Avalon 3.2: Bluebloods and Babies, part 1 of 6

After 3089 BC in Abydos, Egypt. Kairos Lifetime 35: Weret

Recording …                                                                                

Roland came riding back from out front and made the motion that people should hide. Everyone looked around. The land was exceptionally flat. There was grass and one tree by the bank of the Nile. There were a couple of grass covered dunes away from the river, but there was honestly nowhere to hide.

“Play ostrich?” Boston teased.

Roland took another look around and shrugged. When he arrived beside Boston at the head of the column, he gave her a quick kiss.

“What is coming?” Lockhart asked as he and Katie rode up from the rear. Decker came in from the flank and got his rifle ready. Elder Stow floated in from where he had been hovering over the river, and he pointed.nie river

Thirty men in plain white tunics and long spears were jogging through the heat in a military-like formation. They halted a hundred yards off, spread out and approached the travelers carefully. When they got close, they asked a very strange question.

“Are you the ones who fell from the sky?”

“No?” Lockhart said with a quick look at Elder Stow.

Lincoln had the Database out and was reading when he spoke up. “We are looking for Weret.”

The Egyptian who spoke glanced at the men beside him before he answered. “She is looking for you. Come.” He turned his troop, and they escorted the travelers two miles downriver to a small city. It was not clear if it was a honor escort or if they were being guarded. Katie and Decker suggested it was probably both, but at least they were headed in the right direction.

When they got close, Lincoln decided it was Abydos.

“I thought it looked familiar,” Katie agreed, but she wondered what happened to the villages that used to be upriver from the little city. This was their second day of travel since Dendera and they had only passed a lone hut here and there, and no real villages.nile hippo

Once arrived, the travelers were told to leave the horses in a barn and assured the animals would be fed and guarded. The travelers hesitated, but felt they had no choice. There were certainly plenty of guards around. In fact, it looked like the city was preparing for war.

The travelers took enough time to unsaddle the horses and give them a brush down against the heat. They gathered small packs and they were careful to take their weapons with them before they were marched to a multi-columned building. All along the way, the military minded Katie and Decker, pointed out the signs of soldiers in training, marching in formation, the gathering of food and supplies, and on the river, the gathering of ships. The conclusion was these people were preparing to invade.

A chubby young woman met them on the steps of the building that Lincoln guessed was the palace.. She kept her eyes lowered the whole time they approached. When they got close enough, the Egyptian still beside them and his troop still surrounding them, the woman spoke.

abydos temple 2“The King is pleased to greet you and requests your presence in the hall of the gods.” The young woman looked pleased that she remembered to say everything just right, and then she looked up to better judge the response, but when she did she shouted one more word, “Boston!” The young woman reached out and hugged Boston, but carefully and Alexis stated the obvious reason.

“You are pregnant.”

“Weret?” Lincoln always had to ask.

“Yes,” Weret said, and she smiled for them, a lovely smile. Even the Egyptian smiled in response to her beauty as she turned to him shook her little finger at him and tried to put on a serious face. “Captain, these are not the ones I was looking for, but they will do.” She hugged Alexis and then hugged Katie and told Katie she arrived at an auspicious time. “You too, Decker. You too, Elder Stow,” and she hugged the Neanderthal which surprised and frightened everyone, Elder Stow most of all. “Now stay close. I may need you.” In all, Weret came across as a precious and lovely young woman.

“Why are you the one greeting in the gate?” Lincoln asked. He understood that was a job for servants.

Weret understood exactly. “We have servants, well, slaves actually.” Weret switched to English, a strangely accented English, but it was so her Captain and his soldiers would not understand. “I was once a slave as the Queen is fond to remind me, but the King selected me to marry his son and then … let me say the King was involved in this, intimately,” She smiled at that thought and put her hands to her belly. “The Queen tolerates me for the baby. She can’t have any more children.   And she tolerates me for the sake of her son who won’t produce an heir under torture. I mean, he is really, seriously gay.”

