier.

Lockhart and Katie both seemed to nod.  “We go around,” Lockhart said, and that settled it.

Avalon 8.11 Tax Collectors and Other Thieves, part 6 of 6

Helen and Milch rode out front, with Milch regularly looking at Helen, and Helen trying to keep her mouth closed and not look at Milch.  They started on the road to Milford Bridge, but soon turned on to a hunter’s trail that led to Pleasley north and east of Estreide Bridge and the king’s lodge.  Lockhart and Katie rode in the center, their guns close to hand and their eyes, ears, and senses open to whatever or whoever might wander into their area.  Lady Milpryd and Will brought up the rear.  They rode with a little conversation but relatively quiet, pleasant, and like they might be out for a Sunday afternoon ride.

Helen stopped, so they all stopped.  Something rattled the bushes.  Katie raised her rifle but kept the safety on.  A badger came to the path.  It paused to grunt at the people and horses before it finished its walk across the path and disappeared in the bushes on the other side.  Helen leaned back.

“I’m cheating, you know,” she said.  “Lady Alice is giving the directions from Avalon.  There is a need ahead and I hope we don’t step on it.”  She started moving again and concentrated on keeping her mouth closed.

After a short way, the path narrowed so they had to travel in single file.  Helen got followed by Milch, Lockhart, Katie, Lady Milpryd, and Will, who brought up the rear.  Helen stopped again on the edge of a small clearing.  She looked back once at Milch and said, “I’ll be back.”  Then she looked forward and said no more.

Milch, Lockhart, and eventually Katie squeezed around Helen’s horse to get to the clearing and watch. Lady Milpryd and Will had to keep back because there was not any more room.  They saw a flat, white blob of puss on the ground, with a brown spot in the center, and a dozen or more lines or maybe tentacles coming out from the blob.  It looked like some giant walked along and spit phlegm on the ground as he walked by.

Milch gasped when he looked, though he hardly noticed the blob on the ground.  The most beautiful lady he had ever seen stood beside the blob and appeared to be staring at it, like she was studying it or something.  The dark spot in the center of the blob appeared to pulsate, almost undulate, but Milch ignored it.  Sight of the lady brought tears of joy to his eyes, but at the same time, the thought that she might look up and see him terrified him.  He feared if he looked in her eyes, he would be found naked and be lost in the darkness, alone for all eternity.  Surely, this was an angel of God.  Surely, he needed Jesus to save him.

The woman looked up and spoke to Katie and Lockhart who knew her as the goddess Danna, mother goddess of all the Celtic gods.  “Take Helen back to the camp.  There is nothing you can do here.  I will talk to you later.”  the woman raised her arms and she, and the blob, vanished.

Katie reached out and took the reins to Helen’s horse.  Helen did not object.  In fact, Helen said nothing, and Katie checked regularly to make sure she stayed on her horse.  Lockhart turned around and Will led the way back to the camp.  Milch brought up the rear with much to think about.  They arrived in time for supper, but Will took them to the barn.  He knew they had to take care of the horses first.

Milch got excited when they got to the barn.  He began to babble and talk about how beautiful and amazing the lady was.  He used lots of words.  He kept saying to Helen, didn’t she think so?  Helen made no answer while Katie unsaddled Helen’s horse after her own.  Will tended to Lady Milpryd’s horse while the lady kept shaking her head.

“I have never heard Helen be so quiet,” she said in a worried voice.  She checked.  “She is still breathing.”

“I’m fine.  I’m okay,” Helen said in Helen’s voice, but it seemed to Katie that the girl just mouthed the words without any meaning behind them.  Katie had to take Helen’s arm and direct her to the supper table.  Then the girl hardly ate, and only when Katie or Lady Milpryd said something.

Robin sat beside Marian at the head table and stood at one point to say the men would have to leave Maunsfeld in the morning.  “Surely, the sheriff has figured out where we are, and it is never our intention to put good people in danger. But first thing, we have a wedding to attend.  Milton and Nanette will be married, and our new friend and spiritual guide Friar Tuck has agreed to do the ceremony.  Let us toast the happy couple.”

Lincoln nudged Lockhart and said, “Milton?”

Lockhart tried to keep a straight face.  “Colonel Decker if you want to stay alive,” he joked.

