Avalon 2.12: The First Encounter

            It is a strange and varied group of people preparing to invade the land across the sea.  War is in the air, but the various groups appear to be unconcerned with the travelers.  This is good, if the people let them journey unmolested.  Unfortunately, the people through whose territory they are traveling are not the problem.  It is the ones following.

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            It was not long into the morning before they began to smell the sea.  Lincoln decided they were definitely headed out the peninsula of Brittany, but at an angle that would eventually bring them to the shore.  Boston looked back several times to see if Grubby and his crew were following, but she never saw anything.  Alexis also looked back several times.

            “I hope Father has come to his senses and is following.”  What she meant was she hoped her father was safe.  Lincoln looked.

            “I hope the Djin and the ghouls have lost the trail,” he said.  That triggered Katie to look.

            “I hope Bob is okay.”

            “I’m not looking,” Lockhart said.  “Whatever is following, I don’t want to know.”

            “This be dragon country,” Roland spoke up from the front where he heard everything with his good ears.  To Boston’s curious look, Roland pointed at the sky.  An Agdaline scout ship passed overhead, and Boston remembered the Agdaline kept dragons as pets when they were young and small and ejected them from their ships when they got big, lost their feathers and would no longer obey simple commands.

            “Thanks,” Lincoln looked at the sky without further comment,

            By mid-morning they came to a small river that was swift but not too deep.  Sometimes, the party had to go miles out of the way to find a safe ford, but in this case if they were careful, Roland imagined they could navigate the crossing well enough.

            Roland and Boston dismounted while the others caught up, and Boston paused to spy the woman downstream.  She appeared to be washing her clothes on a boulder that split the stream.  She used a rock to pound a tunic which had some sort of red stain, but it was some distance so it was hard to tell exactly what she was doing.

            “The water here is cold, I bet.”  Roland got Boston’s attention.

            “Let me see,” Boston said, and put the washer-woman out of her mind.  She bent down to touch the water and yelped.  Something grabbed her hand and pulled her in.

            “Roland!”  Boston managed his name before whatever it was pulled her under.

            “Boston!”  Roland grabbed for her but she was already too deep.

            The others came up quickly to the shore and spread out and tried to grab her when she bobbed up and down, gasping for air  They were yelling things like “grab her” and “there she is.” She appeared to be swirling around a jetty and luckily not rushing downstream.

            “Roland!”  Alexis grabbed her brother’s hand and had her wand out.  Roland was in a bit of a panic, but her touch steadied him and she drew on her power and his as she caught Boston by the shoulder.  Boston lifted and grabbed several breaths of fresh air before they heard the sound,  It was a wailing with which they were familiar.  It was the bokarus, and it was fighting to drag Boston back under.

            Elder Stow tuned a piece of equipment and he managed to stop her spinning.  She was ready to throw up.  Then the elder caught her in an anti-gravity bubble which would have shot her a hundred feet into the air, but the bokarus was still dragging her down.

            Roland suddenly took over the action from his sister as soon as he realized Elder Stow had Boston stabilized.  Roland was not feeling kind when he borrowed a play from his father’s playbook. It was a shock of lightning, and while it shocked Boston slightly where she was still hanging with her boots in the water, not able to rise higher but no longer in danger of being dragged under,  it fried the bokarus, and fried a few fish as well.

            The bokarus let out a monstrous howl and let go.  Elder Stow almost lost Boston when she skyrocketed up, but he quickly got her back down into the arms of Katie and Lockhart where she claimed she felt like pulled taffy.  The bokarus looked ready to attack, and Roland was ready to go toe to toe with the beast when the bokarus suddenly rushed off.  Lincoln noticed.

            The washer-woman from downstream had somehow crossed over the river without getting wet.  She walked up the riverbank with a shirt that looked full of blood in her hand and she had a cross expression on her face.  When she got close, the bokarus fled for his life, and Lincoln asked.

            “Can we help you?”

            The woman looked steaming mad.  “And I had my scary voice on, too,” the woman said.  “Guaranteed to scare your spine.”

            “What?”

            “But no.  That stupid green man had to cut in line.  What has he got against you folks anyway?”

            “We haven’t been able to figure that out yet.”  Lockhart shook his head.

            The woman paused, now that she had everyone’s attention.  She slowly scanned the group ending with Elder Stow and Alexis.  She lifted the shirt and shook it which sent red droplets of blood to the grass.  “The blood of the father.  Not too long from now.  That’s all you get.”

            “What?”

            The woman faded until she disappeared altogether, but she spoke while she vanished.  “I may go hunt that little bugger.  Ruin my surprise and everything.”

            There was a moment of silence before Roland broke the spell by going to see to Boston.

            “Morrigu?” Lincoln asked out loud.

            “One of the future Irish,” Katie said.  “Or Welsh gods.”

            “But what did she mean the blood of the father?” Alexis looked concerned.  Elder stow looked at Lockhart and wondered the same thing.

###

Avalon, 2.12:  The Second Encounter … Next Time

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Avalon 2.12: Setting the Stage

            The travelers found armed dwarfs guarding the forest, fighter-like ships patrolling the skies and armed men by the thousands in the wilderness.  It looks like war is on the horizon and the travelers, having already participated in such killing in the last time zone, don’t want to get mixed up in another one.  For the moment, they are in a friendly camp where they find a couple of old friends in Ahn-Yani and Kim-Keri.  They only hope the camp stays friendly.

###

            Kim-Keri was the perfect hostess and Ahn-Yani was good all night.  There were gnomes to groom and care for the horses, and an elderly dwarf woman who did the cooking.  There was a keg of wine for supper, and a great kettle of brew.

            “Silenus himself got Saturn’s leave to bring this wine to the Don.” Kim-Keri explained.  “He traveled over the mountains with a train of donkey’s following behind.”

            “Mathonwy buggered some of it,” Ahn-Yani added and took a great gulp.

            “The ale is good too,” Lincoln added.  “But no matter how much we drink, this kettle never seems to have less.”  He looked hard at the kettle and rapped the outside with his knuckle.

            “The Don brought many such treasures up from the south.”

            “S-good,” Elder Stow slurred.  “S-very good, I shay.”

            “How much has he had?” Lockhart wondered.

            “Just the one bowl, I think,” Katie responded. Lockhart and Katie sat side by side and while not inclined to touch each other, they appeared to have given up pretending they wanted to be anywhere else.  Ahn-Yani was good, but not perfect.  She giggled.

            When Lincoln sat again by Alexis, they heard a snap! And all eyes were drawn to the cooking fire.  “You had enough firsts and seconds.  We need to save some for our guests.”  The dwarf cook slapped the dwarf male’s hand with her cooking spoon and no one knew what to say since they never noticed the dwarf having any firsts or seconds.  Roland might have noticed, and the two lesser goddesses certainly knew, but they did not say anything about it.  Suddenly, Boston had a thought.

            “I’m guessing you are Grubby.”

            The dwarf looked ready to split, but his desire for thirds got the better of him and he responded, “Yes, mam.” 

            “Gorman with you?”

            Grubby shook his head.  “Taking the night watch.”

            The cook frowned and added another surprise.  “Next time you see that husband of mine, you tell him I got a parcel of children that would like to see their dad once in a while.”

            “Yes, mam.  I will.  Yes man.” He grinned and stuck out his oversized plate.  The cook filled it before she rapped him on his head with her spoon 

            “The end,” she said and went back to fiddling with the roast.

            “More company,” Decker said from his perch up on a boulder beside the big tent.  Thirty Little Ones came marching into the light, one out front.  The tallest might have been just over a foot tall.  The smallest was nine or ten inches, which was about fairy height, but these did not have wings.

            “Where is Lord Mathonwy?” the leader asked sharply.

            “He is not here at the moment,” Kim-Keri said.  “But you are welcome to stay and have your fill of meat and bread and mead.”

            “Well, we’ve come to join the fight against Domnu and her ilk.  We’ve a camp just beyond foot stomping range.  If he comes looking for us, tell him not to blink.  If he blinks, he might miss us and walk right past.”

            “A wee little camp?” Boston asked.  Roland wiped the smile off her face and explained.

