Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 5 of 6

“It is true,” Alexis said.  “Boston was born human and became a spirit of the day to marry my brother.  I was born a spirit of the day, but became human to marry Benjamin.” she reached for Lincoln, but he was studiously staying out of the conversation.  “I still have some magic, though.  On my bad days, Benjamin calls me his witch.”

“Like the witch we are following?” Felix asked.

Alexis shook her head.  “She is a very powerful sorceress.  She can do things I cannot imagine doing.”  Alexis slid back beside her husband, and Katie took up the telling.

“Lincoln and Alexis are especially worried about Evan and Millie.  Evan and Millie also belong in the future, and Lincoln and Alexis found Evan about three hundred and fifty years ago in what was going to become Rome.  Romulus and Remus were young boys then.”

“We met the wolf, Valencia,” Lockhart interjected.

“She was a woman,” Katie said. “She could turn into a wolf to suckle the boys when they were babies.”

“It wasn’t Rome yet,” Lockhart insisted.

“But it was getting there,” Katie said. “Anyway, Millie, Evan’s wife, got lost in Babylon.”  Felix did not know what Babylon was.  “But Evan went back to the founding of Rome.  Lincoln and Alexis were the ones who found him and saved him, so they kind of feel responsible for him, and for Millie.”

Felix understood that feeling of responsibility, but he said nothing as Boston and Sukki came riding back from the front.  Boston looked like a superb rider.  Felix expected that from the spirits of the earth, but Lockhart said that was not it. Boston rode in rodeo competitions when she was young.  Felix nodded, though he did not know what Rodeos were.

“Rome,” Boston shouted and pointed behind her.  The group saw the trees, but the glimmer of the city could be seen through the branches.

Decker and Elder Stow, who rode out from the edges of the road, came in to join the group.  They fell in behind where they could protect the rear. Boston and Sukki continued out front. Lockhart asked a question.

“You can take us to Diana?”

“Furi Camilla Claudia, or Claudia Camilla, however the names work in this part of the world,” Katie added, with a look at Lockhart.

This was something Felix could do. “I am an officer among the Romans, and counted a patrician among the Romans, even if my family is Etruscan rooted.  I don’t know where she is in the city, but we can find Furi Claudia Diana.”

Katie confessed.  “Roman naming conventions are hard to follow, and I studied them.”

“As long as we find her,” Lockhart said. “The Kairos will know what to do if there is any hope of saving Evan and Millie.”

“Yeah,” Boston spoke up, having heard with her good elf ears.  “It wasn’t me that got kidnapped, or shot, or anything for a change.  I even escaped the spiders, unscathed.”

“No,” Sukki said.  “I got stung instead.”

“I must be rubbing off,” Boston said, with a true elf grin.  Sukki did not look sure if that was a good idea or not.  “Anyway,” Boston continued.  “At least we got Alexis.  The best healer in the business.”

That much was true.  Sukki looked back and smiled at Alexis, whom she thought of as an aunt, even if Alexis did not see the smile.  She looked again at Boston, her best sister, and wondered. Who would have ever thought she would be sisters with an elf?

###

When they arrived at the house, Boston got right down and raced up to the gate.  She saw a girl through the gate, one becoming a young woman, but one with a cloth tied around her eyes.  An elder elf, with some gray in her hair, an unusual sight in an elf, stood next to the girl, whispering in the girl’s ear.  The girl looked uncertain, but smiled well enough.

By the time a servant came to the gate, the others joined Boston.  When the gate opened, Boston did not know what to do.  Katie and Alexis came to the front and smiled for the girl and the one they thought of as an old woman, though Alexis suspected.  Decker, Lockhart, and Lincoln kept back while Felix spoke.

“I am Lucius Falerna Felix.  Is Lady Diana home?”

Elder Stow and Sukki came in last. Elder Stow explained to Sukki that her familial feelings for the travelers was perfectly acceptable.  He said, “For now, they are the only family we have. And all things considered, they are a rather good family.  We just need to find your cousins, Evan and Millie.  That’s all.”

Suki smiled, as they heard a woman’s voice from inside the house.  “Lockhart. What’s wrong?”

“Diana?” Boston asked before Lincoln could mouth the words, but the woman came into the gate area with her arms open. The woman had red hair and light brown eyes, and Boston said, “You’re red, like me,” as she ran into the hug.  She added, “You hug like a mom.”

“We are evaluating the hugs now, are we?” Diana said.

Boston grimaced.  “You even sound like a mom.”

Diana laughed and held on to Boston with one hand while she opened her other arm and hand.  The blind girl smiled and slipped under Diana’s wing, though some wondered how she knew, not being able to see and all.

“My daughter, Justitia,” Diana said.

“Lucky girl,” Boston whispered, and Justitia nodded.

“The best mom.”

Diana turned to Justitia.  “These are the travelers I told you about.  The ones from the future.”

“Oh,” Justitia exclaimed.  “That makes sense.  They are hedged around by the gods.”

“Yes, sweet,” Diana hugged Justitia into her side.  “But that does not solve everything.”  Diana looked and Katie, and Lockhart who walked up beside her.

“We lost Evan and Millie,” Katie said.

“Oh!” Justitia exclaimed again as Decker spoke from behind.

“And all of the guns.”

“It was the witch,” Alexis explained. “She hypnotized Evan and Millie and had them steal our weapons when we slept.  Now she has them as prisoners, maybe hostages.”

“And the weapons,” Lockhart added. “Which we have needed far too often in our journey.”

“Nanette?”  A young man came from the house.  He heard something, and every eye turned toward him as he came into the light.  “Nanette is holding Evan and Millie hostage?”

“Charles Wallace Dodd,” Diana introduced the young man.  “Yes, Wallace.  The evil Nanette has taken Evan and Millie prisoner.”

Wallace shook his head, like he did not like the term, evil Nanette; but Justitia tapped her mom’s side and whispered. “He knows something.”

“Wallace?” Diana said, with some command in her voice.

Wallace reached up to scratch his beard before he nodded.  “I think I saw her, this morning.  She was surrounded by men, and with a wagon.  I don’t know the cargo.  It was covered with a blanket, but it looked heavy.  The other woman could have been Mildred, but I couldn’t be sure.  It was far away.”

“Where was that?”  Lincoln asked the intel question, not doubting the veracity of the report.

“A warehouse by the docks, down by the river,” He paused and glanced at Diana, who betrayed nothing on her face, but from the look on Wallace face, maybe he went somewhere he was not supposed to go.  “I didn’t see Publia and her friends,” he confessed.  Alexis, at least, imagined there was a story behind that.

“How did you know it was Nanette?” Lockhart asked the police question, not willing to run off on a rumor.

Wallace acted like it was obvious. “She was a darkie, like your friend there.”  Decker rolled his eyes as Wallace continued.  “There are not many negroes in Rome, if any.”  Alexis and Lincoln looked miffed, and about to speak. Boston opened her mouth in surprise, but waited to see what happened.  Lockhart covered his chuckle as Katie elbowed him in the stomach. Diana raised her hand for quiet.

“1905,” she said.  “Don’t forget Wallace came here from 1905.  Be gracious.”  She stared at the group and saw no objections, except Wallace who looked confused and wondered what he said wrong.  Diana continued.  “Alexis.  Justitia is learning to cook.  I would appreciate you sharing some thoughts on that with her.  The rest of you need to come with me.  Before you go running off, you need to be properly armed.  She led them to a big, open room where she had metal Roman helmets and breastplates, pikes, sears, and boxes of Roman short swords.  She also had several famous, big rectangular Roman shields that she was edging with metal. She explained.

“The Gauls are getting restless. Next time my father takes out the army, I am going to make sure the army is properly equipped to fend off those Celtic broadsword hammer blows.”

Katie told Lockhart.  “History imagines her father came up with all these innovations and outfitted his army overnight…”  Lockhart nodded that he knew better.

Meanwhile, Alexis asked about the scales in the kitchen.

“Oh, I have to weigh everything,” Justitia said.  “I even take the scale and weights with me when I shop.  Of course, no merchant in their right mind would dare cheat me at this point.”

“Your mother?” Alexis asked.

Justitia grinned.  “Mom lays down the law.”

“And your sister?”

Justitia’s smile turned to a frown. “Publia delights in breaking the law.”

Alexis took and patted Justitia’s hand gently.  “She is a teenager.  You will understand better in a year or two.”

###

The travelers still had their binoculars, along with the rest of their equipment.  They examined the warehouse from a distance and saw signs that the witch had indeed taken up residence.  Lockhart, Katie, Decker, and Elder Stow formulated a plan.  Boston listened in and explained it to Sukki.

Diana put in her two cents and then stepped back to let them argue.  She wore her armor, where she had a sword at her back and a long knife across the small of her back, but she looked more formidable than she felt, especially since Justitia insisted on tagging along.  She knew she need not worry about the girl, but she felt a mother’s worry all the same. Gaius, her son, was absolutely forbidden to be there.  She charged his nurse, Livia, with tying him to the front gate if she needed to. Then, who knew where Publia was? No doubt gallivanting with her friends in the market, and getting into trouble.

Diana looked at Justitia.  She had removed her blindfold.  She was not utterly blind, and could make out shadows and light well enough, but people expressed feeling awkward and uncomfortable looking at her eyes.  She got better reception when she wore the cloth around her eyes.  Diana once imagined making sunglasses for the girl, but obviously, she was there to keep history on track, not change history. The only reason she got to upgrade the Roman arms and armor is because that was going to happen anyway, and while she might have been the reason it happened, the point was, it happened.

Diana shook her head.  Her lives were much too complicated.

