Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 2 of 6

Captain Emilio Esteban did not appear concerned about the travelers being fugitives.  As long as he got paid, he did not seem to be concerned about anything.  His ship El Diablo, a Spanish carrack of twenty-six guns, carried a crew of nearly four hundred sailors and mercenary soldiers with a dozen horses of their own.  They had enough food and feed to sail a month before they had to head for a port to resupply.  A quick trip from Santo Domingo to what would one day be Port-au-Prince would be easy money.  The captain said he was headed for Havana and dropping eight people on the west side of Hispaniola hardly amounted to a detour.

“Convenient to find a ship already stocked and ready to sail,” Decker mused and watched the morning crew scurry about the deck.

“Sometimes things work out,” Nanette responded.  “Santo Domingo is a main Spanish port here in the Caribbean.  It probably gets lots of traffic.”

Decker was not convinced.  Katie and Tony both had questions as well.  Katie talked to Lockhart about it.

“These are the days right before the English and French begin to build settlements on Tortuga.  The French have already settled the northern coast of Hispaniola and are moving into what will one day become Haiti.  The Spanish drive out the settlers three or four times between 1630 and 1650, but they keep coming back.  The French especially build plantations on Haiti and import more African slaves than they can handle.  The slaves eventually revolt, and well, that is all in the future.  Right now, it is about 1605.”

Lockhart asked.  “So, what is the difference between a pirate and a privateer?”

“The Spanish call them Buccaneers—the French on the north coast,” Katie answered, and looked at the captain and his officers on the deck above.  “A privateer is an independent contractor, usually having papers and supplies from a monarch, like the English, French, or Dutch parliament.  They are tasked with harassing Spanish shipping and taking the gold and silver, or cash crops like sugar cane or tobacco.  Some goes to the monarch.  The privateer gets to keep some.  It depends on the contract, which is carefully not spelled out.  They often sail under the country flag, and if they get caught, they are sometimes treated like enemy combatants, like prisoners of war, and held for ransom or exchange.  Of course, the country can always deny and say the captain was acting on his own and that was not according to the contract.  Then they are treated like pirates and usually get hung.  Pirates are completely independent ships that don’t work for anyone but themselves.”

“So, what is the difference?”

“On a practical level, not much.”

“So, do you think Captain Esteban is a pirate or privateer?”

Katie shook her head, but on further thought, she nodded. “Like a Spanish privateer paid to go after pirates, maybe.  Like an anti-pirate or pirate hunter, like a bounty hunter, maybe.”

Tony talked with Lincoln, Sukki, and Elder Stow.  They sat on some boxes along the starboard rail and tried to keep out of the way.  “Captain Esteban seems pretty anxious to take us where we need to go.  My guess is if the governor in Santo Domingo thinks we are pirates or connected to the pirates, Captain Esteban hopes we will lead him to the pirates.”

“The western coast of Hispaniola is mostly populated with Frenchmen,” Lincoln reported, holding up the database.  “Buccaneers, hunters and trapper mostly, and some lumber men.  Not much in the way of settlements yet.  There are some small villages, though mostly on the north coast.”

“You got the horses loaded and we got out of jail fairly easily,” Tony said.

“We were invisible,” Elder Stow said as if that explained it all.  He shifted Lincoln’s moneybag which he held in his lap.  He had a personal screen, turned on at the moment, which protected his belt full of devices.  While it could not be expanded to cover other people, like his officer’s device, he could expand it enough to cover the moneybag.  No pirate could steal their money, or even touch the bag.  “Invisible,” Elder Stow repeated.

“But no alarm got sounded when the horses vanished,” Tony countered that thought.

“It did take us a couple of hours to load the horses,” Sukki agreed.  “I was worried that whole time about what they might be doing to you.”

“We were fine,” Tony said.  “They ignored us.  But then we vanished and walked all the way across town, and no one sounded the alarm. We were not ignored that much.”

“I see what you mean,” Elder Stow admitted.  “It does appear as if they let us go.”

Up above, Decker asked and was granted permission to step on the quarterdeck.  Nanette followed and let Decker make his suggestion.

“Now that we are away from the city, you can drop us anywhere along the southern coast here.  We can go back to minding our own business, and you can get on to Cuba.  Just a thought.”

Captain Esteban smiled as he spoke.  “Clearly, you are new to this island.  I would guess the ship that brought you from Europe dumped you on the east coast before heading down into the Lesser Antilles.  You came into town like you did not expect to be noticed, two Africans riding on horses.  The others may claim to be German and Swedish, with one Italian, though he is not a priest.”  The captain shrugged.  “Such are not wanted here, either.”

“All the more reason to leave you to your business,” Decker suggested.

The captain shook his head.  “You see the coast.  It is very rough country for horses.  You would struggle to get over the hills.  Also, most of the native population has been wiped out, mostly by diseases and such, but the survivors have banded together along this shore.  They hate Europeans.  They will kill you on sight.  Then also, many Caribs have come up from the lesser islands where they have been driven out.  They will not only kill you; they will eat you.  And I haven’t even mentioned the Buccaneers.  Many French have begun to build settlements in the west, though mostly in the north to avoid the natives.  They are armed camps and hidden, and they don’t like strangers.”

“You make the whole island sound hostile,” Nanette said.

Captain Esteban looked at her and appreciated what he saw.  “The governor is planning to tell the Spanish population to move closer to Santo Domingo for their own protection.  He imagines the French and natives will wipe each other out and spare Spain the trouble.  I have argued against it.  He may lose the island, or at least the western part of it.  Still, that is a small matter.  Don Fernando Delrio in Havana has plans to colonize the whole north coast from Florida to Louisiana and up to the river they call Ohio.  The land is well suited to tobacco and other cash crops if we can import enough slaves to work the land.  I understand there is gold along Sugar Creek and the Cabarrus area in the Carolinas.  We shall see.”

“Looks like you have it all figured out,” Decker said.

“Yes.”  The captain smiled.  “And I will take you safely to your French friends.  I may even give them the west side of the island.  That way, the resources that are being wasted in Hispaniola may be diverted to the colonization project in the north.”  With that, he waved them off, and Decker was able to report what he learned to the others.

Lockhart said, “That will kill the future United States.”

Katie went a step further.  “There might not be a United States.”

The following day, the travelers acted on their suspicions, that maybe Captain Esteban was a servant of the Masters, or at least worked for them.  Lincoln spent the day trying to dig out the relevant information from the database.  Decker and Katie, both marines, spent the day watching the captain and his officers on the quarterdeck to see if anything seemed off in their behavior and conversation.  Lockhart, the former police officer, with Nanette’s help, searched as much of the ship as they were allowed, looking for clues.  They watched the crew but figured the sailors and soldiers aboard ship were pawns just there to follow orders.  Elder Stow kept his eyes on his scanner, marking their progress as they sailed along the coast of Hispaniola, and kept his eyes open for sudden energy signals that might pop up aboard ship or on the coast if the captain was leading them somewhere.  That left Tony and Sukki to watch over their horses, Ghost, and their equipment down in the hold.

Mid-afternoon, Tony came up from tending Ghost.  He had a question.  Sukki, Elder Stow, Lockhart, and Katie were all present at the moment.  He turned primarily to Katie.  “You know, my grasp of historical details ended with the fall of the Roman Empire.  I followed the east and Byzantines until they get overrun by the Turks, so I may be off base here.”

Katie smiled.  “I’ve been grasping at straws myself since Prudenza and the days of the plague.  My area is the ancient and medieval world.  I’m not studied in the modern, or pre-modern, or gunpowder age, or whatever you called it back in 1905.”

“Understood,” Tony said and returned the smile before he looked down and looked serious.

“What is your question?” Lockhart asked.

“Well…” Tony framed his thoughts.  “Several cannon balls, or what I thought were cannon balls got loose and some soldiers came to secure them.  I was tending Ghost.  I don’t think they knew I was there.  Anyway, the head man said be careful with those canisters.  There is enough gas in just one of them to kill everyone aboard the ship.  I did not know the Spanish in this age had poison gas filled canisters they could fire from their cannons.”

“They don’t,” Katie said.

“What kind of gas?” Sukki wondered out loud and turned to Elder Stow.  They all looked at the Gott-Druk.  He appeared to know something.

“Mustard gas,” he said without hesitation.  “I picked up the chemical signatures when I scanned the entire ship this morning.  I did not say anything because the chemicals might be used for other things.  I did not know.  But gas canisters makes sense of the data.”