            “Leprechauns.  Have their eye on the emerald isle, no doubt.  Sensitive about their height, and they can be vindictive with some of the strongest magic among the Little Ones.”

            “I am sure Mathonwy will be glad to have your help,” Alexis said.   

            “S-goog.  S-verry goog.”

            In the morning, Elder Stow only held his head a dozen times.  Mostly he seemed normal, if quiet.  Lincoln and Alexis woke in each other’s arms.  They were very close and intimate since their reunion, but they were married so it was expected.  Roland and Boston were also in each other’s arms, but they were young and in love, so that was also expected.  The unexpected was finding Lockhart and Katie holding tight to each other and finding each other very comfortable

            Lockhart was married long ago, and divorced.  He had grown children, but that was before his youth was restored.  He imagined there was not a woman in the world for him and had long since given up looking, yet here she was.  Katie had devoted herself to the military and to her studies.  She was a beautiful blond who had long since decided there would never be a man who could appreciate her for who she was.  She believed no man could get over seeing her as a dumb blond.  Yet here he was.  They were awkward about it for their own reasons, but those with eyes knew what was inevitable.

            Captain Decker came out of his tent, stretching and smiling.  They never saw him smile much.  But he said he could not help it that morning.  It seemed in the night, Ahn-Yani proved to be perfect after all.

            “Hey!”  Boston was the one who noticed, or at least the one who said something even if her shout of surprise sent Elder Stow’s hand back to his head.  “Where did everybody go?”  The camp of a thousand men plus women and children had packed up in the night and moved off before dawn.  No one heard them.  No one woke to any sound.  Indeed, everyone of the travelers, including Roland the elf slept soundly through the night.  They were well rested.  What is more, their horses looked rested, groomed and fed and ready to go as well.

            Mathonwy’s big tent was gone.  Ahn-Yani and Kim-Keri were nowhere to be found.  The dwarf woman was there cooking up enough food for an army, but the army had left.  There was a small band of dwarfs where Grubby had brought in his little group, but they were sitting quiet and patient, waiting for the food to be ready.  “Huh!”  Boston concluded, and they all set about striking their camp for travel while they anticipated a mighty fine breakfast.

 ###

Avalon 2.12:  The First Encounter

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Avalon 2.12: Celtic Dreams

After 3266 BC, Near Coasts of Brittany  Kairos life 32: Danna

Recording … 

            “Hush.”  Roland’s ears picked up something.  He and Boston dismounted and tied off their horses.  They snuck forward to the back of a boulder and climbed up to look down on a strange scene.  Two groups of dwarfs with spears and shields were separated by a few trees so they could not see each other, but Roland and Boston could see them both.

            “When I said who goes there I meant are you friend or foe?”

            “How would I know?  Who am I talking to?”

            “Who am I talking to?”

            “I asked you first.”

            A little, well bearded dwarf stepped up and nudged the leader of his group.  The leader spoke again.

            “Fair enough, I’m Grubby McDirk.”

            “I’m Goram Flocker.  And I would not say friend.  You owe me a meat pie with all the trimmings.”

            “I do not, Goram, and you’re no friend of mine either.”

            “Grubby McDirt.”

            “That’s McDirk.”

            “Oh, that’s worser.”

            “Come here so I can punch your nose.”

            “You’re not getting my nose all dirty, McDirt.  Maybe I should punch your nose.”

            “Flocker, why don’t you just flock off.”

            “I gotta keep the woods clear of foes.”

            “I gotta do that.  Where did you get your orders?”

            “Direct from the Lady.”

            “You don’t know any ladies.”

            “That does it.”  The dwarf threw down his spear and finally stepped forward, his fists up and ready to fly.

            “Right.”  The other threw down his spear, spit on the palms of his hands and rubbed them together.

            “Ahem.”  Boston stood and Roland stood beside her  “Can you help us?”  she asked, but got no more out.

            “Cheeze it,” Grubby said.

            “Human mortal lady.” Gorman said, though it sounded like swear words.

            “And she’s got an elf with her,” Grubby added.

            In a heartbeat, both groups of dwarfs vanished into thin air.  Boston blinked.  Roland helped her back down the back of the boulder.  “We will lead the group by another route,” he said.

            “Why?  The woods are empty now, aren’t they?”

            Roland shook his head.  “The dwarfs are still there, just hidden by glamours or maybe invisible.  We best go around.”  They paused at the sound of a high pitched wail.  They knew that was the sound of the bokarus, the one that had been on their trail since the beginning.

            “I just hated to see them with bloody noses,” Boston said, but Roland said no more.

            “Well?”  Lockhart asked when Roland and Boston came back to the group.

            “This way,” Roland said and picked a path that would take them well around the group.

            “I don’t like the smell in the air,” Lincoln said to Alexis.  “Smells like more than fires.  It smells like war.”

            “Do you think?”  Captain Decker asked, but it was hard to tell if he was being serious or sarcastic.  Alexis took it as serious.

            “Oh yes,” she said.  “I trust Benjamin’s smeller.”

            “Better be ready,” Lockhart said as he checked his pistol.  “But don’t shoot anything until we know if they are friend or foe.”  Boston started to laugh out loud, but she could not explain why.

            It was not much further along when Elder Stow pulled the group back beneath the darkness of the trees.  There was a flying ship moving slowly overhead.  They looked up from the dark, but it was impossible to identify the ship.  The majority thought it looked like an Agdaline ship, but the evidence was inconclusive. 

            “This is beginning to look more and more like Tetamon’s world,” Katie said.  “Aliens hunting overhead, armed little ones guarding the forest ways.”  Roland had told them that much.  “Are you sure we did not take a wrong turn somewhere?”

            “No snow,” Elder Stow pointed out. 

            “And no snow storm.” Boston gave a big nod.  She had gotten separated from the others in that snow storm.

            “Soil is all wrong for the Ardennes.  This is sandy, rocky soil good for apple trees, maybe.  This has to be Brittany, or at least Normandy on the edge of Brittany.”

            “So what is with the aliens and armed Little Ones?” Alexis asked.

            “And the armed men,” Lockhart said, and all eyes shot to the front where some thirty men with bows and spears blocked their path.  Lockhart and Katie pushed up to the front and dismounted to see what these men wanted.

            “Lockhart,” Lockhart introduced himself and stuck out his hand and introduced Katie.  “Katie Harper.  How can we help you.”

            The man shook Lockhart’s wrist and then appeared to change his mind and shook just the hand instead.  “We are creating a whole new world, after all.  Name’s Mathonwy, but my sister just calls me Math, unless I am being bad.  Then she calls me Mathy, like a child.”  Mathonwy laughed at some memory before he looked again at the two in front of him.  I think you better follow us.  I will explain what I can on the way.”

            Lockhart waved to the rest and people dismounted to walk their horses.  Boston had to shout.

            “Grubby, you might as well come, too.”  She was surprised to hear Math shout from the front.

            “You too, Gorman.”

            “Oh, we’re coming … ouch!” came the response.

            “The one you are looking for came up from the south.  The gods kind of pressured her.  Thus far she has claimed Iberia, France and the lowlands, as she says.  She has been given the key to the old Vanheim claim since it was getting to be a big muddle.  Aesgard claimed the whole thing, but realistically they could only hold the north.  They are too spread out as it is over Germany, Scandinavia and nominally over Russia.  Egypt, that is North Africa wants Iberia.  Olympus wants the coasts to as far inland as they can get away with.  Before hostilities really broke out, though, they all knew they had to deal with Domnu across the sea.  She is the sister of the old Queen Nerthus of the Vanheim and she and her Formor children claim it all, and she holds the islands.  So the gods decided to make a new house and give it to Danna and her children as a relatively safe bet.

            “Yes, what about Danna?”  Lockhart asked.

            “Oh, she is fertile enough to have bunches of children.  Bile raped her when she was really a child, yet she had children.  She was married to Apollo for some years.  You know Apollo?”

            “Not formally,” Katie responded.

            “Well, they had children.  Their eldest married Morrigu, the nasty offspring of war and battle; but I suppose they are happy.  Now Danna is hanging out with Mangi, son of Thor.  Of course it won’t mean anything if she can’t figure out how to defeat Domnu.”