Shortly after that, Helen came back to herself, or perhaps switched places with herself and promptly ate enough for three people between sentences.

“She was a Gollum.  Almost no initiative.  I will have to work on that because I will have to do that more and more as I move into the future. Sometimes it isn’t wise in these days to trade places in time right in front of certain eyes.  People don’t need to know.  People write things down and record things these days.”

Helen got up and made Katie slide down so she could sit between her and Lockhart.  She lowered her voice while she kept talking and eating, starting with her second plate full.

“That blob thing was the Kargill.  Not a Kargill, but the Kargill.  It is one being spread across a thousand solar systems already.  No.  They are not like the Achaean colony intelligence.  They were individual one-celled animals… mostly animals who increased in intelligence when they gathered together.  Something like telepathy, I guess.  But no. The Kargill is a multi-celled being whose cells can act independently but remain connected even as far away as a billion light years.  I think they are all brain cells… as far as I know.”  She shouted to the cook.  “Frypan.”  she held up her plate for thirds.

“You are going to get fat,” Frypan told her.  Helen gave him her snooty look and got up.  She grabbed Milch by the head and put her lips briefly against his.

“Thanks for going with me and protecting me,” she said and went back to sit down again to start round three.  “And I may get fat, too.”

The next morning, Friar Tuck, that is, Father Tucker said the man’s full name.  Lieutenant Colonel Milton Eugene Decker.”  Lincoln could not prevent his smile.  Lockhart struggled to keep a straight face.

Robin and Marian appeared the couple everyone expected.  Marian had been betrothed to Baron William Wendenal, Sheriff of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and the Royal Forests, but that marriage would never take place.  Lady Milpryd cried, she said, for thinking about Helen getting married.  Sukki got teary-eyed thinking she was the last sister to remain unmarried.  Boston and Alexis nudged each other and pointed at Milch who never took his eyes off Helen, though she never looked in his direction.

After the wedding, Robin Hood and his core of men, with Friar Tuck and the women prisoners, who were Marian, Helen, and their ladies, moved off to meet up again in Oxton, on the other side of Sherwood in two weeks.  The travelers said good-bye and crossed the Milford bridge and went into Derbyshire.  From there, they turned south and found the time gate somewhere near Canterbury.

On their last night in England while they sat around the campfire, Tony said. “Well, at least we know how the story turned out.”

“Not necessarily,” Katie countered.  “We have seen any number of things happen that are not exactly like in the history books.”

Elder Stow agreed.  “I have a Gott-Druk database, like yours, but I cannot tell you how wrong it has been time and time again.”

“Lincoln is the only one with an accurate history,” Alexis said.  “His database was downloaded from the Heart of Time itself.  I believe Father had something to do with that.”  She stirred the fire vigorously.

“You worried about your father?” Sukki asked, kindly.

“No.  My brother, Roland.  I accept that both my father and brother may be dead, but it is possible both may be alive and waiting for us to return.  But mostly, I am worried about Boston.  She said, seeing Margueritte and Genevieve marry was hard enough, but now Decker and Nanette really pushed her buttons.  She wants to be happy for the couple, but she misses Roland so much she can hardly stand it.”

“She said she wanted to check on the horses,” Sukki said.

“She is off sulking,” Alexis countered.

“Yes,” Lincoln said as he pulled his head from the database and tried to catch up with the conversation.  “Where are Decker and Nanette.”

“Off being married,” Alexis said.

“But they are married now…” Lincoln said, before he understood.  “Oh, you mean off being married.”  He returned to the database.

************************

MONDAY

We come to the last episode in Avalon, Season 8: Aliens.  Episode 8.12, Abomination brings the cyborgs and genetically enhanced super soldiers into conflict with the travelers, the Kairos, and Marco Polo caught in between.  Until Then, Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 8.11 Tax Collectors and Other Thieves, part 5 of 6

By the time Boston, Sukki, Elder Stow, Lincoln, Alexis, and Tony driving the wagon arrived in Maunsfeld, surrounded by armed men, word had gone out and people, mostly wives and mothers of the men, waited in the street.  Lockhart and Katie were not far behind, and meanwhile, a young girl about thirteen, with platinum locks and hazel-light brown eyes came dragging a dark-haired, blue eyed young woman by the hand.  Two much older women followed the group until suddenly the thirteen-year-old dropped the young beauty’s hand and ran forward yelling.  “Boston.”  The red streak ran into her arms for a wonderful hug.

