Avalon 6.1 Little Things, part 5 of 6

Rama scooted up to the back of a hut. Lakshme and Libra followed.  Libra had her bow out and said she practiced. She said she was going to protect Lakshme to the death.

“You better not die,” Lakshme responded, gruffly.

Pokara, Salipsa and the gang followed more noisily, but they came prepared for a fight.  Someone saw them and shouted.  Men and women came pouring out of their homes and gathered in the village center.

Rama stood, figuring, what was the point? Lakshme stood and Libra pointed her arrow at the people.  What the people did surprised them all.  The people fell to their knees and faces and pleaded.  “Help us.  Help us.”

Rama needed no more enticement.  He turned toward the cave entrance and shouted. “Rakshasa.  Show yourself.  The universe rejects your existence.”

They heard rumbling in the cave. They saw a very big hand, followed by an equally big arm, and finally a head, that when the Rakshasa stood, he looked about twenty or more feet tall.  The Rakshasa laughed as it looked on them.

“Perhaps I reject your existence.”

Rama paused, not because he was afraid, but because it became Lakshme’s turn.

“Titan in the wilderness, hear me. You have chosen the path that leads to destruction.  No good end will come of your days if you continue down that path.  I am forgiveness.  I offer a path to grace and mercy.  Repent of your wickedness, turn to the path of righteousness, and live among the gods once again.”

The titan reached out and snatched Lakshme, lifting her with one great hand.  “Maybe I eat forgiveness.” he said.  Lakshme screamed as three things happened in quick succession.  Libra let her arrow fly.  A stream of light came from the forest and put a hole the size of a basketball in the titan’s chest.  And Rama leapt up to the titan’s head, and with one sweep of his sword, he cut the titan’s head off.  Then Libra’s arrow arrived.

Lakshme fell to the dirt and twisted her ankle. Pokara, Salipsa and Libra all arrived at about the same time, but Lakshme got up, livid.  She leaned on Libra.  “Elder Stow,” she yelled.  “You almost killed my friend.”  She swallowed and glanced at Rama.  “And thanks for saving my life.”

The travelers came sheepishly from the trees.  The locals made plenty of room, afraid that this might be a new terror.  They breathed some relief when Lockhart got down from his horse and they realized he and the horse were two separate beings. Of course, they did not breathe much relief, him still being a six-foot man in a five-foot world.  Then again, after the titan, he did not look very big at all.

“Welcome friends,” Rama said. “Your faces look oddly familiar. Even the monkey man.”

Lakshme growled and yelled again. “Major Decker is not a monkey man. Decker, please ignore him when he says stupid stuff.  He is a person.  These are people.”  She pointed at the locals who were all dark-skinned Dravidians.

“My name is Lockhart.”  He stuck out his hand and Rama knew enough to shake that hand.  “My wife, Katie.”

“Yes,” Rama said.  “My wife, Sita, is back in Valmiki’s ashram.”

“I look forward to meeting her,” Katie said, and bit her lower lip to keep from saying something, or maybe shrieking like a groupie.

“It is sort of like tromping around with Heracles,” Lakshme admitted.  “Althea already did that.”  Lakshme shook her head.  “At least Rama is calm and collected.  I don’t think I have ever seen him get angry.”  Lakshme made the rest of the introductions.

They ended up staying the night. The titan’s body got dragged back into the cave and Elder Stow kindly used his sonic device to collapse the entrance. The titan’s head, however, got set up on the ledge by the cave, and no doubt would be set up on a pole, as soon as they managed a tree bit enough to handle the job.

The celebration seemed almost caveman primitive to the travelers.  Sukki might have been the only one to appreciate certain parts of the party. Even Rama found the festivities backward.  He asked what was wrong with calling them monkey people?

They got the recipe for bug repellant, and first thing in the morning the headed for the ashram.  Lakshme got to ride behind Katie, and Rama rode with Lockhart. Libra rode behind Alexis, scared though she was.  Pokara, Salipsa and the gang had to use their own feet, though Lakshme admitted that they would probably move by secret ways and get back ahead of them.

About two hours out, Katie had a question.  “So, explain to me why in India, the Devas are the good gods and the Asuras are the bad ones, while in Iran it is the opposite, with the Ahuras being good and the Devas being bad.”

Lakshme looked at Lockhart and Rama.  “Would you two mind riding to the point?” she asked.  “When we walked this way yesterday, I did not have horses in mind. I would like to be sure the way is safe for the horses.”

Lockhart nodded and spurred to ride out front, hopefully out of earshot.  Then Lakshme explained.

“The Ashri were the native gods in this jurisdiction.  The Divas, as in either divine or devils served the Brahman next door, really Afghanistan, in the center of the old world.  You remember the titan Bhukampa held Iran itself.”  Katie nodded.  “Well, when the Indo-Aryan people invaded, and the Divas came, it was trouble putting two houses together, peacefully.  Eventually, the Ashri who fit themselves into the new house of the gods got called Devas, whether they were, originally, or not.  The ones who refused to fit in remained Ashri, which became Asuras. They resisted the new order and caused much trouble.  Still are causing trouble. Sita will be kidnapped by an Asura.”

“I understand that part,” Katie said. “But in Iran the names are reversed.”

“Well, when the Divas came into India, some Ashri moved into Iran and Afghanistan, which were pretty depopulated, god-wise.  Mita, who became Mithras went there.  Varuna, who moved into the sea, kind of touched both places.  Agni, the fire god is still straddling the fence.  But in any case, the reverse happened.  With much less struggle, a new house got formed there, only this time the ones who fit in with the immigrant Ashri came to be Ashri, which became Ahuras.  The resistors there, which is to say, the troublemakers became the Devas who stayed Divas.  You see?”

“I get it.  But now, what about the Aesir.  Where do they fit in?”

“Same root word in the primal language of the Caspian peoples.  Some moved east, into India and Iran.  Some earlier moved down into Greece, Italy, and all the way to Iberia.  Then came the Celts, who eventually got pushed west by the Germans, who eventually filled Germany and Scandinavia, when they were pushed in turn by the Slavs, and in the south, the Scythians that had kind of Iranian connections by then.  The Hati, the Hittites, then the Scythians.  There were others, but they were all rooted in the original people between the Black Sea and the Aral Sea, and the language they spoke.  Aesir.  Ashri. Ahura.  All from the same root.  Even Diva if you follow it back far enough.”

“I see.  But Divas?”

“James is James in most major Western European languages, French, German, Spanish, but in Italian it is Giacomo. Go figure,” Lakshme shrugged.

Avalon 6.1 Little Things, part 4 of 6

Lakshme and Rama stopped early because they wanted to come upon the Rakshasa sometime in the morning, and not in the dark.  Pokara and Salipsa made sure the screens around the group remained strong, so the insects and spiders would not get to them.  They had three elves at a time watch the camp and project the screens for several hours.  Then they needed to sleep while three others took over.

“Will my lady sleep here by the fire?” Libra asked.

Lakshme looked at her and nodded.

“My lady should change first.  It is not good to sleep in your dress after a long, hot day.”

Lakshme looked at Rama, and called to her armor.  He had seen her in it before, so he did not get startled.

“Fairy weave under it all,” Lakshme said. “It absorbs the sweat and pushes it away from the body, keeping one cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  It is a remarkable material that can be freshened, everyday clean and new, with only a thought.  It is very comfortable, and I hardly feel the chain mail.”

Rama nodded, and smiled.  “I believe Valmiki may be right.  You are a goddess, of time.  The Kairos.”

“Greek word.  Like the chain mail.  It refers to event time, like maybe the watcher over history.  I have been called the Traveler, like the traveler in time.  You know, like when I go away and Doctor Mishka shows up to make her medicines.”

“From the future.”

“Well, yes.  But don’t make more of that than you see.  A couple of women struggling along with the rest of the human race.”

“And Diogenes?”

“The Macedonian?  Also from the future, but not nearly as far as Doctor Mishka. He says thank you for the blessing, by the way.”

Rama smiled.  “I bless everyone who saves my life.”

“A lucky shot.”

“I doubt it.”

Lakshme sort of nodded, as she took Athena’s cape and wrapped herself for the night.  She lay down to sleep and hoped she did not have Rakshasa nightmares.


In the middle of the night, Billy Porter banged his nose against Elder Stow’s screen.  He could not find a way around the invisible barrier, so he went back to tell the others.

“I couldn’t get close enough to get a look, see.  Like maybe they got some magic, too.”

Tom Porter and Juan Reynard looked at the witch.  She stood and reached out with one hand.  After a moment, she began to shake and growl.  Then she quit.