Diana kept the girl between herself and Lincoln.  Justitia ignored him, but showed great anticipation, wondering how events would unfold.  Of course, Lincoln would no doubt keep himself in reserve.  He would hopefully grab Justitia if she ran out in her excitement. She would have asked Alexis to take that position, but thought Alexis might be needed for her magic.  Lincoln seemed the right choice.  Diana knew Lincoln would not run out in excitement.

Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 4 of 6

Lucius Falerna Felix,” the goddess Diana spoke to the officer in charge, the same officer the travelers met in the gate the day before.  “The spiders are all gone.  But the family in this house are also gone.  You need to send the night watch to collect the bodies and prepare them for their funeral.”

Felix, the name the travelers latched onto the day before, nodded, and got his men moving.  He would have gone with them, but Lockhart waved for him to join them, and the goddess also urged him in the spirit to come.  He came, but he would not lift his eyes to so much as look at the Diana, and he felt in awe of the travelers who appeared to be on very familiar ground with the goddess.

“Speak,” Diana said, and Felix spoke.

“I thought these people were strange enough to keep an eye on.  I gathered some of the night watch.  I wondered if they might have something to do with the ghosts in town, though when I mentioned it to them, they pretended like they did not know about the ghosts. We saw the first giant spiders at sundown, and I called up the gate guards and got the full night watch to surround the house, to keep the creatures contained.  It would have been a disaster to have giant spiders all over the city.”

Diana interrupted.  “The ghosts, as you call them, were wraiths in the night. I have sent them back to the place from whence they came.  There is one that is out of time placement that I am not authorized to touch.  She is with the witch, but she has been partially subdued.  There will be no more ghosts in the town.  Continue.”  Felix continued.

“We fought in every quarter.  The spiders seemed everywhere.  I saw two of the strangers come out of the gate, their arms loaded down with equipment of some kind; but I was too busy to stop them and ask them what they were doing.  Fortunately, they left the gate unlatched.”

Diana interrupted again.  “Evan and Millie were enchanted by the witch.  She called it hypnosis.  She could not make Evan and Millie harm you in any way, but stealing your weapons was an easy thing.  Continue.”

“Well, at last there seemed a break in the spiders climbing over the wall.  I gathered my men and broke into the house through the unlatched gate.  I found these people fighting against the same spiders in the court, which suggests the strangers were not responsible for the spider swarm.”

“I assume that the witch made the spiders get big,” Lockhart spoke, and Felix nodded.  Diana said nothing.

“That is really it,” Felix finished. “With the last spider killed, I saw the most glorious sight I ever thought to see…”  He began to weep softly, tears of joy and fear.

“Yeah, yeah.  Blah, blah,” Diana said, and turned to the travelers.  “My brother says the time of the gods is coming-to-a-close.  Just as well. After thousands of years of being worshiped, it gets kind of tiresome.  Now listen.  I am breaching etiquette a bit, but Evan and Millie are alive, disenchanted, but prisoners of the witch.  You will have to save them… or not.  And before you ask, there is nothing I can do about the witch.  She is the creation of Minerva.  That will be your headache.”

“Can’t you ask Minerva to fix it?” Katie asked.

“Minerva?” Lockhart was not sure who that was.

“Athena,” Katie told him, as he remembered.

“I can ask, again,” Diana said.  “She knows full well in the spiritual world, identical twins often produce one good and one bad, like the two faces of Janus, who some say should have been born twins.  But you know Minerva.  She can’t ever admit she made a mistake.”  Diana shrugged, and vanished.

Katie stepped over to hug Felix. He looked grateful, until he thought about who was hugging him.  These travelers seemed human enough, but who knew the truth of it?  They were on a first name basis with the gods, or at least one goddess, and that made him wonder just how human these people really were. He did not feel entirely surprised when Boston came in looking like the elf she was.

Boston saw the stares and quickly restored her glamour of humanity.  “I was the only one who could wiggle out of Elder Stow’s screens,” she said.

“Oh, I am sorry,” Elder Stow apologized. “I should have left some discs for the rest of you to come and go.  I didn’t think of it.”

“That’s okay,” Lockhart told him. “We were kind of in a hurry.”

“And preoccupied,” Decker added.

“Boston,” Katie saw something. “What is that look on your face? You look upset.”

Boston took a big breath.  “Honey and Freedom are fine, and so is Sukki. Weber, Dog, and Elder Stow’s horse were bitten, or stung, but Alexis got the poison out in time and they will heal.” Boston found some tears.  “Black Beauty and Misty Gray are gone.”  She did not have to say anything else.

Katie found some tears, but Lockhart hugged her and helped her walk toward the back door.  Decker and Elder Stow followed.  Felix shouted to the men in hearing distance, and the two from the road that first met the travelers, the ones Lockhart called two-headed chicken and two-headed snake, followed after Felix and the travelers.  No one paid attention, the travelers thinking of the horses as they were, but it came as a bit of a shock when they locals walked smack into Elder Stow’s screen.  Two-headed snake yelped, and two-headed chicken landed on his rump, where he rubbed his bruised nose.

“Oh, I beg your pardon,” Elder Stow said. He gave the men discs and invited them in.  They came carefully.  He took all the discs back when he turned off his screen device.  Everyone got too busy being in tears or comforting the others to notice.

###

The travelers stayed the rest of the night and into the next day, to give the horses as much time as possible to heal. Then, they planned to walk them the ten miles to Rome, but Felix and his two soldiers offered to go with them, and Felix felt sure he could scrounge up some horses for the journey.  No guarantee that they would be good horses.

Alexis and Lincoln were especially worried about Evan and Millie, but Boston and Katie rode out in the morning on Honey and Freedom and both got the impression that for the time being, they were fine.  They appeared to be walking to Rome themselves, and on horseback, the others thought they might catch the couple.

Elder Stow said he could not pick out, on his scanner, which travelers they might be.  He would have to work on being able to do that.  Meanwhile, the road between Rome and Veii had become well used since the city of Veii fell to the Romans.  Decker, on the other hand, looked for them with his totem eagle.  He felt sure he saw them in the distance, beyond the range of his eagle flight, but two, walking beside a wagon filled with shiny objects of some sort.  That had to be their weapons.

Finally, around noon, the travelers left their horses in a new barn and stable; the place they found the horses they borrowed, or actually rented.  Felix charged his two soldiers to watch the travelers’ horses under threat of crucifixion if anything happened to them, then the travelers and Felix headed out on the south road toward Rome.

Lockhart, Katie, and Felix kept the group to a reasonable pace.  Boston, Decker, and Lincoln especially wanted to ride ahead and catch the wagon before the witch made it to the city, to get lost in the city streets.  Felix assured them that if the thieves walked all night and all morning, they were likely in the city already.  They would get there, and Lockhart had to repeat the phrase. “We will find them.”

Felix did not say much.  He seemed shy in front of these people who were friends with the gods.  Lockhart and Katie, and sometimes Sukki and Alexis included him in their conversation, but mostly he asked questions, even if he did not ask some questions for fear of the answers.  He did ask where they were from and felt disturbed enough by that answer.

“We come from roughly twenty-five hundred years in the future,” Katie said.  “But we started this journey about four thousand years in the past.”

“We have been on the road for about three, going on four years,” Lockhart agreed.  “We have about two or three more years to travel to get home.”

“That is a very rough estimate,” Katie said.

Felix nodded before he shook his head.  He did not understand.  The words made sense, but his mind could not grasp the concept.

“Maybe a story would help,” Alexis butted in.

Lockhart told the story about being in Troy during the war.  He told about meeting Diomedes, and old man Nestor.  “We met the Amazons bringing cattle to the relief of Troy.  You know, my wife is an honorary Amazon queen.” Lockhart grinned at Katie who did not deny it.

“We did not get to stay long, though,” Katie said.  “Aphrodite, the one you call Venus, moved us along before we had a chance to see the city or any of the war.”

“We were being chased by monsters at that time,” Lockhart concluded.

“Somehow,” Felix mused.  “You and monsters I can understand.”

Lockhart nodded, but Katie continued. “Diomedes and Athena, that is, Minerva, seemed to be in love.  I wonder if they ever had children.”

“The virgin goddess?”  Felix looked shocked by the idea.

“Don’t believe everything you read,” Lockhart quipped.

Felix shook his head again.  “They say Diomedes was one of the only Greeks that got home safe from the war.  But soon, he abandoned Greece and came here, to the Apulia region in the south.  They say he left his weapons as an offering in the temple of Minerva Achaea there.”  Felix could not imagine it.  “But what you suggest, that the virgin goddess might have had a child.  It makes no sense.”

Sukki overheard the end of the conversation, and quite uncharacteristic, she offered a thought.  “I met Hercules.”  Felix looked up at the girl in a way where she had to tell the story of Jason, and all the Argonauts.  She did a credible job, especially when she told about the volcano.  Gott-Druk, living in the small family groups, particularly in the dead of winter, developed very strong storytelling skills.  Sukki got a little carried away, praising her friend Boston for saving their lives. She finished the story and rode out front, where Boston had ridden ahead to scout the land.  Sukki remained a very shy girl, but she started adjusting to having a family, even if most of it was not a Gott-Druk family.

“The spirit of the day?” Felix asked, to clarify who Boston was.

“The red head,” Katie nodded, and Alexis moved up again, and interrupted.

“My sister.”

Felix gave the woman a strange look. He watched when the red-headed elf put her glamour of humanity back on.

Lockhart saw the look of slight disgust, and chuckled.  It seemed the same way he still felt sometimes when he came face to face with the ones the Kairos called little ones.  Especially goblins.

“Don’t worry.  She is human, like us,” Katie said of Alexis.

Felix squinted at Alexis and twisted his brow.  “I don’t know about us, but I will take your word for it.”

Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 3 of 6

Nanette picked up Lincoln’s revolver, the only weapon she felt some familiarity with.  She pointed it at Evan and Millie and pulled on the trigger, but nothing happened.  It took a minute to figure out how to take off the safety.  Then she pointed it again, but at the last second, turned it on one of her flunkies.  The bang was loud.  The man yelled his surprise and collapsed, his hand across his stomach where he started bleeding out.  Nanette’s arm shot straight up.  She almost hit herself in the face with the weapon, but looked at it with approval as she put the safety back on and handed it to one of the other men.

“Gather these weapons and put them in the wagon,” she ordered.  “Take the couple.  Gag and tie them to the wagon.  I may have further use for them.”  As she followed everyone out the door, she turned her head with one last thought. “All right, Meg.  You can have the wounded one.”

Everyone heard the screams of absolute terror.  Millie threw her hands to her ears.  Evan looked back and dropped his jaw.  Nanette came out grinning.  She said, “They eat fear.  They feast when they scare someone to death.”

###

Boston gave her bow and arrows to Katie, and her Beretta to Lockhart while she held on to her wand.  Alexis pulled her wand and gave her bow and arrows to Lincoln, though she said he could not hit the broad side of a barn. Sukki pulled out her knife, military issue from the future, made from a steel far better than she ever imagined. Elder Stow had his gadgets. Decker broke off a table leg he could use as a club.

“A spear would be nice,” he said.

Lincoln nodded.  “Keep them at arm’s length.”

When Lockhart, Katie, Decker, and Elder Stow came out of their rooms and on to the upstairs balcony, their heads cleared a bit.  Good thing, because three giant spiders came clicking down the hall in their direction. Katie sent an arrow through one while Lockhart fiddled with the safety on Boston’s handgun.  Boston waved her wand and set the other two on fire. Alexis called up a wind that blew them on to the courtyard below where they would turn to charcoal without setting the whole house ablaze.

“No point in setting the house on fire,” she said out loud, and Boston smiled sheepishly, like she had not thought of that.

Everyone paused when they heard a distant, Bang!

“Millie and Evan?” Katie asked.

“They are gone,” Boston reported.

“Along with the weapons,” Decker said. He and Elder Stow faced the other way on the balcony, but no spiders came from the direction of the kitchens.

“We need to help the family,” Alexis said.

Lockhart shook his head.  “They seem to be coming from that direction.” He shot another one that might have come from the upstairs storage room.

“The horses,” Sukki suddenly spouted.

“The sabers,” Decker and Lincoln thought of them at the same time.  Lincoln, Decker, Lockhart and Katie had Patton Sabers wrapped up in their things, kept in the stables with their horses.

Decker started in the direction of the stairs without waiting.  The others followed.

Elder Stow shot one on the stairs. Decker got to use that club when a giant spider surprised them in the courtyard.  They picked up their pace and burst out the back door, heading toward where the barn and stables were located.  Decker and Katie sensed the trouble, and Boston heard the click-clickof spider legs on the wooden walls inside the stables.

“Hurry,” she yelled.

Alexis waved her wand at the door, and the doors blew open.  The horses in their stalls were panicking.  They saw dozens of giant spiders around the place.

Decker and Lincoln ran for the sabers. Alexis took her bow back so she could shoot the beasts and conserve her magical strength for her healing magic, if needed.  Katie, being an elect, quickly mastered her bow and arrows.  Lockhart fired the Beretta two handed, as he had been taught all those years ago at the police academy.

Elder Stow pulled out his sonic device, and the spiders protested.  The humans shouted their complaints and rattled a bit as well.  Elder Stow refined the sound, and all the spiders fell off the walls.  He did minimal damage to the creatures, but he paraphrased Alexis’ words.  “I don’t want to burn down the place.”

By then, everyone had their sabers, and they waded into the spiders.  Sukki liked her knife, but found it as easy to punch one and cave in its head. Despite her glamour of humanity, in reality, she was a bit of a linebacker in her build, and very strong.

Boston took back her bow and arrows from Katie, and thought she better practice.  Elf maids were known for their excellent archery, and she knew a fire in the stables would only make matters worse.  It did not take long to slice the remaining giant siders in the building, but the walls and the people got covered in blood and guts.

“We need to see about the family, and the other people in the inn,” Alexis said, again.

Sukki stepped up, holding her side. “I got stung,” she confessed.

Alexis and Boston got her to lie down, and Alexis went to work immediately drawing out whatever poison might have been in the bite, and then healing the wound, which looked like quite a gash.

“We will check on the family,” Katie said, meaning her and Lockhart.

“I’ll stay here with the girls,” Lincoln said, and for once, Lockhart agreed.  Lincoln got all too quick to keep back where it was safe, but in this case, these spiders could be anywhere.

“Just give me a second to adjust this screen device…” He turned it on, and handed little discs to Katie and Lockhart, and one for Decker who had his hand out.  They were tuned to let the people pass through the screens.  “If there are any inside the area, you will have to deal with them, but at least no more should be able to get at you from the outside, or at the horses.”

“Ready?”  Decker seemed anxious.

“I’ll have to check the horses next,” Alexis said, off handedly.

Lockhart simply nodded and led his group back toward the house.

“Alexis.”  Boston called from the stalls.  Alexis’ horse, Misty Gray, was not only dead, it appeared partially eaten. Katie’s Black Beauty was down and breathing heavily from the poison.  Elder Stow’s horse was also down, with multiple bites.  Lockhart’s horse, Dog, still stood, but he looked bitten several times.  Decker’s horse, Weber, looked bitten at least once.  The poison oozed out of a gash on his side.  Boston’s Honey and Sukki’s Freedom looked untouched, and that felt like a small miracle.

“Alexis,” Boston called again, but she sounded weepy.  She saw two spiders on the wall, ready to swing down on Black Beauty.  Boston carefully fried them with the hope that they would not fall and set the hay and the whole stables on fire.  Alexis, and Sukki, back on her feet, helped contain the fire.  Lincoln got the last one with his saber as it made a dash for the door.

Boston wept, but Alexis grabbed her hand to add her magic to the healing process.  Sukki and Lincoln kept watch, just in case.  Alexis made an executive decision.  She pulled the poison from Weber, Dog, and Elder Stow’s horse, which as far as anyone knew, he never called anything other than horse.  Black Beauty seemed too far gone, and by the time Alexis and Boston arrived there, exhausted, the horse had died.

Boston wept some more, and Alexis joined her.

###

Lockhart, Katie, and Decker burst back into the downstairs courtyard area, sabers ready, Lockhart still holding tight to Boston’s Beretta.  Elder Stow came a step behind, juggling his weapon and sonic device.  He considered activating his floatation device and flying up to the balcony above.  He also considered going invisible, but he imagined these giant spiders had to be the result of some magic, and that magic might see through his invisibility screen. His plan went on hold when they got met by some fifteen or twenty spiders in the courtyard.

The travelers almost backed out of the house in the face of such odds, but a dozen men burst in the front gate to add their spears, swords, and shields to the fight.  More spiders came from the family side of the house, or dropped down from the balcony or the roof, but altogether, the fight did not last long.  The spiders were disgusting when stabbed or sliced in half, but they were not smart and only knew one way to attack.

At the end, one man lost his spear and screamed when a spider got ready to bite him.  Lockhart’s bullet arrived at the same time as an arrow.  The arrow got shot with enough force to drive the spider back against the wall.  A woman stood in their midst, and smiled.

“That was fun,” she said.

“Artemis,” Katie recognized the woman.

The woman sighed.  “In this place, it is Diana.  Saturn renamed everyone in his corner of the world.  Before he went over to the other side, he even gave Hera the name Juno.  That took courage.”

“I imagine Hera is not one to trifle with,” Katie said, as she and the goddess hugged.

“I should say,” Diana agreed, as she backed up and put one hand to her cheek as if remembering something from long ago.  Katie thought it might have been Troy.

“So, Lockhart.  Are you taking care of my elect?” Diana asked, referring to Katie.

“More like she is taking care of me,” he answered, and Diana smiled again.

“Decker,” she turned to the man. “Venus and I were talking just the other day, and your name came up.  You are still on her list, you know.”

“No.  Please,” Decker said, and Diana laughed, which made every face in the courtyard smile.

“Elder Stow,” Diana moved on.  “How is that adopted daughter of yours?”

“Well, I hope,” he said.

“She is well,” Diana assured him, as she turned at last to the soldiers in the courtyard.

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

MONDAY

The chase begins, to save Millie and Evan, not to mention get back the weapons which do not belong in the hands of the with, much less in the days of the Roman Republic.  Until Monday

*

Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 2 of 6

The travelers stabled their horses and took all five empty rooms at the inn.  They would have preferred six rooms.  Boston and Sukki did not mind rooming together, but Decker and Elder Stow did not mix well.  Major Decker, the marine, had been trained to sleep wherever, when he had a chance, but Elder Stow snored, terribly.  Decker claimed he kept waking up, thinking someone was sneaking up on him.

In the back of their minds, Millie and Evan wondered if that night would be the night they could steal the formidable weapons of the travelers.  When they came in from the stables where they took a turn seeing to the horses, a man got in their way.  He got their attention with a word.

“Light and dark.  Light and dark.”  He said it twice and handed them a potion of some sort.  “The lady said spill this in the room of the marines.  Do not breathe the vapors, but wait an hour. Then the sleepers should stay asleep.”

Evan took the potion and slipped it in a pocket.  Millie nodded, as they entered the common room.  She looked once at Boston, but Boston did not indicate that she heard anything with her good elf ears.  Evan imagined no one noticed.