            “What’s with the aliens and armed Little Ones?” Lockhart asked.  “And the armed humans?”  They arrived on the edge of a sea of tents.  There were easily a thousand men, all armed and prepared for war, though certainly there were plenty of women and children running around as well.

            “These men have suffered for generations from incursions by the people of the islands lead by the Formors.  They can’t wait for the opportunity for pay-backs.  We will invade the islands, once, as I said, Danna figures out how to overcome Domnu.”

            “But the –“ he looked up as a small ship flew overhead.

            “Complications.  An Agdaline fleet returned at a bad time and Domnu captured half of them and has them brainwashed.  Danna is also concerned to set them free and send them to their rightful new home.”  Math pointed to the sky.  “Her job, you know.  There are also Shemsu setting up standing stones along the coast.  I have no idea what they signify, but man those people have OCD really bad.”

            They came to a very big tent and stopped out front.

            “And Domnu?”  Katie wondered.

            “Yeah.  She figures if she can defeat and kill Danna, she can hold on to the islands by treaty and let the gods fight over the continent.  The thing is, the real people, the humans that belong to Vanheim are mostly the urnfeld people – the Celts, and they will be moving west over the next couple of thousand years.

            “Wait a minute,” Katie looked squarely at Mathonwy and felt like a veil was suddenly lifted from her eyes.  “How do you know all these things like Scandinavia and Russia and Egypt?”

            “You know full well how the young and immature gods leak all over those close to them.  My big sister leaked all over me when we were growing up.  Some of it was from just inside the BC, but much of it was from the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.”  He shrugged and stepped to the tent door where two women came out to greet him.  He kissed both in turn like a lover.

            “But that means you are –“  Lockhart started.

            “Yes, I am one of them,” Math interrupted, “and I believe these are old friends of yours.”  He stepped into the tent and disappeared. 

            Boston ran to give Ahn-Yani a great hug.  Lincoln grabbed Alexis by the hand to introduce her to Kim-Keri.

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Avalon 2.12:  Setting the Stage … Next Time

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Avalon 2.11: Deeper Underground

            It seems the sorceress had more than one trick up her sleeve, but she had no way of knowing that Wadjt and the Kairos were dear friends from long ago.  Once it was clear that the sorceress was effectively disarmed, ten-year-old Emotep acted like a real grownup.  He got Wadjt, defender of the north and young Sakhmet, defender of the south to make friends.  The future depended on it.  After all of that Serket, the scorpion goddess showed up and everyone vanished, together.

###

            Emotep found himself in a great room, cathedral sized, with columns regularly spaced to make a labyrinth of sorts indoors.  The stars could be seen in the spaces overhead.  The sun was to their left and cast great black shadows off to their right.  But the moon was to their right and full, and it cast its own shadows off to the left.

            “Where are we?” Katie asked the operative question. 

            “Home?” Sakhmet breathed the word.

            “Last time I was here, I thought I was in outer space and beyond that, I was a girl.”

            “Yes, about that,” Sakhmet turned on him.  “Would that make you my older-younger sister, or what?”

            “Sorry,” Emotep grinned at his memory of what mother Vrya of the Aesgard always called him.  He paraphrased.  “I am your brother even when I am your sister.”

            “That’s my Kairos,” Lockhart grinned, and all the more when Katie moved in close and took hold of him.  She was frightened.  They all were, and Neferet scooted around to where she could hold both Emotep’s and Sakhmet’s hands, and walk, if she wanted, with her eyes closed.

            Quite apart from the hot brightness of the sun and the glittering, silvery brightness of the moon, there was a greater brightness ahead of them.  Serket was gone, but in her place there came another woman, one who reminded Katie and Lockhart a little of Innan, the goddess of desire they met in the Middle East.  At first they imagined this might be the Egyptian version, but the woman looked at them and spoke.

            “Innan my mother,” she said.  She was dressed in armor, not unlike Emotep’s and looked hard, like for all her beauty she could kill in a heartbeat.  She grabbed Emotep’s chin and stared hard into his eyes for the longest time.  It was impossible for Emotep to bear until the woman made a pronouncement.  “Not my son.”  This triggered something to come up into Emotep’s eyes that blunted the stare of the goddess, and the words helped.

            “Not my mother,” he said.  She almost smiled and patted Neferet on the head before she turned to Sakhmet and grabbed her roughly by the upper arm. 

            Sakhmet protested.  “Mother!” but it did no good.

            “Daughter take too long to be here.”  She dragged Sakhmet off with one more word.  “Come.”

            They all followed until they came to an alter at the far end of the room.  Osiris was there shining brighter than the sun, standing on the pedestal that put him above everyone in the hall.  He was a ghost of sorts, but certainly not dead yet.

            Isis was also present with all four of her children.  Bast was in cat form and came to stand, or rather sit beside Neferet.  She allowed the little girl to let out her nervousness by petting her fur.  Anubis stood quiet, stately, and totally threatening in his jackal-headed presence which would frighten a minotaur. 

            Horus and Hathor were also there and stood beside their mother, Isis.  Hathor, who looked to be about twenty-one and no longer a teenager, had the true look of Innan about her, even more than Ishtar.  She was the Egyptian version of Innan.  Horus turned around last of all, and he had on glasses, and not the wire rimmed ones the Kairos made for Enki.  Horus had on black rimmed, square, purely geek glasses. 

            “I don’t know if I can,” he said to Emotep.

            “Just do your best,” Emotep responded.  “That is all I can ever do, but I have found when you do your best it is often better than you thought you could do.”

            “Very wise,” Osiris said from the podium.  His voice boomed through the great hall and gave all the mortals chills.  The voice was not dead, but not exactly alive either.  “But that is not why you are here.”

            Isis stepped up to Emotep and a few tears fell.  “Thank you,” she said, which was unheard of.  The gods never showed gratitude to anyone, especially a mortal.  “As long as his heart continues to beat now and then he remains partly in this world.”

            “It will be alright,” Emotep said, and added the word, “Grandma.”  Isis looked at him and started to shed some tears in earnest.  She reached out and kissed his forehead so he felt her tears run down his own cheeks.  She turned to walk back to the altar and her children as Mother Bast leaned over and licked Emotep’s hand.

            “Now, as for the worshipers of my brother dancing on my tomb –“ Osiris paused.  Something went out from Emotep, something he did not know, but even the gods paused to listen.

            “In a hundred years, Horus will find a way and Sakhmet will be taken by fury.  I will be there to help light the fire and douse the fire.  In a second hundred years, I will watch from the palace window while the two lands are united.  A child at last will rule in peace over the two lands and the sun will rejoice and the moon will be happy.”  Emotep shook his head.  “That is all I  know.  He looked up.  Toth was there.

            “Kairos.”  Toth nodded his head briefly as a sign of friendship to Emotep before he went to a knee before Osiris.  “Lord,” he said.  “These three come before you for judgment.  Their hearts were heavy until this last day when they sacrificed their own lives for the sake of the children.”

            Katie Harper drew in her breath.  She recognized one of the men, though they did not appear to notice her presence at all.  They were spirits only, ghosts not given to recognizing flesh and blood.  To be sure, they all noticed and seemed to recognize Emotep well enough, and without the least bit of surprise that he would be present among the gods; but they did not see Lockhart, Katie or Neferet at all.

            The ghosts fell to their knees before Osiris and then they fell to their faces.  Osiris spoke once more.  “I, too am grateful for seeing that one’s personal feelings must not interfere with the performance of one’s duty,”    There was a flash of light, Osiris bright, and Emotep, Neferet, Katie and Lockhart found themselves on the edge of Abydos, Lincoln and Decker having just emerged from the underground.

            “Sudden dismissal.” Lockhart took note.

            Emotep pointed behind them at the field of the dead.  “I imagine he has to judge a bunch there and doesn’t need our two cents.”  Emptep felt the tug on his sleeve.  He looked down at Neferet and then got down on one knee to be face to face with her.

            “Sakhmet?”  She was asking.

            “We will see her again, as soon as she learns to sneak away.” 