“I do not understand it.  They have something that shields them even from my eyes.”

Tom Porter, the older brother, spit. “So, we go with plan B,” he said.

“I don’t like people with horses following us,” Juan agreed.

“Do you think maybe it is the sheriff?” Billy asked, genuinely concerned.

“In the Before Christos?” Juan scoffed.

The witch just looked hard at the simpleton, but Billy’s brother Tom had to comment.



Four groups met in the morning. Rama, Lakshme, and their band of merry men found the village and cave of the Rakshasa.  The men and women brought the daily victims to the cave.  The Rakshasa seemed to like human flesh.  Most of the victims appeared to be stunned and near death from multiple bites from both spiders and insects.  The people serving had no such bites.

“If we can find out what these people are using for insect repellent, it would help a lot,” Lakshme said.

Rama looked at her, like he had not thought of that.

Roughly one mile away, the travelers mounted up, and after they were assured by Elder Stow that no insects or spiders were in the general area, they moved into the trees.  Elder Stow’s equipment proved capable of warning them, even in the jungle.  Besides, the insects came in a mass, easily detected, and the spiders were the size of a fist, so easily shot.  Elder Stow, the afternoon before, fired his weapon once and cleaned spiders off an entire riverbank.

They moved slowly, but soon, up ahead, they saw an exceptionally dark bit of jungle.  Alexis got ready to say that patch looked supernaturally dark when a gun went off, and a bullet came screaming through the trees.  Boston screamed in response.

“Ouch.  Roland! Alexis!”  She got down and pulled her horse, Honey, behind a tree.  Her leg bled, though it looked like only a scrape.  “Why is it always me?” she asked the sky, oblivious to what happened around her.

The travelers got down and got behind trees before the other side opened up with gunfire.  Whoever they were, they appeared to be careful not to waste bullets. Alexis struggled to get to Boston. Decker signaled Katie with his hands. Lockhart spoke to his wife.

“You have to teach me marine sign language.”

A ball of fire came from the darkness. Alexis batted it away with a gust of wind when she reached Boston.  Boston had another idea.  She grabbed Alexis’ hand and her wand, and let out a stream of flame, like a flamethrower that lit up the darkness.  She heard a young man scream

Decker and Katie stepped out from their trees and fired several rounds of automatic fire into the forest as soon as Boston’s flamethrower stopped.  The young man screamed again, and Decker and Katie got back in time.

“They got a damn Gatling gun,” That young voice screamed, as the wind started to blow and quickly became violent. A small tornado formed, and picked up whoever it was, including what looked like horses, and moved rapidly out of sight in a northeasterly direction.

Boston said, “ouch,” and put her hand to her bleeding leg.

Alexis stared at the tornado.  “I don’t have any power like that.”

“Me neither,” Boston said, along with, “Ouch, ouch.”

Avalon 6.1 Little Things, part 3 of 6

Decker moved from his rock with bad news, even as Elder Stow came to more or less the same conclusion.

“In the distance, beyond the river,” Decker reported.  “Though I could only see and not fly that far and get back, I saw swarms of what looked like nasty insects.  They swarmed outside the forest areas, but I have no reason to suppose they are not in the forest as well.”

“More jungle, I think,” Elder Stow said. He looked up, aware that he interrupted. “More jungle-like than forest. Sorry.”

“And people who hide when the swarms come near a village,” Decker continued.  “Though they look like tents more than houses, so no telling how mobile these people may be.”

“Elder Stow?”  Lockhart turned the question.

“Much the same,” he said.  “I did not pick up swarms, exactly, but what Major Decker says makes sense of the data.  Meanwhile, I mapped several alternate routes to the river, and where I believe we may cross, though it is hard to tell exactly from this distance.”

“Alternate routes?” Katie asked.

“One that is mostly straight.  One that avoids the people.  One that avoids the people and the jungle.”

Lockhart nodded, but made no decision. “Sleep on it,” he said.  “Keep the screens up tonight, in case one of those swarms decides to visit.  In the morning, we will see if you can identify the swarms from a distance. That might be good.”  Elder Stow nodded.  “Standard watch,” Lockhart said.

“Boss,” Boston whined.  “We got the screens up.  Why do we have to watch?”

“Better to stay in practice,” Katie answered, and thought she might take a nap before the nine to midnight shift, if Lockhart would lie down with her.  They did not get the chance.  They got most of their supper cleaned up when Devi arrived.

“Sorry,” Devi said, first thing. “It took a second to figure out how to get through Elder Stow’s screens.”

“Hey…” Alexis, Katie, and Boston all got hugs, and Boston introduced Sukki, who also got a hug, since Devi seemed to be in a hugging mood.  She acknowledged the men, and they all sat around the campfire while she explained the situation they were facing.  She explained the swarms of insects, but then told them about the spiders.  That did not sound good.  She said she had work to do, and could not travel with them, but maybe she could figure out how to charge up Elder Stow’s equipment, and that might help.  Then the women sat and talked about life and everything, like dear old friends catching up on all the news.


In the morning, Pokara and his sidekick, Salipsa moved out front. The rest of the Yaksha followed behind. These ones were mostly like elves, Lakshme decided.  They were certainly not dwarfs, though a few had stubbly beards.  They were not goblins being out in the daylight, though some people called any such things, goblins.

“Elves,” Lakshme said out loud, before she added, “Mostly.”  Lakshme recognized they could act rather impish at times.

“Elves,” Rama said.  He walked beside her and otherwise said nothing.

Lakshme looked back.  Libra dutifully followed in her footsteps despite her protests.  Rama took a look back, and Lakshme spoke again.

“Once they get attached, they are very hard to separate.”  Rama nodded, as Lakshme looked ahead again.  “They are loyal, once they make up their minds.  But they do have minds of their own.”  Lakshme clicked her tongue.  “Like people, I suppose.”

“Like any sentient being,” Rama said. “Even the gods.  They decide for themselves, and then there are consequences.”

He was saying he knew why she came. He did not say, don’t offer a chance for the Asura to repent of their wicked ways, only that he came prepared for them not to repent.

That ended the morning conversation. Lunch would have also been a quiet affair if Pokara and Salipsa had not argued the whole time about the cooking. Libra had to good sense to put her fingers in her ears.


The travelers had to pause, and eventually stopped for lunch as a swarm of insects came upon them.  Devi put up a screen, much better and stronger than even Elder Stow’s recharged equipment could produce.  The travelers and their horses remained comfortable, while the insects might as well have been trying to break through a fifty-foot thick brick wall.

“I must not go further,” Devi said. “I have neglected my work long enough.”

“You have people to care for?” Katie asked.

Devi nodded.  “But not like you think.  Lakshme is teaching Karma Yoga.  Like attracts like.  Doing good, even in the least little things, attracts good.”

“I thought opposites attract,” Boston said.

“No,” Alexis explained.  “I think this is more like birds of a feather.”

“Maybe what goes around comes around,” Katie suggested.

Devi pointed at her, like she got it right.  “Lakshme says as you sew, so shall you reap.  She confesses no action will ever be perfect, clean, pure, or holy without extraordinary grace.  She sometimes calls it good deed doing.  But sometimes, she says between Martha and Mary, this is Martha devotion.”

“Hey, I know that story,” Boston spouted, and Alexis interrupted.

“And not one you should tell a thousand years ahead of time.”

Boston looked down, and so did Devi as she spoke.  “The future. I understand.  I will not pry.”

By the time lunch was over, Elder Stow declared himself ready to throw up his screens as soon as he identified incoming insects or spiders.  Devi said again that she had to go.  She had victims of those insects and spiders to tend.

“Poor Valmiki has had his ashram overrun with victims.  Even with Doctor Mishka’s medicine, not all survive.”  She vanished, and Katie looked hard at Lincoln.

“Valmiki?” she asked.

Lincoln looked up and nodded.  “And Rama, Sita, and Rama’s brother, Lakshmana. I thought it best not to talk about it with Devi around.”

“Wow,” Katie’s eyes got big.  She looked excited.

“Wait a minute,” Elder Stow interrupted. “Where are we?”

Boston had her amulet out to check their direction.  She first said, “Thank you.”  Then she explained.  “I think Devi just took three or four days off our journey.  Lakshme is only a few miles that way.”  She pointed.

“Can we reach her?” Lockhart asked.

“Maybe in the morning,” Boston said with a look at the sun.

Lockhart nodded and turned to Katie. “So, who is Rama?”