“Mustard gas,” Katie repeated.  “That is strictly nineteenth century and did not get used until the first World War, as far as I know.  Sorry Tony.”  Tony waved off her concern while Lockhart summed things up.

“If the captain is not a servant of the Masters, he is certainly working for them.  We need to lay low until we reach our destination.  Meanwhile, maybe we can work on ways to make the compound inert.  I hope we don’t have to throw it all overboard.”

Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 1 of 6

After 1562 A.D. The Caribbean

Kairos lifetime 115: Peter van Dyke: Captain Hawk

Recording …

Elder Stow saw that the horses were cared for, including his own horse, Mudd.  He hated to disturb them, but they had no choice.  Only he and Sukki escaped, invisible.  They would have to break the others out of jail as soon as they got the horses loaded.

He looked at his adopted daughter, Sukki.  She tied the horses to the line in order to bring them all at once to the ship.  Lockhart’s big horse, and Katie’s led the string, followed by Lincoln’s horse and Sukki’s horse, Cocoa, before Mudd.  Elder Stow paused to grin.  The Kairos, Hans, broke into his precious stores of cocoa come all the way from the New World.  He made hot chocolate for everyone.  Sukki, who never tasted chocolate before, said it was better than she even imagined.  Elder Stow found it watery and bitter.  It would take some serious experimentation before the chocolate got really good.

“Father?” Sukki got his attention.  He waved her off and went to sit on a bale of hay.

“Keep working.  I’m fine.”  He watched her tie the last of the horses.  Decker’s big horse followed Mudd, then Nanette’s horse and Tony’s horse.  Ghost, the mule came last, but over the last several time zones, the mule had gotten used to following Tony’s horse.  Elder Stow marveled at how helpful and faithful these animals were.  Their journey through time would have been nearly impossible without them.  He sighed.  He had to admit these Homo Sapiens were no longer the primitive, ignorant apes his people still called them.  They were clever in their way.

Elder Stow thought about the Gott-Druk planet, his home.  It was a good world, but still too many of his people could not see that.  All they saw was Earth, and they counted Earth as their real home.  Over more than fourteen thousand years, various groups attempted to retake the Earth and remove or enslave the homo sapiens that now covered the world.  Sukki, herself, was the sole survivor of the very first expedition.  It had no chance for success. The people on that Agdaline ship were still cave men in their level of technological progress.  Sukki was raised a cave woman, as Lincoln called her at first.  She had come a long way.  She learned a lot over their travels.  But then she wanted to fit in better with her fellow travelers.  The gods remade her into a Homo Sapiens as one of their last acts before the dissolution of the gods.  Sukki remained his adopted daughter, but her being human and no longer Neanderthal brought questions to his mind.

‘Sukki,” he called.  Sukki paused after tying Tony’s horse to the line and turned her face to him to show she was listening.  Ghost waited patiently for his turn.  “Sukki,” he repeated.  “We are only about a half-dozen time zones away from home.  I have been wondering if you will be going with me to the Gott-Druk world, or if you will be staying with the humans.”

Sukki looked pained.  “I don’t know,” she said, not willing to give a straight answer.  “I am not sure I would fit in the home world.  Even with the gift of Athena I don’t understand half of the technology you carry around apart from theory—things that you call mere toys.  I’m learning all of this human history and human culture.  I’m having a hard enough time trying to understand what the twenty-first century will be like.  I don’t know.”

Elder Stow nodded and waved her off.  “Something to think about,” he said.  She would not say it, but she was becoming more human than Neanderthal.  Adopting her all those time zones ago was a very Gott-Druk thing to do.  He had no doubt it kept her alive and mentally stable, having a family connection with the group.  His Gott-Druk people framed everything in terms of family.  But now, she had a mother and father in Katie and Lockhart.  He, himself, often referred to them as the mother and father of the time traveling family.  She no longer needed him to be her father figure.

“Ready,” Sukki said, and Elder Stow got busy.  He was supposed to be tuning discs to the invisible spectrum.  He only had six done.  He needed three more.

“Almost,” he said.  He got to work while she checked the door to the stables to be sure no people were coming to disturb them.

Elder Stow thought about how much further they needed to go to get back to the twentieth century.  Only a few time zones.  He certainly had more than enough experience.  He could abandon the human travelers to their fate and should easily make it back to his time and his people.  He still had his scanner tuned to the peculiar time distortion of the time gates.  He could find them easily enough and maybe get back to his proper time faster on his own.  Maybe these hated Homo Sapiens who stole the Earth, the planet of his Gott-Druk origin, deserved to be imprisoned… But no.  The travelers had become like family for him, too.  He would never abandon them.

“Ready,” he said, and he attached a disc to the mule and each of the horses in turn until they all went invisible.  “Take the lead,” he told Sukki, and they all walked invisible out of the stables and through the early morning streets to the ship.  The sun would be up soon enough, and so would the tide they would need to take them out of the bay.  Once loaded, Elder Stow could retrieve his discs and fetch the others from their jail cell.  He imagined that being invisible might prevent their escape being noticed until after they were well away aboard the ship.

Loading the horses was not hard.  He collected the discs, so the horse became visible again and then the crew helped.  Threatening the captain so he did not sail off with free horses did not take long.  Soon, Elder Stow and Sukki hurried across town to set the prisoners free.  Elder Stow would not abandon the others, no matter how tempting it might be to just get home.

They had indeed become like his family.  Elder Stow had to admit it, and they were correct to some extent.  They were all humans—genus homo—Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthalensis.  They were not that different, though on a personal level, Elder Stow wondered if all this time in close contact humanized him.  Having gone through so much of human history, he now understood that the Homo Sapiens belonged on the earth.  He had also come to realize his Gott-Druk home world was actually a very good world.  When he got home, he would talk against the extremists that wanted to retake Earth for a home.  He did not imagine he would become a member of the other side—a friend of the humans.  He expected he would settle down with the vast majority of Gott-Druk for whom it was no longer an issue.


Lockhart, the former policeman, sat in his jail cell trying to figure out how he could pick the skeleton lock in the door.  He needed something big enough and metal-like strong. He looked at Decker, but Decker shook his head.

“I am combat trained.  I know a few tricks, but I am not James Bond,” he said.

In the cell next door, Lincoln pulled out the database and sat quietly to read.  Tony paced with his eyes on their jailer.  The fat Spaniard sat at his desk and looked ready for a nap.  Tony said one thing.  “Are you at least going to feed us?”  The jailer shrugged.

In the third cell, Katie and Nanette waited patiently and talked quietly.

“I am not going to be sold as a slave,” Nanette said with a slight growl.  “My grandmother was emancipated by Mister Lincoln, and I am not going back there.”

“Not going to happen,” Katie agreed.  “We will probably be hung as pirates long before that thought occurs to them.  Besides, Elder Stow and Sukki are out there.  After they secure the horses, they will come for us.”

The women looked at each other, and Nanette said the thing they both felt concerned about.  “Elder Stow checked with Lincoln.  He knows after this zone, there are only five more between here and home.  He can still track the time gates on his equipment.  I think he may abandon us.”

“No,” Katie said.  “We are family, such as we are.  Family is most important to the Gott-Druk.  He will come for us.  Sukki will make sure of that.”

“He is a different species,” Nanette said.  “No telling what he thinks, or how he thinks.  He might not see it as abandoning us so much as returning to his real family.”

Katie shook her head.  “It seemed that way at first, and I felt that way for a long time after, but he has proved himself.  Besides, I have been convinced that he is essentially human.  There are serious cultural differences and maybe some instinctive differences, but he is mostly human.  I trust him, and more importantly, the Kairos trusts him.  If I have learned one thing on this journey, it is to trust the Kairos.”

“Very well said.”  Katie and Nanette were startled to hear Elder Stow’s voice, though of course they could not see him.  The door to the hall was open, so they figured he came in while they were talking.  No telling how much he heard.

“Rodrigo?” the man at the desk looked toward the door and wondered who was talking.  The man started to rise before he fell back into the chair and wiggled like a man being electrocuted.  He appeared to go unconscious, and they all heard Sukki.

“He isn’t dead.  Please don’t be dead.”

“Stand away from the door,” Elder Stow said.  They did, and one at a time, he melted all three locks.  The doors swung open.  “Here.”  he handed each of the travelers a disc still tuned to the invisible spectrum.  As soon as they went invisible, they saw Elder Stow and Sukki.  She tied the jailer to the chair and gagged him.  The jailer moaned a little as everyone retrieved their guns and knives from the table.  Then they hurried across town to the docks and managed to slip out into the bay, going out with the tide.

Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 6 of 6

Two university students came rushing into the inn, yelling.  “An army is gathering in the University Square.”  The students felt sure they were going to attack the school, and maybe the church where Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses.  “Beer,” they demanded.

The inn, on one side of the broad street that came down from the square, sat beside the University Commons.  It was a favorite pub for both students and professors alike.  Pater got them all rooms at the inn and rested the horses and mule out in the corral behind the inn.  The wagon sat in the barn next door which sat beside a couple of small shops on the square itself.  The broad street between the University Square and the University Commons was not a long street.  A church with a couple of small out buildings and an equally small cemetery sat across the street from the inn and barn.

Hans checked the corral behind the inn when he told Heidi to keep Helga inside.  He left Kurt at the inn to guard the women and make sure Helga stayed safe.  It was not the O K Corral, thank goodness, he thought, as he hurried down the back alley.  He saw soldiers, or more probably, mercenaries coming in from both sides of the town.  It looked like one group came from the east gate and the other from the west gate.  They gathered in the square, and Hans, and Pater who came up behind him, had no doubt who they were looking for.

Alderman climbed up to the roof of the barn where he could look over the shops and get a clear view of the square.  He looked for Mister Muller.  They found Mister Muller’s wagon full of sacks of coarse ground, ergot-laced rye flour in the barn, but had not yet found the man.  Hans figured Mister Muller planned to feed the hallucinogenic flour to the university students and faculty in order to make Martin Luther’s ideas look like the cause of all that insanity and death.  It might kill the reformation.  Hans decided if Mister Muller did not work for the Masters, he was at least doing their job.

“There’s two witches,” Bushwacker said as he came up beside Hans and Pater. “Sergeant Adolph, Ralph, and Herman are watching from the barn door, just shy of the shops on the square.”

“What do you mean, two witches?” Pater asked.  Bushwacker merely pointed.  Two women rose about twenty feet above the men and horses.  They both sat on brooms, cliché though that was, and they appeared to know each other.  Pater and Hans both recognized Ursula.

“The one says she is following the Kairos. The other says she is following the travelers from Avalon,” Bushwacker reported, and promptly cleaned his ears with his fingers, like he got some dirt in there.  Hans and Pater watched the witches laugh, like it was all so funny.  Hans imagined it was more like a cackle.

Hans already called to the armor of the Kairos, so he stood there ready to fight, even if he was not much good with the weapons at his back.  He suddenly put his hand to his head when he remembered who the travelers from Avalon were.  Fortunately, the sudden influx of information passed quickly, and he spoke.  “I hope Lockhart is not caught unaware.”  Then he had to think.

Hans realized the witches, servants of the Masters, were demon infested.  He also knew they were only there to kill him and the travelers.  In his case, it would not ultimately matter.  He would simply be reborn, though the Masters might get fifteen or more years of freedom to do whatever evil plan they had in mind while he grew from a baby. Squashing the reformation might be a big one the demon-Masters might like to do.  As for the travelers… he imagined they would interfere with more events in the future.  Eliminating them would prevent their interference.

But what can I do about these demonized witches? he thought.  He had no magic to fight them, and his few men would not stand a chance against forty or more hardened mercenaries.

“Burn them at the stake,” he heard clear as a bell.  He was not sure which lifetime talked to him.  Probably not the Storyteller, peace lover as he was.  Probably not the Captain, or Diogenes, or Martok who never had to deal with anything like that, and probably could not imagine it.

“Lord?” Bushwacker got Hans’ attention.  He and Pater were staring at him rather than the events in the square.

“This is beyond my ability,” he confessed.  “I need help.”  He did not explain.


The travelers made a big swing around through the town when they saw the witch Inga and her men got ahead of them.  They arrived at the church across the street from the inn when the soldiers began to gather in the University Square.  After tying off their horses, they snuck up through the cemetery and hid behind the grave markers.  They all saw the two witches fly up to get above the crowd of soldiers.

Decker spotted Blondy.  He appeared to be leading one side of the soldiers, and Big Ugly was right there with him.  “Major,” Decker called Katie.  He had her get Big Ugly in the scope of her rifle while he kept his rifle pointed at Blondy.  They waited, wanting to give Elder Stow as much time as possible to get his screens ready to deploy.  They had to act sooner than planned.

A man stood on the ground beneath the witches and shouted up to them to make himself heard.  An arrow came from the roof of the barn across the street.  A perfect shot, it killed the man on the ground.  Decker did not hesitate.

“Now,” he said.  Katie killed Big Ugly with one shot.  The man made a big target.  Decker had to fire twice before Blondy went down.

“I’m not ready,” Elder Stow shouted.  Sukki stood right there and felt his distress.  The witches both turned their heads toward the barn and then the cemetery.  Sukki let her power out of both hands.  She hoped to fry the witches without setting the city on fire.  The witches did not burn.  Something prevented Suki’s power from reaching them.  Everyone looked surprised, especially Sukki.

Nameless, son of Frya of the Vanir and Tyr of Aesgard.  The Nameless god, grandson of Odin the Alfader, and also the Kairos appeared beside the witches.  All the soldiers in the square froze in place. The witches appeared powerless in the face of the god.  Nameless did something that made the witches scream, and the witches fell to the cobblestones.

Thirty men came up the broad street from the University.  They looked prepared for a fight.  At the same time, people came from all the side streets around the square, again, mostly men being the watch and city guards.  They disarmed the mercenaries who came stiffly out of their frozen state.  They grabbed the two women who were seen by all flying over the heads of everyone.  Those witches got securely tied and gagged and hauled off to the nearest jail cell.

Nameless appeared by the travelers.  He smiled for them, and they remembered him from the past.  Then Nameless returned to the past and Hans appeared in his place.  “Lockhart, good timing for once,” he said, before he opened his arms for a hug.  “Sukki.”  Sukki began to understand why Boston loved her hugs so much.

Pater and Bushwacker came through the barn from the back, and Alderman came down from the roof.  Sergeant Adolph, Ralph, and Herman all got introduced and Alderman reported on the ergot.

“I got Mister Muller with an arrow, but I noticed his wagon and sacks of rye flour are missing from the barn.”

“Nameless thought it best to remove it to prevent it being baked into bread.”

“Ergot,” Alderman said to explain.  Katie and Tony both recognized the word.

“Yes,” Hans said.  “Mister Muller had in mind to poison the university students and faculty and blame Martin Luther and his teachings.  He wanted to accuse Luther of witchcraft and demonizing the people.  My guess is the Masters would rather not have a reformation.”

“But what will happen to the real witches?” Nanette asked, and Sukki stood with her.

“Inga and Ursula,” Hans said.  “Nameless took away their magic.  They are just ordinary girls now, but still demon possessed.  No one can help them unless they want to be free, and that is in God’s hands.  My guess is they will be tried and burned at the stake, or hung, or beheaded.  These are the years for that sort of thing, you know.  Nanette and Sukki, you need to be careful right now on what power you show in public. You don’t want to be arrested and tried for witchery.”

“It’s okay,” Nanette said.  “Lincoln has assured me in the next time zone my magic will go away, and I won’t get it back until 1875, five zones from here.”

“Good,” Hans said.  “Come and meet the rest of the crew.”

They all walked across the street and up the steps of the inn.  They did not get in the door because a young woman came out the door, wrapped herself around Hans just as tight as she could hold him, and she went for his lips.  People paused and smiled before Pater took the lead.

“Heidi,” he named the woman, and waved everyone into the inn.  “Let’s see how Kurt and Helga are making out.”

“I am sure they are,” Alderman said with a grin for the travelers who knew exactly what he meant.



The travelers travel to the Caribbean in season 9, episode 4 (9.4) Broadside where they find Captain Hawk, the Flying Dutchman, and some nasty visitors from the stars. Until then, Happy Reading.


Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 5 of 6

After lunch on the same day that Hans and company started off down the road to Augsburg, the travelers stopped on the river road outside the city gate to Ulm.  Katie had a bad feeling about the city.  Nanette said she smelled Ingrid the witch, almost sounding like a dwarf.  Decker supported her, though he did not exactly encourage the others.

“The witch may have taken a boat downriver and passed us in the night.”

Lincoln took it a step further.  “Maybe the witch met up with Blondy and Big Ugly.  Maybe they have a whole troop of soldiers just inside the gate waiting for us.”

“Elder Stow,” Lockhart called the man.  “Where is the nearest city gate off this road?”

Elder Stow got out his scanner.  “There is a gate away from the river.  A road goes from there off to the northwest, maybe to Stuttgart.”

