Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 1 of 6

Sorry.

I do try to keep my reading posts advertising and spam free, but we are coming to the end of FREE book days.  Now, through May 31, Avalon, the Prequel and Seasons One Two and Three are all FREE, and, of course, the Pilot Episode is free everyday.  This is something Smashwords set up during the stay-at-home time, so help yourself.  You can get all of these books for absolutely zero money, hopefully read and enjoy them, (and maybe leave a good review).  Thanks.  Happy Reading.

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

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After 323 BC, Sicily. Kairos lifetime 83: Umma of Carthage.

Recording …

Despite their best hopes, the time gate appeared to be in Thermaic gulf, directly out from Mount Olympus. Harpalus found them a ship with some of the coins that Phillip paid them for saving his life.  He got them a crew as well, but they told him the crew could not go where they were going.  It would be a death sentence.  The crew, however, could teach them well enough so they might actually make it to the time gate without sinking.  They stayed a week to learn all they could.

Decker already knew something about sailing.  No one asked where he picked up the skill, but being a marine, no one felt surprised.

Lincoln and Alexis knew the basics. They had a small sailboat, a twenty-five-footer that they used to take out on the Potomac and sometimes along the shores of Chesapeake Bay.  Of course, it had a small engine, but they sailed enough to know some.  Lincoln paid close attention to the instructions offered by the sailors.  Alexis spent the week trying to get in touch with Fair Wind.

“I know we are not Ibelam, but it would save me a great deal of effort if you might be willing to help.”

Evan traveled on the PS Cumberland Gap when his family moved from Boston to Baltimore as a child.  That was about 1888.  He called it the most exciting and wonderful trip in his life.  Evan confessed they moved mostly by the paddles, but at one point he watched them set the sails, and he asked lots of questions.

Millie said the big steamship they took to Rome didn’t even have any sails as an option.  She worried if the engine broke down, they would be dead in the water.

Katie said, despite being a marine, she had little chance to go sailing behind her desk at the Pentagon.

Lockhart, who knew nothing about sailing, asked what the sailors did in bad weather.

“Well,” an old sailor said.  “If it rains, we get wet.  If there is thunder and lighting, we ask Zeus to please not strike the boat.  I once saw a lightning strike that split the mast right down the middle.  It took us a week to limp into the nearest port, half-starved and severely dehydrated because our water stores all got contaminated…”

Another sailor interrupted the story. “When the waves get big, we use the rope to tie ourselves to the boat so we don’t fall overboard.  The steersman lashes himself to the paddle.  Then we pray, mostly to Poseidon.  Personally, I ask his wife, Amphitrite, to calm her husband, if you don’t mind.”

“She could do that,” Lockhart said, like he knew.

“Unless he is upset because she is mad at him for some reason,” Katie countered.

Lockhart nodded.  “They have been known to fight.  But, usually she is off somewhere else and very busy.”

“Usually,” Katie agreed

“Diogenes,” Harpalus mumbled, before he looked up and waved off the questions.  “Don’t ask.  It is a long story.”

By the time they got the horses and wagon loaded, and felt ready, though scared to risk the wind and waves, Katie and Lockhart went to say thank you and good-bye to Harpalus.  They found him talking to a middle-aged man who limped, just like Harpalus.  The man said hello, and seemed to know them.  It only took a second.  Lockhart figure it was one of the gods, even if he did not know which one.  Katie knew.

“Vulcan,” she said as she shook his hand. She used his Roman name, thinking Harpalus would not know.

“Good name choice,” Vulcan affirmed, and he proceeded to say what he wanted, but also used the Roman names instead of the Greek ones for the various gods.  “I talked to Salacia.  I am sorry to say, Fair Wind remains in the Indian Ocean, but Salacia talked to Neptune, and he has promised to provide clear sailing out of this time zone.  No guarantees on what you might run into on the other side.  I have taken the liberty of giving your ship a hundred-year stain, so it will age a bit, but still be a solid, sea-worthy craft on the other side of the time gate.”

“You talked to Salacia?” Lockhart grabbed at the one thing he understood.  He knew Salacia was the Roman name for Amphitrite, the queen goddess of the sea. He met the Kairos, Amphitrite.  He grasped that the god talked to the Kairos, Diogenes.

“Concerning my ex-wife, Venus,” Vulcan continued.  “You know, we were married a long, long… Long time.  I was not happy with her on and off affair with Mars, but then I had a rather prolonged relationship with Bastet, the Egyptian, and even had a daughter and a son.  I really don’t mind the young man.  She can even marry Diogenes if she wants, since after all, she will be marrying my daughter, Danna.”

Lockhart looked confused again.  Katie said she would explain it later.

Poor Harpalus also looked confused that whole time, until the end when Vulcan said his ex-wife might marry Diogenes. His eyes got big when he realized his fellow cripple was the god Hephaestus.

“By the way,” Vulcan said, and held out a coin filled saddlebag.  “Here are the remains of the coins Phillip gave you.  Young Harpalus has what you folks call sticky fingers.  They may get him in trouble one day.  I might have let it pass, but the bag doesn’t belong here. It belongs in the future.”

“Thank you,” Katie said, as she accepted the bag.

Vulcan gave Harpalus a hard, but kind look before he spoke again.  “If you ever get to Mount Etna, look me up,” he said, and vanished.

Harpalus grinned, sheepishly, as he handed over Elder Stow’s sonic device.  The travelers laughed about it as they boarded the ship and headed out to the sea, Alexis only magically helping at first with the wind.

###

The day proved wonderful, as promised, with a perfect wind and a calm sea.  Lockhart and Decker took turns on the tiller, and Katie stood with them in the stern, checking her prototype amulet to make sure they stayed on course for the time gate.  Boston stayed in the bow where she could feel a bit of the sea spray as they plied through the water.  She only checked her amulet once in a while.

Sukki did not feel comfortable getting that close to the edge.  She stayed amid ship with Elder Stow, who spent most of the day double-checking his equipment and grousing about how his sonic device got stolen without him knowing it. Lincoln and Alexis were there most of the day, seeing to the horses, and they laughed at some of the thoughts Elder Stow expressed.  They assured Sukki, at least, that Harpalus was not an irredeemable son of perdition.

Evan and Millie stayed with Wallace, to comfort him in his distress.  Wallace was still upset that Nanette did not wait for him to find her and save her. He said, when he caught up with that cowboy, he would kill him.  He would take a gun and shoot that cowboy.  Nanette was innocent, like a sweet child, and clearly that cowboy turned her head.  She needed Wallace to save her and protect her.  No amount of sense or reason could get through to Wallace, so mostly Evan and Millie just sat with him, and listened.  Millie hugged the man now and then.

Late that afternoon, everyone gathered by the tiller so Lincoln could share his insights from the database. Only Boston stayed in the bow.  She said she could hear well enough without having to vacate her spot.

“We need to do this while we can,” Lincoln said.  “Last time we waited until we found Diogenes, and after that, there was never a convenient time when others were not around, listening in.”

“So, Umma?”

“Yes,” Lincoln said, and he paused to get his bearings.  “She has a bunch of names, and a very big family.  A merchant family that owns a bunch of ships in Carthage.  She is Carthaginian; Phoenician rooted.  A different jurisdiction of gods from the Greco-Roman jurisdiction.”

“Does that matter?” Millie asked.

Lincoln shook his head.

“Persia tried to invade Greece a few times,” Katie tried to piece it together, and maybe explain.  “I got the feeling the gods sort of backed off by then.”

“The Persians were Zoroastrians. They did not really worship the gods, per se, or they had a very different take on the gods,” Evan inserted.

“The Persian Empire held land in several jurisdictions,” Lincoln said, and looked at the database.  “Anatolia, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and central Asia.  In the old days, that would not have been permitted.”

“Right,” Katie continued.  “The Phoenicians settled North Africa, at Carthage. Trojans from Anatolia settled among the Etruscans.  The Gauls, that is, the Celtic people invaded and sacked Rome.  Maybe the gods figured the human race started growing up, or at least advanced to the point where hard and fast jurisdictional lines were no longer realistic.”

“It says here…” Lincoln spoke, and took back the conversation.  “Alexander received a special dispensation, of a sort.  The geis of Alexander said whatever territory he could take, he could keep.  We know he took the near east, the middle east, a big chunk of central Asia, and Egypt. The Persians also took that, more or less, but none of that counted the Greco-Roman land of Alexander.  He also invaded and took a chunk of India, so he captured land in several jurisdictions, and the gods did not prevent him.”

“So, how is that important to Umma?” Lockhart asked, to get back to the subject at hand.

“Pyrrhus of Epirus invaded southern Italy… Okay, Greco-Roman and Greco-Roman, but by 277, he was facing the Carthaginians in Sicily.  Carthage is North African, or Phoenician.  Anyway, Pyrrhus opens the door for the Punic wars, a cross-jurisdictional struggle, and Umma gets in the middle of the whole thing, both with Pyrrhus and with Rome.”

People stared at Lincoln for a minute, before Elder Stow said, “So?”

Lincoln waved his hand, like they should all understand.  “So…,” he said.  “Wherever we land, there is likely fighting going on, so we will have to be careful going forward not to get caught up in it.”

People nodded a little, until Decker turned the conversation with a question. “So how old is Umma?”