The groups will meet in the face of the demon, but first, the travelers will be introduced to the cowboy-outlaws and the real wicked witch.  Until then:


Avalon 6.1 Little Things, part 2 of 6

Lakshme, Sita, and Libra sat out under the night sky, sipping tea and counting the stars.

“Must you go?” Sita asked.

“Must you?” Libra echoed.

“You know I must,” Lakshme answered.

“Are there more Skudsku?” Libra asked. Lakshme shook her head, no.  The Skudsku, as Libra named the weed, fell to earth when Lakshme was young.  She first called it smart kudzu.  It grew like an ivy, much faster than kudzu, and could move, intelligently, and choke everything in its path.  It would have been bad enough if it fell in one place, but it broke up over India and landed in a number of places, determined to spread and eventually take over the whole planet.  Lakshme had to leave her happy home in Dwarka, travel up the Indus and down the Ganges, all through the budding Vedic civilization, fighting and destroying the Skudsku wherever her little ones found it had taken root.  She ended in Kalinga, a loosely formed land of cooperative tribes, not honestly a kingdom, between the Mahanadi and the Godavari rivers. Civilization only slowly leaked in their direction from the Ganges in the north.

“I have no word on Skudsku further south,” Lakshme responded.  “But if I have friends walking into the bad land, as Devi says, I must go to them.”

“It may be, sometimes you do too much for others,” Sita suggested.

“Karma works out, not in the grand things we do, but in the small, everyday things.  My work may never be perfect, pure, or holy, but in my humble way, I do what I can for others as I would have them do for me if I were in their circumstances.”

“Very wise.”  They heard the male voice before they saw the man.  Valmiki built, and in a sense, ruled the ashram they lived in.  “Did you learn this from your imaginary friend Devi?”  Valmiki and Rama knew nothing of the goddess, who stayed careful to appear only to the women.  Lakshmana knew of her, but only from a distance, and not that she was the goddess.

The women got prepared to stand and offer proper respect, but Valmiki insisted they remain seated.  He found a stool and joined the women in their tea and conversation.  He got them started again with a question.  “So, tell me why you must go with Rama to face the Rakshasa?”

“We do not know if the Asura is eating the people.  Only the use of stinging insects and spiders to disable the people suggests it,” Sita took up the explanation.

“All life is precious,” Libra said what she had heard Lakshme say a thousand times.

Valmiki continued to stare at Lakshme, until she answered.  Lakshme looked down at her own lap and spoke softly.  “Everyone needs a chance for forgiveness and a second chance to choose what is right, good, and true.  I cannot say more on that subject because of the future, but even the most vicious Rakshasas have not always been so.  They were once worshiped as the gods of the land.  They deserve a chance to repent of their ways and do penance to learn the right ways.  I can offer that, but I can only ask.”

“The Devas and Asuras were once the same?” Sita asked.

Lakshme took a deep breath and shook her head, but did not look up.  “The Ashri ruled this land.  The Divas came here six or seven-hundred-years ago.  Many of the Ashri joined them, though it felt like pulling teeth to make that happen without war.  But some Ashri resisted.  Most of the resistance has moved south, into the wilds, though not all.”

“South, where I came to build this ashram,” Valmiki said.  “Or do you mean south where the monkey people live.”

Lakshme slapped her thighs and looked up. “You and Rama,” she said, sharply. “They are not monkey people.  They are naturally dark skinned people, but people all the same.  They are Dravidians, a combination of dark skinned Shemsu and original Hamites who first peopled the land.  Many moved south when the Indus Valley began to build their cities.  Many more moved south when the Indo-Aryans invaded the land and spread their Vedic ways down the Ganga.  They are tribal.  Many are still hunter-gatherers, though they have a sort of high chief in Vali, Sugriva’s elder brother.  And I know half of what I am saying is hard to grasp, but they are not monkey people. They are just people.”  Lakshme let her steam run out.

“Wow,” Libra said, with great big eyes. The anger of the gods was something to behold, and the little ones were no less terrified when their goddess vented, even if not directed at them, and even if she was otherwise entirely human.

Lakshme continued more softly. “Many Asuras, the resisters, moved south with the people.  Sadly, Vali worships them and has let them run rampant through the southern lands. Even the Rakshasa that feed on the people.  The people are ripe to rebel, but the Asuras keep them down; now less so since Rama has killed some.”

“Lakshmana should not have cut off the ears and nose of Surpanakha,” Sita said, with a shake of her own head.

“Killing the demon would have ended it more mercifully,” Valmiki sounded like he agreed, but would never say Lakshmana made a wrong decision.

“Maybe Khara would not have come with his army,” Libra said, and cried softly at the memory.  Some people of Kalinga came out to support Rama, but Lakshme had to call on her little ones to fill the gap, and some died.  Lakshme felt some tears in her own eyes.

“And Vali escaped,” Valmiki added. He rarely said anything in judgment. Valmiki had a remarkable way of just stating the facts.

Lakshme sniffed.  “Well that happened yesterday.  This is today, and tomorrow I have to walk a long way.” Lakshme sounded ready to go to bed. She saw Rama and Lakshmana coming from their workout.  The martial arts seemed their best form of yoga.

“But wait,” Valmiki made Lakshme pause. “Because I have meditated long on this, and come to an understanding.”  He paused to order his thoughts while Rama and Lakshmana stepped up to hover around the group.  “I have concluded that you are indeed a goddess, as young Libra has referred to you more than once in my hearing.  You are the Devi of time.  The gods divide time by the ages in which we live.  People think of time in the days, seasons, and generations.  But real time runs in sixty-year cycles, roughly the number of days you normally live.  What incarnation are you?”

“Seventy-three,” Lakshme said. “But it is not incarnations.  It is simply rebirths, with no time off in between.  I am not a spirit, like the gods, who sometimes take on flesh and blood for a brief purpose and then go back to being a god.  I never get a break.  And I am almost always human, and even when I am not, sixty years about covers it.” Lakshme took a breath.  “But it is not something you should ever write about. Not ever.  Someday, the storyteller may jot down some notes, but that is risk enough.”

“The storyteller?  Have I met her?” Sita asked.

“Him,” Lakshme answered.

“One of the men,” Rama said.

Lakshme continued.  “The things I deal with, not just here in this lifetime, but all over the world through the millennia, are things best not talked about. They are things that don’t belong to history—that might throw history all off track, and even to mention them might be damaging.”  Lakshme raised her voice.  “You should not write about me.  Please, leave me out of the story.”

Valmiki looked at Rama, then Sita and Lakshmana.  He finally looked at Libra and nodded slightly.  “I will not tell the story about you.”

Lakshme exhaled and stood.  “Good, now I can get some sleep.”

“We leave first thing,” Rama said, as he held out his hand.  Sita smiled and stood to take his hand and walk off to his tent.  Lakshmana followed the couple and Libra followed Lakshme, leaving Valmiki alone to sit and contemplate the universe.

Avalon 6.1 Little Things, part 1 of 6

After 882 BC Dandaka Forest.  Kairos lifetime 73: Lakshme, not Sita.

Recording …

“Put him over here.”  Lakshme walked to the back corner of the room, the only empty space in the building. She worried her hands, while Sita fetched a blanket for the poor man.  Devi examined the spider bite.  It looked red and swollen, like all the others.

“Same,” Devi said, just to confirm.

“Water,” the man breathed.  Libra, the elf maid who attached herself to Lakshme’s side, ran to fetch some water.

Lakshme wiped the sweat from her own forehead.  “Well, it is official.  Any more victims, and we will have to build a tent to keep them out of the rain.”

“Don’t worry about having room,” Devi said, as she took the water from Libra, let the man drink some and began to clean the bite with the rest. “I can help with that.”

“That is not how we are supposed to do it,” Lakshme said.  “We lowly human beings, with our short, short lives, need to learn to love one another, and do good for each other while we are here.  The gods can help, encourage, support us in our lives, but at some point, we need to grow up and do for ourselves.”

Sita covered the man with the blanket and got to her knees so she could hold the man’s hand.  “This way of works is hard,” she said.  Libra nodded and looked at Lakshme.

“Karma Yoga.  It is the least we can do.  It is our duty,” Lakshme said.  “I was reminded recently, several centuries ago, that all life is precious.  We do what we can to relieve the suffering and pain along the way.”

Devi looked up at Lakshme, though her attention seemed far away.  She changed the subject.  “Your friends are here,” she said, before she changed her mind and let out a little smile.  “My friends, I hope.  They are walking right into it.  I must warn them.”  Devi vanished.