“We will take it,” Lockhart said.  “Better safe than sorry,” he added for Katie, who nodded in agreement with that idea.

“We will have to cross some farm fields,” Elder Stow pointed out.  “I will try to keep us to the local farm roads.”

“Can’t we go around the city and avoid the trouble altogether?” Nanette asked.

“Wait,” Sukki interrupted.  She had her amulet out and stared at it while she spoke.  “It looks like the Kairos left the river.  He must be headed toward Awkward-burg.”

“Augsburg,” Lincoln corrected.  “You sound like Boston.”  That made Sukki smile.

“We need to find a bridge,” Katie said.  “Augsburg is south, on the other side of the river.”

Lockhart hardly had to think about it.  “Unexpected gate.  Straight to the nearest bridge, and then find the road to Augsburg.  Hopefully we will escape in an unexpected direction.  With luck, we will find the Kairos before they find us.”

Everyone agreed, but first thing they stopped where a farmer refused to let them cross his land.  They had to go around, only to run into another farmer who refused to let them through.  Fortunately, they could pay for passage.  They also paid the third farmer.  Then, somehow, word went out ahead of them and every farmer in Ulm came out demanding money, or so it seemed.

“This way,” Elder Stow said, and he led them to a farm road that appeared to go between two properties.  They almost got to the northwest road before a man stepped out in front of them.

“You are traveling on my road,” he said.  “You have to pay the toll.”  He held up a box and rattled it to show that there were coins inside.

Nanette grabbed her wand, pulled the box from the man’s hand, and floated it up about ten feet in the air.  Lockhart pulled out his shotgun and blasted the box to pieces.  Little metal shards, not coins, rained down on the man.

The man just stared until Decker came up.  He rode beside Nanette.  “Next person that tries to extort money will get shot,” he said to the man.

Lincoln rode in the back beside Tony and the mule.  He tossed the man an old Roman silver coin as he spoke.  “This should cover the toll and get you a new box.”

It took an hour to reach the road to Stuttgart, and they arrived about an hour from the city gate.  By the time they arrived at the gate, they found a new problem.

“Gate tax,” The soldier said.  “It is based on the estimated value of the goods you are bringing into the city.”  The man tried to sound firm about that, but other people were going in and out of the gate without being stopped, much less paying a tax.

“We are not bringing any goods into the city,” Lockhart said. “We are just pilgrims passing through.”

“We would appreciate you giving us directions to the bridge,” Katie said.

“And the road to Augsburg,” Lincoln shouted up from the rear.  He quieted when Tony, Nanette, and Decker all gave him hard looks.  “What?” he defended himself.  “He is just a gate guard.”

“And city guards never talk,” Tony said, with a good bit of sarcasm.

“Lincoln,” Lockhart called him up front.  His voice did not sound kind.  Lincoln pulled a few coins from his vest pocket.  He put a couple in the outstretched hand of the soldier.  The soldier wiggled his fingers like he wanted more, but Lincoln objected.

“I need the rest to pay for the river crossing.”

The man smiled and said, “My brother guards the river bridge.”  He looked out and counted.  “You have nine horses to mess up our beautiful streets.”  He wiggled his fingers again.

“Eight horses and a mule,” Lincoln corrected the man.

“Oh.  Mules cost double.”  He wiggled his fingers again as Katie and Lockhart frowned.  Lincoln handed over a couple more coins and then shrugged as if to say that was all he had.  The soldier still hesitated a moment before he closed his fist around the coins and Katie began to push through the gate.  Lockhart, Sukki, Elder Stow and the rest followed.  They did not give the gate guards a chance to block their way.

Once in the city, the travelers hurried to cross over to the river.  They only stopped briefly in a market area to pick up some summer fruit and vegetables to go with whatever animal they could buy or shoot down the road, assuming they would camp in the night.  They got to the bridge without a problem, except the bridge appeared to be a problem.

Ulm only had the one bridge across the Danube, though it looked like they started building a second bridge on the other end of the city.  Unfortunately, the bridge swarmed with soldiers.  The travelers had no doubt who the soldiers were waiting for.

“Boats,” Katie said.  “It will cost more, but a ferry can work as well as a bridge.”

It took a while to find a boatman who had his own little dock and did not use the main city river docks.  Those river docks were also swarming with soldiers, as were all the gates.  Katie wondered what Ingrid the witch told the city council to get them to turn out the troops.

Lincoln made a fist sized bag full of every copper coin they picked up thus far in their trip through southeastern France and the Black Forest.  They offered it to the man as they were invited inside the big house.

“Here is the deal.  Your boat is big enough to carry us one at a time over the river.  That will probably take all night.  We have fruit and vegetables to eat this evening, and your wife is welcome to keep whatever remains when we leave.  We also have this bag of coins which is payment for passage.  It is probably a year’s wages or more.  There is one condition.  You tell no one.  Say nothing to anyone, not even family and good friends until after we leave.”

The man looked them over, carefully.  “I am guessing you are the people who killed Father Martin Luther.  I see the two Africans.”

“Are you Lutheran or Catholic?”  Lockhart asked.

“Lutherite?” the man thought before he nodded.  “Lutheran.”

“Martin Luther is alive,” Katie said.  “He just went into hiding.  I don’t blame him.”

“I don’t blame him either,” the man said, confidentially.  “Anyway, I’m Jewish.  This is why we had to build our own dock here, separate from the city docks.  We may be able to help you.  Come.  Let me show you.”

“Wait,” an old woman shouted from the street. A young woman, like a granddaughter helped the old one walk.  “Let me get a look at them.”  She looked at the horses in the street that Decker and Tony guarded.  Then she examined the other six faces closely.  “You have not aged a day,” she said.  “I was sixteen and sat with my father when we met you, after we escaped from the Portuguese Inquisition.  You were a great encouragement to us.  After a long journey, my father brought us here.”  She paused and looked again at Katie.

“I remember you,” Sukki said.

The old woman smiled for her.  “But you have not aged, and I have gotten old over all those years.  Only now, I understand.  The stories you told about Solomon and the Maccabees were real stories you lived, not just invented to entertain us.”

“They were,” Katie admitted.

The old woman grabbed her granddaughter and yelled at the man.  “Jacob.  You will give these travelers safe passage over the river and will not betray them no matter how much money the city offers.”  She started back up the street while the man mumbled.

“Yes, mother.”

“God bless you,” Nanette said to the woman.

“Oh, I hope so,” the woman responded.

Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 4 of 6

Two days later, Hans and his crew found a hostel just outside Ingolstadt at the head of the road to Augsburg.  He planned to travel upriver and let the river guide them to well past Ulm, where he hoped to pick up a road to Konstanz on the lake.  He imagined there would be an easy road from Konstanz to Zurich, but now he felt sure they were being followed.  Once the witch Ursula got over her fright and gathered enough men at arms to feel safe, and that might be a lot, he expected her to come after them.  So now, he considered the map he once saw.  They could go to Augsburg, to Memmingen, and on the salt road to Lindau.  From there, they need only go around the lake to St. Galen and on to Zurich.

Hans watched Bushwacker and the soldiers move the wagon into the barn.  “Your hound and cat will have to stay in the barn with the other animals,” the man said.  “No animals in the house.  The lady is strict about that.”

“Pater?” Hans called from the porch steps.  Pater came out with Bushwacker and Kurt.  He came close to speak to Hans, but he did not whisper because there did not appear to be anyone around.

“You know I don’t like leaving the money in the wagon but bringing it into the common room would be worse.  You might as well put a sign on the chest saying here is all my money.  Help yourself.”

Kurt snickered, but when Hans looked at him, he said, “Oh.  Yes.  The others will be along in a minute.”

Hans nodded.  “Alderman has already taken the women inside.  Let’s see if the lady of the house has something worth eating.”  Hans looked back once and saw Sergeant Adolph and Ralph close the barn door.  No telling where Herman had got to.

“There is only an old rooster in the barn, up in the rafters,” Bushwacker said.  “I hope he is pouting because they cooked all the chickens.  I’m starved.”

As Hans and his crew went inside, a man stepped from the side of the porch where no one saw him.  His eyes went wide, no doubt thinking about all that money.

Inside, Hans got stopped by Alderman.  “Don’t eat the bread,” the elf said.  “The rye is full of Ergot, a fungus that infects rye seeds.  In humans it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, gangrene, and death.  Mostly, it affects the mind.  Paranoia, delirium, and seeing things like strange and terrible visions.”

“What about Bushwacker?” Pater pointed.  Somehow, the dwarf got ahead of them.  He already sat at the table and had a plate full of rye and pumpernickel bread, and chicken to make sandwiches.