That evening, Evan and Millie went up to their room early.  Millie ran into a spider web on the stairs, and nearly screamed, but Evan held her.

“Just a cobweb,” he told her. “Hush.  Just a cobweb.”

Evan stepped inside Decker and Elder Stow’s door and spilled half of the potion on the floor by the bed.  He did not see or smell any vapor, but he did not stay in the room for long.  The other half he spilled in the Lockhart’s room.  He knew Captain Katherine Harper-Lockhart was a marine who worked out of the Pentagon, though maybe Nanette did not know that.  Then Millie and Evan sat on the edge of their bed, staring at the wall, and waited for an hour, looking like two china dolls with no will of their own.

The others came up and went to bed. Something outside roared.  Someone down the street screamed.  Strange lights flashed outside the inn and sped off to disappear in the city streets.  Evan and Millie heard the click-click-click overhead, like squirrels in the attic.  Being from 1905, they never imagined Santa Claus.  Then the hour was up.

Evan pulled back the curtain that acted as a door, and stepped carefully into Decker and Elder Stow’s room.  Major Decker slept on the floor, though it looked like he may have passed out.  Evan gathered up Decker’s rifle and gun-belt, which had been laid carefully on a small table in the room.  Decker shifted in his sleep, but he did not wake.

Elder Stow slept on the bed, and was not presently snoring at all.  Evan paused to look long at Elder Stow’s things, which had been piled on an end table beside the bed.  He honestly did not know one item from another, so he could not imagine what might be the weapon.  When Elder Stow turned on his back and snorted, Evan left the whole pile undisturbed. He was only supposed to gather the weapons.

Millie crept into Katie and Lockhart’s room as quiet as a mother might check on a sleeping child.  Their weapons sat in a single pile on the floor, by the bed. Millie easily picked up the rifle, Lockhart’s shotgun, and both gun-belts, though that was all heavy for her. She stopped still, when Katie suddenly spoke.

“No… Don’t…Wait…”

Millie dared to look, but Katie appeared to be talking in her sleep.  Millie hustled through the curtained doorway.

The hall outside the room ran like a long balcony overlooking the center courtyard of the building.  Downstairs, the common room took up the whole back end of the building.  The kitchens stood at one end.  The family rooms took up the other end.  Upstairs, a dozen rooms sat off the long balcony which had stairs where the balcony turned on both ends.  The three rooms over the family end had two cousins and a storage room.  The three rooms over the kitchen end were the ones to sleep in during the cold rains of winter.  Presently, Evan and Millie stood with their arms loaded with guns, lit only by the stars and the moonlight.

“Wait here,” Evan said, as he put down Decker’s rifle and gun-belt.  “If I get caught, you will have to carry these things.”

“I can’t carry all of this,” Millie complained, quietly.  She stared at the guns, an uncertain look on her face, but she said no more.

Evan crept into Lincoln and Alexis’ room, quiet as a mouse.  He knew Alexis carried no weapon, but Lincoln had a gun-belt he wanted to get.  He briefly wished he used some of the sleep-vapor potion in the room.  He remembered Alexis was a witch of sorts and he feared she might wake.  But his instruction had been to use it on the marines.  There were actually two marines, but neither was Alexis or Lincoln.

Evan paused and stared at the enormous spider web in the corner of the room by the closed window shutters.  He knew that could not be just old cobwebs, but he could not stop to worry about that.  He had a task to finish, for Nanette.

When he came out, he took a rifle, the shotgun and three gun-belts, two of which he quickly slipped around his waist. That left Millie with the other rifle and the last gun-belt.  She handled that well enough, but she had a question which she whispered when they reached the stairs.

“What about Boston and Sukki?”

“Sukki doesn’t have a weapon,” he answered.  “Boston has one, but she keeps it in what she calls her elf slip.  It is invisible to me.  Besides, being and elf, I am sure Boston would wake up the minute we pulled back her curtain.  We go with what we have.  One gun is no big deal.”

Millie said nothing, but as they came to the bottom of the stairs and started across the central courtyard, headed toward the wall and iron gate that served as the front door, she first wondered why they were doing what they were doing—disarming the others.

Just before they reached the gate, a foul wind and brilliant light entered the courtyard from above.  It stopped near the couple, swirling lights of yellow, red, and blue.  Evan and Millie stared, as a darker ghost-like form grew in the center of the light.  It looked human enough, until the form turned to face them.  As the colors of light swirled and cleared, Millie screamed.

“Demon,” Evan gasped.

“Jesus,” Millie honestly prayed.

“I rebuke you,” Evan yelled, and the demon image screamed, a high pitched, piercing sound that echoed in the natural acoustics of the home.  Evan and Millie ran out the gate.  The demon light flew up and over the roof.  Alexis, Lincoln, Boston, and Sukki sprang to their feet.

“What was that?” Sukki shivered.

“Something to wake the dead,” Boston said, but she only meant it as the overused twenty-first century expression.

Katie kicked Lockhart and fell out of bed.  Lockhart groaned, and got up like a father needing to hold the baby in the night. Katie shook her head to try to clear it. The couple threw on their clothes, a simple thing with fairy weave which seemed to cover them with almost a mind of its own.

Decker sprang up, and felt very dizzy. Elder Stow held his head and complained.

“I feel like I drank alcohol,” he said. Elder Stow could not hold his liquor, at all.

Decker reached for his rifle, which wasn’t there.  “The weapons are gone,” he said.

Elder Stow looked at the pile of his things beside the bed.  He picked up his own weapon and fired at something behind Decker.  Decker whipped his head around and saw a spider roast. The spider looked the size of a small end table.

###

Millie and Evan found the man from earlier, and without thinking, they followed him to a house down the street from the inn.  There were other men there, a half-dozen in all, and they all had the same look about them. The men moved slow and awkward, and their eyes appeared glazed over.  Someone from the twenty-first century might refer to them as mind-numbed robots.  But Millie and Evan, being from 1905, saw them the way every human before the twenty-first century would see them, as enchanted, and under the spell of the witch.

When Millie and Evans dropped the weapons on the floor in front of Nanette, they did a little head shaking of their own, to come out of the hypnotic suggestion.  They looked at each other, wondering why they disarmed their friends.

“Is this all of them?” Nanette asked.

Evan found his mouth open.  Words came out, and he could not stop them. “Boston, the elf still has her weapons. They were in her slip and invisible to me.  Sukki still has her knife, but we thought it best not to enter the elf room, lest we be stopped.  Alexis still has her wand in her old elf slip, that is invisible to me, but if she has a weapon, it would be a bow and arrows at most.”

“Alexis hates weapons,” Millie added.

“Elder Stow still has his things,” Evan continued.  “I looked at it all, but I did not know which one was the weapon, so I thought it best not to disturb the pile.  But we brought all of their guns and weapons of power to you.  Why did you make us do this?”

“Why are you haunting the town with demons?” Millie asked.

Nanette grinned a wicked grin.  “Meg,” she called, and something came from the back room.  It appeared a ghost-like person, a woman not quite solid, and she floated into the room and cackled—her attempt at laughter.

Evan’s eyes got big.  Millie moved into Evan’s arms and turned her head into his shoulder so she would not have to see.

Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 1 of 6

After 404 BC, Latium. Kairos lifetime 81: Diana: Marcia Furi Camilla Diana

Recording …

The travelers entered the time zone above the Arnus River, near the village that would one day be Pisa.  They found a ferry, but they had to let the horses swim across, a job the horses had long since mastered.  The ferryman smiled at the gold, Persian though it might be. The travelers saved their Spartan and Athenian silver for Rome, when they arrived.

Lockhart kept up the night watch as they traveled south through Etruscan territory.  As Evan and Millie said, the people in the countryside seemed nice, but the cities were not friendly.  They looked for a place that did not appear frequented by anyone in particular, and settled in.  That is not to say they hid from people, but they felt it best not to get entangled.

“They are defensive,” Katie pointed out about the city people.  “They don’t trust anyone, including each other.  I would say the Etruscan League is already broken.  It shouldn’t be hard for Rome to swallow the whole area.”

“Thus, we keep watch in the night,” Lockhart responded, and nodded to his own wisdom.

Evan and Millie also nodded to each other, but said nothing.  The post-hypnotic suggestion of the witch did not yet feel acute.

“According to the database,” Lincoln spoke up on that first evening.  “This is the crucial time for Rome.  Diana turned eight and traveled with her father when he took the Etruscan city of Veii.  Apparently, they dug under the walls and got into the city via the sewer system.

“Clearly something the Kairos would come up with,” Decker said, without betraying how he felt about that.

“The loss of that city is probably what broke the back of the Etruscan League,” Katie said.

Lincoln nodded.  “He subdued several cities in the south of Etruscan territory, and the Etruscans never really recovered.  But also, shortly after, the Etruscans got invaded by the Gauls. That may have been the actual last nail in the Etruscan coffin.  The Gauls also invaded Rome, and caused some real trouble, but Diana’s father raised an army and drove them out.  The Etruscans just got squished.”

“Gauls?” Lockhart asked.

“Gaelic people from up by the alps,” Katie told him.

“Of all the gall,” Decker said.  No one even smiled.

“So, twice the Kairos got involved through her father,” Boston said.

Lincoln nodded.  “She was fourteen when the Gauls came.  Her father was dictator and consul during her fifteenth year, and rebuilt Rome after the Gauls left.  Then she turned sixteen and got married.”

Alexis shook her head.  “I know it is the times, and typical through most of history, but I still say sixteen is too young.”

“How old was her husband?” Katie asked.

“Um…” Lincoln looked.  “I think, thirty-one.”

“See?” Alexis said.  “That’s not right.  He is fifteen years older than her.”