“Friends?” Sita asked, and Libra looked like she also wondered. Lakshme could only shrug as they heard the door open.  The men came in.

“Girls,” Lakshmana stepped to the back of the room.  “Where did Devi run off to?”

Sita stood to give Rama a kiss.

Lakshme shrugged again and spoke around Sita to talk to Rama, directly. “We must go,” she said.  “This Rakshasa is the worst kind, attacking the people with a pestilence of stinging insects and spiders who carry a venomous poison.”

Rama nodded.  Sita looked like she wanted to tell him to stay, and not risk his life yet again; but she held her tongue.

“Can I go this time?” Lakshmana asked.  Rama shook his head and placed Sita under Lakshmana’s protection. Rama had come into the building first, and overheard something about Lakshme’s friends walking right into it. He figured Lakshme would go, and he would not trust Sita’s care to anyone else.  His brother, Lakshmana, would defend his wife, Sita, against all odds. Lakshme, on the other hand, seemed something like a goddess.  She had resources, as she said, and could raise an entire army of protection in the blink of an eye.  Rama had no one else.  One of them had to stay with Sita.

Libra stepped up, but Lakshme shook her head for the maid, in imitation of Rama.  “No, dear.” She patted Libra’s hand and raised her voice to talk to all of her little ones in the room.  “You have people to comfort and care for.”  She spoke to Libra.  “I have shown you how to make Doctor Mishka’s medicine.  Only some recover, but it is better than no hope at all.” She turned to Rama.  “We will take Pokara and his band of merry men.

Rama frowned, and made a sour face, but he did not say no.


The travelers came through the time gate and checked the sun to gauge how much time they might have before sundown.

“We may have a few hours,” Katie said, not otherwise making the decision.  “More if we arrived in the summer.”

“Feels like summer,” Lockhart agreed.

“No telling,” Lincoln countered. “The Indian subcontinent stays pretty hot for most of the year.”  He lifted his head to look around.  People followed his example.  “No telling where we came down in Lakshme’s life.  She moved around a bunch, chasing after alien pods of some kind.”  Lincoln glanced at Alexis.  “I need to do some reading.”

“Mountains behind us,” Elder Stow said as he stared at his scanner, before he put it away.

“Tree free ridge there,” Major Decker pointed, and looked at Boston.  She pulled out her amulet and pointed in more or less the same direction.

“What?” Sukki asked, softly.

“It is in the right direction, more or less,” Boston quietly answered her.  “The ridgetop, without trees to block the view, might give a good view of the area we have to travel through.

Lockhart did not wait.  He started them toward the top, though after a short way, they had to get down and walk the horses.  Decker and Elder Stow moved out a little on the wings.  Boston and Sukki straggled behind, as usual.

The ridgetop proved to be mostly meadow, with a few trees beginning down the other side.  They saw a river valley far in the distance, where the river cut through an odd combination of mixed jungle and dry landscape.

“I would guess the jungle sections follow the tributaries,” Katie said.

“Yes,” Lockhart understood.  “But, would it be easier to follow the path the rivers cut through the landscape, and maybe fight that jungle, or gallop across the drier areas.  Less fight, but more chance to get lost or run into people.”

“Dry areas,” Boston voted, though Lockhart did not ask for votes.  “I can keep us headed the right way.”

Lockhart looked at the others and better judged the position of the sun.  He looked around at the meadow, noting plenty for the horses to chew.  “Camp,” he said.  “Decker, would you mind looking ahead?  I know you can’t look under jungle canopy, but I am curious if the tributary might be a good path to follow.  Elder Stow.  Can you scan ahead and make a map thing, as far as your scanner can go, and then set up a screen around the camp to keep the horses penned in.  We don’t want one to fall off the ridge in the dark.”

“I can do that,” Elder Stow said, as he began to fiddle with his equipment.  “But the energy levels are running low.  I will have to find some way of charging my equipment soon.”  He got down and walked toward the edge of the ridge.  “From this height, we should get some good information,” he added.

Decker said nothing.  He simple dismounted and stepped over to sit on a large rock.  He would meditate and let his eagle totem lift his spirit into the sky where he could fly over the area and see what the eagle eyes could show him.

Avalon 6.0 Monkey Brain Fever, part 6 of 6

The horses and locals had no protection from the rain.  The travelers walked the horses, who kept their heads lowered, but did not seem to complain.  At least they seemed willing to trust their masters.  Ota said he did not mind the rain, but Mister Crow sat in Misty Gray’s saddle and appeared miserable.

By the time they reached the river, the rain had stopped, and Boston thought to add another word.  “Thank you Chac.”  Chac was Maya’s eldest son, the one Maya once described as the stormy one.  Boston had no reason to believe Kuican the wind or Chac the storm helped them; but she saw Ixchel and figured her brothers had to be around somewhere.

The river looked deep, wide and swift.  They would have to think how to cross.  A hundred yards beyond, on what looked like an island, they saw a six or seven-foot wall that suggested Shemsu work.  The big stones appeared fitted perfectly together without any need for mortar.

Decker remembered there were plenty of Shemsu in the original group that they helped escort at the end of their journey when they came into the land all those centuries ago.  “You know,” he said.  “The ones who felt obliged to carve those giant sculptures of my head.”

The others tried not to laugh as Boston and Sukki stepped down toward the water.  “Let me try something,” Boston said, with a look back at Alexis, her teacher in all things elf.  Boston tapped the surface of the water.  “Water babies,” she called, and Sukki slipped.  Her leg went into the water up to the knee.

Immediately, the water paused and separated, much like the red sea must have separated for Moses.  Lockhart did not question the sign.

“Walk the horses,” he said, and he and Katie started out front.

When they all got up the far bank, they watched the water crash back into the riverbed and resume its journey to the sea.  The travelers turned to the stone wall, covered mostly in moss or a green lichen which was no doubt the source of the green sheen that could be seen for miles.

“City of Jade?” Boston asked, and Sukki nodded.

“The green color?” Alexis suggested.

“Probably full of jade artifacts,” Lincoln imagined.  “The survivors probably brought every precious artifact they had or could get.”

“No doubt,” Elder Stow spoke up from the rear.  Decker fingered his rifle, having thoroughly checked it over after Boston used it.

Lockhart and Katie ignored the conversation as they walked everyone to an archway entrance to the city.  They saw no people, but they found several large gourds there where they stopped. Lockhart said, “ding-dong,” but Katie pulled her knife.  With the handle, she knocked on the top gourd.  The echo sounded loud, echoed in all the gourds, and reverberated into the city area. It did not take long for a gray haired old man to show up, supported by some twenty younger men with spears. They said nothing.  They just growled.

Boston butted up front.  “Maya sent us,” she said, knowing her words would be heard and understood.  The men changed their expression immediately, and the old man responded.

“Well.  That should be all right.  Come in.” All the men relaxed, and people came out from wherever they were hiding and welcomed them.

The city looked way overcrowded, and not just with humans. Gnomes came and took their horses. Several elf-like women made a special point of welcoming Boston.  And all of the travelers, including Elder Stow and Sukki, who still wore their glamours of humanity, got treated to warm baths, soft couches, and plenty of good food.  Even Mister Crow got groomed and treated with great deference, once the people found out he could talk.

They all loved it, and relaxed, but by mid-afternoon, Lockhart roused the others to look for Ozma.  The old man interrupted their quest.

“No one speaks to Ozma.  She has saved us, but she is set apart.  Sometimes the gods visit her, we have been told.  Some believe this, but in any case, she stays in her place and wishes her privacy.”

“But we’ve come such a long way already,” Katie said.  She looked up at Lockhart’s frown.  “Well, someone had to say it.”

It turned out, Ozma came out to see them.  Ixchel came with her.

“And here they are,” Ixchel smiled.  The people gathered, bowed and stepped back to give the goddess Ixchel, Ozma, and the travelers plenty of room.

Boston ran forward, but hesitated, until Ozma opened her arms for a hug.  Boston hugged her hard and loved her goddess equally hard.  She spoke when she stepped back.

“Darn. I wanted to go down a spooky hallway and see what hid behind the curtain.”

Ozma laughed.  “I am sure if the wizard were here, he would gladly take you to the next time gate in his hot air balloon.”

“Stop.”  Lockhart finally had enough.  “There is no wicked witch going to fly across the sky and sky-write surrender Dorothy.”

“Surrender Boston,” Boston said, with a grin.

“Whatever,” Katie supported her husband.

“The question is, what can we do to help in this crisis?” Lockhart finished his thought.

“Sadly, nothing,” Ozma said.