“You are young again,” Boston said.

“U-huh,” the girl nodded and dragged Boston to meet her friend.  “This is Marian de Furnival.  Her brother is going to marry my sister Maud.  I feel sorry for him, but what are you going to do?  They are in Looove.”

“Helen?”  Lincoln had to ask, and the girl nodded.  “Come on,” she said, but it was not that easy.  They had horses and a wagon to tend.

“You go on,” Lincoln told Alexis.  “Elder Stow, Tony and I will find a place for the horses.”  Alexis nodded, and she, and Sukki, followed Helen and Marian.

“Maid Marian?” Alexis asked and watched Helen and Boston nod.

“That is what Helen called me when we got stopped on the road and kidnapped, to be held for ransom.  She said it was safer.  It was for the men, to tell them they should not touch me.”

“And we all agreed with that,” one of the older ladies who followed spoke.

Helen took them to the tent where a man ran around like a wild chicken.  He had helpers, but he was obviously very busy.  “No time now, Lady,” the man said.  “I got hungry men to feed soon enough.”  They found two deer roasting over a pit and plenty of vegetables to go with it along with great loaves of bread laid out to cool on racks.

“This is Frypan,” Helen said.  “Four squares.  Sunup, noon, teatime or what they call dinner, and supper at sundown.  I don’t know who started three squares in your time.  It’s stupid. Three is a triangle, not a square.””

“Frypan?” Boston asked.

“Yeah,” Helen said.  “He is guarding me.  I am a prisoner, you know.”

“Does he have a name?” Alexis asked.

Helen shrugged.  “Frypan.  It is what everyone calls him.”

“You are being held for ransom?” Boston asked, intrigued by the whole idea.

“Yeah,” Helen repeated, and waved to a boy.  He looked to be about sixteen, and he came straight to her wave.

“Milch,” she named him.  “This is Alexis, Boston, and Sukki, old friends.”

“Oh? Pleased to meet you,” Milch said.  “Old friends?”

“Yeah.”  Boston imitated Helen.  “From about nine hundred years in the future.”  She grinned and turned her grin on Helen, who gave her a snooty face.

“Milch is the miller’s son,” Helen said, and touched the boy’s chest to identify him.  “Most of the flour for the bread comes from his father’s mill down on the river Leen, by Linby.  I call him Milch Miller, but he doesn’t sing so good.”  Alexis laughed.  Boston was not sure if she understood the joke.  Sukki had no idea what Helen was talking about, but before she could ask, Katie came up.

“Katie!” Helen shouted and turned to Milch.  “This is Katie.”

“I guessed.”

“This is Milch, the miller’s son.  And this is Maid Marian.”

“Maid Marian?” Katie said.

“I said the same thing,” Alexis told her, and Katie nodded.

“Oh,” Helen perked up and got everyone’s attention again.  “I need you and Lockhart to go with me and check something out.  We had the strangest thing, just three nights ago.  You missed it.”

Frypan heard and came over, wiping his hands on his apron.  Milch got excited to tell the tale, but Frypan beat him to it.  “A strange ball, not that big.  It came down so fast, people were afraid it was going to crash on their heads, but it stopped, all of a sudden.  It looked suspended in the sky, and it was smoking, like maybe it was on fire.  Big billows of smoke.”

“I saw it first,” Milch said.  “I told everyone.”

“Milch screamed the sky was falling.” Helen interrupted.  “I thought his screams might wake the dead.  Then I told him he should not steal Chicken Little’s line.  He said, who’s Chicken Little?”  Milch shrugged and Frypan picked up the telling.

“Helen here identified the ball as a kind of craft, she said like a big boat, but one flying on the air instead of floating on the river.”  He looked at the travelers to see how they reacted to that idea, but when he saw they had no trouble believing him, he continued.  “It came down maybe a mile or so from here, in the woods.  I know some men went to look for it, but they all reported they found nothing, like it vanished or something.

“It made no sound when it came down,” Milch added.  “I expected it to Crash! and make the ground shake.”  Milch shrugged again.