Alderman laughed.  “It won’t hurt him.  He is a dwarf.  I think there is nothing a dwarf will not eat.  In fact, as I understand it, half of a dwarf’s life is spent eating and the other half is spent sleeping.”  He laughed and the others laughed a little with him, but Bushwacker heard and turned with his mean face toward the group.

“I’m insulted.  We work hard when there is work to do.” he said.  He looked at Hans and decided not to follow through with his thoughts.   Then, after a moment, his expression changed to a smile.  “Lor…” he continued.  “But that would be a good life.”

Everyone genuinely laughed, and then stayed away from the bread, even when Mister Muller, the house steward said the lady of the house would be disappointed.  “We have had some cold and wet years which is good for the grain.  This last year, July was very wet, and the autumn got an early frost.  There were plenty of big, black grains in the bread.  I heard it makes the best bread.”

“The Ergot,” Alderman said.  “The fungus makes the grain enlarged and turns it black.”

“No thank you,” Heidi interjected.  “Bread is bad for the waistline.”  She kept Helga away from it.

“The ones who came before you and ate earlier had plenty of the good bread of the house.  The lady of the house will be disappointed if you don’t have some.”

“Thank you,” Hans said.  “But we are all on a restricted diet, out of deference to the ladies.”

The steward harumphed and left the room since he failed to entice them with the bread.  Alderman whispered a thought.  “I think he knows what is in the bread.”  Hans nodded.  He thought that as well but wondered why the man wanted to poison his guests.

An hour later, after it got good and dark, Misters Wagner, Schulz, and Becker met outside.  “Money,” Mister Wagner said.  He pointed to the barn and promptly threw up.

“Becker,” Mister Schulz said.  “You have to… Probably a bag… You.”

“I can’t,” Becker said.  “It is dark and scary, and the moon looks green, like a strange face staring down at me.  By myself?”

Mister Schulz began to shake, but Mister Wagner finished vomiting for the moment.  “You have to do it,” Mister Wagner said, moaned, and held his stomach.  Becker shook his head and began to sweat.  “You can do it.”

Becker was afraid of the dark, but his friends appeared to be ogres in disguise.  He began to worry that they might eat him if he did not do what they said.

“You can… You… Money,” Mister Schulz said, and the two men pushed Becker to the barn door.  Then Mister Schulz began to shake and fell to the ground.  Mister Wagner handed Becker a candle stub before he ran to the outhouse.

Mister Becker wanted nothing to do with the darkness, but the others could not do it and he tried to focus on the money.  He went in.  The door squeaked.  He saw the cat’s eyes like glowing embers in the dark.  He imagined a fireplace and stuck out his candle to light it in the embers.  The cat screeched and scratched Becker across the face.  The dog woke up and bit the man in the leg.  The mule kicked the man in the butt, so he stumbled across the room and banged into the wall.  And the rooster in the rafters woke and made a horrible racket.

Becker found the door and found Schulz and Wagner outside.  He shouted.  “There is a witch.  She scratched me with her claws.” He showed them his face.  “And a man who stabbed me in the leg before the giant, monster in the dark nearly broke my back with his club.  And all the while, the judge up above yelled Hang him.  Hang him.”  The picture Becker painted seemed vivid enough.  All three men ran off screaming into the forest.

The following morning, the watch from Ingolstadt came out and asked plenty of questions.  The lady of the house could hardly move from her bed.  Her husband was missing, and so was Mister Muller.  The lady did pull herself together enough to confess Mister Muller brought some free rye flour out of which she made her bread.

“Mister Muller must have put the poison in the bread,” Hans said.

“We did not eat the bread,” Heidi said her line.  “It is bad for the waistline.”

“We did not eat the bread either, out of deference to the ladies.”

The watch officer did not exactly believe them, but it became more believable when they found Mister Wagner in the woods.  He was in no condition to be touched with other than perhaps by a few buckets of water, having soiled himself and apparently rolled in it.  And he yelled.  “I’ll get the law.  They tried to poison me.  I’ll have this place shut down.”  That much was clear.  The rest was garbled or unrepeatable.

They found Mister Schulz dead.  They found Mister Becker hiding up a tree yelling at them to not let the wolves get him.  No one found any wolves.

No one stopped them when they collected their wagon, mule, dog, cat, and three horses and left that place, and Pater asked, “So where do you think Mister Muller went?”

“Off to try his free flour somewhere else,” Heidi guessed.

“I wonder what he is honestly up to,” Hans said.

“Just what I was wondering,” Alderman agreed.

Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 3 of 6

Sukki stopped at the top of the last hill and looked at her amulet.  The Kairos was coming down from the northeast.  He appeared to be following the river.  Sukki shifted her eyes to the valley below and the water that made a thin blue line in the distance.  Now that they found the Danube, they would turn from traveling due east and follow the river, which ran to the northeast.  In this way, they should run right into Hans.  Sukki thought it was a good thing Lincoln had the database and knew the details of the route Hans took to get from Bremen to Zurich.  Sadly, it was skimpy on the details of what exactly happened along that route.

Sukki reigned back to go tell the others she found the river, and the village that sat where the river and road met.  The village looked peaceful enough. Hopefully, they could find a place to stop for the night.  Lincoln got badly cut, even if he said it was not so bad after Elder Stow and Nanette worked on it.  All the same, he could use the rest.

Back in the group, Nanette started whispering again.  “We are headed downhill and out of the Black Forest.  The Danube can’t be far away, and we haven’t run into any monsters or creatures, or anything like the Brothers Grimm described in their tales.”

“Just some highway robbers.”  Tony smiled at that thought.  “No Wolv this time,” he said.  “I did not know you were an aficionado of fairy tales.  Anyway, as I recall, most of those creatures would be counted as belonging to the Kairos, and they would know who we are and would not hurt us.  You know, like fairy godmothers and seven dwarfs.”

“Witches,” Nanette said.

“Like yourself?” Tony teased.

“Not funny,” Nanette objected.  “Alexis was very clear about that back in the days of Marco Polo before she left us.  From then until I lost my magic again, I would have to be careful with my magic, especially in Europe.  These are the days of witch hunts and burning people at the stake.  Even for a hundred years after the magic goes away, like what happened in Salem.”

Tony agreed.  “I never studied much about witch hunts and witch trials.  I mostly studied a thousand years of Rome, the republic and empire, and some Byzantine after the 440s.  I read some about what followed in the west, like the Franks, Huns, Vandals, and all those Goths, but it was mostly social and political reading, not really on daily life in the Middle Ages, and certainly not on the church—evangelism, heresy, and all that.  I understand the reformation that is going on around us.  Believe it or not, I agree with a lot of the reformers, even if I remain Catholic in my faith.  I think by our day, many of those reforms got into the Catholic Church as well, whether Rome admits it or not.”

“They burned Johanne at the stake,” Nanette reminded him.

Tony nodded in agreement again before he clarified his thoughts.  “No doubt many, if not most of the witch trials had nothing to do with magic or witches.  They were social or politically motivated, or mostly faith motivated, like people charged with heresy of one kind or another.  The church recognized they made a big mistake condemning Joan of Arc, and the Salem witch trials are now condemned, but most supposed witches are still on the books as condemned, whatever the reality.”

“Like William Tyndale,” Nanette said.

“Who?” Tony questioned the name.

“His heresy was translating the Bible into English,” Nanette said.  “That’s it.  They strangled him to death and then they burned his already dead body at the stake.”

“In the Black Forest?” Tony asked.

Nanette shook her head.  “England, or maybe the low countries.  I am not sure.”

“When was that?”

“About this time period,” Nanette said.  “I am not exactly sure.”

“Didn’t Professor Fleming talk about that?” Tony asked.

Nanette looked down on mention of their old professor.  Tony had been his student, and Nanette had been his Administrative Assistant as Decker called her.  “No.  I remember that from a story I heard in church.”

“Baptist church,” Tony confirmed, and Nanette nodded as they stopped moving.  Sukki came back from the front.  Tony and Nanette had to strain a little to hear.  Nanette looked around Tony and saw Elder Stow close to the road on one side.  He appeared to be staring into his scanner device.  She looked the other way but did not see Decker.  Decker appeared to be too deep in the woods, riding faithfully along their flank.

“This is Inga, my friend,” Sukki said.