            Neferet looked satisfied with that answer.  They hugged and Neferet skipped off into the crowd of children and adults to find her father. 

            “Thank you,” Emotep said, sounding suddenly like the ten-year-old boy he was.

            Lockhart and Katie both glanced at the dead on the field and then the living parents and their children.  Lockhart spoke.  “You’re the boss.  I’m just the assistant director,” he turned to Katie.  “Which makes me the number two paper shuffler.”

            Katie said “Faugh,” but she did not quite get the accent right.

###     

            The travelers are optimistic, filled with the hope that the Danna in the next time zone might send them home without a need to continue through the time gates.  They know she is a full blooded goddess, not one made like Zoe.  The only trouble may be reaching her as they travel through a world like Tetamon’s world.  Men, spirits, gods and aliens are poised on the verge of what Lincoln calls the ancient version of World War II.  Reaching Danna may be doubly hard given all the creatures still on their trail, and especially the ones that seem to be catching up.

Avalon 2.12:  Celtic Dreams … Next Time

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Avalon 2.11: Deep Underground

            There are children underground, frightened children buried deep, with only ghouls to guard them and keep them company.  Outside there are fathers and travelers determined to set them free.  It would be a fool’s errand to enter that dark warren of underground passages and caverns blindly, but even underground the travelers have power and resources to help.

###

            When the company of men arrived in the city of Abydos, they found most of the houses closed up and the people afraid to come out.  There were only a few priests who had the courage to face the group.  They stepped up to Decker because he was out front with Elder Stow, leading the way.  They bowed deeply to the Gott-Druk and called him “Elder” before they turned to speak to Captain Decker.

            “Nubian,” The priest called him.  “Now that you have driven out the army of Lord Seth, we are constrained to ask how we may serve you.”  Several of the priests looked to the dock on the river where three boats were headed out into the current.

            “A couple of RPGs would finish the job,” Decker said.

            “Lincoln,’ Elder Stow called.

            “Me?”  Lincoln stepped up, pushed in part by his wife, Alexis.

            “You are in charge after Lockhart,” Captain Decker reminded him.

            “Oh, yeah.”  Lincoln stepped up to the priest.  “We are only here for the children.  These men you see are their fathers.”

            “And maybe kill a few Ghouls in the process,” Captain Decker added.

            “You are priests?” Alexis asked.

            “We serve Osiris in the land of the dead,” the priest responded with a bow of his head.

            “Very good,” Lincoln said.  “Allow us to collect the children and we will be on our way.”

            The Priest bowed again.  “This way,” he said, and he took them to what looked like a solid wall in the ridge beside the city. 

            “The entrance is here,” Elder stow said, “Though it does not appear that way.”

            Roland stepped up and examined the wall.  He slipped his hand through it.  “An illusion.”

            “And probably guarded,” Decker said.  He stepped in front of the illusion and fired a whole clip into the cave before he, Lincoln and Roland ran in.  They found two green smudges on the floor that had once been ghouls.  Outside, Alexis took Boston’s hand for the additional magic and waved her wand over the entrance.  The illusion dissipated and the Priests looked as impressed as the men who followed.

            “Slow and careful,” Lincoln said.  “No point in staying quiet.”  He stared at Decker who did not flinch.  As far as he was concerned, he was doing his job of delivering everyone back to the twenty-first century, alive.  Lincoln continued and raised his voice.  “No running ahead.  There are probably traps.  There are eight more ghouls as well.”  He looked at Elder Stow.  “I don’t suppose you can pinpoint their position.” 

            Elder Stow shook his head, but he projected a holograph showing the inside of the caves in all their twists and turns.  “The children are captive here,” he pointed to a large chamber not far from the surface.  The map lit up yellow in that place.  “The obvious route is this.”  He lit up the direct route in green.  “My counsel is to leave men here to hold the entrance and journey this way.”  An orange route lit up that was a bit longer, but went around two chambers where he and Decker agreed there would likely be the most resistance.

            “Dungeons and Dragons,” Boston quipped.

            “Labyrinth,” Alexis countered.

            “That is the plan,” Lincoln agreed, and he and Decker spent the next few minutes dividing the men and finding places where they could hide.  The rest of the men followed the group down Elder’s Stow’s route.  They tried to keep quiet, but that was not really possible.  They did well at first, but half-way there was a flash of white light and another green smudge, which meant the ghouls knew the way they were headed.

            “Divide,” Lincoln looked quickly at Elder Stow’s map.  “The main body continue on here and expect resistance.  Captain Decker, take Alexis, Boston and Roland through this narrow cut-off.  With luck, you should reach the children with no trouble.”

            “Except for the guards where the children are,” Decker registered his protest, but agreed.  He asked Roland if he wanted to lead.  Roland shook his head.

            “I could lead you perfectly through a labyrinth of trees, but underground.”  He shrugged.

            “Alright.  Women in the middle,” and they literally squeezed through the narrow places.  Once they were in a position to look down on the children, they found three ghouls hovering around the children where they could not be easily taken out simultaneously without risking injury to a child.  Roland and Captain Decker appeared stymied until Alexis made a suggestion.

            “Why don’t we pull a ghoul?’ she asked.  The others did not understand until she grabbed Boston’s hand and had Roland take Boston’s other hand to add their magic once more to hers.  Suddenly there were sounds down the far corridor.  It was gunshots and the sound of men screaming. 

            The ghouls were all attracted to the sound.  They got up and all went to the door where they looked to take up defensive positions, but of course their backs were wide open to the room.  Dekcer opened up his weapon and sprayed the walls.  The children screamed.  The Ghouls screamed at a much higher pitch.  It sounded like steam escaping from a small break in a pipe, but soon there were three more green smudges on the ground where the Ghouls used to be.  When they tumbled through that last opening into the chamber that held the children, they were mobbed by crying kids.  Maybe they did not know who these people were, but they were human.

            “Nidjau?” Alexis called out and a boy, maybe four came toddling up.  “Your brother Emotep?”  The boy nodded and Alexis waded through the children to hug him.  “We came with him to save you,” she said, and he cried on her shoulder as she hugged him.

            Captain Decker backed away from one opening as Lincoln and Elder Stow came in.  They had heard the gunfire echoing through the corridors, but it was distant and they had no idea what was happening.  Alexis was worried, but when Lincoln came in he reached around Nidjau to hug his wife.

            Roland kept watch on the other opening, the one that lead deeper into the caves while Boston corralled the children.  She clapped her hands in good teacher fashion and yelled, “Children.  Follow your fathers.  You can hug when we get back to the surface.”  They began to move.  Of course, fathers and children sought each other out all the way back to the surface, but that was to be expected.  As long as their feet kept moving.

            “How many did you get?” Lincoln asked Decker once they were free of the cave.

            “Three,” Decker admitted.

            “And we got three with only three casualties.”  The men who were carrying the bodies back to the surface passed by.  The priests of Osiris who were still standing there, watching and waiting, took the dead for the proper rituals.  Lincoln finished his thought.  “That means there is still one more down there.”

            “Or out there,” Decker nodded. 

 ###

Avalon 2.11:  Deeper Underground … Next Time

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Avalon 2.11: Confrontation

            Battle is one thing, but inevitably someone needs to be confronted and the two sides need to meet.  Emotep doesn’t know who it will be.  He rather hoped they already ran away.  But whether it is the Sorceress or Lord Seth, he knows things need to be resolved.  He also knows resolution can come hard and the killing might not be over.

###

            Emotep walked across that dry and arid field now that there appeared to be no further, hostile responses from the ridge.  Katie and Lockhart were right behind him, talking softly.  Emotep thought it wise to stay out of the conversation.

            “I was worried when that first explosion knocked you off your feet.” Lockhart admitted.

            “I was too,” Katie admitted.  “But it was just dirt and sand and a bit of a concussion that stunned me for a moment.  I heal fast.  Zoe was right about that.”

            Lockhart nodded.  She was an elect, a potential Amazon Queen, born in an age when Amazons were no more but filled with the power all the same.  “Still, you don’t have Gaian healing chits running through your bloodstream.  A sharp little stone thrown with enough force can cut as deep as a bullet.”