“Women mature faster,” Lockhart said, and added, “Ouch,” when Katie slapped him in the shoulder.

“Publius Claudius Crassus is his name. He is a diplomat and holds some religious office. He is a second son.  Apparently, the Claudia father and Diana’s father did not always see eye to eye. The marriage calmed things a bit.”

“And a political marriage besides,” Alexis groused.

“Poor girl,” Boston agreed.

“They have three children,” Lincoln said, to mollify things a bit.  “Publia, named after her father, and Justitia are the girls.  Justitia got adopted when Diana suffered a miscarriage. Technically, the elder is Publia Prima, and Justitia’s adopted name is Publia Secunda, but Diana insists on calling her Justitia, so everyone else calls her that.  Then, Publius Gaius Claudius Crassus, the youngest, is the son. He goes by Gaius Claudius, like his grandfather.  Of course, we don’t know exactly when we arrived.  They might not be born yet.”

“Justitia was eleven, near twelve when we came through,” Millie said.  “She is blind, but a sweet girl.  Publia turned fourteen, and whenever she got in trouble, Diana would say her own name, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, three times in a row, just like that.  I don’t understand why.”

A few of the travelers laughed at that one.

“Gaius was ready to turn eight when we left,” Evan finished.

“Good to know,” Lockhart said, with a glance at Katie to see if he was still in trouble.

“Family,” Elder Stow interrupted. “It is important, you know.”

“So, why is this a crucial time?” Decker asked, to get back on the topic.

“Yes,” Lincoln said.  “Once Rome broke the Etruscans, who otherwise sat there breathing down their Roman necks, Rome had to overcome her immediate neighbors starting with the Latin League, but also the Aequi, the Volsci, and the Hernici.  That was where Rome learned to use diplomacy effectively, and how to deal with a defeated enemy.  Rome learned how to build and equip a real army, and discipline soldiers to win. The Samnite wars, and then the Punic wars that followed refined and expanded the scale of things, but all of the basics that eventually created the Roman Empire were learned in this time period.”

“Fair enough,” Lockhart said, as he got up. It turned ten, time for Lincoln and Alexis to watch.  Lockhart and Katie would get a two-hour nap before their midnight to two in the morning shift.

Millie and Evan went to bed, thinking, there might not be a time when the others were all asleep.  Then, what should they do?

###

While moving several days through the hills of Etruscan territory, the only comment of note came from Alexis. “Somehow, this isn’t how I imagined traveling through Tuscany.”

On the fourth day, they came to Veii, where they were only a day out, about ten miles from Rome.  The people there appeared happier than any city people they had seen.

Lincoln reported.  “When Veii fell, the Romans killed every adult male in the city.  Then later, when the Gauls came, the defeated Roman army hid behind the walls of Veii. They held out when the Gauls went on to attack Rome, but you can imagine, all those young soldiers and widows. People moved in from the countryside, especially when the Gauls were rampaging.  Also, some plebeians moved here out of the poorer sections of Rome, and some patrician families are looking to build villas in the neighborhood. Though it does not have nearly the population it had as an Etruscan city, it is now full of Roman citizens and basically a Roman city.  Besides, now that Camillus, that is, Diana’s father, drove the Gauls out and conquered all the surrounding, local tribes, the people of New Veii, so to speak, are probably happy not being in the direct line of anyone’s fire.”

“Well,” Alexis said.  “At least the people surrounding the city seem happy and at peace, as opposed to the Etruscans, where everyone felt on edge about one thing or another.”

Sukki turned her head back into the conversation.  “I know. The people in this time zone keep giving me indigestion.”

“Me too,” Millie agreed with the girl.

“Hold up,” Lockhart said. “Dismount.”  They neared the city gate.  Boston came back and got right down.  Decker and Elder Stow came in from the sides.  Several soldiers rode out to meet them.

“What do you think they want?” Elder Stow whispered to Katie and Lockhart.

“I smell trouble,” Decker said.

“So do I,” Lockhart, the once-upon-a-time police man agreed.  Katie nodded as well, but Boston spoke up.

“So do I, and it feels like trouble that is not entirely of this world.”

That sounded disturbing.

The soldiers seemed nice.  They got especially nice when they found out the travelers were friends with Furius Camillus, or at least his daughter, wife of Claudius Crassus.  They were helpful when the travelers asked about accommodations for the night.

“Good thing you are only planning one night here,” the officer said, but did not explain, so Lincoln asked.

“Why is that a good thing?”  The officer said nothing, but one of his men did not hesitate to speak up, even if his officer gave him a mean look.

“Because, for a week now, the city has been haunted with ghosts.  Strange and unnatural things have been happening in all sorts of places.  People have become afraid to go out after dark.”

“Like what sorts of things?” Alexis asked.

A different soldier spoke.  “One man’s pigs turned on him.  He and his family had to hide in their house until men could come and put the beasts down.”

“I heard a chicken got born with two heads,” another spoke.

“I heard it was a snake,” a third contradicted.

“That isn’t it,” the officer finally spoke.  “People are seeing lights in the night where no light should be.  Some have seen figures, like people floating along. Like ghosts.  And there are sounds, like strange, unnatural noises, like swords crossing and chains rattling…”

“And screams,” one of the soldiers interrupted.

The officer nodded.  “The night watch says they can’t tell if someone needs help or if it is just the ghosts.”

“How do you account for this?” Lockhart asked.

“Well, some say it is the ghosts of the old men of Veii that Rome slaughtered when the city fell.  That has not been taken well by some of the people, as you may imagine.  But others claim the Rasenna, that is, the Tusci in the city were wealthy and had many slaves, whom they treated horribly.  They were a decadent, self-serving people who deserved to be overthrown by the more upright Romans.  Some say it is the Rasenna weeping over their sins that led to their destruction.  Some say it is the slaves who finally have a voice in death that they never had in life.”

“What do you say?” Katie asked.

The officer shrugged.  “I say it is frightening the children.  There is already talk of abandoning the city.” The officer shrugged again.

Avalon 6.8 Archidamian War’s End, part 6 of 6

On the edge of town, three Wolv jumped them.  They got blown back by the screens Elder Stow set around the group.  The Wolv did their best with tooth and claw, but that did nothing to impede the steady progress of the group.

When they entered the village square, where the Humanoid ship faced them at the far end of the open space, a dozen Wolv opened fire with their handguns.  It did nothing.  The Wolv soon stopped and backed away.  The patrol-transport ship screamed and produced one burst of its main gun before the gun appeared to shut down.  Patrol ships got outfitted with some of the most powerful Humanoid weaponry.  Those ships tended to be engines, weapons, and some reasonable screen capabilities against intruders.  Crew quarters and work spaces were cramped, and they had minimal navigation, limited life-support, and limited other systems interstellar ships had.  They were not made to leave the solar system.  But they had weapons, and Elder Stow remarked as he considered his readout.

“Impressive.  They have found a new energy source and improved on the old Anazi technology.”  Of course, the shot hardly registered visibly on Elder Stow’s screens.  Elder Stow only had a small, handheld screen device such as a ship’s officer might carry, but such was the technological difference between the younger races, like the Humanoids, and the elder races, like the Gott-Druk.  Elder Stow said no more as the Humanoid commander came out of the ship, followed by three more Humanoids and a dozen Wolv as guards.

As the Humanoids marched to face their visitors, a lovely young woman showed up, and gave Ophelia a big hug. “Galatea,” Ophelia named her.  “I thought I might see you.”

Galatea nodded.  “I had to figure out how to slip inside Elder Stow’s screens. Even though the gods know how to do that, now.  It isn’t easy.  I had to really think about it.  I may get a headache…”

“Good for you, now, hush.” Ophelia smiled for the woman before she turned with a serious face to the approaching Humanoids.

“Your Amph… Salacia husband wants to help,” Galatia whispered.

“Yes.  Hush,” Ophelia said.  “Zeuxides.”

Zeuxides stepped forward with the blanket.  He whispered as he laid it out on the ground, revealing the six heads.  “I don’t know why we didn’t take some Wolv heads.  That might have put a bit of fear in the beasts.”

“First of all, they are people, not beasts,” Ophelia said.  “They walk and talk, and as you have seen, they follow orders.  But second of all, they have no word for fear.  They do not even understand the concept.  The closest they have for the word fear is their word for indigestion.”

“Then, if one wants to eat me, I hope I can give it indigestion,” Zeuxides whispered as he stood.

“What?” the Humanoid Captain yelled the word as he came to face his visitors, though his eyes fastened on the six Humanoid heads.  By the grace of the gods, probably Proteus, because Galatea would not think of it, Ophelia and Zeuxides could understand and communicate with the Humanoids. Ophelia had imagined using Elder Stow as a translator.

“The troops you sent to scout the area are all dead.  We brought you these so you can perform the proper rituals.  Understand.  This is not a sanctuary planet for you or your people.  This is a Genesis planet, and as such is off limits to you and your people.  You have no business being here, and I know it is marked on your charts as a no-go zone.”

“Aaaah!” The Captain shouted and threw his hands in the air in a very human act of frustration and anger. Ophelia looked closely and judged him to be a young lord from a noble Humanoid house.  “I don’t even know what that means…”

One of the Humanoid commanders leaned forward and asked.  “What is a Genesis planet?”

Ophelia only paused briefly before answering.  “It is one of a dozen or so worlds in this whole galaxy where intelligent life spawns or is created.  At some point in the development of the species, the powers of the universe spread the life forms among the stars.  Most of the people you have come into contact with during your age of exploration among the stars had their beginning here, on Earth, or on the Pendratti world, which is now barren.”  She pointed to Elder Stow and his glamour of humanity fell away to reveal his Neanderthal nature.  “The Gott-Druk and the Elenar, both of whom I know you have in your records, began on this world.”  She pointed to Zeuxides.  “This world presently belongs to the Homo Sapiens, who you dare not underestimate, though their technology appears primitive to your eyes.  The very powers of the universe will fight to protect this world, and its residents.  You are being given a chance to leave before you are utterly destroyed.”