Sukki pointed to a young woman that rode a horse beside her.  Nanette wondered where the woman came from, and what did Sukki mean by calling her a friend?  Nanette looked again at Tony.  He put a silly smile on his face, but he did not otherwise appear to be home.  He looked enchanted, and Nanette saw a brown mist try to get at her.  She quickly pulled her wand and batted the mist away while Sukki talked.

“We need to follow Inga.  She has a barn where we can stay until she decides what the Masters wish to do to us.”

“Follow,” Inga said.  “Follow me,” and Nanette put her fingers in her ears to clean them out.  Inga’s voice carried the bewitching.

“Of course,” Katie said, with a shake of her head.

“We are all friends here,” Lockhart added.

Nanette shouted.  “No!”  She caused a whirlwind to spin around Inga, like a mini tornado.  It picked up the witch and transported the witch and her horse miles behind the travelers where it dropped them in among the trees.  She honestly did not care if they crashed into the trees, got crushed, or survived, though she imagined the witch would ensure their survival.

“What was that?” Elder Stow asked as he came to the road with his weapon in his hand.

“The witch,” Nanette said as she turned to Tony and shouted, “Snap out of it.”  She caught her breath, paused, and focused the way Alexis taught her.  Her magic was not golden like Alexis, or fiery orange like Boston.  Her magic appeared green, like newborn leaves, and it came from her to set the others free.

It barely touched Katie before she shook her head again and said, “I’m free.  Zoe said as an elect I had some natural resistance to magic.  I just got caught by surprise.”

Decker rode up and asked what happened.  Elder Stow and Katie explained, and together they opted to ride beyond the village and find a defensible spot in the wilderness to camp for the night.  Nanette ignored the whole conversation.  She concentrated.  Sukki came free, followed by Lockhart.  Lincoln seemed free, and then Tony shook his own head like Katie and Nanette felt glad.  She ran out of strength and concentration.

“That witch was powerful,” she said as she caught her breath.

“Are you okay?” Decker asked.

Nanette nodded and swallowed.  “I caught her by surprise and unprepared and sent her miles from here, but I expect she will be back.  She mentioned the Masters.”

“I remember,” Katie said.  She looked at Lockhart, but he shrugged.  Apparently, Lockhart, Sukki, Lincoln, and Tony could not remember anything from the time they were under the spell.

“We should get moving,” Decker said.

“I will set the screens around our camp tonight,” Elder Stow volunteered.  “They blocked out other witches, and even the wraith.”

“Lincoln.  Are you okay?” Lockhart asked as Sukki started out front.

“Fine.  Fine,” Lincoln answered, but he shook his head again and dropped one hand to where he had been stabbed in the thigh.  It might not be open, bleeding, or in danger of infection, but the muscles would need time to heal, and it still hurt.



The travelers almost miss the Kairos as he crosses the river and heads for Augsburg. The travelers have to cross the river to head in the same direction, but it seems the witches and plenty of people are all headed for Augsburg, the home of Martin Luther. Until Monday, Happy Reading.


Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 2 of 6

Helga, Heidi, Hans, and Pater hid behind a fallen log in the forest.  They all peeked into the clearing where the breakfast fire burned their breakfast and the half-struck tents flapped in the wind.  Pater’s old dog settled down quietly beside his master, lucky for them.  The old hound was not inclined to bark at strangers, or anyone else for that matter. Helga’s cat, equally lazy, lay in the open tent and watched, seemingly unconcerned.  The mule, being high strung, pushed a bit more into the woods, but he remained tied to the rope so he could not wander far.  The witch, Ursula floated a few feet off the ground, seated on a broom.  And she cackled.

Hans whispered.  “I hate clichés.”

The four mercenaries Pater hired to escort young Helga and her maid back to Switzerland had their hands up.  The witch’s seven men got the drop on them, and three had matchlocks.  Hans only got the girls to hide in the woods because Helga was relieving herself.  Pater and his old hound followed Hans.

Pater had five soldiers two days ago.  Franz said he was born in Bavaria, and he led them to the east side of the Germanies to avoid all the trouble around Worms.  They came through the Bavarian Forest and to a town where Franz said he had some friends.  He told the bar maid Ursula about the rich girl, Helga, and the Bremen knight’s son, Pater, who had plenty of coins as well.  He thought to betray the group, but Sergeant Adolph and old man Herman figured it out. The group escaped.  Franz lost his life.

And Ursula turned out to be a witch, Hans thought.  No doubt a servant of the Masters.

“Where is the girl?” Ursula the witch demanded an answer.  She floated forward to face the young one, Kurt.  She avoided the old soldiers, Sergeant Adolph, his right-hand man, Ralph, and old man Herman.  She showed Kurt her open hand.  “Where is the Kairos?”  She made a fist and Kurt arched his back and cried out in pain.  Adolph, Ralph, and Herman shuffled their feet, looked empathetic, but said nothing.  The witch opened her fist and Kurt breathed.

Hans glanced to the side.  Heidi had her hand over Helga’s mouth.  He glanced the other way.  Pater had his mouth open and his eyes as wide as they could go.  The hound panted as Pater turned toward Hans.  Hans whispered.  “I’ve called for help.”  Pater nodded, imagined what kind of help, and decided to close his eyes.

“Where is the girl?” the witch closed her fist again, and again Kurt shouted from the pain.

Helga managed to pull Heidi’s hand down from her mouth, and she shouted, “Kurt!”

Heidi and Hans both shook their heads.  Pater opened his eyes again to look at the girl. The expression on Pater’s face asked how anyone could be that stupid.  Then he curled his lip when he remembered that originally, he was supposed to marry the girl.

Ursula the witch put one hand to her ear for dramatic affect.  “Hark.  Do I hear the maiden’s call?”  She cackled again, but before she could move, three arrows came from the woods.  The three men with matchlocks died from three perfect shots to the heart.  An ogre roared.  Two handfuls of dwarfs came from the trees and bushes, their axes sharp and ready for battle.  Two of the witch’s men quickly got chopped to bits.  The other two began to run, but the dwarfs chased them, and no doubt would catch them.  The witch screamed and took off through the trees, the ogre hot on her tail.

Hans stood and mumbled, “Star Wars.  Maybe the witch will run into a tree trunk and explode.”

One elf stepped from the woods.  He appeared human enough and dressed in green like a hunter.  One dwarf joined him.  He hardly looked human and had something to say.

“That witch is a power to reckon with…”

“…I reckon,” Hans said, and gave them names.  “Legolas and Gimli.  Sorry I don’t have a ring.”  The elf and dwarf looked at each other, questions on their faces.  Heidi looked at Hans and smiled for him.  Pater laughed even if he did not know what he was laughing about.  “You can put your hands down,” Hans told the soldiers.  “Allow me to introduce our saviors.  The kobold is Alderman, and the dwarf is Bushwacker.”

“Happy to meet you,” Heidi said.  Pater just stared.

“My lady,” Alderman bowed his head.

“My pleasure,” Bushwacker removed his hat.

Heidi looked at Hans again, and she grinned.  Hans pointed at the little ones and grimaced.  “Now, don’t you start.”  Alderman and Bushwacker also grinned as Hans turned to Heidi and then explained for the elf and the dwarf.  “I am only the son of a baker, and not a very good baker at that.  Pater and I grew up together because his father kept riding off to wars and his mother loved the cinnamon rolls my father made.  Being friends with a young lord does not make me anything special.”

“So?” Heidi smiled and also explained herself.  “My father was a poor miller before he ran afoul of his creditors.  He is indentured now.  I came to watch Helga with the promise that Helga’s father would cancel my father’s debts.  That is the only reason I am here.”

Heidi and Hans stared at each other.  They both smiled, but neither looked willing to budge.

“Just ignore them,” Pater said.  “Helga is over there, crying on Kurt’s chest and hugging the stuffing out of the fellow.  The rest of my troop of mercenaries who got caught napping is Sergeant Adolph, old man Herman, and Ralph, the one Hans calls the wrecker.”

Alderman nodded.  “I suggest we pack up and move from this place.  We might find breakfast down the road more appetizing.”

The soldiers looked at Pater who looked down like a young man who rarely had to make a decision.  Without hesitation, the soldiers looked at Hans who said, “Pack it up.”  Pater nodded.

“I’ll drive the wagon if you don’t mind,” Bushwacker said and went for the mule.  “I am not much good on a horse.”

“We only have three horses between us,” Sergeant Adolph said.  “We mostly walk.”  He signaled the men to finish packing the tents and load them in the wagon.  Helga let go of Kurt to bend down and pick up her cat, who had gotten up and presently rubbed her legs.  Helga got right in the wagon and called to Sir Bert, Pater’s old hound.  The dog got right up in the wagon with her and the cat.