The women all hovered around Weret and made cooing noises for the baby so the men could hardly get close. Eventually, Lockhart interrupted. “Different question,” he said rather loudly in the native tongue. “Who are the ones you are looking for, the ones who fell from the sky?”

“Bluebloods.” Weret looked up in his face and then back down at her baby.

“You mean, Bluebloods, like rich people with old money?” Boston asked. The others also showed that they did not understand, so Weret sighed and gave the ten second explanation.

“They have the ability to alter their body chemistry and mate with whatever species dominates the planet. They don’t invade, they breed until the non-blueblood children die out. That is not going to happen here. They sneak a couple by me in the future, but never enough to impact human development, long term. They die out eventually, but by then the reputation takes hold, that the Bluebloods are somehow smarter and better than ordinary people.”

“I know a few people around Boston who think they qualify,” Boston said.

“Also, they are naturally cold blooded,” Weret added.

Boston nodded. “That too.”abydos temple

“But come in,” Weret said. “I am sure the King would like to meet you. He really is very nice.” She put her hands out to welcome them and spoke to the Egyptian. “Captain, you need to keep your men here and guard the entrance—or not.” She looked up toward the sky and the travelers all turned around and looked with her.

A shuttle of some sort was working its way in for a landing. As soon as they looked, they also heard the whine of the engines slowing down. It was headed straight for the open courtyard in front of the palace, and Weret, and Elder Stow saw the scorch marks along the side of the ship. That shuttle had been in battle, and Weret wanted to know with whom and where.

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

As with the last episode, Avalon episode 3.2 will be posted over two weeks, with the first half posted this week (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) and the second half posted next week on the same schedule (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday). Once again, let me say reading only selected parts may be confusing. I urge you to read the whole episode, and enjoy.

Avalon 2.11: Deep Underground

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

###

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

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

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

            “Lincoln,’ Elder Stow called.

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

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

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

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

            “You are priests?” Alexis asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Dungeons and Dragons,” Boston quipped.

            “Labyrinth,” Alexis countered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Three,” Decker admitted.

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

            “Or out there,” Decker nodded. 

 ###

Avalon 2.11:  Deeper Underground … Next Time

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Avalon 2.11: Confrontation

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

###

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “I know.”

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

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

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

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

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

            “Lord Seth deserted you?”  Emotep asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Yours?”  Katie asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Does he belong to you?” she asked. 

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

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

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

            “Your mother and father?”  Wadjt asked Sakhmet.

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

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

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

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

            “I will remove my sorceress,” Wadjt agreed.

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

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

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

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

### 

Avalon 2.11:  Deep Underground … Next Time

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Avalon 2.11: Battle

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

###

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Lieutenant Harper,” Decker called.

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

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

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

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

            “Awesome,” Ka said.

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

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

            “You don’t dance do you?”

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

            “Good.”

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

            “Remember the children,” Alexis shouted.

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

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

            “Fire.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

Avalon 2.11:  Confrontation … Next Time

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Avalon 2.11: Followers

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

###

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “He has a point,” Lockhart agreed.

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

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

            “Sorceress?”  Sakhmet leaned over and asked.

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

            “What happened?”  Katie leaned into the conversation.

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

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

            “Serket?”  Lockhart asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “The bread is good,” Usersi said.

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

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

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

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

 ###

Avalon 2.11:  Battle

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Avalon 2.11: Plans and Places

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

###

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Are you a warrior?” Sakhment asked.

            “No, but you are.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “One of yours?”

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

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

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

            “You sound like Papi Amun.”

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

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

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

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

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

            “My sister.”

            “My brother.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Oh, Robert.”

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

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

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

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

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

 ###

Avalon 2.11: Followers … Next Time

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Avalon 2.11: People In Time

            Children can get underfoot, but they can also vanish when they want to avoid something unpleasant.  Disappearing is not hard when you have a tree house so high up in the trees it is completely hidden by branches and leaves.  All the children had to do was wait until the minions of Set went back to their boats.  Then they could climb down and see if any of their parents survived.