“More important,” Alexis interrupted.  “What can you do for Ota and Mister Crow?”

Before anyone could answer, a man came shooting to the ground like a meteor, leaving a contrail across the sky.  He arrived as a jaguar and let out a great roar before he transformed into an angry looking man.  He stared at the travelers who hardly shrank in the face of the angry god.  He waved his hand, and the glamours fell away from Boston, Sukki, and Elder Stow.  The people, who had already fallen to their faces in the face of the gods, shrieked on sight of the elf and the two Gott-Druk; at least those who peeked.

“Clever,” the man said.  “You should have all slept.  You should be eaten by now.”

“Sorry to disappoint,” Lockhart dared to breathe the words.

“Quetzalcoatl,” the man said.  “I am Tezcatlipoca, and you will not interfere.  The sun of the wind must be destroyed.  The sickness of the Monkey must finish the work.”

Ozma stepped up and put a hand on Lockhart’s arm.  “I thought we might invite Quetzalcoatl to be king of this city and bring magic cures from the future.”

“No.” Tezcatlipoca yelled, but paused as the inevitable bubble came softly to the earth to reveal Maya standing beside Ozma.  Ixchel stepped up to stand on Ozma’s other side.  One woman could be hard.  Two could be dangerous.  Three felt like a serious threat.  Tezcatlipoca appeared to think.

“I suppose,” he said.  “If you went quietly to your gate without disturbing things, I could be persuaded to let you go in peace.”

The goddesses nodded.  “We accept your offer,” Maya said.  “Now be gone, before somebody drops a house on you.”

Tezcatlipoca roared again, but vanished.  Everyone breathed, except Boston and Katie, who both laughed and told Maya she said that just right.

Maya smiled for them, but said, “Get your things.  No telling how long you have before he changes his simple, little mind.”

“What?  The god has a simple mind?” Lincoln asked.

“No,” Maya said.  “He is just a man.”

The women laughed, as the travelers went off to pack their things and get their horses.  Maya stepped up to Ota and hugged him.  He began to weep.

“Do not weep,” she said.  “Your family will rest in peace and be happy in the afterlife.”

Ota nodded.  He did not doubt, but he wept all the same.

Maya stepped to the crow and frowned.  “You are no end of trouble,” she said.  She touched the crow and he turned back into a man.  When the travelers returned, they found Ozma busy kissing that man.

“Her husband,” Ixchel said, and raised her arms.  The travelers found themselves in the jungle.  The time gate sat in front of them.  Ixchel spoke.

“When the fever settles into the monkey population, some people will go north to get out of the area entirely.  They will find a lake and build a city there.  Maya will bring some here, to build a city in the jungle and begin a new civilization.  Some will move back into the cities they abandoned five years ago.  They will begin again, but it will all be different. It will all be changed.”

Katie understood.  “The Toltec, the Mayan, and the remnants of the Olmec civilization.”

Ixchel nodded.  “Only, you must not stay to see it.  I know it is your habit to enter the time gate first thing in the morning, but in this case, though it is late in the afternoon, I say you must go now, while you can.”

“Thank you,” Boston said, and Sukki echoed, “Thank you.”  Boston got down to hug the goddess, but her arms went right through.

“I am not really here,” Ixchel said.  “But I appreciate the sentiment.  Go.  Be safe.”

They moved through the time gate.



Avalon, episode 6.1 Little Things.  The travelers arrive  in the Dandaka forest in search of the Kairos Lakshme (not Sita).  They face swarms of deadly insects and grow concerned about who might be directing and guiding this pestilence, and to what end.  Until Monday, Happy Reading.


Avalon 6.0 Monkey Brain Fever, part 5 of 6

Lockhart spurred forward, but his horse would only get so close before it refused to go further.  Lockhart had to shout, enunciating the alien Agdaline words as well as he could.  “No fire.  Do no harm.  Friends. Friends.  No fire.”

The worm had very stubby arms and legs.  This kind looked more like a true worm, or serpent, and it still had plenty of asbestos-like feathers, like an infant dragon.  It did not look like an infant.

“No fire.  No harm. Friend.”  Lockhart kept yelling, and the dragon paused to turn its head and look at the people and horses, as it were, upside-down.  The head snapped back right-side-up, and the dragon made a very different sound.  It almost sounded like the dragon repeated the word “friend”, before it looked up and let out a stream of fire at the sky.

“That can’t possibly be Puff.”  Katie came up near to Lockhart.  Her horse, Black Beauty, seemed even more leery of the dragon than Lockhart’s horse.

“I can’t imagine.  Maybe a child or grandchild or something.”  They met puff roughly two-thousand, five hundred years ago, back when people first started moving into the area that one day would become the Olmec civilization.  That happened when they first met Maya and her children.

“Chac was the storm and Kuican, the wind,” Lockhart tried to name those children.

“And Ixchel, the rainbow after the storm,” Katie said.  “I remember.”

“Ixchel.” Lockhart nodded.  “I couldn’t remember the girl’s name.”

“And Puff poked her nose right between a Pendratti and a Gott-Druk shuttle and scared everyone half to death.”

In timing, such as the little ones had, they heard a woman’s voice. “There you are.”  They looked up and saw a beautiful woman floating up by the dragon’s head, which lifted up near the tree tops to greet her.  She appeared to scratch under the dragon’s chin. The dragon purred.  The travelers could not imagine getting that close to the dragon’s jaw, though they had seen it done before.

“Friend,” the dragon said, and looked at Lockhart, and the rest who came up to stand behind Lockhart and Katie.  The woman looked, squinted, and appeared curious, until Katie spoke

“Maya?” Katie asked, though she knew it was not.

“Quetzalcoatl,” the woman spouted through her smile, as she zoomed to the ground, to face them.  “Maya said you were here, but I didn’t believe her.  I am Ixchel.”

“You didn’t believe your own mother?” Boston sounded surprised.

“Yes, I suppose she is my mother.  After going on three thousand years, since you were in this part of the world, some things blur.  Other things don’t make sense at all.  I mean, my father is a girl.”

“That must be interesting,” Decker said.

“I love her dearly,” Ixchel said, before Lincoln interrupted.

“I don’t suppose you can take us to the city the quick way.”

Ixchel took a moment to figure out what he asked, before she shook her head.  “I am not really here.  I came to collect Kuku.  She got set out to guard the ways to the city.  She can smell the disease, but not being native to earth, she cannot get the sickness.  She wandered off.”  Ixchel smiled a lovely smile.  “But I will welcome you when you arrive…” she vanished, and reappeared straddling the dragon’s neck.  She said something in Agdaline—the world from which dragons came.  It sounded like, “Come along, baby.”  And the dragon spread its wings and took to the sky.

Lockhart turned around and saw Ota on his knees, weeping.  He breathed through his tears. “Kukulkan.  Man of the dragon.”

Mister Crow returned from whatever safe perch he visited.  “I guessed, you know.”

“You guessed?” Alexis asked.

“Well, there weren’t any dragons around before now to know for certain.” The crow settled down on Misty Gray’s back.  “So, what did Kukulkan say to the beast, anyway?”

“He said we were friends,” Katie spoke up.

Mister Crow appeared to nod.  “Good choice of words,” he said.

“Man,” Lockhart said, as he got Ota to stand.  “Man of the dragon, but the important word is man.  I am as human as you are.”

Ota looked uncertain, but Mister Crow spoke again.  “Not if you are three thousand years old. The great goddess, Ixchel herself said she knew you three thousand years ago.”

“More like twenty-five hundred years,” Lincoln responded, as he helped Ota get up on Cortez, his horse.  “I’ll have to look it up.”

“That is a long story,” Alexis said.

“We need to ride.  The way appears to be clearing,” Lockhart said.

Lockhart rode out front and avoided looking back at the local man and the crow.  He heard Alexis and Lincoln trying to explain things, but tried not to overhear the actual conversation.

The travelers came out of the forest and found themselves in a meadow, the road clearly delineated by mud between fields of grasses and flowers. They saw a river, far in the distance, and a hint of pale green beyond, which everyone guessed might be the city. They traveled for nearly an hour before Boston had a thought.

“No,” Boston shouted, but it was already too late.

Lincoln and Katie both slipped from their seats at about the same time.  Ota hung on to Cortez’s saddle, but he weaved in his seat, like one ready to fall. Boston looked back and saw Decker leaning forward, hanging on to his horse’s neck, trying not to fall, and trying to stay awake.

“Decker,” Elder Stow reached out to the man.  The Gott-Druk did not appear as affected by whatever it was.