Heidi went to the wagon to be sure everything got properly loaded.  She would walk with Hans and Pater.  Kurt would walk behind the wagon and keep Helga entertained.  Herman, Ralph, and Sergeant Adolph would take the horses and ride out front, beside the walkers, and in the rear to guard the way.

  It hardly took an hour before they arrived on the Danube and the city of Regensburg.  Helga complained.  The spoiled girl was hungry, and Kurt supported her.  Bushwacker, who put on a glamour to appear more human, said he knew of a place by the bridge.  He called it the cookshop near the crane, and they all had boiled sausages for breakfast, and they were quite good.

“So,” Sergeant Adolph spoke while they ate.  “We have to assume the witch won’t give up.”

“Makes me nervous just thinking about it, which makes me hungry,” Bushwacker said over his third sausage.

“Worse,” Hans admitted.  “Ursula knows about the Kairos which can only mean she is a servant of the Masters.  In that case, she will definitely follow us, unless she has another assignment.  Pray that is not the case.”

“You want her to follow us?” Heidi asked, some surprise in her voice.

Hans nodded.  “Any other assignment would be to assassinate someone important or start a war.  I would rather take her attention until I can figure out how to deal with her.”

“How do you deal with a witch?” Kurt asked.

“Maybe the ogre got her,” Pater suggested.

Hans looked at his friend and mouthed the cliché.  “Don’t hold your breath.”

Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 1 of 6

After 1499 A.D. Bavaria

Kairos lifetime 114: Hans of Brementown

Recording …

The Freiburg Inn filled with folks yelling about matters of faith.  Lincoln, having spent the last two days reading, now wanted to tell the others about Hans, the Kairos in that time zone, but it was too noisy, with too many people getting jostled about and too many unauthorized ears around to overhear.  Likewise, Sukki merely talked direction in general terms.  Being the end of the second day in the time zone, it let her track the Kairos and she saw that he was moving toward them.  She could not be sure, though.  It appeared to be a lazy movement and not at all like the Kairos was in a hurry.

They sat at a table for six with a chair on each end occupied by Decker and Lincoln.  Nanette and Tony sat around Decker.  Elder Stow and Lockhart squeezed Lincoln.  Katie and Suki faced each other in the middle.  They only got that much of a table because they were paying customers at the inn.  Most of the people, mostly men, had to stand and argue.  The beer flowed liberally.

“Hey,” Decker pushed a man away who would have otherwise banged into the table.  Somebody noticed them.  Two men grabbed chairs, dumping the occupants of those chairs, and they pulled them up to the corners left and right of Lincoln.  Decker looked too intimidating.  One man shouted to be heard over the din.

“Are you good Catholics or followers of the heretic, Luther?”

“We came from France,” Lockhart said.  “What is going on in the Germanies?”  They discussed it a day earlier and Lockhart delivered the line perfectly.

“The Diet of Worms,” the other man said without explaining.  Sukki had to cover her giggle.  She couldn’t help it.  The Diet of Worms struck her as funny.

Katie leaned over and talked to the man who first spoke.  “I heard something about that.”

“The emperor and the pope agreed.  Luther is a heretic.  The people of Freiburg will stick with Rome and the true faith handed down from the apostles.  We are driving out the heretics.”

“I heard Luther just wants to reform the church,” Lincoln said.  “Where it has gotten off from… The apostles… You know… The Bible and such…” he let his voice fall to a mumble.  He had his nose in the database when the other discussed it all.  He forgot, but realized he was opening his own can of worms and quieted.  Lockhart did not even have to kick him.

Katie continued nice and loud.  “We have to tell Lincoln all the time that he should not believe everything he hears.”

Elder Stow interrupted.  “Wisdom says he should not say everything he hears.  Some might get the wrong impression.”  Elder Stow smiled for the big, ugly one that sat beside him.  The man just lifted his brows, and Elder Stow revised his thinking.  The man, probably ugly to the humans, appeared to have some Neanderthal in his genetic makeup. Elder Stow shrugged in answer to the man’s raised eyebrows.  The other man, a shorter man with blond hair and sharp features spoke to Lockhart and Katie.

“I don’t know what he heard, but both the church and the empire have declared Luther a heretic, and that is good enough for me.  There is no higher authority on this earth.”

“So, Freiburg is going to stay with Rome?” Lockhart redirected the conversation.

“We will, as soon as we drive out the rest of the heretics,” the man said.

“When was the edict issued?” Katie asked nonchalantly.

“Last month,” the man said. “We are just about in July, I believe.”

“Well, we are good believers here.  The French will always stay with Rome, and fight anyone who doesn’t.”  Katie concluded with a smile. “Go with God.”

“Yes, Godspeed in cleaning up the town,” Lockhart added, and deliberately turned back to his meal.  The two men left slowly, and likely never stopped looking at them.

Katie risked a word to Lincoln.  “You know, in our day, back home, comments or even questions about the wrong point of view can get you in trouble.  Only here, people will not try to ruin your life.  They will just kill you.”

Lockhart smiled.  “Do you see?  All we do is destroy people’s lives.  We have progressed.”

After that, only Nanette, whispering to Decker, asked something worth overhearing.

“What is it going to take to get Lincoln to keep his mouth closed?”

“The loss of his tongue, maybe,” Decker answered with a straight face.

In the morning, the travelers left Freiburg behind and climbed the road through the Black Forest that went up into the hills.  Tony chewed on a piece of rye bread as Nanette spoke softly.

“Three days into this time zone and nothing bad has happened.”

“I know,” Tony said.  “It has Lincoln nervous.” He nodded ahead of them to where Lincoln rode, Lincoln’s head darting left and right like he worried about what might be hidden among the trees.

“I would think there ought to be at least one lifetime of the Kairos where nothing terrible is going on,” she said.  “Even the Kairos can’t live in perpetual terror.  I would think that would be very unhealthy.”

“Quiet,” Tony said.  “You are going to get Lincoln blaming you for jinxing us.”  Nanette laughed and Tony continued.  “Actually, I asked about that.  Apparently, Hans, the Kairos in this time period, lives many happy years running a candy shop in Switzerland.”

“But we are in Germany, not in Switzerland.”

“Yes.  Well, he was born in Bremen.  Apparently, a young woman from Zurich traveled with her merchant father to the Dutch coast where he traded for cocoa, among other things from the new world.  He ran into some trouble, got killed, and the young woman got stuck in the north with no way to get home.  Hans, and some others, got roped into escorting the young woman back to Switzerland.  I don’t imagine he was hard to convince.  It was one way to escape the killing going on around him.”

“So, he is escorting a young girl to Switzerland?” Nanette asked.

Tony nodded, but he said nothing as a dozen men walked from the woods, five or six men on each side of the road, and three in front blocked the way.  They carried matchlocks, ready to be fired.  Tony recognized the short blond one from the inn.  Nanette recognized the big ugly one, and those two seemed to be in charge.  Tony drew his handgun and pulled Ghost close to his horse.  Nanette drew her wand.  Lincoln put away his database and pulled his handgun as well.

Lockhart, up front, switched on his watch communicator.  He spoke to the three not in the immediate group, Decker and Elder Stow out on the wings, and Sukki on the point.  “Listen.  We have visitors, about a dozen.  Don’t respond.  Just listen.”  He left his wristwatch communicator turned on.  Any conversation with the highwaymen might echo a bit through the wristwatch communicators the others wore, but hopefully, Decker, Sukki, and Elder Stow would hear what was going on.

Lockhart spoke first to the blond.  “Did our conversation not satisfy you?  Even if you think we are heretics, we have left your town, which is what you said you wanted.”

The blond man laughed softly and shook his head.  “I don’t care about that.  If we are lucky, the Catholics and Protestants will beat each other senseless.  Too many survived the plague, drought, famine, little ice age, and everything else thrown at them in the last two hundred years. A good world war should bring people down another notch.”

“Does the word “Masters” mean anything to you?” Katie asked.  She and Lockhart had their hands down by their own handguns and got prepared to draw them at the first opportunity.

The blond man’s face basically said, yes, but the big, ugly one spoke.  “Right now, you have gold and silver, horses and weapons. We will have these things.”

“What is that echo?” the blond finally asked, but word came through the communicators.

“Breaker,” Decker said.  “I have them in sight.”

“Same,” Elder Stow said.  “Hopefully, I won’t set the forest on fire.”

The big ugly one reacted.   He pointed at Lincoln and shouted.  “We have weapons.”  With a bit less volume, he added, “Shoot him.”