            “Just dirt and sand,” Katie repeated and fell silent for a hundred yards before she spoke again.  “I am glad you cared enough to be concerned.”

            “I do care,” Lockhart admitted.  “Probably too much.”  Then he fell silent for a time before he spoke his thoughts.  “I was married once,” he said.

            “I know.”

            Emotep stopped when they reached the base of the ridge.  It was not very high and he thought it might have been man-made like the mounds of the mound builders in the new world, when they started that work in the future.  Emotep decided his life, his many lives were too complicated for words.  He turned to the couple at last and spoke.

            “No telling what we will find at the top.  It may be deserted.  There may be soldiers.  The sorceress might be there.  Maybe Lord Seth.”

            “We’ll find out,” Lockhart encouraged him to climb, but Emotep took a second to look back.  The men were following Decker toward the city and toward the end of the ridge near the Nile.

            “Oh no,” Emotep sighed.  Both Katie and Lockhart looked.  There was a lioness bounding across the field, headed straight toward them.  It did not stop to examine any of the dead, and it looked like a little girl was riding on the lion’s back, giggling the whole way.  “Sakhmet and Neferet.”  He turned again and started to climb.  Katie and Lockhart just looked baffled and looked briefly at each other before they followed.

            The Sorceress was at the top, waiting.  She looked singed.

            “Lord Seth deserted you?”  Emotep asked.

            The Sorceress squinted at Emotep to look past the armor.  It took a moment to recognize the young boy she tried to destroy two years earlier.  “Scorpion.  Why are you still alive?”

            “Because Set does not dare come up into the upper lands himself without an invitation, and as far as I know, Horus hasn’t invited him.”

            “Horus.  Faugh!  He is nothing to the mighty Set.  But you I do not understand.  Who are you to cause such consternation in the heavenly realms.”

            Emotep tipped his head to Lockhart and Katie.  “Consternation.  Her vocabulary has improved.”  He looked again at the sorceress.  “I am as you have called me.  I am the Scorpion and  the lovely Serket is my shield and my strength.”

            “Faugh!”  the Sorceress repeated herself before she held back a scream as Sakhmet came bounding to the top and let out a great roar.  Neferet had to hold her ears and screamed herself before she giggled again and got down.  Katie captured the little girl’s hand while the lion plopped down and began to groom her paws.  She let her claws out briefly with a glance at the sorceress before Emotep came to her and carefully kissed the lion’s forehead.

            “Thank you sister, but please don’t eat the Sorceress before I find out the plot.”

            “What is this?  Who are you to call a lioness sister?  Tell me.  I compel you to tell me.”  The Sorceress widened her eyes and the magic struck Emotep in the chest.  But even the gods could not compel the Kairos into revealing the future, so the spell had little effect.

            “I am the Scorpion.  And Sacmis, this is your namesake, Sakhmet, and I judge by her agitated state she is not presently pleased with you.  Now, set my children free.  Why have you taken the children anyway?”

            On mentioning the name Sakhmet, the Sorceress took a great step back, but on mentioning the children, the Sorceress stepped forward again and got smug.  “Your children are being turned to the worship of Set.  In a generation, the mighty Set will have that invitation to invade the upper lands.  The children, grown will invite him.”

            Emotep turned to Lockhart and Katie.  “I guessed, you know.”  He squinted at them in much the same way the Sorceress first scrutinized him.  “You make a lovely family.  You should work on that even if your daughter does get built in a lab, but Neferet is mine, thank you.”  He took the little girl’s hand and she smiled a great smile and gladly accepted his hand.

            “Yours?”  Katie asked.

            Emotep nodded.  “I don’t think I will have much choice in the matter.”  He glanced at Sakhmet and saw the lion smile, which is something he did not know lions could do.

            “Scorpion!”  The Sorceress regained Emotep’s attention.  “Before you ask your sister lioness to eat me, I suggest you consider the consequences.  I, too, have one come up from the north to be my protector.”  With that, a cobra the size of a Black Sea Snake rose up from behind the ridge until it’s head reached a good twenty feet above the ground and it bobbed and weaved that head which was big enough to take anyone there in one swallow.

            “Hold your bullets,” Emotep shouted and he went away from there.  He traded places with Phoenix, a woman whose life he lived in the past, and Phoenix shouted out the Cobra’s name.  “Wadjt!”  Phoenix opened her arms and stepped forward.

            The Cobra hardly hesitated.  In a moment, it changed back into a woman with dark, short hair and piercing yellow eyes.  Phoenix fell into the woman’s arms and planted her lips smack on Wadjt’s lips.  It was not a long kiss before Phoenix stepped back and looked coy.

            Wadjt touched her lips briefly before she said, “That’s not fair, you know.  That’s cheating.”

            “I know,” Phoenix said, and she let Emotep return to his own time and place, the armor he wore adjusted as necessary.  He recaptured Neferet’s hand and walked to Sakhmet.  Sakhmet was on her feet and letting out a frightening, guttural growl ever since the snake appeared.  Emotep slapped Sakhmet on the nose, though not hard.  “I need my sister now,” he said, and Sakhmet turned back into the twelve-year-old she had been. 

            Sakhmet said, “ouch” and rubbed her nose, but she smiled about it while Emotep took her hand and pulled her forward.

            Katie looked up at Lockhart.  “I didn’t know.  I should have guessed she was a goddess.”

            Lockhart responded quietly.  “I think we were not supposed to know.”

            “Wadjt, this is my younger-older sister in the future when I get born as you don’t need to know.”  He paused which allowed Lockhart to grin and whisper an interjection to Katie.

            “I love it when he says things like that.”

            “Sakhmet will be the defender of the upper lands even as you defend the lower lands and the delta.  Sakhmet, this is Wadjt the defender of the coast from which she has come a long way.  Now listen carefully.  It will be a long time of fighting between the upper and lower lands before the matter is settled.  Whether the Nile ends up in the hands of Set or Horus I am not allowed to say.  But listen.”  Emotep raised his hand and shook his finger at the two goddesses.  “You two have to be friends.  You can encourage and support your people if you will, but you two are not to fight each other and you are not allowed to decide the outcome.  If you two fight, that will destroy the Nile.  Besides, I love you both, dearly and it would break my heart to see you fighting.”

            Sakhment looked down like she was properly scolded.  Wadjt raised one eyebrow before she smiled.  “You know me,” Wadjt said.  “I like the girls.”  She leaned forward and gave Sakhmet a kiss on the cheek.  Sakhmet responded with a nod.

            “And I am learning it is wise to always listen to my older-younger brother.”  She grinned down at Neferet and Wadjt caught the look and bent down to the little girl.

            “Does he belong to you?” she asked. 

            “Yes,” Neferet said with a big nod and wrapped her second hand around Emotep’s hand.

            “You are a lucky girl.”  Neferet did not say anything in response.  She simply looked up at Emotep as Wadjt stood again.

            “Wadjt, if it please you, I ask you to take your sorceress back north again, to Memphis.”

            “Your mother and father?”  Wadjt asked Sakhmet.

            “Ishtar and Ptah,” Sakhmet responded.  “I have been raised at Karnak under the eye of Lord Amun.”

            “I know your father well.  I will convey your love.”

            “I hope to see him myself,” Sakhmet said, and sounded like the young girl she was which made Wadjt smile at her own thoughts.

            Neferet looked up.  “I don’t think that is going to happen soon,” she said.

            “I will remove my sorceress,” Wadjt agreed.

            “Thank you,” Emotep responded.  “And tell her she can shut her mouth now.”

            Wadjt tried not to laugh.  The Sorceress had been standing there with a gaping jaw ever since Phoenix appeared in Emotep’s shoes.  Wadjt and the sorceress vanished even as a new woman appeared, some steps away. 

            “Serket,” Emotep and Sakhmet spoke together.  Serket nodded.

            “Come,” she said, and everyone on the ridge disappeared.

### 

Avalon 2.11:  Deep Underground … Next Time

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Avalon 2.11: Battle

            Some say getting there is half the battle, but it is usually mouthed by ones who have never been in battle.