Boston looked at Sukki.  The girl yawned, but did not appear to be in danger of falling asleep.

“No,” Boston said again, and looked to the front to see Lockhart and Alexis slip to the ground.  The crow followed Alexis, and Boston’s hair felt like it stood on end.  “Arm up,” she said.  “Elder Stow.  I think we are going to need your weapon, especially.”

“What is it?” Sukki asked.

Elder Stow checked his scanner.  He stopped focusing on it after they got out in the open where they could see around with their own eyes.  His eyes shot toward a small rise in the landscape.  People began to come over the rise.  Maybe a hundred or more, and they all looked insane with disease.

“I don’t think the dragon just wandered off,” Sukki said, as Boston handed over her Beretta.  Boston pulled Decker’s super advanced military rifle she could turn to automatic fire.  She didn’t wait.  She sprayed the oncoming horde with bullets, even as Decker became the last to slip to the ground.  Boston felt glad that the horses were magically tied to their riders and would not wander off.  She also felt glad they got sent back from the American wild west, and would not be spooked by gunfire.

Boston tried to confine herself to bursts of five to seven bullets. The rifle would never run out of ammunition, thanks to the Kairos who set that up at the beginning, but it could overheat, and she could not afford for it to jam.

Sukki fired her pistol as she had been taught.  She only paused, and dropped her jaw, when Elder Stow’s weapon let out a line of light that turned the ones in front to ash and the ones behind to charcoal.

Even with all that power, Elder Stow admitted, “Some are going to reach us.”

“I know,” Boston wanted to panic, when a wind came up that nearly pulled her off her feet.

The people on the ground remained unaffected.  The horses turned into the wind and lowered their heads to keep from being tipped over.  Elder Stow and Sukki, with their strong and squat Neanderthal bodies, appeared to hold on to the earth.  But across the way, the diseased people got lifted up and blown away, until they moved out of sight.

Boston, who eavesdropped on Katie and Lockhart when they talked about Maya’s children, thought to say something.  “Thank you Kuican.”

Lightning, coming out of a perfectly blue sky, struck in the direction of the diseased people, and the thunder clapped loud.  The cloudless sky instantly filled with deep gray clouds, and the rain came, pouring, turning the mud road into puddles and a little river, an inch or so deep.

Boston, Sukki, and Elder Stow ran to the others to get their heads above the water; but found them coming out of their sleep.  People turned their fairy weave clothing into rain slickers, hats, and rain boots, though they got rather soaked at first.  It took some time to shake off the effects of whatever got into their systems, but soon enough they got ready to move on to the city in the distance.

Avalon 6.0 Monkey Brain Fever, part 4 of 6

Everyone got some sleep, and no one bothered them in the night, which made them all feel better over breakfast.

“I don’t know why the monkey god, and whoever is with him, would want to wipe out all the humans in their jurisdiction,” Alexis began the conversation.

“Chaotic god?” Decker suggested.

“More of a trickster,” Lincoln said, pulling out the database. “Sort of like Loki, I suppose.”

“It happened elsewhere,” Katie spoke up.  “Domnu once wiped out all the earliest people in the British Isles. Sekhmet,” Katie said, paused and turned to Lockhart with a smile.  “She almost wiped out everyone in Egypt, and would have if Amun Junior had not gotten her stinking drunk.”

“She still complains about the hangover,” Lockhart nodded.

“In the middle-east, the gods once complained the humans were making too much noise.  It was Enki, or Enlil, I forget who saved the humans there,” Katie finished.

Lockhart nodded again.  “God himself once wiped out everyone except Noah and his family.”

“I know that story,” Elder Stow said, and watched Sukki nod.  “At that same time, the Gott-Druk, and other early human-like peoples were taken elsewhere.  In the case of the Gott-Druk, we went into space, with Agdaline help, to make a new home on another world.”

“But why here and now?” Alexis did not feel satisfied.  She still felt terrible about killing all those children. “What is the point?  What are they gaining?”

“No way of knowing,” Katie answered.

Boston said what she had heard many times on their journey.  “Who can fathom the way of the gods?”

Mister Crow fluttered down from the branch of the nearest tree where he spent the night.  He offered a thought.  “You people speak of the gods with such ease.  Most people placate the gods with offerings and otherwise try to keep a safe distance.  But, I figure, with your horses and guns and such, you may be closer to the gods than we are.”

No one chose to respond, so that pretty much ended the conversation. The group packed up breakfast and the camp.  They moved slowly into the trees.  They did not go very far, however, before Boston remembered.

“Don’t pick any apples unless you want to make the tree angry.” She laughed, but Lincoln said something she had not considered.

“No telling what that necromancer’s elixir of life might be capable of doing.”

“Oh yeah,” Boston squeaked.  “I hadn’t thought of that.  Thanks,” she gave it her sarcastic best.

Alexis turned to talk to Boston as she patted Lincoln on the arm. “My husband is good at thinking of things like that.  It is his special talent.”

Lincoln wisely kept his mouth closed.

The group stopped when they came to a place where a couple of huts lined the road.

“I see carbon forms there,” Elder Stow said, staring at his scanner. “I can’t tell if any are living.”

It looked like a small hamlet, not even a village, and it looked deserted.  Decker waited for them at the outskirts, and the group moved up slowly, eyes and ears looking for anything that might indicate life.  They were not disappointed.

A man, holding a large stone axe, stepped into the roadway and stopped to stare at them, like he wondered if they might be infected.  The group stopped.  Decker reached for his rifle.  The man looked covered in blood and sweat.

“Wait,” Captain Katherine Harper Lockhart yelled at her superior officer, and Major Decker kindly waited.  She got down, and carried her canteen.  Lockhart pulled his shotgun, just in case.

“Water?”  Katie held it out to the man.  The man stood like a statue for a few more seconds before he dropped to his knees and began to weep.  Katie gave him the water, and Alexis and Lincoln stepped up.  Alexis to see if the man might be injured.  Lincoln, because he would not let Alexis get into a dangerous situation without him.

They all heard a human-like cry beside one of the huts.  Alexis turned to go there, but Lincoln grabbed her as Boston yelled.

“Don’t leave the path.”

“They won’t stay dead,” The man muttered through his tears.

Decker and Lockhart opened up with the rifle and shotgun as three men, two women, and two children came staggering out from behind the house. The whole group, already missing arms and great chunks of their bodies, went down from multiple bullet wounds. Somehow, Decker and Lockhart did not doubt they would get back up again.

“Quickly.  To your horses,” Lockhart commanded.  “Katie, bring him.”

Katie already started bringing the man to her horse.  Lockhart waited, while Decker led the others down the road.  Katie practically lifted the confused man up behind Lockhart before she mounted. Lockhart barely took the time to say hang on, before he, Katie, Alexis and Lincoln started after the others.

The man only wailed once or twice, before he closed his eyes and decided not to watch.

Well down the road, they dismounted again to walk their horses. The man, still holding his axe in an iron-like grip, walked with them, his head pointed down, his eyes dragging on the dirt in front of him.  He did not open up until they stopped around eleven for an early lunch.  The forest started becoming jungle dark, and it began to close in on them.  The travelers thought they should eat quickly to spare as much daylight as possible. No telling how long they would be in the gloom.

“I am Ota,” the man said.  “I had the fever for seven days, and all of my village became infected. My fever broke three days ago, and I recovered, but some died, and some came near death when a man came into the village.  I brought out to him the ones who still lived.  He said he had a way to heal them, but he could not leave the path.  I felt so grateful.  I did not ask questions.  He placed a few drops of some water on the tongue and said they would recover.  Then he said he had to move on because others needed his help.

“I watched.  I prayed. They all died.  Then they all un-died, and they tried to kill me because I still lived.  Yesterday, and last night, I killed them again and again, but they kept getting undead.”  The man shivered, looked down, and appeared to run out of words.

Lockhart looked at Boston, and she spoke.  “We are going to the City of Jade to see the wizardess of Oz.  We have to go there to find our way home. Mister Crow wants to go to be made human again.  I am sure there are other survivors there and Ozma will find a good place for you among the people.  Go with us.” She looked at the others to evaluate her performance.  Decker laughed.  Katie and Alexis smiled.  Lincoln shook his head, and Lockhart shrugged.  Of course, Sukki and Elder Stow had no idea what she was talking about.

Ota nodded.  “Maybe the Oz can find a way to make the dead rest again, as they should.”

Ota opted to ride behind Lincoln, not that he felt more comfortable behind the smaller man, but so he could converse with Mister Crow, someone from his own time and place, even if the words came out of the mouth of a bird.