“But we have nowhere else to go,” the captain still shouted, only now he sounded desperate.   Ophelia caught a word from one of her lifetimes, far in the future.  She decided to go with that thought.

“Your father threw you out.”  She said it like a statement, not a question. “And how many ships do you have in orbit?”

The captain said nothing.  He just steamed, but the Humanoid commander spoke frankly.  “Seven. Two war ships, three transports carrying several thousand people, no Wolv, and two more patrol boats, one being a patrol-transport.”

The captain interrupted.  “But you heard.  We have nowhere else to go.”  This time, his words were softly spoken and he sounded like one resigned to his fate.

The sky turned dark.  Thunder echoed through the village.  Stroke after stroke of lightning struck the fields near the beach.  A giant rose out of the water and headed straight toward them.  He only needed a few steps to reach the edge of the village, at which point he stood only twenty or so feet tall, as he shrank when he neared. When he came around a barn to reach the main street, only the top of his gray head could be seen.  When he arrived where the group of people stood, he looked human enough, though still bigger than Zeuxides, who stood an imposing six feet tall in his generally smaller world.

“I can help with that,” the man said. “I know a planet in an untouched system that should sustain you.  The world is bigger than earth, but not like double.  There is an atmosphere and animal life there, after a fashion, so an edible food source.  The star gives about half the heat and light of the sun, but the planet is closer.  It goes around in about two hundred and maybe thirty days.  The weather stays cool and dreary, but it is livable, about thirty some of your light years out in the Gott-Druk direction. In fact, I know several systems, if you are willing to travel up to fifty light years.”

“You will take us there?” the Humanoid commander asked, not waiting for his captain to speak up.

The man shook his head.  “I am not my wife to travel all over the sky; but with a kiss from my wife, and maybe if I can borrow Martok, he can put the information in your, er, navigation system.”  He grinned for remembering what the system was called.

Ophelia dropped her jaw.  “Taking liberties, I see.”  She turned to the others.  “Elder Stow, I’ll be back.  Zeuxides, close your eyes.”  She turned again to the man.  “Both parties are agreeable,” she said, speaking of Amphitrite and Martok.  “Especially since the alternative would involve several atomic explosions in the upper atmosphere.”  Ophelia traded places through time with Amphitrite, the goddess, who stepped eagerly into her husband Poseidon’s arms.  After a moment, those two, the Humanoids, the Wolvs, and the patrol ship all vanished.

Proteus and Galatea also vanished, so that left Elder Stow, who restored his glamour so he looked human again, and Zeuxides, who didn’t close his eyes, but wished he had.  He asked, “So where did Ophelia go?”

Elder Stow shrugged as they walked back up the hill.  “Somewhere into the past, or the future, or somewhere in between.”

“Who was that who came and stood in her place?”

“Amphitrite, I believe.”

Zeuxides swallowed.  “So that giant was…”

“Poseidon.”

Zeuxides nodded.  “So, when Ophelia said Proteus and Galatea, she meant Proteus and Galatea.”

“I would say, yes.”

Zeuxides nodded and swallowed again. “And are you human?”

“Certainly,” Elder Stow said with some force in his voice.  “Homo Neanderthal, not Homo Sapiens, but that still qualifies as human.  In fact, we are close enough on the genesis tree, we can even mate with each other, as disgusting as that sounds.”

Zeuxides said nothing the rest of the way up the hill.

“So, where did they go?” Lockhart asked the same question Zeuxides asked.

“They went to visit the ruins of Malvas,” Elder Stow said, with a nod.

“Where’s Malvas?” Lincoln asked.

“There are ruins on Malvas?” Katie asked at the same time.

Elder Stow pointed to the sky as he spoke.  “An orange star.  It became unstable about two thousand years ago, my time.  It kicked a habitable planet about three times its original distance from the star, according to the reconstructed theory.  The survey team found a city, but determined it had been abandoned a hundred years before the star bloomed.  The star has returned to its more stable condition since, but now there are ruins on the ice rock that was probably once an earth-like planet.”

“So why would they go to a place that has ruins?” Decker wanted to know.

“It doesn’t have ruins yet,” Elder Stow responded, and looked up at the sky as the sun sank to the horizon.

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

MONDAY

The travelers head toward Rome, and the Kairos, Marcia Furi Camilla Diana; but first, they have to get past the witch.  Until then, Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 6.8 Archidamian War’s End, part 5 of 6

Labium and his elf troop had been secretly ferrying out humans from the village since they took up their watch. They doubled their efforts as soon as they knew Ophelia was on the way.  They feared the intervention of the gods and imagined there might not be a village when it was over.

Taking people to safety did not always go well.  In one house, a husband, wife, and two children cowered in their hut-like dwelling. They seemed typically human when Labium spoke.

“Friend.  Friend.  Do you want to get to safety?”

“Yes,” the man said, a bit loudly. “Where are you?”

“I am here, but I am invisible.  I am an elf.”

The man stopped.  The woman looked at her husband, and he said, “Can you guarantee our safety?”

“If you follow my instructions and keep very quiet, I can lead you to safety outside the village.  I am not a god to guarantee anything, but we have a good chance to get away from the monsters, if you stay quiet.”

“We will,” the woman promised.

“I will show myself.  Not a sound.  Not a peep.”

“I understand,” the man whispered.

Labium became visible, and the woman took one look and screamed as loud as she could, and it seemed she would never stop screaming.  Labium went invisible again.  Two Wolv came in from the street, and Labium slipped out behind them.  After a moment, the screaming subsided.  Labium heard weeping with his good elf ears, and the Wolv came back out from the hut with the two children, whom they killed and ate.

In another case, a young elf maid led two parents and their teenaged son to the corner of an alley.  She held them there because two Wolv were on the street, and until they moved, she could not safely bring the people across the back of the alley.  She hushed them again and again.  Finally, the boy got bored.

“Dad,” he said, nice and loud, and touched his father on the shoulder.

The man’s fear came out of his mouth, really loud.  “We are going to get caught.”

The elf maid saw the Wolv coming down the alley.  She quickly shoved the nice woman into the house there and shut the door. Then she ran, much faster than the Wolv could catch her.  Sadly, she heard the nice woman come right back out of the house.

“What ya pushing for?”  She was nice, but not smart.  Needless to say, that family did not live long.

Far and away, most of the people in that village made it to safety.  Most of those headed for Corinth.  They got off the road when the dwarfs and travelers approached.  Few spoke.  No one pointed.  Most just stared.

A few villagers headed for Sidius, some because they had relatives there.  When they found the army coming to Isthmia, they wept and cried, believing the army would save them from the monsters.  In that moment, they could not have cared less if they were Athenians or Spartans.  Too many of their friends and neighbors had already died.

“Nicias,” Ophelia shouted, though the man was not far away.  “You need to set an escort to take these people to Sidius, to find shelter.”

“Just coming to that,” Nicias responded gruffly, and Ophelia changed her tone.

“Of course.  My apologies.  You are the general here.  You will do what is best.”

Nicias eyed her and nodded.

“Trouble?” Styphon stepped up.

Ophelia shook her head.  “I am a Spartan woman, but I must remember I am still dealing with Athenians.  I should respect the men, that they know what they are doing.”

Styphon nodded, and Nicias came up as Styphon stood up for her.  “We would have suffered much worse if you had not directed us in the battle.”  Nicias scratched his beard, but nodded a little. “I don’t know how you became friends with the spirits of the earth, but that has helped greatly.  You also seem to know about these space aliens, as you call them, and the story isn’t finished yet.  I am willing to follow your lead.”

“As am I,” Nicias admitted.

Ophelia accepted that.  “Just please be gracious to me.  When I deal with flighty fairies, or trickster elves, or pig-headed, stubborn dwarfs, I often have to be hard and harsh.  I do not need to turn that same attitude on you men, stubborn as you can be.”  She smiled, and the men smiled a little with her.  “Just forgive me and remind me if I overstep myself. Okay?”

This time, Nicias nodded in earnest. “I think an escort to Sidius for these good people is a fine idea.  I will see to it.”  He walked off, and Ophelia offered Styphon a kiss on the cheek.

###

Ophelia and the travelers arrived at Isthmia at about the same time.  The little ones guiding the travelers and scouting for the army were good at that sort of timing.

Prissy sat on Ophelia’s shoulder. Labium and Flaves stood beside her as she looked down on the village and the Humanoid transport.  It evidently crushed several houses when it landed, and no one bothered to see what or who might be under there.  Zeuxides and Tellis stood close as well.  Nicias, Styphon, Antiphas and Timocrates stood a couple of steps away so they could see around a tree.

Ophelia opened her arms as the travelers dismounted and began to climb her little hill.  Boston raced into Ophelia’s arms at a speed that made Labium smile and made the men take another look.  Boston appeared human enough.

“Ophelia?” Lincoln shouted up the hill as he walked.

“Yes, Lincoln,” Ophelia shouted back. “Lockhart and Katie, I have some people for you to meet.  Elder Stow, I will need your help.”

“You are older,” Boston said as she stepped back.  “Your hair is all gray, and short, like mine used to be.”

“I am forty-six, I think.  My youngest son is eleven.  My eldest son is seventeen. My daughter should be fourteen. She was ten when I went into captivity in Athens.  It is a long story.”