###

            There was a ridge in front of them, about a quarter mile away.  The city proper was off to their left, closer to the river.  Straight ahead there were only a few houses, and Elder Stow assured them they were empty.  He let his feet float to the ground as he studied his instrument.  He adjusted something several times and at last made his pronouncement.

            “The children are in a cave beneath the ridge.  There is something else there as well.  Ghouls, I believe.”

            “Great!” Lincoln said.  Alexis took his arm and smiled for him. 

            “I was wondering why we haven’t seen them,” Decker said as there was some movement at the base of the ridge.

            “Soldiers, sir.”  Katie Harper took a long look through her binoculars before she handed hers to Lockhart. 

            “Dismount,” Lockhart commanded.  “Boys, take the horses to the rear.”  He and the others got their guns and prepared for battle.

            “Lieutenant Harper,” Decker called.

            “I have the flank by the river,” she said before he could say it.  She carried her semi-automatic to the far side.  He stayed on the other end.  Lockhart, with his police pistol and shotgun took the center with the Gott-Druk.  Lincoln and Alexis stood between him and Decker while Roland and Boston  were on his other side beside Katie.  Alexis and Boston pulled their wands, Boston having handed her Beretta to Roland, and they waited.

            “Emotep, keep the men back,” Katie ordered as she checked her weapon.

            Emotep got up on a horse.  “Can I have your attention,” he said, and about half the men looked up  at him.  Emotep called for the armor of the Kairos and it appeared instantly around him and adjusted automatically to his shape and size.  A number of the men gasped, but Emotep spoke as loud and clear as he could.  “Stay here until called.  Do not run out to attack because you will probably be killed by accident.  Wait until it is your turn.”  He did not know how else to say it.  He got down from the horse.

            “Wow.  I love your outfit,” Sakhmet stared at him, her mouth about ready to drool.

            “Awesome,” Ka said.

            “Not fair.  I am the eldest,” Aha-Aa said.

            Sakhmet reached out to touch his sword, but Emotep pulled back.  “Hey!” he said in imitation of her.  “That is mine.  You get your own.”  He winked at her.  “Seriously.  Keep these men here until they are needed so they don’t all just get themselves killed. He stepped up beside Lockhart who did not bat an eye at his presence and in fact asked a question.

            “You don’t dance do you?”

            “I don’t think so,” Emotep said.

            “Good.”

            The enemy charged across that hot, dry land.  That alone suggested that this whole war and fighting business was rather new.  The men would be worn and sweating by the time they arrived, but then there were roughly a hundred of them.

            “Remember the children,” Alexis shouted.

            “This is for the innocent ones,” Boston echoed  The travelers would avoid killing wherever possible.  None of them liked the idea, but in this case there was no choice and it was easy to justify.

            “Wait for it,” Decker shouted.  Everyone waited, but to be sure, a hundred men charging right at them, to kill them, waving their spears and copper weapons, screaming death got a lot closer than several might have liked.

            “Fire.”

            Men fell  in a line that never seemed to get any closer.  The noise alone frightened everyone.  And  when Boston stepped forward and something akin to a flamethrower came from her wand, the enemy charge broke and they ran for their lives.  Lockhart stopped firing right away, but he had to yell at Decker to get him to stop.

            Even as the men turned to run, something like a lightning bolt came out from the ridge top.  It struck the screens Elder Stow had put up without mentioning it.  Most of the magic was neutralized, but some of it broke through, slanted, like light through a prism.  It struck the ground and exploded in front of Katie.  She was knocked off her feet, not injured, but shaken up.

            Elder Stow pulled a weapon the others had not seen before.  A streak of white light crossed the field and struck a screen of some kind on the ridge.  Most of the weapon charge was deflected or absorbed by that screen as well, but enough got through to shatter several boulders there. 

            The lightning from the ridge came a second time, and this time more of it broke through the barrier.  Everyone ducked, but Elder Stow was knocked off his feet and had to shake his head several times to clear it.

            Boston got angry.  She grabbed Roland’s hand who understood and grabbed his sister’s hand to add her magic to the mix.  With their three strengths in magic combined, Boston let loose a fireball that streaked across the field and would not be stopped by any barrier.  The ridge below the top caught fire and spread like a napalm strike.  Whole sections collapsed and left a smoking ruin.  There was no third lightning strike from the ridge.

            Emotep in his armor stepped out.  “Stay here,” he shouted, and began to jog across the field.

            Lockhart shouted.  “Elder Stow, identify the opening to the cave with the children.  Decker, lead the assault on the ghouls to set the children free.  Katie, can you jog?”  Katie nodded.  “Let’s go.  Boys, stay with the horses.”  He took Katie’s hand while she shifted her rifle to her shoulder and they ran to catch up with Emotep.

            Decker stepped to where he could shout at the locals who were all bunched up and for the most part frightened to near madness.  “Men.”  Decker raised his voice as loud as he could.  “We are going to get your children, but for your own safety you need to follow orders and do what you are told.  No charging ahead.  Wait until the way is clear.”  He decided not to say anything about the ghouls, but he did add a thought.  “Any who choose to stay with the boys and watch over the horses is fine.  No one will blame you.”  He turned to Elder Stow.  Roland was right there as well.

            “There is a cave opening at the end of the ridge where the city begins.  The way appears open.  I was afraid our salvos on the ridge might collapse the cave, but there, it is at the other end.”

            Decker did not look back.  He began to walk, Roland and Boston beside him.  Elder Stow floated after a moment, but kept his eyes on his instruments.  Alexis started and Lincoln came beside her.

            “We don’t need to go, you know.”

            “But some of the children might be hurt,” Alexis said.  “But you can stay here if you want.”

            Lincoln shook his head.  “Someone has to watch over you and keep you safe.”   Alexis smiled, took his hand and leaned her head against his shoulder as they walked.

###

Avalon 2.11:  Confrontation … Next Time

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Avalon 2.11: Followers

            In the end there is only one option, to just come out with it.  Emotep needs to go to Abydos and he needs the travelers to help him get the children back.  Though against his better judgment that means Lockhart will be taking a number of minors along.  I imagine the parents will do something about that.

###

            When the morning came, Lockhart found far more children on the beach than agreed to.

            “For the return trip,” Emotep said.  “Ankaret convinced me I needed the hands to keep that many little children under control.”

            “That does make sense,” Katie said as she helped Sakhmet up behind herself.  Lockhart made no response, he simply reached down for Emotep. 

            Ankara got up behind Lincoln and there was enough room in the saddle where Alexis let Neferet ride in front and hold on to the saddle horn.  Usersi rode out on the wing with Captain Decker who did not mind because the boy was fascinated with military things.  Aha and Ka got to ride out front with Roland and Boston.  Ka protested at being made to ride with a girl, but only a little.  He was seven, but small, so like Neferet he got to ride in front and hold on to the saddle horn, and besides, Boston could do magic and make fire and light and Ka was fascinated with magic.  A little Harry Potter in the making, Emotep once called him, though as far as they knew Ka had no magic in his bones whatsoever.  Elder Stow contentedly floated along under his own power, and so they rode out at dawn, only to be stopped a quarter mile downstream.

            There were a dozen men from the village there who insisted on coming, including Father Meni.

            “You did not think you would be allowed to go off without your elders,” Father said.  “Honestly son, this is our job, not yours.  You are far too young.  You should go home”

            “He has a point,” Lockhart agreed.

            “Are you done?”  Emotep asked, and hearing no response he said, “I am the only one who knows where to go and what we are facing, including the Sorceress.”

            Father rubbed his chin.  “I had forgotten about that.”

            “Sorceress?”  Sakhmet leaned over and asked.

            “She came up to Abydos a few years ago from Herakleon.  She sought me out and threw me in a scorpion pit.”

            “What happened?”  Katie leaned into the conversation.

            “Serket came to me.  She said she was sent by Isis to watch over me.  But all the sorceress saw, as far as I know was the scorpions, and there were hundreds, and they all stepped aside and let me climb out.  Then they followed me and went after the sorceress.  Scared her senseless and I haven’t seen her since.”

            “The vision of Serket probably would have scared her more,” Sakhmet interjected.

            “Serket?”  Lockhart asked.