With that settled, the travelers entered the dark under the jungle canopy, and Lockhart bit his tongue, but Boston said it.

“Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!”

“Eagles, Hawks, and Falcons,” Mister Crow corrected.  “And owls,” he added.

Early in the afternoon, when the sun in the cloudless sky should have made things appear bright and cheery, the road, which had been single file, at least opened up again to where they could ride two by two.  They appeared to be in a swampy area where the sun all but disappeared.  Rays of light, like rays from one of Lockhart’s alien heat rays, only showed here and there.  It seemed enough to keep them from moving in darkness, but they moved in the shadows all the same.

They paused when something roared off to their right.  Every eye tried to pierce the shadows and look through trees.

“Keep moving,” Lockhart insisted, and the horses walked on.

Another roar came moments later, and it sounded closer than before.

“Don’t stop,” Lockhart insisted.

“I don’t see anything on the scanner,” Elder Stow admitted

“I don’t sense a spiritual creature,” Boston spoke up.

Lockhart looked at Katie.  She nodded, then shook her head, like she might be getting mixed signals.

“Keep moving,” Lockhart said.

The travelers kept moving, until they heard a third roar very close, and much louder than any animal they could think of.

One moment later, Decker came racing back from the point.  He did not have to yell, “Dragon!”  The ball of fire said it all.

Avalon 6.0 Monkey Brain Fever, part 3 of 6

The little people came out from hiding.  They had their feast, with plenty of stories, songs, and good cheer, but it did not seem like the great celebration they planned.  Lincoln explained as he read from the database. The world of the Olmec people was being all but destroyed by a disease more ruinous than the bubonic plague.

Katie and Lockhart sat beside the fire and whispered little to each other.  Lincoln and Alexis sat near them and said nothing that evening.  Decker stayed on watch, despite the promise of the little people, that they would keep their eyes and ears open for intruders.  Elder Stow kept watch with his portable scanner, and set it to put up an impenetrable particle screen as soon as his scanner picked up human life forms headed in their direction.  Only Sukki and Boston clapped and danced with the little ones in the night before everyone had to get some sleep.

In the morning, all the little ones turned out to shout good-bye and good luck.  Many reminded them to stay between the fields of corn.  Katie waved, and Lockhart confided to her, “If Lincoln or Decker start singing about follow the yellow corn road, I’m going to hit them.” Boston heard with her good elf ears, and hummed through the morning, but she did manage to keep her mouth from singing the words.

Since he could not ride out on the flank, Decker took the point. Often enough, he rode back to Lockhart and Katie at the front of the group to double-check his take on turns in the road where the corn became less evident.

Lincoln and Alexis took the center, and appeared to take up Lockhart and Katie’s idea of whispering to each other every now and then.  Boston and Sukki straggled in the rear, with Elder Stow acting as rear guard.  He only looked up every now and then, and generally only when a deer or other large animal could be seen or heard out among the corn rows.  For the most part, he kept his eyes glued to his scanner. It acted as their main version of an early warning system.  Boston, with her elf senses, could tell when humans came near.  Katie, with her elect intuition, could sense when something or someone got near that might pose a danger to the group.  Still, the scanner could plot one to several miles distance on a grid, and track whatever might be in the area.

Lunch became a somber affair.  They had plenty of food, gifts from the little people for their journey; but no one felt much like talking until Lincoln broke the ice.

“This journey seems spooky for a change.”

Decker and Lockhart laughed at the “for a change” comment, but Alexis responded kindly.  “It does feel a bit like a funeral procession.”

Elder Stow nodded.  “Good thing we have not come across any villages.”

“Especially ones full of dead bodies,” Alexis agreed, and people paused to think about it.

“That necromancer sounds creepy,” Boston said.  “Maybe, in that village, the dead bodies will be walking around.”

“I don’t like that idea,” Sukki said, and shivered.

“I prefer not to think about that possibility,” Lincoln commiserated.

“So, explain something,” Lockhart wanted to change the subject. “If this disease has been rampaging around the countryside for five years, who has been around to plant these cornfields?”

Katie spoke up.  “I assume Maya has kept the corn growing in season.  I imagine she is spread rather thin, trying to hold things together.”

“Maya said, only half of the human population will die,” Elder Stow said.

“Over half,” Lincoln corrected him.

“Still,” Elder Stow continued.  “The other half has to be around somewhere.”

Alexis shook her head.  “Probably got infected and sick, even if they did not die from the disease.  We have no way of knowing what shape they may be in. They might not be able to plant, and Maya might be keeping them alive by growing the corn for them.”

Decker offered a thought.  “Probably ran away to escape being eaten by the diseased half.”

“Stop,” Sukki raised her voice, looked down at her lap and shut her eyes.  Elder Stow took her hand.

“There, there…”  He gave it his fatherly best.  “We will be all right.”

“I know just how you feel,” Boston, the empathic elf looked at her with exceptionally big eyes.

An hour down the road, they came across a crow that hopped back and forth on the road, and apparently, had been doing so for some time, since they saw a clear, visible line indent in the road.  Decker stopped to watch, and when the others came up behind him, they all watched.

“What is it doing?” Sukki asked.

“Ask him,” Decker said with a grin.

The crow stopped and faced the travelers.  Then it spoke.  “I’m pacing, trying to decide which way to go.  I found this great path through the wilderness.  I have been turned into a crow, in case you didn’t notice.  I need help, only I can’t go both ways.”

Boston pushed up front.  “We’re going to the Emerald City to see the wizard—the wizardess of Oz.  Maybe she could help.”

“City of Jade,” Lincoln corrected her.

“Still green,” Boston said, and gave her best elf grin to Lockhart, who rolled his eyes.

“Why don’t you fly there?” Katie wondered.

“Eagles, Hawks, Falcons,” the crow responded.  “Besides, I’m new to this flying business.  I’m not sure it would be safe.”

“I guess you better come with us,” Lockhart decided, with a hard look at Boston.

The crow thought about it before Alexis interrupted with a question. “How did you get turned into a crow?”

“It was the monkey god,” the crow said.  “He said I was immune to his disease and that was not allowed.  He changed me, probably thinking I would be eaten by a predator soon enough.  I found this path first thing in the morning.”

“You survived so far,” Katie praised the bird.

“I had some immature corn last night,” the crow said.  “It was okay.  But then this morning, all my pacing dug up a couple of worms.  I found that disgusting, but they tasted pretty good…”

“Here,” Alexis said.  “You can ride in Misty’s mane.”

“Your very big animal?”

“My horse, yes.  Misty won’t mind as long as you hold his hair and not scratch him with your claws.” She started to get down to pick up the crow, but he flew up to settle on Misty Gray’s neck, so Alexis kept her seat. The horse nodded twice, to shift the bird to a more comfortable spot.  Then they rode, and the crow said his name was something like Wexalottle, or it sounded like that.  It seemed hard to pronounce with a bird beak and tongue.  They settled for calling him Mister Crow.

Another hour down the road, and Elder Stow’s scanner started making that annoying alarm sound.  “People coming,” he shouted from the rear.  Boston and Katie both looked in that direction, like they sensed the people, and sensed they were hostile.  Lockhart directed everyone to the opposite side of the road, and Mister Crow returned from overhead, once Elder Stow turned off the alarm.

“I see them,” Mister Crow said.  “They are running straight at us.”

“I have them on the grid,” Elder Stow added.  “They will arrive any minute.  No time to put up a screen to halt their progress.”

“Arm up,” Decker yelled as he arrived from the point and got down from his horse.  It was not Decker’s place to say that, but Lockhart was not going to argue with that assessment.  Seconds later, faces appeared in the corn rows.  Clearly, they were diseased faces.  Seconds after that, guns began to fire, and in only a minute, ten bodies stretched across the road.  Less than a minute later, Alexis cried out.

“They are children.”  She wept. The eldest looked maybe fifteen. Everyone but Decker and Lockhart found some tears.  Lockhart, the former policeman, remained stoic.  Major Decker remained a marine.

Mister Crow returned from overhead.  He got angry. “Why have the gods permitted this?”

“The gods have done this,” Katie said.  “I assume the monkey god is not working alone.”

“Probably why Maya couldn’t leave the city long enough to bring us there the easy way,” Boston suggested, and Sukki and Katie agreed.

“Keep moving,” Lockhart interjected.  “Walk ‘em.”  He moved them out of the area as quickly as possible.  Lincoln did what he could to comfort Alexis.  Mister Crow sat on Alexis’ saddle and cawed a couple of times. Sukki, Boston, and Elder Stow followed along behind, heads lowered like people in mourning.