Lincoln did some quick math in his head based on the time Millie and Evan were there.  “She should be forty-seven, or maybe forty-eight.”

“Forty-eight is like sixty in twenty-first century terms,” Decker said.  “I doubt she is swinging a sword.”

“We should be able to avoid the Greeks, or the Romans and Carthaginians well enough, between Boston’s natural elf radar and Elder Stow’s scanner device,” Katie said.  “Whatever is going on, we should be able to skirt around it.”

“Better to keep our eyes open for the witch,” Lockhart said.

People nodded at that when Boston shouted back from the front.  “Here we go.” She had her amulet in her hand. They snuck up on the time gate without realizing it.  The whole ship began to creak and moan.  The ship shook like the wood might splinter and fall apart any minute as the ship aged more than sixty years in a Nano-second.

Avalon 6.10 Alexander’s Eyes, part 6 of 6

Five people climbed the rocks to where Lysimachus slept.  From there, they had the best view of the fortification that blocked the pass, and the field that sat between the rocks and the fort.  Katie and Decker carried their rifles and had their military-issue night goggles.  Elder Stow had no doubt much more sophisticated goggles of a sort for night vision.  Bogramus, of course, could see perfectly fine in the dark as might be expected for dwarfs. Lockhart was the only one who couldn’t see anything but dark, and Lysimachus the same when he awoke.  Katie had to describe the scene.

“A group of men are kneeling by some bushes off to your left, there.  Three have come up to Elder Stow’s screen and look puzzled.  They appear to be trying to find the edge of the obstruction, or find a way through.  That must be frustrating.”

“Can they get through?” Lysimachus asked.

“No,” Katie said, and handed the night goggles to Lysimachus to take a look.

“The screens are like a globe or a ball completely around us,” Lockhart explained.

“They even project under the earth,” Elder Stow added, just before an arrow struck where the three Thebans stood outside the screens.  The arrow did not penetrate from inside the screens, so it bounced back to the rocks.

“Hold your arrows,” Lysimachus shouted.

“Not single-sided?” Decker asked.

Elder Stow grunted.  “Bullets can go through.  Arrows are too slow moving and do not have enough force driving them.”

“Don’t get any ideas,” Lockhart said, when Decker raised his rifle to look through his scope.

“My mother and father,” Elder Stow said. “Shall I send out a blast of light?”

Decker immediately pushed his night goggles up on his forehead.  Katie got hers back and held them with a look at Lockhart.  “Go ahead,” Lockhart said, and closed his eyes.  “Maybe it will scare them off without having to kill them.”

Elder Stow nodded and took two sticks from an inner pocket of his shirt.  One was his sonic device with which the travelers were all familiar.  The other stick looked like an enlarged toothpick. He appeared to squeeze the toothpick, and a stream of light shot into the sky where it formed a small globe like a miniature sun.  It would only last a few minutes, but in that time, the whole area became bathed in light.

The Theban soldiers became easily visible, no matter how hard they tried to hide in the bushes.  The enemy officer recognized they were caught, and quickly hurried his men back to the fortification.

An orange light snaked out from the fortification and touched Elder Stow’s blast of light.  The light flared and went out.  The travelers and Lysimachus blinked.  Bogramus spoke.

“Powerful witch, that one.”

“I feel like we’ve fallen into a sword and sorcery novel,” Katie said.

“More like science and sorcery,” Lockhart countered.

“Equipment and enchantment.  Maybe machines and magic,” Decker suggested.

“Maybe we should get some sleep,” Katie said, and took Lockhart by the arm.

“Knowledge and necromancy?” Bogramus spoke up.

“No,” Decker shook his head as they prepared to follow Katie and Lockhart back down the rocks. “It has to start with the same letter.”

“I will stay here for a while to keep watch,” Elder Stow volunteered.  Lysimachus nodded, and went back to lie down.

When Boston came to the lookout at four, to relieve Elder Stow, she suggested, “Elves and engineers.” Lysimachus had gone back to sleep, but Harpalus sat there keeping Elder Stow company.  He asked what she was talking about.

“I have no idea,” Elder Stow admitted. “Is Decker still on with that?”

Boston nodded.  “Bogramus likes dwarves and devices, but Decker says it should be technology and something magical that begins with a “T”.  He says he will have to wait for Lincoln to get up and search the thesaurus in the database.”

“What are elves?” Harpalus asked.

“I am,” Boston said, before she could stop her mouth.  Of course, then she felt she had to show the man.  She lifted her glamour of humanity, but only briefly before she put it right back on again.  Harpalus smiled and almost applauded.  He turned to Elder Stow.

“And are you an elf?”

“Certainly not.  I am a Gott-Druk, and my people used to own all this land before you humans came here.  We lived in peace for a-hundred-thousand years before the stupid Agdaline ruined everything.”

“Gott-Druk?” Harpalus asked.

Elder Stow lifted his own glamour for a second before he restored it. Harpalus looked shocked by Elder Stow’s appearance.

“Are you human?”

“Genus homo, yes.  I am human enough, only not sapiens like yourself. Homo-neaderthalensis.”

Harpalus did not understand.

“Where is Sukki?” Elder Stow asked. “We have father-daughter things to do.”

“I’ll get her,” Boston said.

An hour later, Lysimachus was up and ready to lead the Macedonian cavalry against the gate.  Erigyius agreed to lead the men on foot, provided he did not have to have contact with the dwarves or fairies.  That would not be a problem.  Bogramus already took his dwarves around to the other side of the fortification where they could fall on the enemy in the rear.  He left the camp saying, “Dwarves do damage.”

Katie, Lincoln, and Evan with Katie’s handgun went with the men on foot.  Katie kept her rifle.  Lockhart lent Lincoln the shotgun in case he got close.  Lockhart, Decker, Sukki with Boston’s handgun, and Boston, wand in hand, rode their own horses with the cavalry.  Boston said she would burn a hole in the fortification wall if necessary. Wallace also insisted on going, to Evan and Millie’s surprise.  He borrowed Elder Stow’s horse.  He got Decker’s handgun at Decker’s insistence.  He said he had no intention of hurting anyone.  He just wanted to be there for Nanette.  He imagined she needed him to come and save her, and no one could tell him otherwise.

A few Macedonians got assigned to hold the rocks and protect Alexis and Millie who stayed with the wounded in the grassy area.  The rocks would be the fallback position in case the assault did not go well.  Elder Stow stayed with Harpalus in the lookout spot. In daylight, they could see most of the fortification that blocked the pass.  Harpalus had Decker’s binoculars, and repeated the notion that the gunpowder with which the Thebans mined the road had to be in the barrels in that makeshift shed.

“To keep it dry and out of the rain,” Elder Stow had agreed.  It should not matter to the sonic device.  He had the correct frequency to set off the black powder.  The question was whether he could project it far enough and direct it on a narrow band with enough strength to reach the powder.  He only had small devices such as a ship’s officer would carry, including his handgun.  They were trinkets, really, and not designed for constant use, much less designed to do so many of the things he made them do.  Their power sources remained limited, and needed to be recharged on a regular basis.

Elder Stow spent his time on watch and Sukki and Boston’s watch time as well, working on the sonic device.  He attached it to whatever power sources remained, and imagined after this, his equipment would be useless.  Once again, he wished young Garron survived the sudden and utterly unexpected trip into the deep past.  Garron knew the equipment—the hardware, and the programing.  Garron might have easily done all those things Elder Stow had to struggle with and figure out for himself.  Garron might have known how to more easily recharge his power sources, or maybe how to use those Reichgo batteries that Katie and Decker still carried around.  Elder Stow felt glad he was able to make the equipment do things they were not designed to do. He felt glad that he had not broken the whole lot of them.  Trinkets, he thought of them and waited.

“Are we ready?” Harpalus asked, with a small touch of excitement in his voice.

“Not yet,” Elder Stow said.  He heard Lockhart’s voice in his communicator. Harpalus jumped at the voice and stared at the communication device.  Katie chimed in a moment later.

“Just need to keep Erigyius back a bit. Don’t want to get too close.  We don’t know how big the explosion may be.”

“Mother.  I appreciate the confidence you have in me,” Elder Stow answered.  “As the father might say, let’s hope this works.”

Elder Stow picked up the sonic device and switched it on.  Elder Stow and Harpalus stood for a good fifteen seconds, before the distant powder exploded, all at once.  It sent up a great plume of smoke and fire.  It loosened the face of the cliff that edged the fortress, and sent boulders crashing into the camp.  The blast shattered the little shack to splinters and sent men flying and broken. It knocked down the nearby palisade, where the Macedonians from one side and dwarves from the other hoped to attack the Thebans on foot, while the cavalry kept the rest busy on the remaining wall.  To be honest, the plan might have worked, once the Macedonians and dwarves closed their mouths and got moving; but instead, they all stopped moving altogether. The travelers did not freeze in their tracks, but they got transported with all of their horses and equipment to the other side of the pass.

“What?”  Lincoln asked, but no one else said anything.

Athena stood before them, sadly shaking her head.  “I see why the stupid Kairos says it is too soon for guns and gunpowder,” she said. “I think for once I agree with him. I know where it is being made, and I will remove it, and the knowledge of it from my jurisdiction.”

“Thank you,” Lockhart said, as he and the other riders got down from their horses.

“Nanette?” Wallace had to ask.