            Father Meni, Emotep, Sakhmet and Katie all spoke in unison.  “Scorpion goddess”

            “Actually, she is over all poisons, snakes and such.  She strikes the wicked and heals the righteous.  At least that is her P. R.,” Emotep  added and looked at Sakhmet.  “I think she is nice.”

            “Son,” Meni put his hand on Emotep’s knee.  “You think everyone is nice.”

            “Well, mostly they are if you give them a chance.  So let’s go already.”  He was not about to bring up the idea that maybe the other children should go home.  Aha alone would never forgive him.

            They did not stay long in any of the villages they passed through.  The story was the same, and they picked up ten or so adults in each of the first three villages, so when they arrived in the fourth village, which was considerably bigger that the ones upriver, they easily outnumbered the thirty that came out to face them.  There were words and tears before the people settled in for the night.

            “The boats are docked in the town,” Elder Stow reported while he watched Alexis make loaves of elf bread.

            “City,” Emotep said.  “Abydos is a city in this world.”

            Elder Stow shrugged.  “Almost five hundred people.”  He shrugged again, but then the feast was begun and people were preoccupied with cooking and eating.

            “So,” Sakhmet sat next to Emotep and seemed determined to put him on the spot.  “Beloved of Serket.  I have heard of you.  They call you Scorpion.”  She grinned at him but he was ready for her.

            “And it occurred to me the sorceress of Abydos is named Sacmis after the great goddess Sakhmet, but she must be thirty.  I am guessing you are not ten or eleven.”

            Sakhmet lost her grin.  “Are all brothers so mean?”

            “Of course.  It’s our job.”  Emotep slipped his arm around her and squeezed her.  “We also tickle.”  Sakhmet laughed and jumped away, much further than he could reach. So he tickled Neferet and she let out a giggling uproar.  Sakhmet came back and helped.

            Sakhmet spoke again when they were all breathing hard.  “I never had a brother or sister.  I never knew it could be so good.”  She put her face in her hands and cried before she got mad.  “Amun never lets me do anything.  Mother never let me do anything.”

            “Ptah probably won’t either,” Emotep said.  “But what makes you think they don’t know exactly where you are?”  Or who you are with, he thought, and that made him pause. 

            “I know,” Sakhmet giggled, covered her mouth and looked at Emotep like this whole adventure was one big conspiracy.

            Aha came over then, Ankara and Usersi trailing behind.  They all carried enough meat and bread for six people.  “So when does the adventure part begin?”  Aha asked.  “This is just one boring village after another.”

            “The bread is good,” Usersi said.

            “Food!”  Emotep jumped up, grabbed Sakhmet’s hand with one hand and Neferet’s with the other and ran off toward the feast.

            That night, Sakhmet kept Katie up late talking about war and fighting.  Sakhmet was impressed that this woman was not only military, she was an elect.  Neither got much sleep, but Emotep was grateful.

            Come the morning there was one more village before Abydos, a small village that had not been attacked.  They did not stop.

            The approach to the city was arid, thirsty travel across an area almost clean of vegetation.  The men were sweating hot by the time they stopped, and the horsemen with their binoculars moved to the front.

 ###

Avalon 2.11:  Battle

.

Avalon 2.11: Plans and Places

            The problem when a god steps out of his natural place and goes after things that are not his to have, it is impossible to tell on whose side the other gods will come down.  Emotep realized he needed to solve the children dilemma himself.  Sakhmet was an easier dilemma to solve.  “Out of the mouths of babes,” Neferet is right that Sakhmet and Emotep are loving each other, but not like grownups, like true brother and sister even if Emotep only vaguely knows it and Sakhmet does not really know it at all.

###

            By mid-afternoon, the whole gang was back in the clubhouse, avoiding the work in the village.  Aha spent his time showing off for Sakhmet and almost fell out of the trees, twice.  Usersi mostly just grinned, quietly.  Ankara sat beside his sister Neferet which only put the five-year-old between him and Sakhmet.  He was content.  Ka sat beside Emotep and kept nudging him to tell another story.

            “So much for a little time alone to think.” Emotep said that several times. 

            Aha showed Sakhmet the view of the village and the view of the Nile, twice.  She played along and said the river looked lovely, though Emotep knew she could see it all perfectly and in total detail even without having to look.  In the late afternoon, they all began to smell the first wisps of cooking and stomachs began to grumble.  They missed lunch.  Sakhmet moved to a seat beside Emotep and for a moment it looked like she might take his arm.  She appeared to be his age by then, no more than ten, though no one noticed the adjustment in her looks except Emotep and maybe Neferet.

            A bell rang out from the village.  It was Mother Beset banging her copper spoon against her big copper pot.  Aha, Emotep and Ka knew it was time for supper and Emotep stood.  He bit his tongue to avoid saying, “Saved by the bell.”  Instead, he said.  “Supper,” before he turned to Sakhmet and said, “Brother and sister.  Remember?”

            “But Horus and Hathor, and Isis and Osiris,” she responded.

            “And Nephthys and Set once upon a time,” Emotep responded.  “But we need to think Anu-Bast and Anubis.”

            “Are you a warrior?” Sakhment asked.

            “No, but you are.”

            Sakhmet looked thrilled that he knew.  Of course she was a bit of a love goddess through Ishtar, but she was also a serious goddess of war through Ishtar and Ptah in his own way, and thanks to Ptah she was no slouch in the intellectual department either.

            “I’ll be good,” she said.  Emotep did not respond directly.  He just let out a small laugh.

            After supper and a good, long scolding by Father Meni, Emotep found Lockhart and Katie watching the festivities.  They were sitting side by side, but not touching, each pretending to be friends and nothing more.

            Sakhmet slipped up and whispered in Emotep’s ear.  “But they would already die without each other.”

            Emotep turned his head to look at her.  “You reading my mind now?”

            Sakhmet shook her head.  “But like you thought earlier about me.  You are young.  You leak.”  She smiled, looked at her feet for a second and then pointed at Roland.  “They have a little spirit with them.”  Of course, she was not fooled by the glamour of humanity that Roland wore.

            “I know,” Emotep responded.  “He is an elf.  One of mine.”

            “One of yours?”

            “You didn’t think the gods left me with no responsibilities, did you?”  Emotep said “responsibilities” with a very teenage voice.  “They dumped the whole lot of them on my head.  I got elves, dwarfs, fairies, goblins, ogres and trolls.”

            Sakhmet made a face.  “I don’t like ogres and trolls, they’re scary.  Hey!  Can I have a fairy?”

            Emotep frowned at her.  “First of all, you don’t have fairies any more than you have people.  They have themselves.”

            “You sound like Papi Amun.”

            “And second of all, what is it about girls and fairies?  And no, I don’t have any say over unicorns.”

            Sakhmet let out a sly grin.  “Now you are reading my mind.”

            “Can we help you?”  Lockhart and Katie startled them.  They were staring at them.

            “Budding romance?” Katie asked with a kind but motherly smile.

            Emotep and Sakhmet shook their heads and pointed to each other.

            “My sister.”

            “My brother.”

            “Think Luke and Leah, same mother except we are not twins.”  Katie looked up.  “No, not Mother Beset.  I mean a bunch of years from now.”

            “Hey,” Sakhmet slapped his shoulder, lightly but it still hurt.  “I was keeping that secret.”

            “Right.  Good idea.”  Thus far she had told no one she was a goddess, but Emotep was not fooled.  He looked up again as he rubbed his shoulder.  Lockhart was still staring at him.

            “Oh.”  Katie shook her head like she really did not understand, but she turned to stare at him with the same expression on her face Lockhart had.  It made Sakhmet giggle and cover her mouth.

            “Alright.”  Emotep decided to just come out with it.  “Your job is to get home alive.  I understand.  But I need to go south – same direction.  I need to get to Abydos and get our children back.  I haven’t figured out how, yet, but since you are going that way.”

            “Won’t the gate move further south as you move south?” Lockhart asked.

            “Well, yeah.  But it will move north again after we free the children and I come home.”

            “Yes,” Katie interrupted.  “Why the children?”