By then, Bergeron had pushed to the front.  He went to one knee and spouted his report.  “We have brought your traveler friends here safely.  We had to fight to protect them, especially the women, but we knew you would not want to see them hurt…” his voice trailed off.  He looked at the dirt.  He dared not say more.  Even with overwhelming odds, and mostly injured Wolv, a dozen dwarfs died.

Ophelia put her hands to her hips and tapped her foot.  “Prissy. You should visit with Boston’s shoulder.”

“Yes, Mum,” Prissy said.  “Thank you, Mum.”  She quickly vacated Ophelia’s shoulder before steam started coming out of Ophelia’s ears.  Ophelia tapped her foot and let Bergeron build up a good head of sweat before she said, “Thank you,” She growled, and turned away, and never smiled until she spoke to the others.  “Lockhart and Katie.  Please meet my friends.”  She introduced the couple to the commanders present even as she noticed an older woman and a young woman hugging Millie and Evan.

“Athenians and Spartans working together,” Katie remarked without explanation.

“Given the circumstances,” Styphon said. “We are all Greeks.”

“We worked hard to make a peace that would last,” Nicias added.

Katie did not respond, but the look on her face suggested she did not believe it would last.

Ophelia took charge then and began giving orders.  She moved the Spartans and their allies to the south, behind the dwarfs.  She kept the Athenians and their allies on the north, and moved the Elves in front of them, just in case.  “Yes,” she said.  “They know we are here, and are watching.”  She did not need to tell them that given Humanoid technology, they no doubt tracked them all the way through the wilderness.

“Katie and Decker, take opposite sides of the little hill here.  Zeuxides, open your blanket.”  The man did. There were three Humanoid heads in the blanket.  “Bergeron. Add your three Humanoid heads to the pile.  Lockhart and Lincoln, get the binoculars and direct things from here.  Millie, Evan, Sukki, Boston and Alexis, stay here with mother and my lovely daughter, Nyssa.”

“Ready,” Elder Stow said.  Ophelia nodded.

“Zeuxides,” she said, and the man picked up the blanket full of heads.  “Do not follow us, no matter what,” Ophelia told Styphon, Nicias and Lockhart.  She started down the hill toward the village, with Elder Stow beside her.  Zeuxides followed, and another young man appeared on her other side—a most handsome man. Ophelia squinted before she named the man.  “Proteus.”

The man smiled.  “I can’t ever fool you, mother.”  After several more steps, he added, “So you know, father wants to help.” Ophelia nodded, but she grimaced a bit to imagine what the god, Poseidon, might consider help.

Avalon 6.8 Archidamian War’s End, part 4 of 6

The Spartans and Athenians dug three trenches on the slight rise, and they piled up rocks on the dirt they excavated to make like mini-walls.  Some of the Spartans, and to be fair, some of the Athenians did not like the idea of keeping their heads down, or throwing their javelins rather than stabbing the enemy in the face when the time came.  Some called bows and arrows cowardly weapons.  All Ophelia could say was they will probably get close enough for tooth and claw no matter what we do.  Then, gods help us.  Nicias and Styphon kept the troops focused.  They had no reason to disbelieve a woman who commanded fairies.

They waited all morning.  They waited until Zeuxides said he was hungry and ready for lunch.  Then they came.

They looked like wolves, albeit, dressed in vests and far bigger than any wolf seen by humans.  Ophelia made out the three Humanoids who kept back to bark out orders.  She raised her bow.  The Athenian archers, and some of the Spartans and their allies all raised their bows.  Ophelia tried to wait, but when it appeared they were not getting closer, she said, “Loose.”

The arrows barely went the distance, but two of the Wolv looked put out of commission.  Ophelia knew better.  It just made them mad.  She saw the Wolvs back out of range, and then had to yell again.

“Get your heads down.”

The Wolv pulled out weapons and several men reacted too slowly.  They got fried, and the rest of the men got an object lesson, encouraging them to keep their heads down.  The Wolv did not fire for long.  They had nothing but hand weapons, and that would take all day to cut through the fortifications.  Flaves showed up and helped Ophelia hear the barked orders.  Ophelia yelled

“Javelins.”

Fourteen of the twenty Wolvs attacked. The men stood and about a third threw their best, but the Wolvs moved too fast.  Only two got taken down that way.  Three bounded up to the top trench where the more lightly armored Athenians and archers waited.  Nearly thirty men got torn to shreds or were grievously wounded before they put down the three Wolvs.  The Athenian regulars in the second trench hardly did better when four Wolvs arrived. More than twenty men died there, and almost twenty more died among the Spartans in the first trench where they fought off the remaining five.  The Wolvs fought for victory or death.  They had no thought of retreat, but neither did the Spartans.

Ophelia got spared when Zeuxides, who kept his javelin instead of throwing it, stabbed a Wolv in the back, the same time two Spartans struck it from the front, one cutting off the Wolv’s arm. The Wolv hardly slowed by the loss of an arm, but then it was only a matter of time to put it down, completely. Six Spartans went down to five Wolv, along with nineteen Spartan allies who died or were wounded unto death.  Of the two hundred and ninety-two captured on Sphacteria, two hundred and forty-eight would make it home.  Zeuxides wept for his friends, and no one thought less of him for it, but Ophelia lifted her eyes to the three Humanoids and the remaining six Wolv.  What she saw angered her, greatly, and she stomped down from the fight to confront the situation.

During the battle in the trenches, the whole fairy troop landed in secret behind the enemy.  They got big and had their bows.  The Humanoids and Wolv became pincushions for Fairy arrows.  As she stomped across the field, Styphon, Antiphas, and Porocleon of Olympia saw and followed her.  Flaves arrived as the fairy troop got small and scattered, having seen the look on Ophelia’s face.  The anger of the gods is a terrible thing to behold.

Ophelia stopped, and made sure the Wolv were dead.  She noted that even with a half-dozen arrows in their backs, the Wolv still turned to attack, and only went down when another half dozen or more arrows struck their front.  Nicias, with a handful of Athenians and a few more Spartans jogged up when Ophelia got to examining the Humanoids.  She paused before she spoke, and then it was to Styphon, not Flaves.

“I want the Humanoid heads.  We will take them to Isthmia.”  Styphon and the others got right on that grisly job without question.  Ophelia looked at Flaves.  She knew Fairies were capable warriors in war and battle, but they would have been irreparably injured if forced to perform such a macabre task.  She turned to Nicias.

“We need to move out at dawn. Leave as many here as you need to care for the wounded, but I want to be in Isthmia before dark tomorrow, so we can end this”

Nicias nodded and began doling out orders.

###

Dawn in Corinth saw the Wolvs fire on the city walls.  They only had handguns, but they put some holes in the stone and shook the foundation. The Corinthians did panic a bit, but one Captain got mad enough to gather a company of like-minded soldiers. Lockhart, Decker, and Katie, who had gotten to the walls by then, all urged the man to not act like a fool. but he was determined.

“Stubborn and stupid,” Elder Stow called the man.  “I recognize the symptoms.  Gott-Druk are very good at stubborn and stupid.”

“A strong human trait,” Alexis agreed. “Homo Sapiens as well as Homo Neanderthal.”

“Yes, but we have long since mastered it.”

Decker got to one section of the wall and readied his rifle and scope.  Katie took a section far enough away to spread the Wolv fire.  On a field, they might catch the enemy in a crossfire.  Elder Stow stood about half-way between the two where he could relay words without using the watch communicators, which might be on a frequency the Humanoids could tap into; but he was not to do anything unless he caught sight of the Humanoid commanders.

When they were ready, forty men poured out of the Corinthian gate, and charged, shields up, swords at their sides, javelins in their free hand.  The Wolvs were close enough to the wall so the men had a chance to get there before they all got cut down with Wolv weapon-fire.  Plus, Decker and Katie fired from above, struck several Wolvs, and at least distracted most of the others.  Only a few Wolvs returned fire to the wall.

At the end of the engagement, forty Corinthians lay dead on the field, and about half of the Wolvs sustained injuries. Three got seriously injured. Three Wolvs died, mostly from bullets. But then Elder Stow caught sight of one of the Humanoids and fired, once.  A streak of power lit up the sky.  The humanoid, though not directly struck, melted, and the big, old oak beside him exploded into splinters.

The Wolvs began to pull back into a copse of trees.  No doubt, the two remaining Humanoids needed to consider this new development.  Katie looked content to let them do that, but Decker flipped his rifle to automatic.  He never got to fire on the Wolvs, however, because roughly two hundred dwarfs came seemingly out of nowhere and attacked, about six or eight dwarfs to each Wolv.

“Damn,” Lockhart said.  He stood by Elder Stow and watched through the binoculars.

“Oh, Bergeron is in big trouble,” Boston said, and grinned for the dwarfs.

“We better get down there,” Alexis said, foolishly thinking some of the Corinthians might still be alive and need her help.

The Corinthians were more than willing to let the travelers ride out, but there were no Corinthians left foolish enough to follow them.  It looked like a gruesome battle, with human, Wolv, and some dwarf pieces strewn all over the place.  Bergeron survived, though he had a cut in his arm.  He, and his dwarfs looked content, even if they were in trouble.

“The Lady is on her way to Isthmia. We need to meet her there,” Bergeron reported.  “She wants the Humanoid heads.”  A few quick dwarf-strikes with their axes and the heads got wrapped in fairy weave for transport.  The dwarfs remained stoic about their losses.  They were not going to show any emotion in front of the humans.  “Best get moving,” Bergeron said, and he went out front.  The travelers came behind him in silence.  Appalled by the events.  Most of the dwarfs marched behind the travelers, where even the most gregarious ones only whispered.