“Your witch and your cowboy rushed to the time gate, and with the twister of the witch, they are even now moving into the next time zone.”

“But she is not our witch,” Alexis spoke quickly before the goddess vanished.  “She is your witch.  You make her in the future.  When Evan and Millie, and Wallace too, decide to explore the past, Nanette, the real Nanette asks for some way to go with them, to help them.  You make a duplicate Nanette, like an identical twin.  As I understand sometimes happens with identicals, the real Nanette is the good one, and this Nanette has become the evil twin. I suppose you will have to make her when the time comes.  This one has made a mark on history that should not be erased, but we would appreciate it if you dealt with this duplicate Nanette before she does any further damage.”

Athena stared, stone faced.  “I noticed my fingerprint and wondered,” she slowly nodded.  “I will think on it.”

“Athena,” Katie stepped up.  “May I talk to you?”  Katie looked back at the others.  “In private.”

Since Athena was prevented from reading Katie’s mind by an act of all the gods, she got curious, a rare treat for the gods.  Katie and Athena disappeared and reappeared up the way, well out of earshot, even for Boston, the elf.

Athena said nothing

“It is about Justitia,” Katie said, and found the courage to add, “She seems a wonderful girl.”

Athena looked genuinely surprised for all of a second before she looked to the side and confessed, without explaining.

“Apollo once privately prophesied that I would have a child wiser than myself.  I denied him.  I was the virgin goddess for a reason.  Then Troy. Almost a thousand years later, and I still love him.  The Kairos, of all people.  I know Aphrodite and I were on opposite sides, but… I don’t know if I will ever forgive her.”  Athena found a tear and Katie dared not interrupt.

“I denied the baby for seven hundred years.  Apollo and Artemis tricked me into delivering the girl.  I tried to blind the girl.” Athena sniffed.  “Artemis hurried her away, and took her to her father, though the present life of the Kairos was that woman in Rome.  I let it go.  I watched, sometimes.  She is a lovely girl.”  Athena sniffed again, and wiped an eye.  “I often stand in for Zeus and Hera, you know, Jupiter and Juno in Rome.”  She smiled slightly.  “It was Cronos who confined his father to the Roman peninsula, but Zeus who gave him the name, Saturn.  He reciprocated by insisting everyone else have different names in his part of the world… Except Apollo.  He liked Apollo for some reason.”

“You know, the girl will never be wiser than her mother unless you love her and teach her,” Katie said, softly.

Athena turned her stone face to Katie. She gave the same look as when she said she would think about dealing with the witch.  She might have nodded a little.  Katie was not sure, but instantly, she found herself back where she stood with the Macedonians, ready to assault the fortification.  It was not much of an assault.  The Thebans and Athenians immediately surrendered. Bogramus said his two-dozen dwarves were very disappointed.

“Maybe next time,” Katie said.

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MONDAY

Shipwreck.  The travers head for Sicily, but first, they have to navigate a water gate, and that is never easy.  Plus, the witch has not given up, but now the gods are on notice.  Who will get there first, and in one piece?

Until next time, Happy Reading

*

Avalon 6.10 Alexander’s Eyes, part 5 of 6

Lockhart, Katie, and Boston got down, with Harpalus and his soldier behind them.  At that point, two lights flashed up to Boston, and they spoke.

“Lady Boston.  They got a witch,” Maren, the young, and Boston thought very young fairy wife screeched.

“They got a cowboy,” Philoxes said, some excitement in his voice.

Katie smiled.  “And do you want to be a cowboy?”

Philoxes and Maren both looked surprised at being seen.  Most humans who tried to see fairies saw only swirls of light and colors, and heard only faint sounds unless the fairies fully manifested.  These travelers seemed able to see them clearly, and Harpalus saw them, which suggested he spent plenty of time in his youth hanging out with the Kairos, Diogenes.

“That is the temptation, Ma’am,” Philoxes said.  “I reckon.”

Lockhart laughed before Maren got serious.  “But they have a witch.”

Wallace, who spent so much time with Diana, and Justitia, had no trouble hearing, and he turned in the direction of the enemy fortifications.  “Nanette,” he yelled once.  He knew his voce would not carry that far.

“Harpalus,” a young man, roughly the same age, rushed up and gave Harpalus a hug.

“Erigyius,” Harpalus named the young man. “I forgot you were assigned to come and hold the pass.”

“Lysimachus is really in charge,” Erigyius said.  “But I volunteered to come to get a break from the master.”

“The master?” Evan asked, as he, Millie, Decker, and Elder Stow came up from tending the horses.

“Our Tutor, Aristotle of Stagira.”

“Haven’t you graduated?” Millie asked.

“We are all in our last year,” Erigyius said. “Me, Harpalus, Ptolemy, Alexander, Hephaestion…”

“What about Diogenes?” Boston asked.

Erigyius spat.  “That left-handed freak graduated last year,” he said. “Lucky for him.”  Like Hephaestion, Erigyius did not talk like he had anything against Diogenes, as a person.  But he spoke like Diogenes was of no account, and generally to be ignored and forgotten, even if he was Alexander’s cousin.

Erigyius wanted to take Harpalus to Lysimachus in the upper rocks where they could look down on the Athenian fortification, and plan how to dislodge the enemy from their strong place, but he had to wait for Harpalus to settle his charges.

“You can set your tents by ours,” Harpalus said, and pointed to the two big tents that blocked the entrance to the hollow.

“Wallace and Evan, would you mind? Lincoln can help.” Katie asked. “And Millie, you might help Alexis with the wounded.”

“I was just going to do that,” Millie said, and they walked off.

“Alexis will do what she can, but sometimes men die or cannot be fully healed,” Katie explained to the Macedonians, and added, “No promises.”

Harpalus nodded.  “Diogenes explained to us more than once, the gods don’t make promises.”

Maren settled down on Boston’s shoulder, and just then, Philoxes accepted an invitation to rest on Lockhart’s shoulder. Lockhart squinted when the fairy settled down, like he thought it might hurt, but of course it did not.  Erigyius’ eyes got big as he noticed the fairies for the first time.  Decker had to grab the young man’s arm to keep him from running away, and Lockhart laughed.

“I reacted that way the first time I met an elf—an earth sprit.  But I am living proof you can get used to anything,” Lockhart said.

“You have an enemy to deal with, soldier,” Decker sad.  “Don’t let the little things distract you.”  Decker grinned at his own turn of phrase.

Katie had her rifle and her scope. Decker never put down his rifle. Lockhart pulled out his binoculars, and spoke.  “So, let’s go get a look at this enemy.”

Erigyius led the way up the hill. Some of the soldiers among the rocks watched, but said nothing.  Lysimachus, a man who looked to be in his early twenties, frowned at their approach. Lockhart thought to mollify the man. He held out his binoculars. “Here, try looking through these.” And he helped Lysimachus focus them, who then smiled.

Decker held up his rifle, looked through his scope, and said click, click, as he looked around the Athenian compound.  Boston just looked, and could easily see without the need for binoculars.  The fairies could see well enough to make out the threads in the enemy clothing.

Elder Stow studied his scanner for a minute, before he began to program adjustments to his screen array.  “It is a serious stretch.”  He mumbled while he worked.  “Like when I stretched it out to keep the werewolf out of that Celtic village. That was a long time ago.  Lincoln would know when…”  His voice trailed off when Lockhart got his binoculars back, and shared them with Harpalus.  He got a good look though Katie’s scope, which she had detached from the rifle.

“So, what are your plans for dislodging the Athenians from the bottleneck?” Lockhart asked.

Lysimachus paused, because he glimpsed something on Lockhart’s shoulder.  Besides that, he did not know what a bottleneck was, but he understood well enough.  He prepared to speak when they got interrupted.

“Bogramus,” Boston said, and smiled her biggest smile.  “Good of you to join us.”

The dwarf, and four others with him appeared out of the rocks, or they gave up the glamour of looking like rocks so the others could see them plainly.  Boston held back from her inclination to hug the dwarfs when Maren offered a name for them. “Grubby Doodles.”  It sounded like she had her nose turned up.

The other travelers, who understood that dwarfs rarely traveled alone, hardly blinked; but Erigyius’ eyes got big and his mouth clamped shut.  Harpalus saw and laughed.  Lysimachus also got big eyes before he squinted and spoke.

“The people of legend,” he named them.

“What?” Bogramus stepped forward and objected.  “We live here, local, over in Bog Mountain.”  He pointed behind him and then pointed at the travelers.  “These are the people of legend.”

“And good of you to come,” Katie said, echoing Boston’s thought, and Bogramus, and two others took off their hats. The other two stayed busy giving the humans hard, mean stares, which risked appearing comical on those bearded faces.

“Glad to help out, Lady—your majesty. Ragtide and Bellywattle could not be kept back once they found out you folks from Avalon were around.”

“But the princess did not say there was a witch,” one of the dwarfs spouted.

“I hates witches,” another one added.

“We were just about to hear how Lysimachus planned to deal with the witch and dislodge the Athenians,” Lockhart said, and Lysimachus shook his head and got back to the situation.

“They are mostly Thebans,” he said. “Only a few Athenian officers.” He shook his head again and got down to business, doing his best to ignore Lockhart’s shoulder passenger, who he now saw clearly, and the dwarfs, who apparently did not like any ideas. Somehow, they ended with a plan that the dwarfs did not hate.