Several things happened at once.

Nanette raised her wand to point at the sky, and all of the matchlock rifles and pistols pointed up and discharged harmlessly into the upper branches of the trees, thus making them useless until they could be reloaded.  Lincoln shot one man.  Decker quickly shot two from behind. Elder Stow shot one, and Tony shot another.  Lockhart and Katie drew their handguns.  The men drew their swords and long knives.

“Get them,” the blond yelled as he took off running up the road.  Big ugly and the other man in front followed.  Katie had to turn to the side to shoot the man who had his sword pointed at her.  Lockhart had to turn to the other side, as Lincoln shot a second man and got a knife in his thigh.  Lockhart shot the knife man.  One man tried to grab at Ghost.  Ghost kicked out and probably killed the man as the kick caved in the man’s ribs.  Tony shot the man in any case, and Decker arrived and shot the final man.

All eyes turned to the front and the three men running away.  Big ugly and the blond split and crashed off into the woods as a heat ray came from down the road and caught the man in the middle.  The man became charcoal.  Sukki walked up, her horse trailing from behind.  Elder Stow also arrived and shouted to Sukki.

“Hold it there, daughter.  Don’t chase them.”  Sukki looked left toward the blond man and right where the big, ugly man went, and then looked again at Elder Stow who finished his thought.  “Not worth the risk of setting the whole woods on fire.”

Nanette got down to look at Lincoln’s leg.  Elder Stow met her there.  Elder Stow pulled out a device and waved it around the thigh.  The thigh went numb as the knife seemingly pulled itself from his leg.  Nanette laid her hands on the wound, and the wound stopped bleeding and pulled itself together.  Nanette was not a healer like Alexis, but Alexis taught her some and she had some natural skill, as long as she had her magic.  After bandaging the leg, Lincoln himself said they needed to move on from there.  They took it slow.

Avalon 9.2 The Called, part 6 of 6

Four days later, the travelers came across an odd caravan headed out from Valladolid, about a quarter day on the road.  The travelers gave up the idea of reaching the city by dark in order to camp and talk to the people.  As long as Catherine continued to move east, the next time gate moved closer.  Sukki said they might reach it in a day and skip the city altogether.

The caravan included Gypsies and a large number of Jews that traveled with them.  The travelers built a big campfire and heard the stories the people told.  They all claimed to have come from Portugal.  “The Portuguese Inquisition is relentless,” one man said. “We have no interest in converting to Catholicism.”

Only Lincoln mumbled something about no one expecting the Spanish Inquisition.

“And we have no intention of being domesticated,” The gypsie chief added.

“You are Romani people?” Katie asked.

The gypsie chief raised his eyebrows.  “We may be,” he said in a voice where he did not have to lie but did not exactly tell the truth.

Katie nodded.  “And where are you headed?”  Katie felt suspicious and the man’s half-confession made it worse.  She needed to hear the man talk.

“Navarre,” the first man said.  “I hear there is still room for Sephardim in that land.”

“Where we are needed,” the gypsie chief said and glanced at Elder Stow. Elder Stow kept shaking his scanner.

“I am getting the strangest readings from these people,” he said.  “They are human, but something is odd. I don’t know…”  He shook the device again.

“I will explain,” the gypsie chief said, and somehow Katie, Lockhart, Elder Stow, and the man became isolated from the rest of the people around the fire.  “The Watchers have determined that you are displaced in time and are headed into the future, though I do not know how that is possible, it appears to be true.”

“True enough,” Lockhart said as he, Katie, and Elder Stow sat up and listened intently to what the man had to say.  The others talked with the Jews and gypsies that sat around the big bonfire telling jokes.  Lockhart, Katie, Elder Stow, and the man seemed to be in their own little bubble.  Even the outside noise got diminished.

“We have been sent here by the Watchers, the most ancient and wise, who see through time itself, and who began in the fourth age, the age of time.  We are the guardians, born at the end of the fifth age.  When the Watchers looked through time and saw that the material life born in the sixth age would be fragile, we were selected to guard that life.  We have served the Watchers for nearly five billion of your years, since this earth first formed, not to guide the life that grew, but to protect it so it could grow and reach its full potential.  The Watchers pay close attention to those few planets scattered throughout the universe where intelligent material life arises.  They are watching this world even now, and we were called in this crisis.  But they know where the demons come, life ends.  Material life is presently broken by what some call sin.  Not our fault, nor anything we could do about that.  It appears to be part of a deeper plan that even the Watchers do not fully understand, but in the meantime, this creative planet is fulfilling its promise. All of that will end if the corruption comes here in force. We have blocked the broadcast into deep space, but some have heard.  We will travel to where we need to go to end any invasion that comes.”

“Your people made the light scope that Ali Baba found,” Katie interjected.

The man smiled a very human smile.  “More than likely,” he said.

“Good to know the Kairos has help,” Lockhart said.

“The Kairos is a child, an infant in eternity.  The Kairos does not know we are here and need not know.  We will guard this world and remove ourselves, and the Watchers will watch, and you will finish your journey through time, only beware of the demons that will assail you.”

The Gypsie chief disappeared, and Lockhart and Elder Stow chuckled.  It was a good joke.  Lockhart imagined the Jewish elder might have made a living in the Catskills.  Katie said nothing.  She felt uncomfortable, like she just missed something.


In the morning, the travelers skipped the city and headed straight toward the time gate.  It moved in the night.  Lockhart started the complaints.  “It is difficult not knowing how things turn out.  The Kairos Catherine—La Halcon has her hands full and could use our help, maybe.”

Katie did not sound concerned.  “I am sure the Falcon will work it out.  She is another brilliant and capable woman of the Kairos.”

“And the men,” Lockhart said.  “They all seem pretty capable to me.”

Katie just smiled.  “Anyway, I wouldn’t worry.  After all, I don’t recall in the history book where it says the earth came under some form of alien domination in the fifteenth century.”

 “I suppose,” Lockhart did not disagree, but he had another question and turned back to Lincoln to ask it.  “Lincoln.  Who are the Honogon?  We probably should know in case they show up again.”

Lincoln put away the database and talked.  “New Exterminators is how the database refers to them.  Think Balok.  Except, these are willing to make slaves of species that are not smart enough to challenge them.”

“But what are they?  Do they look like us?” Katie asked.

Lincoln shook his head.  “Avian-type dinosaurs, the kind that became birds, but they look more like Hyenas, with the jaws and teeth.  They walk upright.  Elder Stow can show you the hologram out of his database.”

Lockhart nodded. “Later,” he said as Sukki rode up.

“The time gate is just ahead across a farm field, but there are men there working in the field.”

Lockhart looked at the sky.  The morning sun looked extra bright after all those cloudy and rainy days.  At least it stopped raining.  It was not exactly the first thing in the morning, but the Kairos was moving so the time gate kept moving as well.  They overshot it.  When they got up a couple of hours ago, they had to backtrack to catch it.

“March first, maybe,” Katie said.  “Aragon and Portugal will fight today.  The battle of Toro.  History calls it a draw, but both sides claim victory.  It would be nice to see what really happens.”

“Not our job,” Lockhart said, as Decker and Elder Stow rode in from the wings.  We go through this morning.  Elder Stow, you will have to set your screens behind us until the gate deactivates, to keep the farm workers from stumbling through.

“Of course,” Elder Stow said.  “It will take a few minutes to set it up.”

They rode to the edge of the farm field, and Sukki confirmed the location of the time gate while Elder Stow worked on his screen device.  The gate did not appear to be moving at the moment, and Katie commented.

“I’ve noticed the gates remain stable when the Kairos is walking around, even if she is walking around a city.  I don’t know how far she needs to go before the gate starts moving.  I would guess a few miles or so.  Maybe more.”

“Good thing,” Lockhart said.  “This would be much more difficult if the gate slipped left and right with each step the Kairos took.  Imagine if she started pacing.”

Katie nodded.  “Of course, in this case she could leap onto her horse and ride all-out ten miles down the road at any moment.  Then we would be chasing the time gate.”

“Are we ready?” Lockhart asked Elder Stow.

“Ready,” he responded.

“After you,” Lockhart waved Sukki to go ahead.

“Father and Mother,” Sukki acknowledged Lockhart and Katie before she led the group across the field.  Naturally, the farm workers yelled about them tromping across their newly plowed field, but they quieted when the travelers vanished one by one through the time gate.



The travelers ride through the Black forest and into Bavaria where they find trouble worthy of the Brothers Grimm. Episode 9.3 Bewitches. Until then, Happy Reading


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.”