FREE Read during your stay at home, continued

I have not heard anything about Smashwords extending the time for the free offer.  That being the case, let me urge you to take advantage of the time.  When the time for the free offer runs out, the books will return to their regularly scheduled price, because, after all, the free government money most are getting won’t exactly cover all the bills…  Happy Reading.

Good through April 20, 2020

I am participating in the Authors Give Back promotion at Smashwords.com to help us all get through this time of isolation and self-quarantine. Right now, the first five books of the Avalon series are Free. See for yourself

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/MGKizzia

You can now power-watch, or as the case may be, power-read through the prequel, the pilot episode, and seasons one, two, and three for absolutely no money. The promotion will continue through April 20, 2020, so help yourself while you can, and enjoy.

 

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Avalon 6.8 Archidamian War’s End, part 3 of 6

Lockhart and Katie got down in front of the inn where the guard in the gate directed them.  At first, he was reluctant to let them into the city.  He asked which side they were on.  Lincoln stupidly said Persia, because it was the only coins they had, from back in Xanthia’s day.  Rajish certainly had no coins to give them.  But the old Persian coins were silver and gold, so the gate guard did not argue too much.  He directed them to an inn where they did not ask questions.  It did not appear to be in the best neighborhood.

“Boston, Sukki, Evan, and Millie, please stay with the horses,” Lockhart said.

“Alexis and I could stay,” Lincoln suggested.

“No mister Persia.  You need to come and keep your mouth closed.”

“Good thing we came through when we did,” Katie said.  “Not that many years ago, Persian coins would have gotten us in real trouble.”

Krack!

Lincoln looked at the door.  “That sounds like…” Decker, Katie, Lockhart, Alexis and Elder Stow all ran by him.  Even Boston raced ahead.  “…gunfire.” Lincoln followed.

The inn had a dining area, not necessarily expected.  A man lay on the floor, bleeding out.  A woman knelt beside him, weeping.  Three other men and one older woman looked on in horror.

“Alexis,” Katie called.  Alexis got down beside the man, and Lincoln got down with her.

“Who did this?” Lockhart asked the people, but they stood there with dumb looks on their faces.

Decker found the back door, but paused when Boston shouted from the window.  “It’s one of the outlaws.”  They heard a “Yip-yip,” and the sound of a horse ridden hard.  Decker had to grab Boston to prevent her from jumping out the window to pursue the horse on foot.  With some elf speed, she might have caught a horse hampered by city traffic, but then what would she do with the man?

“Come here,” Katie caught the old woman’s attention and brought her to a table.  “Tell me what happened.”

That seemed to shake the men free of their stupor.  They all began to spout at once.

“Decker.  Lockhart.  Help me get him up on the table,” Alexis insisted.  Lincoln had the weeping young woman in a hug, to comfort her.

“Careful, careful.”  They got him up.  “Decker, cut the dress off him to expose the wound.  You may have to hold him down.”  Alexis dug into the medical pack that she carried like a purse.  She pulled out a jar of something and checked for the green dot on the bottom before she managed to get some down the man’s throat.  He moaned, and the young woman wanted to go to him, but Lincoln would not let her go.

“Boston,” Lockhart said.  “Aren’t you supposed to be watching the horses?”

Boston shook her head.  “Alexis might need my magic, or to cauterize the wound or something.”

Alexis reached to the bottom of her pack and pulled out a long, thin knife, the one she got back after the necromancer turned to dust.  She said, “I had hoped I would never have to use this.”  Then she added, “I wish Doctor Mishka was here.  She is an actual doctor, and a surgeon with battlefield experience besides.  I’m just a registered nurse.”  She leaned over the man to cut into the wound, and added a word for whomever might be watching.  “We have to get the bullet out if we want him to heal.”

Elder Stow interrupted her.  He had the device with which he pulled out bullets before.  Alexis gladly put her knife away while Elder Stow passed his device over the wound many times.  It took a while, and Alexis interrupted several times to staunch the bleeding, but at last, the bullet came to the surface and came out of the wound.

Alexis had Boston put a hand on her shoulder, so she could draw on a touch of Boston’s fire magic.  Then she placed her hands gently on the wound and a golden glow filled the area.  Eventually, the wound closed up, and both Alexis and Boston took a deep breath.

Lockhart went to Katie where the old woman and the three men began to babble.  It took almost as long to get a straight story from them as it did for Alexis to perform her healing.

Meanwhile, outside, Sukki got impatient. She finally told Evan and Millie that she was just going to check, and she would be right back.  She no sooner stepped in the door when Millie got grabbed from behind.

“Don’t cry out,” the man said in English. He had a knife to Millie’s throat. “Billy, check him,” he said.

The young cowboy checked to make sure Evan had no weapons.  He took the knife Evan had been given, but then balked.  “I can’t frisk no lady.”

The other man rolled his eyes. “Come with us,” he said.

Evan stepped up beside Millie, and did not argue.  Instead, he asked a serious question.  “You are a red Indian?”

“Apache,” the man said.  “Though I had a French grandfather.  Juan Reynard, at your service.”

“I’m Billy Porter,” the young man said, with evident pride.  “Me and my brother Tom robbed every bank on the Rio Grande.  Maybe you heard of us.  The Porter brothers.”

“Sorry,” Evan said.  Millie shook her head as they came to a building across the way from the inn.  “But if I was home, I might look you up.”

“Where is home?” Reynard asked.

“The United States, 1905.”  He added the date, because the others showed him that not everyone came from the same year.

“1875,” Reynard said.  “Inside.”

They went in, and Millie spouted, “Nanette.”

“Yes, Millie.  Good to see you.  And Evan, you are looking well.”

“What is this about?” Evan asked, not concerned about propriety.

“Why so suspicious, or do you not trust a darkie?  But look. My palm is as white as any white woman. It is light and bright.  The back of my hand is dark.  See?  Light and dark.  Look at my hand.  Light and dark… Light and dark… Light and dark… Now, when I count to three, you will close your eyes.  Light and dark… One… two… three.”

Millie and Evan closed their eyes.

“You will not remember seeing me or talking to me, or seeing these cowboys.  But there is one thing you must do.”  She explained, that they must wait until the others were asleep and bring all of their weapons to her, but in the next time zone.  “Now, when I say go, I want you to return to your horses, and touch your horse.  When you touch your horse, you will wake, and remember nothing of our conversation, except you will remember to do your job in the next time zone.  Now, go.”  Millie and Evan turned and walked back to the horses.

“Why the next time zone?” Reynard asked.

“Because the space monsters have come into this place.  We will have to ride hard up the west coast to avoid them.”

“Maybe the space monsters will eat the travelers so we won’t have to worry about them,” Reynard suggested.

Nanette rolled her eyes and stepped up to Billy.  “Billy, you are not to bring me anyone’s weapons.  You will wake up, remember what was said here, and make a sound like a chicken.”  She slapped Billy.  “Wake up.”

Billy said, “Cluck, cluck.”

###

The travelers sat around the table, feasting.  Dionysios, the wounded man, stayed upstairs, resting, but Helene, his young wife stayed with the travelers, grateful for their saving her husband’s life.  The old woman who ran the inn loaded them up with food. These people had gold, and the war over the last ten years really hurt the business.

“Tell me, Helene.”  Millie spoke kindly.  “How old is your husband?”

“Dion is thirty-six, but he is such a nice man.”

“My age, poor fellow,” Decker said, to everyone’s surprise.  “And how old are you?”  He asked in a way that suggested the answer meant nothing to him, personally.

“How old do I look to you?”

Decker shrugged. “Twenty-one?”  Helene smiled at the answer.

“Not more than eighteen,” Lockhart tried, and Katie tugged on his sleeve to quiet him.

Helene lifted her chin in pride. “I am just sixteen, but that is more than old enough to be a good wife, and young enough to have many children.”

“Start with one,” Alexis suggested. “Then see how you feel about it.”

“You should listen to my wife,” Lincoln said.  “She is old and wise.  Me? I’m sixty-eight, though I don’t feel a day over thirty.  Maybe twenty-eight.  She is much older than I am.”

“How could that be?” Helene scoffed. “She can’t be older than twenty-four. Maybe twenty-one as the Egyptian said.

“Last I counted, she is two hundred and thirty-eight years old.”

Alexis slapped Lincoln’s arm for telling, even as Decker spoke up again.  “So, I am an Egyptian now?  Good to know.”

“You’re not?” Helene looked surprised. “I thought all dark-skinned men were Egyptians.”

Decker got ready to explain, but stopped when Boston stood and knocked over her chair.  “You might as well show yourselves.  Do you have word from Ophelia?”

Bergeron the dwarf and two other dwarfs with him dropped their glamour of invisibility.  Bergeron introduced himself, said he knew who they were, and said, “Yes and no.  You see, it is like this, Miss Boston.  An alien transport landed up the coast in the village of Isthmia, and right now you got three Humanoids and twenty Wolv looking over the city walls, and the Lady won’t let us get in between.  We been watching these humans fight each other for ten years, and the lady would not let us help, even when she got taken captive and spent the last four years in prison.  Well, I got buckets full of dwarfs that are just itching for a fight, but the lady says the humans have to fight their own fights.”

“I’m human,” Decker said, and reached for his rifle, which was never out of reach.

“I was hoping you would say that,” Bergeron said.  “We wouldn’t have to fight, just sort of protect the women folk, if you know what I mean.”

“What do you mean?” Lincoln asked.

“I mean if the women are in danger, we might have to attack the Wolvs, just defensively, you know.”

Boston grinned.  Katie spoke.  “Your logic is so flawed, I don’t know where to begin.”

“Thank you, Captain.”  Bergeron tipped his helmet.  “I take that as a great compliment.”

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

MONDAY

The groups clash and try to find a solution that does not cost too much blood…

Until then, Happy Reading.

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