That evening, around the fire, Lincoln finally got to read some out of the database, which he could not read while others were present.  Philoxes and Maren were present, but occupied with each other.  Bogramus and his four dwarfs had their own little fire going and had their own deer cooking.  Of course, they would eat their deer down to the bones, where the eleven travelers, and two fairies, would not eat half of theirs.  Alexis and Millie, tired as they were, planned to share the rest with the wounded soldiers.

“Diogenes,” Lincoln said, in answer to Katie’s question.  “The reason he does not appear in the history books is because he is not considered important enough to write about, even if he is Alexander’s first cousin.  His mother is the older sister to Alexander’s mother, Olympias.  His father was one of Phillip’s bodyguards, which in these days means close, personal friend.  No doubt he introduced Phillip and Olympias.  She is a Melossian Princess, as is her sister.  His father died protecting Phillip when Diogenes was four and Diogenes’ younger sister turned one.  His mother went half-mad… that is what it says.”

“So Hephaestion called Diogenes the Melossian,” Katie remembered.

“And they call him fatherless.  And he stutters.  And he ls left-handed.  His friends all respect him,” Lincoln said.  “But they consider him of no account, and so do Phillip’s and Alexander’s official biographers.  Apparently, Diogenes and Alexander’s official biographer, Callisthenes of Olynthus, had words, and Callisthenes scratched his name out from every place it got mentioned. Alexander, however, found great use for his cousin.  Diogenes commanded a Thessalian cavalry troop in battle, but mostly, Alexander sent him out well in advance of the troops, not just to scout and track the enemy, which he did sometimes, but mostly to spy on the enemy, ferret out their intentions, and discern their weaknesses.  Diogenes contributed more than maybe anyone else to Alexander’s success in Asia, but he was rarely around, so his contribution never got noticed or recorded.”

“Company,” Boston interrupted.

Bogramus came up, hat in hand. “The boys said I should ask if you have enough to eat.  Ragtide admitted to stealing the bigger one, but felt guilty about it after.  That is not an easy thing for a dwarf to do.”

“What?  Stealing?” Lincoln asked.

“No, feeling guilty,” Boston clarified.

“No, thank you,” Katie said.  “You enjoy your feast.”

Bogramus made a face.  “Personally, I don’t have much of an appetite right before a fight.”

“I have that same problem,” Lockhart confessed.

“Not me,” Decker said.  “You learn to eat when there is food, especially before battle, because you never know when you might get your next meal.”

“There is that…” Bogramus agreed and turned to get back to the dwarfs before the others ate it all.

“More company,” Boston said, softly, and patted herself on the back for knowing when humans were present.  It was something all of the little spirits of the earth had to do to avoid contact with the mortal world.  Though a learned skill, Boston knew that eventually it would become automatic, like a habit requiring no special effort.

Harpalus, Erigyius, and Lysimachus came to the fire.  Lysimachus stayed focused on the human travelers.  He had questions.  Erigyius came to hear the answers, but he turned his back on the dwarfs and tried very hard not to look at the fairies.  Boston considered removing her glamour and showing the man her true elf form, but she imagined that would be mean.  Harpalus sat and watched the dwarfs eat, and laughed.

Lincoln put away the database.  He figured he would not get in anymore reading that evening with the Macedonians in the camp.  Besides, after they ate, he, Boston, and Sukki, helped Alexis and Millie bring the remains to share with the wounded soldiers.  Harpalus helped with that, and Erigyius, though maybe because he started feeling uncomfortable with dwarf eyes on his back.  Evan and Wallace stayed with Lockhart, Katie, and Lysimachus; Evan because he was curious, and Wallace because he was lazy and did not think to help.

Lockhart kept everyone to the watch, even if Elder Stow’s screens protected the camp.  He said in this case, it was not the witch so much as he wanted to watch out for the Thebans and Athenians.  He suspected the Thebans might try to get at them in the dark, or at least scout their position and prepare a better defense for the morning. He wanted someone up to watch for that and be able to get everyone up if necessary.

Katie agreed, and sure enough, around two-thirty that morning, Elder Stow said his scanner picked up about twenty men crawling out from the enemy fortification.  Decker and Elder Stow had the watch, but Katie and Lockhart were not yet asleep.

“Don’t wake the others,” Lockhart said. “Let’s take a look first.”

“My sentiments, exactly,” Bogramus said, which startled the travelers who did not realize he stood there, listening.

Avalon 6.10 Alexander’s Eyes, part 4 of 6

Boston and Sukki rode out front, as usual.  Decker and Elder Stow still took the wings, but on this trip, Harpalus and one of his soldiers came behind Boston and Sukki.  Katie and Lockhart got relegated to the third place in line, with Lincoln and Alexis, and then Evan and Millie behind them.  Wallace rode at the back, next to the mule that drew the wagon full of the traveler’s things.  That would have been it, but Harpalus assigned his last two men to act as a rear guard.  They rode thirty paces back and passed the time with quiet conversation.

The group made good time, but they would not reach Thermopylae until afternoon on the second day.  Then, it would be a few days across the Thessalian plains, and they figured they would find the time gate just shy of the Macedonian border.

King Phillip had sent word to the Athenian garrison that had been assigned to block the pass.  Harpalus assumed the Athenians abandoned their position and returned to Athens and a Macedonian garrison now watched the narrow place.  He had an optimistic view on life, and his conversation came out as positive and complimentary.

“I can tell you folks are used to traveling in the wild,” Harpalus said over lunch on that second day.  They had stopped just shy of entering a copse of trees before the pass.  “You seemed uncertain at the inn, last night.  But here, out on the grass, under the blue sky, you seem perfectly at ease.”

“Lots of practice,” Elder Stow responded, absentmindedly.

“Plus, we have a few secret weapons, like a fire starter,” Alexis said, pointing at Boston.

“And a good cook to compliment the good hunters,” Lincoln agreed, and gave Alexis a pat on her shoulder as he leaned over to smell the roast.

“Everyone does their job and it works out,” Lockhart suggested.

“We go with our strengths,” Decker added, as Evan, Millie, Wallace, and two of the soldiers came from tending the horses.

“What?” Boston watched Katie who had her eyes turned toward where the road ahead entered the trees.

“Yes, what?” Millie looked up and echoed the question.  Sukki turned her head to look down the road to see if something might be coming.

Katie shook her head and appeared to come back to reality.  “It’s just… We have been a day and a half and haven’t run into a single trap set by the witch.”

“I hear that,” Decker mumbled.

“Maybe we went in an unexpected route,” Lockhart suggested.  “We came up to the coastal road, rather than traveling the one we were on.”  He made a space beside himself.

“Maybe,” Katie said, as she took that seat by the fire.  “But Thermopylae is a narrow place.  If she expected us to go this way, that is the place where we need to look out.”

“I’ve been looking out for traps this whole way,” Boston said.

“Me, too,” Sukki echoed.

“Me, too,” Lincoln whispered.

After lunch, the woods appeared darker and more foreboding than before.  The sky did not darken, and the woods did not crowd the road any more after lunch.  The travelers just spent lunch thinking about Katie’s words, and the witch, and they got wary.  Elder Stow scanned the little wooded area and saw no sign of people, but it did not prevent anyone from being careful.

Boston rode out front to where she could see the road exit the little woods.  The soldiers in the rear just moved fully into the woods.  Boston got ready to shout about the light at the end of the tunnel, when the trees moved.  They did not pull up their roots and move, but they bent over the road, like trees in a strong wind, and the branches grabbed at the people.

People shouted.  They panicked.  Swords and knives came out to hack at the branches.  People pushed their horses toward Boston and the edge of the woods.  Even as the rear guard closed the gap with the group, Sukki got snatched right out of her saddle.  The branches tried to close around the girl, but Sukki flexed her Gott-Druk muscles, grabbed one of the branches, and ripped it right off the tree.  She fell to the ground.

“Get out,” Lockhart yelled, though it was unnecessary.  After the initial shock, people rode for the exit from the woods as fast as they could. Boston rode back to Sukki, and shot flame from her wand, setting that tree on fire.  In true rodeo style, she reached down.  Sukki grabbed Boston’s hand and leapt up behind her.

The ground beneath their feet began to shake.  Boston and Sukki on Honey rode like wild women as the ground started to open up.  Honey had to leap over a tear in the ground at the end, but they made it to the grass beyond.  They got down right away to try and stand while the ground trembled.  It would not have been good to stay on horseback during an earthquake.  The people and horses protested, but it ended quickly.  People made sure everyone got out in one piece.

Katie and Lockhart stepped up, and Harpalus limped over to the edge of the road, while Elder Stow checked the readings on his scanner.  They examined the crack in the surface of the road which ran into the woods for as far as they could see.

“Strictly local,” Elder Stow reported. “Not really an earthquake.  No depth to it.”

“That crack in the ground would have ruined the horses if we hadn’t gotten out of it,” Lockhart said.

“We might have broken our own legs,” Katie agreed.

Harpalus smiled.  “Good thing I already have a limp.”

“Speaking of broken legs,” Lincoln joined them.  “Alexis says the mule is down.  Decker says the wagon is still in good shape.”

“Pioneer built for the Oregon Trail,” Lockhart said.

“They still make that game?” Katie asked.

“Thanks a lot,” Lincoln frowned. “Now I am going to have that song running through my head for the rest of the afternoon.”