            Emotep nodded to her before he spoke.  “I figure some kind of brainwashing or indoctrination like in your twenty-first century where the schools and media got tons of people to actually vote against their own best interests.  Make a bunch of Set worshipers and let them go home and in a generation they will be building a shrine to Set in my own village.  That kind of conquest takes time, but hey, Set isn’t going anywhere.”

            Elder Stow came over at that moment and Sakhmet stepped around to hide behind her brother, her eyes got big as she stared at the Gott-Druk.

            “The boats have stopped for the night between villages.  I estimate two days to reach the big village on the river.”

            “Abydos,” Emotep said.  Elder Stow shrugged.  Katie turned to Lockhart and set her hand gently on his arm.

            “I really can’t wait to get to Abydos where all the first kings were buried.”

            “And will be buried.  Not happened yet, but Osiris is there.”

            “Oh, Robert.”

            Lockhart looked like he already made up his mind.  “Elder Stow.  Tell the others we spend one more day here helping these people rebuild and then we are taking Emotep to Abydos.”

            “And me.”  Neferet jumped out from behind the bushes.

            Emotep shrugged.  “Only don’t tell our parents.”

            Lockhart did not look as pleased with the idea of sneaking off with minors in tow, especially such a little one as Neferet, but Sakhmet got down and hugged Neferet and Katie smiled so he assumed he had no choice.

            Elder Stow saw and let out a bit of his overly wide grin before he went off to tell the others. 

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Avalon 2.11: Followers … Next Time

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Avalon 2.11: Joining the Club

            The question is what can be salvaged in the village and what has to be buried.  And then they can think about what to do about the chidren taken from them, and maybe about just who this runaway Sakhmet is who felt no fear at hitching a ride with these very strange people.

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            Ka pulled on Emotep’s sleeve.  “How do you know these strange people?”  he asked.  He was staring at Boston’s red hair.

            “From my dreams,” Emotep said. 

            “Oh,” Aha’s voice was full of sarcasm.  He spun around.  “Not like the dream about that skinny girl going around with two goofy gods.  That was a stupid story.”

            “They brought back Osiris,” Emotep said, and then he had to find a place to sit down because he was suddenly feeling overwhelmed.  He just realized his dream people were real, and he not only knew them, but apparently they knew him as well.

            Captain Decker and Elder Stow were left with tying off the horses and getting out the tents.  Roland and Lincoln were at Father’s elbow to ask if some of the men might help them get a better idea of what they could fix in the village.  That gathered all of Father’s attention and the men began to smile.  Lockhart and Katie were doing their best to mingle and reassure the people, but shortly it was Katie among the women and Lockhart wandered back to the horses.

            Decker and Elder Stow had moved back from the center of the village to pitch their camp, not the least to get away from the smell of burnt reeds and wood.  Lockhart helped get the tents up and then he went to check on Lincoln and Roland.  Decker kept guard and turned his binoculars on the river which was just discernible through the nearby trees.  Elder Stow checked his instrument now and then while he built a fire.

            That night, everyone had some meat and bread, and vegetables, mostly onions, provided by the village.  Aha, Ankara and Usersi hovered around or near Sakhmet who seemed to be getting along great with Neferet despite the big age difference.  Ka sat beside Emotep and tried to say encouraging things when Emotep appeared particularly distressed.

            Mostly the people, even Mother Beset and Father Meni were happy, considering the circumstances.  Some of their neighbors whom they already counted as dead looked like they might recover, and all of the wounded had been treated, if not healed miraculously.  Alexis was asleep in Lincoln’s arms during most of the meal, exhausted from doing all that healing work, but there was a most contented smile on her face.

            Everyone got to work in the morning.  Aha-Aa, Ankaret and Usersi got drafted.  The only reason Emotep did not get put to work was because he escaped to the club house.  He had much to think about and needed some time alone.  It occurred to him at ten-years-old that the world was a much bigger and more complicated proposition than he ever imagined.  He was more complicated as well, but some of the things he was thinking, about living other lives in other times, was not something he really wanted to think about.  It was like losing his innocence, and here he was only ten-years-old.  He honestly did not want to think about some things, but he had no choice.  Little Nidjau was a prisoner of Lord Seth and probably frightened half to death. 

            The nominal ruler of the upper lands, the so-called king in Hierakon was worthless.  He would lose the land to Set if left alone.  Thebes was certainly its own city, and Karnak, with the temple of Amun was an independent place – the religious center of the land as Abydos was the place of the dead, but he did not expect help from any of those places either – especially since Abydos was apparently already overrun by the enemy.  And what could he do for poor Nidjau?

            Emotep considered the gods.  Amun scared him a little.  Horus was just a young adult, like Hathor, and could not be expected to do much.  Mut was reported to be sleeping with Set, so no help there.  Most of the rest were in Lower Egypt; Toth at Fayun, Ptah at Memphis and the Place of the Lion, Bast in her city, Aton the Ra – the King of the gods in his city at Helios.  Even his old protector – Phoenix’ old protector, Wadjt was in the delta.  To whom could he turn?

            He imagined Isis might be persuaded to help.  She certainly had no love for Set, but then she spent every day grieving for Osiris, even if Osiris was not quite dead yet.  Anubis the enforcer of Egypt?  Perhaps, but he had no way of getting in touch with either Anubis or Isis.  No, he concluded, getting Nidjau back and setting the children free was going to be up to him, a ten-year-old boy who never wandered very far outside of his own village.  He was going to have to depend on Lockhart and the others, though he hated to put them in harm’s way.  Their job was supposed to be to get home to the twenty-first century in one piece and not go head-to-head with an invasion of the minions of Set.

            Emotep looked up to find Sakhmet and Neferet sitting quietly by the hole and the rope.  He was startled but not surprised.  He did not hear them come up the rope, but then he had his suspicions about exactly who Sakhmet was, anyway.  He looked at her closely.  He was also not surprised that she now appeared to be more like she was eleven, if not his age, though she still had a sense of unnatural attractiveness about her.  It was like Innan, but removed from the source, and he noticed that like Innan when she was very young, Sakhmet appeared to be leaking all over Neferet.  He already liked Neferet, but it felt strange to say that this little five-year-old looked very attractive.

            Sakhmet was studying him in return with a serious expression on her face when Emotep startled her with a question.  “Who is your mother that she should go away?”

            Sakhmet’s eyebrows went straight up before she squinted at him.  “I was just wondering the same thing about you, not your mother going away bit.  I’ve met your mother.  She seems very nice.”

            Emotep sat and they stared eye-to-eye for a moment before he said, “Well?”

            “Ishtar,” Sakhmet said.  “She had to go to that other place for a time since Chaos was overcome.”

            “Tiamut.”  Emotep nodded to that much and pointed to Neferet.  “She knows the story.  But now, who is your father?  You are headed for Memphis?  Don’t tell me.  Ptah.”

            Sakhmet smiled and the sunshine in that was almost overwhelming.  “Why, yes.  That is very good.  How did you know?  But wait, who are you, because as far as I can tell you are just a normal, mortal boy?  Except I can’t read your mind.”

            “I am Emotep, a normal mortal boy, but one day I will be your younger brother, and kind of your older brother at the same time.”

            Sakhmet made her whole face squint, and it was very cute.  “But that doesn’t make sense.”

            “I seldom make sense.  But now, who are you running away from?  Don’t tell me.  Papi Amun.”

            “He won’t let me do anything.” Sakhmet frowned and stomped her foot.  “It is like I am a prisoner at Karnak.”  Emotep understood that Sakhmet was likely older than she appeared.  The gods aged slowly.  She might be a genuine teenager in years, but in her case she would not approach anything near maturity until she was at least a hundred.  Marduk and Assur were more like a hundred and fifty, and they could act like real morons.  But he said none of this out loud.  Instead, he commiserated.

            “Amun can be frightening at times, and strict.”  Emotep could not remember very many incidents, but he knew his impression was accurate, and he also knew he had many encounters with Amun in the past, and some in the future.

            “Emotep?”  Ka’s voice came up from below.  Neferet stood up and went to the hole in the flooring where the rope let down.  She cupped her hand and shouted.

            “We are up here escaping the work.  Sakhmet and Emotep are loving each other.  Come on up.”

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Avalon 2.11:  Plans and Places … Next Time

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