As the sun began to set, the travelers came upon a forest.  The road left the corn fields and moved in among the trees.  They had not been warned about the change in their surroundings, but clearly the road went among the trees for some distance.

“I think we still need to stay to the road,” Lockhart said.  People agreed, and settled down to eat something before bed.  “Regular watch,” Lockhart insisted.  That put Alexis and Lincoln up first, from six to nine in the evening.  Katie, her elect senses stretched into the wilderness, and Lockhart with his police instincts got the nine to midnight shift. Decker, the marine, and Elder Stow with his scanner took the wee hours, which left Sukki and Boston with her elf senses in the early morning, to watch the sun come up.



Following the yellow corn road isn’t so easy, and there are infected people in the way.


Avalon 6.0 Monkey Brain Fever, part 2 of 6

Katie and Lockhart walked up to the group holding hands.  Decker followed, and it appeared as if he put his rifle in the holster for once, not expecting trouble in this peaceful village of good people.  He looked naked without it, but no one said anything.  Instead, Decker found a reason to say something.  It came out in swear words, and he ran to retrieve the weapon.

Four humans, three men and one woman, came crashing through the bushes and into the village square.  They looked bruised and bloodied from a thousand cuts.  Alexis thought to help them, but the look in their eyes spoke of insanity.  The drool from their snarling mouths made them appear hungry, and not particular about what they ate.  They screamed unintelligible sounds.  The little people just screamed and scattered to hide.

Two of the mad men rushed at the group around the bonfire.  Boston, Alexis and Sukki screamed well enough. Lockhart, the former policeman, still had his police special by his side, and drew it quickly.  Katie slipped the knife from the sheath that rested on Lockhart’s other hip.  Lockhart shot one man.  Katie cut the other across the hand and face.  That man barely paused, but long enough for Elder Stow to reach up from behind, grab the man’s head and snap his neck.

The third man got distracted by Decker’s movement, and followed him. The major had enough of a head start to reach his horse, pull his handgun, spin and fire three times.  As the man fell, dead, Decker grabbed his top-of-the-line marine rifle, the one the Kairos assured him would never run out of bullets.

The insane woman rushed to the back-side of the bonfire, where a deer roasted, half-cooked.  She ripped off a chunk of the deer tartar, fell to her knees and began to chew, not unlike an animal.  The travelers watched, uncertain about what to do.  They once unwittingly helped a werewolf in the daytime.  He appeared as a broken, cut and bruised man who left sanity so far behind, he could no longer form words.  Of course, they did not know he was a werewolf, and he escaped.  He got their scent.  He then followed them through a couple of dozen time zones, often enough in wolf form, trying to kill and eat them.

“We have to help her, if we can.”  Alexis finally spoke.

“I don’t know if we can,” Lincoln said, as he ran up from the other side.

The naked, bleeding woman grunted a couple of times, but mostly she howled, not like an animal, but like a person subject to constant, terrible, stabbing pain. She hit her head several times.  She began to weep.

No one dared approach her.

She chewed until she screamed, dropped the deer meat and put both hands to her head.  Her tears turned red with blood.  Her ears began to bleed, and she fell over.  People still feared to touch her.  Decker and Alexis checked.  She definitely died.

“This man’s ears are bleeding,” Katie and Elder Stow watched the blood drip, though the man already died.

“Don’t touch him,” Alexis said, nice and loud.

“Don’t worry,” Katie responded, and pulled her hand back a little further, though she realized both she and Elder Stow touched one of them.

“Incoming,” Decker shouted, and everyone looked up as a man with a long monkey tail appeared near the horses.  The man lifted a hand toward the horses, like he tested something with his senses and needed to concentrate.  He stepped toward the wary travelers, pausing only briefly at the four dead people.  He lifted his hand toward the travelers, again, seeming to test something he had to think about.  Then he spoke.

“There is an aura of protection in this cursed place that spares you from the virus.  Do not think it will spare you from the infected ones, though I can do nothing to harm you.  Since you wear the protection of the gods, I would not dream of doing such a thing. But I take no responsibility for what the mad humans may do.”  The man grinned, his monkey tail whipped back and forth, and he vanished, and mercifully took the four dead bodies with him.

Everyone breathed.

The little people began to make sounds of relief all around, before they shouted “She is here.  She is here…”  The travelers watched a woman float through the air and come gently to the ground, only to be surrounded by happy, cheering little people.

“Ozma?” Boston ran, but stopped when she saw who it was.  “Maya.” She remembered the name of the Corn Woman, the goddess she met in Otapec’s day, and then again at Katie and Lockhart’s wedding.”

Maya pushed through the little ones to give Boston a hug.  “You have certainly changed since the last time you were in my area.”

“Katie married,” Boston said, as if the goddess needed reminding.  Like a true little one, she showed utter joy at marriage before she dropped her head, sadly, and spoke.  “But I lost Roland.  He got taken to the future.  But I know he is alive.  He has to be alive.”

Maya gave Boston a second hug and an encouraging word.  “I have every good hope that you will see him again.” She turned to Katie.  “So, now you are married, and to Quetzalcoatl.  I had little time to do this at your wedding.” She hugged Katie and looked at Lockhart. “You are a very lucky man, to marry an elect.”  She apologized to Katie.  “I really am glad I could be there for you.”

“Me too,” Katie said through her smile.  Being hugged by a goddess is a remarkably wonderful thing.

“And Lincoln,” Maya said.  “I see you found your wife.  The first time I met you, she went missing.  Dear Alexis.” Alexis lowered her eyes and curtsied, but Maya hugged her as well.  “And Elder Stow, I see you found a daughter of your own.”

“Sukki,” she gave her name, smiled, uncertain, and looked at Elder Stow for reassurance.

Maya hugged her, too, and whispered in the girl’s ear.  “I saw you at the wedding.  Now, you just take care of that old man, and all of your friends.”

Sukki looked again at Elder Stow, and the others with a genuine smile and a word out loud, because Gott-Druk were not good at whispering. “I will.”

“And finally, Major Decker, man of the eagle.  You will be pleased to know that the Olmec representations of your head have become so stylized, they hardly look like you anymore.”

Decker grunted, but seemed pleased.  He thought to speak.  “We had four visitors attack us when we arrived, and a god with a monkey tail that came to fetch them.  I don’t suppose you would care to explain what is going on.”

Maya frowned, took a couple of steps to where she could address them all, though she already had their full attention.  “The monkey god,” she said.  “When my friend, the Kairos Kartesh, in the ancient times, reworked her Shemsu people to give them their unique telekinetic abilities as well as the math and engineering skill along with the Agdaline symbols and stellar coordinates, the monkey god got the idea that life was something to play with. Among his experiments, he designed this virus.  My friend, the Kairos Ozma calls it monkey brain fever.  It is deadly in over ninety percent of the cases.”

“Have we been infected?” Alexis had to ask.

“No,” Maya insisted.  “The hedge of the gods protects you, and also I have made this place a protected area, just to be sure.  However, it cannot stop infected people from coming into this place, and though they cannot spread the disease here, it cannot cure them by coming here.  It has been five years.  The disease has spread.”  Maya stepped up to Katie and asked to touch her thoughts, which felt very odd, to hear a goddess ask anything.

“I don’t mind,” Katie said, and shut her eyes while Maya touched her head.

“I see,” Maya said.  “I see.” And the others got the idea that she somehow bypassed the hedge of the gods to retrieve some information.  Then she spoke.  “The disease has spread from what will be Mexico City to El Salvador. It is virulent, and more than half of the human population will die in agony.  But Ozma tells me the disease will eventually settle in the monkey population where it will remain dormant for many centuries.  Pray that it be soon.”

“Ozma,” Boston said, her face lit up.  “Can you take us to her?”

“I cannot,” Maya responded, with a shake of her head.  “I am not really here.  To do that, I would leave the City of Jade unprotected, even if only for a few brief moments.  But I have made a way.  There is a wide path, a protected road, between here and La Venta Island, where Ozma and her people remain trapped, but safe.  Stay on the path.  Beware those you meet along the way.  They are infected, or they are dead, and doubly wrong.  Beware the necromancer who carries the elixir of life.  Stay on the path.  It runs between the fields of maize.  Do not put one foot to the left or right, lest the monkey god find a way to infect you.”  The image of Maya began to fade.

“Wait.”  Boston reached out.

“I will see you in the city,” Maya said, and disappeared altogether.