Harpalus could not even imagine what they were talking about, but he could laugh with Katie and Lockhart.

Sukki found her horse Freedom, safe and sound.  The horse had followed the others when Sukki ended up in the tree.  She got right up, but then had to wait while they hitched Wallace’s horse to the wagon.  Wallace would still ride the horse as it pulled the wagon.

“Just don’t expect me to ride very fast,” he said.  The others understood, but up until then, the whole trip had been at a walking pace. Sukki got sent back to keep Wallace company, which neither minded.  Wallace liked the big girl, though he did not really grasp the concept that she was a Neanderthal wearing a magical, human-looking disguise.  He got shown back in Diana’s day, but he forgot. Katie suggested that the fact that Wallace did not remember details well could be why he was not a very good scholar.

“No,” Lockhart countered.  “He reminds me of lots of people I know.  He has a very narrow and limited view of reality. Anything that doesn’t fit with his pre-conceived notions he justifies or rationalizes away, or just erases from his memory.”

Lincoln butted into the conversation. “What a sad little way to go through life.”

Alexis nodded, sadly, but Katie added a thought.  “If we can get him back to Professor Fleming, we need to encourage him to stay there. He will never survive this journey.”

They all looked back.

Sukki, on the other hand, also liked Wallace well enough to talk to him, where she stayed shy around some of the others, so it worked out well for the moment.

Katie and Lockhart moved up to the front, and put Boston behind them.  They opted to keep to the road for the present, but Katie and Lockhart wanted to keep their eyes open.  Decker and Elder Stow sharpened their watch on the wings.

Boston extended her elf senses, trying to find any little spirits that might be in the area.  She sensed a dwarf village in a nearby mountain, but when she sent her thoughts ahead, the dwarfs, in typical fashion, had no interest in helping. One dwarf named Bogramus said he might meet them in Thermopylae.  Closer to the pass, she sensed a fairy camp well off the road and in a different section of woods.  Most of the fairies took the same stance as the dwarfs.  Boston felt their reluctance to get too close to the humans that seemed bent on killing each other at every turn.  Philoxes and Maren, a young fairy couple, thought they might look ahead, but they were not sure what they were supposed to be looking for, and Boston felt reluctant to mention the witch.

The travelers came to a rise in the road and Harpalus spoke as they started down the other side.  “Up ahead, there, where the mountain presses toward the sea, is Thermopylae.”  He expected them to stop and gawk, but the travelers pressed on.

“We have been here before,” Lincoln explained from behind.

Katie spoke from the front.  “Here, three hundred Spartans stood against all the hordes of Asia.”

“True enough,” Harpalus said, and nearly fell as his horse stopped suddenly.  Lockhart and Katie stopped, and Boston stopped short behind them all.  Lockhart pulled out his binoculars.  Katie grabbed the scope for her rifle.  They saw bodies of dead men up ahead, near a fortified position.

Elder Stow’s voice sounded out from the wristwatch communicators.  “Get to a defensive place,” he yelled.  They saw him riding hard, being chased by a troop of soldiers.  Though the soldiers were still some distance off. Lockhart turned his binoculars in that direction and saw one of the cowboys leading the pack.

Decker came up from the other direction, waving for them to join him.  He also got followed by a dozen riders, but these looked like Macedonians or Thessalians.  “Get off the road.  The road is mined.”  Even as he spoke, the two in the rear hit something.  It exploded between the two horses, and the horses went down while the riders got tossed to the ground.

Four of the Macedonians broke from the pack and bravely went to check on their compatriots.  The rest, with Decker, stopped short of the road, while the travelers quickly vacated the highway.  Wallace got the wagon to the grass, and wisely did not stop.  Sukki, Evan, Millie, Lincoln and Alexis stayed right with him and encouraged him in the direction from which the Macedonians had come.

Decker pulled his rifle.  As Elder Stow neared the road, Decker let loose with several streams of automatic fire.  The cowboy recognized the sound and backed off, letting the others get in front of him, even though he could outrace them all on his big mustang. Several men and horses in the attacking party went down before Elder Stow crossed the road, and Decker turned to ride with him.  Elder Stow pulled out his sonic device and let loose behind him.  He expected the pursuing horses to complain, but he managed to set off several of the explosives buried in the road.  They were large enough to damage anyone close, and while the enemy did not yet reach the road, they stopped short and looked hesitant.

The travelers found a sheltered hollow in the rocks that held nearly a hundred horses, nibbling on whatever they could find.  The Macedonians filled the rocks, and most had bows and arrows to defend their position. They had several wagons, but only had two tents set up, so clearly the men had slept in the rocks over the last two or three days.

Alexis found wounded men in one of the tents, so she, with Lincoln to assist, got right to work.

Avalon 6.10 Alexander’s Eyes, part 3 of 6

Lockhart introduced the travelers, and Alexander spent the whole time staring up, and a bit to the left. Lockhart stood a bit over six feet tall. Alexander stood a bit over five feet tall, but not much over.  He did not look intimidated, however.  Probably because he spent his whole life around people that were taller than him. The ones with him were in the five-five to five-seven range.  The old man might have stood about five feet, three inches.  Diogenes was five-eleven, but that was as unusual in his day as it was for Alexander to be around five feet tall.  In fact, Diogenes’ height may have been the more unusual of the two options.

Lockhart stopped when he came to the two women; the one with Katie beside Boston, and the one occupied by Diogenes. Katie offered the names, Artemis and Aphrodite, and Lockhart repeated the names.

Alexander reciprocated with his companions, and a little more information.  “Father didn’t come.  He thought you were the gods, and maybe even Zeus.  But Diogenes explained who you were enough to make it intriguing.”  He looked like he had some real question.  “Father sent Aristander, his soothsayer, to intercede on his behalf with whatever gods might be present.  I am sure he is feeling relieved to find only you folks here, from the future though you might be.  The soldier is Parmenion, my father’s strategos.

“Strategos?”

“General, chief of staff,” Katie explained, and looked at Decker for confirmation, but he seemed busy trying to hide from Aphrodite.  Lockhart nodded that he understood.

“I think Parmenion came to negotiate if you are potential allies.”  He nodded at Parmenion, who gave a slight nod in return.  “This fine young fellow, and my good friend, is Hephaestion.  And the kind looking one is Hephaestion’s and my tutor, Aristotle, though you should not let his looks fool you.  He is a hard taskmaster.  I take it you know my cousin, Diogenes.”

“The Melossian,” Hephaestion said, as an insult, though it was not said unkindly.

Alexander took a seat on Lockhart’s invitation, and continued his conversation.  “My teacher doesn’t believe in the gods.”  He glanced at the priest and gave Hephaestion a grin.

“I never thaid that.” Aristotle spoke with a lisp.

“But then,” Alexander continued. “He doesn’t believe you are from the future, either.”

“That is a little hard to thwallow,” Aristotle agreed.

“And what do you believe?” Alexis had to ask Alexander, because the rest of the travelers seemed to be tongue-tied at the company.

“I trust my cousin, the fatherless, the stutterer, the Melossian, or whatever description Hephaestion wants to give him.  Diogenes is my eyes.  He sees things the others can’t see.  Like, he saw the gap in the enemy line today.”

“I saw it too,” Hephaestion protested.

“Let us say, we all saw it together. But Diogenes and his Thessalians were the first through.  We followed with the Companions and hit the Three Hundred in the flank.  The Thebans broke and we pushed them into the river. It was brilliant.”

Parmenion spoke up.  “It worked, because your father feinted and got the inexperienced Athenians to follow him to where he could turn on the high ground.”

“True enough,” Diogenes said as he came up for air.

“Hey,” Boston spoke up.  “How about you join the party.”  Alexis and Sukki began to cut slices of meat and spoon vegetables into the bowls, including the six extra bowls that had mysteriously appeared.

“I can’t,” Aphrodite said.  “I’m in hiding, far in the east, on the other side of the Persian Empire.  I got special permission.”

“Who are you hiding from?” Katie asked.

“Athena,” Artemis said, with a roll of her eyes.

“She hasn’t forgiven me for Troy,” Aphrodite admitted.

“But Troy was a long time ago,” Lincoln said.

“But she is the virgin goddess,” Diogenes reminded Lincoln, and Lockhart had what in some times and places they call a brain fart.

“But wait,” he said.  “We just met her daughter in Rome, last time zone.”

“Minerva’s daughter,” Katie tried to cover the faux pas.

“Same thing.  Minerva, Athena.”  Lockhart started thinking too hard.  “Justitia seemed such a nice girl.”  Katie softly covered Lockhart’s mouth with her hand.  Lockhart’s mind cleared when he saw all the Macedonians and travelers staring at him with their mouths open.  Only Elder Stow spoke.

“Justitia’s birth mother.  Makes sense. But she should spend time with the girl. Family is important, you know.”

“There is one thing,” Lockhart interrupted, turned to the goddesses, and freed his mouth, but Katie’s hand stayed poised in case it was needed. “One of you needs to talk to you-know-who about Nanette.  She needs to take responsibility to do something about the witch.”

“Not me,” Aphrodite said, quickly. “I’m in hiding, far in the east.” She gave Diogenes one more peck of his lips, and almost grabbed him for round two, but restrained herself.  “Come find me,” she said, and vanished.