“So, Katie,” Helen took the conversation.  “I need you and Lockhart to go with me to check it out.  After three days, whoever it is may be in trouble.”

“Shouldn’t Elder Stow come?” Katie asked.

“Maybe, if we need to repair something.  But we need to see who it is first.  Alice has an idea, but I am not committing.”

“You are arguing with yourself?” Sukki asked and sounded surprised.

“What?” Helen said.  “You never argue with yourself?”

Sukki looked at the ground and nodded.  “I do.”

“Now hold on, missy,” Frypan said.  “I was left to watch you to make sure you did not escape and all that kind of thing.  I won’t be seeing you run off, or maybe getting hurt and me not being there.”

Helen clicked her tongue.  She was thirteen.  “I’ll be well protected, and we won’t be far.  I’ll take Milch with me.  He will keep me prisoner.”

“I’ll make sure to protect her and see that she doesn’t get hurt,” Milch said.

“Lady?” Frypan turned to Maid Marian, but she could only shrug like Milch.  One of the ladies spoke up.

“I’ll go and make sure she comes back in one piece.”

“Why us two?”  Katie asked.

“Yeah, why can’t we go?” Boston asked.

“Because…” Helen said and looked and sounded exasperated.  “This is Men in Black business.  You agreed to work for me, did you not?”  Katie nodded, slowly.  “So, baring the director, I need the assistant director.  Besides, I may need your elect senses to watch for danger and maybe to return fire.”

“What about Decker?” Katie asked.

“Nah,” Helen said.  “He is busy thinking about getting married to Nanette, and Lincoln and Alexis don’t need the complication right now, and Boston is too stubborn, and Sukki too scaredy-cat, and Tony still too new at all this, well, relatively speaking.  Besides, I don’t want a whole Scooby gang so whoever it is feels threatened.”

“No.  Miss Helen.  I forbid you to go,” Frypan said.

“You know I will go anyway,” Helen said.

Frypan nodded.  “But at least I have witnesses that I forbid it.  Now be careful.”

“But…” Boston wanted to object to something.

“No,” Helen said sternly, and Boston felt it in her gut.  “I order you to stay here.  Fat lot of good that will do.  Come on, Milch.  Let’s go find Lockhart.”  She reached for Milch’s hand, which made him smile, and she dragged the boy behind her just like she dragged Marian earlier.  After they walked around the corner, Boston spoke again.

“You are stubborn too.”

“Are you thinking of following her?” Sukki asked.  Alexis could not block Sukki’s mouth fast enough, so instead she dropped her face in her hand and shook her head.

“Well, I was thinking about it, but now that you said it, I kind of have to,” Boston said.  Marian caught it and laughed.  Frypan looked like he did not quite follow what just happened.

###

They found Lockhart in the barn talking with Lincoln and Little John.  Will Scarlet was in the corner, rubbing down his horse, or one of the horses.  “Robert,” Katie called him, and he came while she spoke to Lincoln.  “Alexis is by the cooking fires with Frypan checking out what is for supper.”

Lincoln nodded.  “I’ll catch her up,” he said.

“Supper sounds good,” Little John said, and they walked off.

Helen came in and got Will to help Milch saddle three horses.  “No, Will,” she said.  “You don’t need to come with us.  We are just going for a short ride.  Why don’t you find Boston and compare hair colors?”

“Too late,” Will said.  “I already tried that, and she turned me down, flat, elf that she is.”

“But I’ll have Lady Milpryd with me to keep me safe, and Milch will make sure I don’t run off.”

“I am sure he will keep you from running off as hard as he can,” Will said.  “But meanwhile, though I have known you but a week, I know your name is trouble.  If there is any trouble, you will find it and be in the middle of it.  Besides, if you got hurt it would break Maid Marian’s heart and Robin might kill me for that.”

“Ready?”  Katie asked, and everyone got up on their horses.

Helen saw the gang coming down the north road, and said, “Hurry.”  She saw Robin, and Decker and Nanette who were easy enough to see in the setting sunlight.  She saw someone else, and it took a moment to shout it out.  “Friar Tuck! Now my life is complete.  I wondered who was missing.  Just a feeling I had.”

“Hush now,” Katie said to try and get Helen to settle down.

“Good luck with that,” Lady Milpryd said.