Artemis laughed.  That sound brought smiles and a touch of laughter to everyone around the fire.  “Good thing you are hedged around by the gods.  Athena did not hear any of this conversation, and she won’t be able to read your minds about it, either,” she said, and turned to Katie and Lockhart. “I’ll talk to Athena about the witch. Be good.”  She returned Katie’s hug and pointed at Boston.  “Be good, Little Fire.”  She pointed at Decker, laughed again, and vanished, and the reality of what they saw caught up with the Macedonians.

The old soothsayer began to weep, softly. Parmenion and Hephaestion stared with their mouths open.  Aristotle offered a thought.

“You are connected to the gods in thome fashion, I thee.”

Diogenes got some food and sat to eat, while Alexander accepted, at face value, all that he saw and experienced, and like Elder Stow’s “heat-ray”, he shot straight to the next point.

“So, tell me about the future.”

The travelers held their tongues as well as they could.

###

After three days, Phillip let the Athenian and Theban prisoners go home, and sent envoys to those two cities with an offer for peace.  He planned to move his army down to Corinth, where he intended to send messengers to all the main cities in Greece.  He expected no resistance to his proposal, except maybe from the Spartans.  He already started drawing up plans to ravage the land of Laconia, assuming a negative response from the Spartans.  He also got busy deciding which cities needed a Macedonian garrison to help maintain the peace.  Phillip wanted the Greeks to support him when he went up against the Persian Empire.

Phillip wrote a letter of safe passage for the travelers, and assigned Alexander’s crippled friend, Harpalus, and a troop of three men to escort them to the next time gate.  He also gave them some horses, so for the moment, they all rode. He honestly wanted to horse trade, and might have just taken the traveler’s big mustangs, which stood a good hand taller than his own horses, but he hesitated when Aristander said the horses were clearly a gift from the gods.  Phillip examined the horses, saw how they responded to their riders, and backed off.

“I’m sorry you can’t go with us,” Boston told Diogenes, as she gave him a hug good-bye.  “For the first time, I really would like to spend more time with you.” Diogenes knew that some of her feelings were the result of his relationship with Aphrodite.  Boston could not help it, but Diogenes definitely did not want to go there.

“That w-would not w-work well,” Diogenes said, and smiled for her.  “The t-time gate would just move further and further away.”  Diogenes smiled, in part because he did not stutter so much around people with whom he was familiar.

“I’m sorry we did not get here ten years in the future,” Katie said.  “I would have liked to see Alexander work.”

“I don’t work,” Alexander said.  “I have others to do the work for me while I play.”

“You call being in battle play?” Alexis asked.

“That is the most fun of all.” Alexander grinned.  “I like your women, cousin.”  He turned to Diogenes as they walked off.  “They are tall, though.”  The boys had a Mutt and Jeff look to them.

“Most women are as tall or taller than you,” Diogenes said.

“Don’t get me wrong.  I like them tall,” Alexander said.

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

MONDAY

The travelers run into a road block in the pass of Thermopylae.  The witch and her cowboys have been busy.  Until Monday, Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 6.10 Alexander’s Eyes, part 2 of 6

The travelers settled on the hill for the night.  Wallace and Lincoln thought if they did not build a fire, perhaps the soldiers down below would leave them alone.

“They already know we are here,” Lockhart said, giving Decker, Elder Stow, and Katie hard looks.

Katie had another thought.  “Elder Stow.  If that was the witch in the Athenian camp, and if you missed, you need to set your screens around us to keep her out.  Your screens are the only things I know that stymies her.”

Elder Stow shook his head.  “I can do that, but keep in mind, I only have small handheld devices for temporary duty.  They are not designed or powered for long-term use.  The power source, what you call batteries, are running low.”

Lockhart also had a thought.  “It would be good if you could project your scanners beyond the screens so we could get some advanced warning when someone approaches.”

Elder Stow shook his head again. “That is tricky, but I can do it tonight, but not for many nights.  When my power source is empty, that will be it.”

“Understood,” Lockhart said.

Boston laid her hand over the wood, and the campfire sprang to life.  Decker brought in the big deer he shot earlier that day.  He had cut it well outside the camp, and now had it ready to cook. Sukki had the big pot, and helped Alexis gather some greens along their journey.  Alexis thought to say something.

“Dinner in two or three hours, and there will be plenty for our visitors.”

“Understood,” Lockhart repeated himself and looked up at the position of the sun.  No one doubted they would have visitors.  The only question was how long would it take the Macedonians to put together an envoy to see who the powerful people on the hill might be—the ones who helped them at a crucial moment.  Katie, and some others, feared the Macedonians might think they were gods, or representatives of the gods, at least.  Given Elder Stows weapon, though only fired once, it might be hard for the soldiers on the field to think otherwise.

“You folks think and act like a military expedition,” Wallace said.

Millie and Evan nodded, slightly. Lincoln continued to read from the database, while Millie spoke.  “I questioned it at first, myself.  But now I understand that we almost have to.”

“Major Decker and Captain Harper-Lockhart are military,” Evan said.  “They are Marines.  Elder Stow, too, after a fashion.  He is a ship’s officer.  Lockhart trained as a police officer, like a detective, and he is the assistant director of a super-secret organization in the future that’s kind of like a military organization.  Even Lincoln is a spy, and worked often with the military.  Have I got it right?”

Lincoln paused in his reading and looked at Wallace.  “It is safer that way.  We can still be surprised, but we do try to cover every contingency as much as we can. We are trying to get back to the future while interfering with history as little as possible.”

“But, Elder Stow, Decker and Katie,” Evan said.

Lincoln nodded.  “They are in big trouble.  They should not have interfered with the normal course of events.”

“Why is that important?” Wallace asked. He clearly did not understand.

Lincoln sat up a little straighter as he answered.  “It is like, if you kill your grandfather, or great-great-great-grandfather, you would probably disappear, like you never got born in the first place.”

Boston took a seat beside Millie, and Sukki joined her, while Boston interrupted.  “Then again, the Kairos suggested that whatever we do in our journey may already be part of the historical record.  So, while we think we are acting on free will, it is already part of the historical record.”

“Then again,” Lincoln said.  “Maybe the historical record changes to reflect what we do, only we would never know it.  I can’t tell from the database.  It has some very detailed information about many things, but seems deliberately vague in some ways.  On purpose, I am sure.”

“Then again,” Boston countered. “If we do something outrageous, like maybe kill Hitler… Oh, yeah.  You don’t know who Hitler is.  So, say we kill Caesar before he reaches the ides of March, maybe we will be shunted off into a parallel universe and never get back to our own time in our own universe.”

Alexis interrupted.  “Or a half-dozen other theories.  The only safe thing is to slip through the time zones, interfering as little as possible, and trying not to change history.”

“But, Elder Stow and the Marines,” Millie objected.

“They are in big trouble,” Lincoln repeated, and went back to his reading.

Roughly two hours later, when supper got ready, the travelers spotted six men coming up the hill.  Binoculars and scopes came out, and people commented.

“No glamours,” Boston announced. “It isn’t the witch in disguise.”

“And no sign of transfiguration,” Alexis added.  With Boston, her elf magic came naturally, and she could spot the effects of magic a mile away; but Alexis, though human, had two hundred years of experience on Boston. She could look for the subtler signs. “Of course, the witch has proved a capable hypnotist, and that doesn’t leave magical traces.”

“We can hope Elder Stow…” Lockhart started, and looked at Wallace.  “We can hope Elder Stow scared her off.”  He did not want to say, killed the witch, though he thought it, and everyone else thought it as well.

“They look like three young men out front, two middle aged men following, and an old geezer,” Lincoln reported.

“Elder Stow,” Katie called, and the elder pushed his goggles up on his forehead and pulled out a handful of discs that allowed passage through the screens.  They agreed to not turn off the screens to let in their visitors, in case the witch had a way of fooling Elder Stow’s scanning equipment.  Sukki imagined the witch could be right up to the edge of the screens without anyone knowing, and if they turned them off, she might slip inside the barrier.  Lincoln agreed with her, though Elder Stow suggested that would be impossible.

Lockhart remembered how the fauns fooled Elder Stow’s scanner, so they went with the discs.

When the visitors arrived, the short, young one hurried ahead of the others and banged his nose into the screen. He fell back on his rump, and the other two young ones rolled their eyes and picked up the klutz.

Elder Stow stepped through the screen and handed out the discs, two at a time.  “One for you and one for your horse, and I expect to get the discs back, so don’t lose them,” he said, gruffly.  One of the young men explained.

“Slip one under the saddle to hold it in p-place.”  He showed what he meant.  “Hold the other one in your hand.”  He stepped through the screen, and the others followed, bringing their horses with them.

“Diogenes?” Katie asked.  She assumed only the Kairos would know how the discs worked.  He did not answer, exactly.  He hugged her.

“L-l-l-Lockhart,” he shouted, and opened his arms for the red-headed streak of light that jumped into his arms.

Katie ignored the shorter young man, who stepped forward this time with his hand outstretched, just in case, to protect his nose.  She found two beautiful young women sitting beside Sukki and Alexis, warming themselves by the fire.  They stood as the visitors came to the group.  Katie was not sure about the one that appeared so strikingly attractive it almost felt painful, but the other she knew.

“Artemis,” she said, and hugged the goddess before she thought too hard about what she was doing.

“Your witch has fled up toward the time gate,” Artemis said.  “I cannot say she will rush to the next time zone, but she should not bother you for the next couple of days.”

“Good thing,” Elder Stow said, as he walked past them.  “I can save my battery life for when it is needed.”

“Excuse me,” Diogenes brushed past the two and wrapped the most gorgeous creature on two feet in his arms.  He went for the lip lock, and she did not resist. Lockhart and Alexis stepped into the gap.

“Come in.  Take a seat,” Alexis said.  “Food is about ready.”

“Lockhart,” he smiled and stuck out his hand.  The short one took it.

“Alexander,” he said.

Avalon 6.10 Alexander’s Eyes, part 1 of 6

After 357 BC, Pella. Kairos lifetime 82: Diogenes: Alexander’s chief of spies.

Recording …

“Where are we?” Decker asked. “This place looks familiar.”

“It is,” Lincoln answered.  “We came through a gate near this spot roughly eighty or more years ago, into Ophelia’s world.”

“So, we are back in Greece,” Lockhart concluded.  “Somewhere around Olympia.”

“More like around Messenia, I would guess,” Katie suggested.

“The Kairos must be up around Thermopylae, I think.  Maybe Delphi.” Lincoln agreed with a nod.

“Good,” Decker said, and rode out to the wing.

“Maybe this time we will actually find a Nemean lion,” Lockhart suggested, but softly, and with a smile for Katie.

“Ancient history,” she responded in a whisper, as Evan stepped up and offered a thought.

“When we came through here, going the other direction, we came in somewhere around Thrace, and traveled through Macedonia, where we met Diogenes, who gave us some coins for a boat.  We went through Thessaly and exited somewhere off the coast of Thermopylae.  We landed in Diana’s world in the river, if you remember.”

Millie stepped up, Charles Wallace Dodd beside her.  The man appeared to leech himself to Evan and Millie as the only familiar faces in a sea of strangers.  “Of course, at the time, we had no idea who Diogenes was.  He just seemed like a very nice young man.”

“He is,” Alexis spoke up from behind.

Boston put her amulet away, beneath her shirt, and grabbed everyone’s attention.  “We need to go almost straight north, but there is a sea of water in the way.  We will have to swing around by Corinth and go through Bozotia.”

“Boeotia,” Katie corrected.  “By Thebes,” She added for the others.

“Yeah, that place,” Boston agreed, and nudged her horse ahead.

They paused the conversation to watch Boston and Sukki ride out front.  Katie imagined Sukki would mostly walk with the group and let her horse, Freedom, take a turn hauling the little wagon that carried their extra saddles and things. Diana tried for new horses from the future, but the best she could pull back from the future was the wagon.

“It seems a shame to make your horse haul this wagon,” Katie said.  “He was not made to pull the luggage.”

“It isn’t a very big wagon,” Lockhart said.  “And Dog doesn’t mind.”  He put a hand to pat his horse’s neck, and Dog nodded, like he agreed.

“My mother and father,” Elder Stow interrupted and spoke to the leaders of the group, but he mostly spoke to Katie. “You should have my horse.  The father has his own, and you may need to ride to help, or to check our direction, or to safety.  I can float along as I did at the beginning, and if you fear someone may see, I can do so invisibly.”

Katie shook her head.  “We go with what we have.  I can borrow Dog if I have to ride.  You, on the other hand, have learned well how to ride, and no human would ever risk trying to sneak up on us with you on the wing.  Floating risks being seen, and if you were invisible and needed help, how would we ever find you?  You keep to the horse on the wing.  Besides, I would never ride to safety and abandon my friends.”

Elder Stow stiffened a little, but his words were instructive.  “That is why you are a worthy mother of the group.”  He turned and rode out to the wing opposite Decker.  Lockhart and Katie, with the rest of the group, walked. Lockhart figured it would be a long walk to Bozotia, or whatever.

That evening, they asked Wallace why he decided to abandon Diana and follow them back into the future.  Evan said, “I thought you were going to write a paper on the Empire of the Roman Republic, or whatever you titled it.”

“I was,” Wallace said.  “But I abandoned that idea when I realized I had no way to take the papers with me back into the future.  Then, I figure with you folks, at least I had a reasonable chance of getting back to Professor Fleming.”

“We were really innocent, you might say, ignorant traveling through time the way we did,” Evan admitted.  “We are lucky to still be alive, all things considered.”

Millie patted Wallace’s hand like a mother might pat the hand of her child.  “And here I thought you got a lead on Nanette and wanted to follow her.”

Wallace turned red.  “That’s not it.”  He looked away.  “The Nanette we saw in the warehouse was not the real Nanette, I understand.  She must be terribly confused, upset, and afraid, to act the way she did.”

Millie patted again while the rest of the crew sighed or rolled their eyes.  They explained it all to Wallace, that the Nanette that went with them into the past was a duplicate Nanette, created by Athena.  They explained about the good twin and the evil twin that the spiritual world often produced in identical twins, but he could not seem to grasp the concept.  He had a hard-enough time grasping the idea that there were spiritual creatures at all, like Boston being an elf, and he could see that with his own eyes.  The reality of the gods, or that magic really existed in the world were concepts beyond his comprehension.  For a scholar, he had a remarkably closed mind; but then, he admitted as much.

“Truth is, I am not much of a student,” he said.  “Professor Fleming took me on because my family has lots of money.  Our trip to Rome was financed mostly by my mother.”

People nodded that they understood, but the conversation petered out and they went to bed.  They had a long walk ahead of them.

###

At the end of the week, in the morning, the travelers arrived on a hill overlooking a river.  They had covered about a hundred and fifty miles in that week. The straight line would have been more like a hundred and ten, but they had to circle around through Corinth.

“Besides,” Boston said.  “The Kairos moved twenty or thirty miles down toward us, so that is good.”

The view of the river valley would have been excellent from their height, except there were two armies filling the space, and they seemed to be fighting, or something like fighting.  Long lines of men on foot with big shields and spears appeared to be pushing each other, face to face, and without too many casualties on either side.

“Like American football,” Lockhart said, as he looked through Katie’s binoculars.  Katie got out her scope and attached it to her rifle for a good look. Decker did the same, and handed his binoculars to Lincoln.  Elder Stow had his own goggles which were honestly better than any binoculars. Boston had elf eyes, as good as eagle eyes, but the rest had to make do with whatever they could see at that distance.

“The half near us seems to have pushed back to the left,” Lincoln reported.

“A feint,” Major Decker said.  “See, as soon as the ones retreating got to the higher ground, they turned to fight again.  Meanwhile, the ones on the right now have a big gap in the line.”

“Chaeronea,” Evan shouted.  He figured out what battle they were watching.

“Macedonians on the left,” Katie said. “Athenians pushed forward and Thebans holding their ground on the right.  I see the gap between the Athenian and Theban lines.”

“Here comes the cavalry,” Wallace said, his voice full of excitement.  The others, but for Evan, spoke in calm, measured tones, like people might watch a contest on the television. Major Decker, at least, had been in battle.  Evan and Wallace had no television voices, and neither did Elder Stow.

As the Macedonian cavalry charged along the edge of the hill they were on, and Katie remarked that it had to be Phillip, and the other Macedonian cavalry troop exploited the gap between the Theban and Athenian lines to swing around and strike the Theban flank, Elder Stow shouted.

“The witch.”

Before anyone could say anything or stop him, Elder Stow fired his weapon from the hilltop.  It struck the Athenian line and exploded the ground beneath their feet, sending men and horses in every direction.

Lockhart yelled, and Elder Stow stopped after the first shot, but a moment later, Katie fired her rifle several times.  Decker saw and joined her in shooting several Athenian cavalrymen.  They stopped firing when the Macedonians moved up and reconnected with the small group of Macedonians that had been cut off and surrounded.

Lockhart yelled again.  “What happened to not interfering?  These weapons are supposed to be for defense, only. We defend ourselves when our live are in danger, but otherwise, we are not supposed to interfere with the normal course of events.”

“Sorry,” Decker said, and it almost sounded like an apology.

“But that was Phillip, I am sure of it,” Katie said, in self-defense.  “He isn’t supposed to die yet.”

“Not your decision, Lockhart said.

“Sorry.”  She sounded like she meant it.

“Lincoln spoke into the tension in the air.  “The Athenian line is broken.  Those men are going to be slaughtered.  I can’t look.”

“I didn’t look in the first place,” Alexis said.  She sat with her back to the whole thing.

“The Theban line is curling up,” Decker reported, having moved on from the liberties he took.  “You say that slick move of cavalry through the gap made in the line was Alexander the Great’s idea.”

“I think so,” Evan said.

Katie said, “He isn’t great yet.”

Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 6 of 6

After Diana explained to Justitia the phrase, “hurry up and wait,” for the third time, Katie came over to go over the plan.  “Elder Stow is going to set up a one-sided screen wall.  We can shoot them, but if the witch has taught her minions to use the guns, they won’t be able to shoot us.  Boston has agreed to send some explosive arrows in any openings they make in the way of windows or doors.  Alexis, Boston would appreciate your help with that.”

“Won’t that endanger Evan and Millie?” Alexis protested.

Katie shook her head.  Elder Stow scanned the building, and Boston confirmed by her senses that Evan and Millie are being held in a back room, well away from any up-front action.  She also confessed that her little grenades would not be like the sticks of dynamite Father Mingus made.  Hopefully, it will keep the witch off balance and discourage any sharpshooters.

“Hopefully,” Lincoln said.

“Elder Stow will walk the screen closer and closer to the building.  When he is close enough, he has it set to push rapidly forward to a few feet inside the building.  That should bring the front of the building down.  Then with these short swords and our sabers, we should be able to take her minions and get our weapons back.  Boston and I will run to get Evan and Millie, since we are the fastest.”

“And what about the witch?” Diana asked, bluntly.

“It is a calculated risk.  Thus far, the witch has shown no great signs of courage, but she has shown a great sense of self-preservation.  We are hoping when she sees the weapons doing her no good, she may find the back door and revise her plans.  Maybe get Millie and Evan to steal all of our things next time, but anyway, get out while the getting is good.”

“Bolo!”  Diana raised her voice.  A man came to see her, and the others paid attention.  Bolo had thirty ragged-looking men with him.  “Bolo is with the city guard,” Diana quickly explained, and she told about the fine young couple being kidnapped, and avoided the word, witch.  She said the enemy had very dangerous weapons that can kill from a distance, but her people here have a means of countering that.  Bolo and his men must stay behind her people until the front of the warehouse collapses.  Then they can charge, fast as they can, and capture whatever kidnappers survive the collapse of the building.

Bolo looked at Katie, who stood as tall as him, and glanced at Lockhart and Decker who stood much taller than him, and nodded.  “I have no doubt what you say is true,” he said.

“Hello Bolo,” Justitia said, and smiled for the man.

Bolo tipped his hat, like he forgot Justitia could not see him do that.  “Look at you,” he said, through a smile of his own.  “You are looking more grown up every time I see you.”

“Save it for later,” Diana interrupted.

“Lady,” Bolo nodded and got serious as he turned to shout at his men.  “We are dealing with kidnappers, but they have some special and terrible magical weapons.  So we stay behind these good people until it is time to charge, and I’ll tell you when to charge.”

“Go,” Lockhart said, and Elder Stow started inching forward.

As expected, the door and windows opened and gunfire came from the openings.  Boston and Alexis were ready, with a dozen arrows each.  Every time a head popped up or out, an arrow got sent in return, and the arrow exploded.  Also, as expected, the bullets petered out until they stopped coming altogether. Even enchanted, or perhaps hypnotized, men were not willing to risk being skewered by an arrow, and especially if that arrow exploded.  No doubt several of the men were among the dead and wounded.

When Elder Stow got close enough, the front of the building collapsed as expected; but so did most of the building. Only the back wall and a bit on each side still stood, and they looked shaky.  The travelers charged before the dust cleared.  The city guard came right on their heels.  Then Diana, unexpectedly, ran out in her excitement and worry. Justitia and Lincoln had all they could do to keep up with her.

Diana ignored the city guard who gathered the survivors from the exploding arrows and collapsing lumber. She clambered over the rubble and ignored the travelers who were searching for their weapons.  She got to the back and stopped beside Katie and Boston, who looked stymied.  The witch had Millie by the neck and a knife at Millie’s throat.  Two of her minions had Evan pinned by his arms.

“Let us go,” Nanette screeched. “Or I swear, I will slit her throat. And you know, I will be happy to do it.”

Justitia came up and hardly breathed before she shouted, “No.”  It was a word heard all around the neighborhood.

“No, Nanette,” Charles Wallace Dodd ran up, flanked by Felix and Bolo.

“Hold him,” Diana said, and Bolo and Felix each grabbed one of Wallace’s arms so he could not run to the witch. He also did not seem to have anything else to say.

Justitia pushed in front and raised her hand.  “You go too far.”  Diana felt the sword slip from the sheath at her back and saw it fly to Justitia’s hand. She decided to close her eyes. She desperately wanted to interfere, but she did not.  “I will dispense justice by my own hand if I must.”  Justitia waved the sword.  “And my justice will be swift and final.”

“The blind girl?” Nanette couldn’t believe it.  “You have no power here.”

“But your heart betrays you,” Justitia said, and held up her other hand.  The scales from the kitchen appeared in her hand.  “The good you have done is a thimble, and mostly it was done by accident.”  One side of the scales weighed down a little.  “But your crimes, since Mother made you, have been countless.”  She began when this second Nanette got made and through all the time zones, declared every wicked and evil thing the witch did.  The witch just stood there, like one unable to move.  The other side of the scale bent so low, the scale looked in danger of breaking.  “You have been found guilty.  Your sentence will be swift.”

“No,” Nanette screamed, an ear-piercing sound.  She dropped Millie and caused a whirlwind to surround her and lift her from the ground. She flew through the hole in the roof and disappeared in the distance.

Justitia turned with a smile as the two men holding Evan collapsed into unconsciousness.  The scales had vanished, but Justitia still held the sword, and Diana stepped up, and yelled.  “Justitia.” It was not a pleasant sound. “That is not your job.  You may be judge.  You may be jury.  God willing, you will never have to executioner.  But you are not allowed to be all three.  I’ll have no vigilante daughter.”  Poor Justitia wilted under the scolding.  But with each word, Diana took a step closer, until she wrapped Justitia in a great hug and added, “I was so scared for you.”

“Oh, Mama.”  Justitia found some tears.  “I was scared, too.”

###

They found two men waiting when they arrived at Diana’s home.  Her husband, Publius, wrapped Diana in a hug and included Justitia.  “Where were you?  I got no answer from the servants, and we were getting worried.”

Diana’s father, seated, old man that he was, had a different opinion.  “I came to visit and found my grandson tied to the gate.  No servant will confess to the deed, and Gaius believes it would be shameful to tell.  Then I found Publia and her friends tearing up the house with a wild party.  I know she is not yet sixteen, but I had to threaten to find her a husband to get her to stop.”

“I had an errand—”

“What kind of errand could take you from your duties as a wife and mother?  Marcia, you are my good child…”  The old man sighed.

“This fine young couple got kidnapped by a witch…”

The old man waved his hand.  He heard one thing.  “You got kidnapped?”

“That’s right,” Bolo said.  Both he and Felix were there to confirm everything.

“Oh my dear,” the old man said to Millie. He got up.  “Please come sit here.  Both of you.  That must have been a terrible ordeal.”

“The kidnapper had a knife to her throat and threatened to kill the woman,” Felix said.  The travelers kept back, knowing it would generally best in such circumstances to let the Kairos explain whatever the Kairos was willing to explain.  In this case, the old man gave Felix such a stare, he straightened up and said, “Lucius Falerna Felix,” and he added, “Sir,” just to be safe.

The old man took Millie’s hand and patted it gently, just like you would expect from a doting grandfather, but his words remained sharp.  “And why would you take sweet Justitia on such an errand?”

“She followed.  The servants were instructed to not let Gaius follow. Publia was not here when we had to run,” Diana said, quickly.

“Good thing Justitia was there,” Bolo said, getting set to praise her.

“The witch got frightened by so many of us,” Diana interrupted.  “She flew away, as witches do.  I am sure we will not be bothered by her again.”

“I see,” the old man said.  “And who are all these others?”

“They are friends,” Diana said.  “They may be a bit harder to explain.  Their home is in the far future.”

At least her husband laughed.

“They are from the future?” the old man said.  “Really? So, tell me something about the future.”

“That would not be wise,” Lockhart said.

Katie stepped up.  “Even Delphi couches their words in vague symbols and disconnected words, and for a reason.  Knowledge of the future is not to be trifled with.  But I will say this.  I have a feeling when the Gauls come again, you will defeat them handily, and may even find the Etruscans willing to bow to your victory, that is, if you arm and protect your soldiers with the equipment Diana has created.”

The old man smiled.  “Just what I wanted to hear.  I, too, believe I will defeat them the second time, and Marcia is my good luck charm, you know.”

Diana did not look happy, but in the end, she nodded.  “I’ll give you that one.”

###

After two weeks, the travelers said good-bye to Centurion Felix.  The old man said he could use good men.  They also said good-bye to chicken-head and snake-head, and the whole troop of Roman-looking soldiers.

The minute they stepped through the time gate, Lockhart pulled Katie aside and said, “Explain.  Justitia said her mother created Nanette.”

Katie nodded.  “Minerva, that is, Athena is her mother.  Diomedes is her father.  Apollo let it slip that if Athena ever had a child, the child would be wiser than her mother.  Athena Kept Justitia from being born for over seven hundred years, and then blinded her when she was born.  But Artemis and Apollo intervened and brought her to Diana to raise, which kind of makes sense, seeing as the Kairos Diomedes was her father.  Diana says there is no doubt Justitia is wiser than herself, so Athena should not have a problem with that.”  Katie shrugged.

Lockhart gave her a kiss.  “I cannot imagine our daughter will be wiser than her mother,” he said.  She smiled and looked down, shyly, thinking of having a child.  “Or stronger, or faster, oof.” Katie elbowed him in the stomach.

“Don’t push your luck,” Katie said.

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

MONDAY

Episode 10 of season 6 begins, where we meet an old friend who has shown up in several episodes, the Kairos, Diogenes of Pella, first cousin to Alexander the Great.  Of course, the witch, the outlaw cowboys and some gunpowder don’t make it easy.  Until then, Happy Reading.

*

 

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.”