###

            It was not a long time before Usersi spied the three enemy boats shove off into the Nile for a trip downriver.  There were a half-dozen villages before Abydos.  Emotep had no idea the lowlanders had come as far upriver to take Abydos, the burial place of the kings – the burial place of Osiris.  Set had to be stopped, but apparently the king in Hierakon was doing nothing. 

            Neferet was anxious for her parents and Ankara was inclined to agree with his sister.  But even as the boats moved downriver, a strange sight came from upriver.  Ka saw great beasts lumbering along, and people appeared to be sitting on top of the beasts.  He called everyone to look, but only Emotep caught a glimpse before the beasts and people went behind a rise in the landscape.

            “You are imagining things,” Aha-Aa said.  “You have been up here and trembling in fear for too long.”  He went down first because he was the eldest.  After a moment he gave the all clear signal and the others scurried down the rope.  By then Ka had thought of a comeback.

            “I was not afraid.”

            “You were too,” Aha gave the expected response.

            They tied off the rope where it would not be obvious and went up to the village to see who was still alive  To be honest, they were all as worried about their parents as their parents were worried in return.  .

             Mother Beset came running as soon as she saw them.  She hugged Aha and almost hugged Emotep before she picked up Ka, seven years old and all.  She cried on Kora as Father Meni came up.  Aha just looked at Father and Meni spoke.

            “They have taken all the youngest.  They took Nidjauamun.”

            “What do you mean they took Nidjau?”

            Father wiped the water from his eyes.  “We count fifteen, all under six or seven years.  We are not sure.  Some of the parents are dead.”

            “We have to get them back,” Aha shouted.  “The minions of Set can’t win.”

            “I wonder what they want with the young ones.” Emotep said.

            “To eat them.”  Ka got down from his mother’s arms and ran to the group.  “They are going to eat Nidjau.”

            “They are not going to eat Nidjau,” Aha scoffed, but Father put a hand to the boy’s shoulder and looked like he was not too sure.

            “How many villages are there downriver between here and Abydos?” Emotep asked.

            “Three or four?” Father shrugged, looked at Emotep and wondered what crazy scheme he was concocting.  Emotep just nodded as the travelers rode into the village.  Some people screamed and moved away from the center of the village, certain that this was another terrible trial sent by the gods.  Some just stared in bewilderment, never having seen such a thing before.  The two in the rear got down an stepped forward.

            “Is everything alright?” The woman spoke.  “We saw the smoke.” 

            “Can we help?”  The man asked.

            “Yes,” Emotep said as he dragged his father forward and his friends and brothers followed in his wake.  “But I am not sure how, yet.”

            “Son?”  Father was reluctant to get too close.

            “Elder Stow,” Emotep shouted to the Gott-Druk who was deliberately keeping back, out of sight.  He could go invisible, but he could not put up a glamour to pretend to be human like Roland the elf.  “Did you see the boats downriver as you  came along?”

            “We saw them,” the woman out front spoke while the man nodded.

            “Good.  Elder Stow, get a scanner wave on them and track them.  I need to know if they stop at any of the other villages before they reach Abydos.  Father, this is Lockhart and Katie.  This is my Father Meni, my elder brother Aha, my younger brother Kamun, my friends Usersi and Ankaret and his little sister, Neferet.”

            “Pleased to meet you.”  Lockhart forgot himself and stuck out his hand.  Father Meni put his hand up slowly and Lockhart grabbed him by the wrist, gave a hearty shake and let go.  “Now, what happened here?”  The rest of the crew dismounted as he spoke, except Captain Decker who remained in the saddle.

            “The minions of Set,” Usersi yelled before  Meni could speak.

            “They are going to eat Nidjau,” Ka added.

            Father Meni shook his head.  “Men came.  They killed some, they burned some houses, they took all the young children, I don’t know what for.”

              “Boston!” Emotep yelled and ran forward to give Boston a hug.  Roland just smiled.  “Alexis!  Good to have you back.  I know Lincoln is happy.  And you are welcome to tend the wounded.”  Alexis was already headed in that direction.  “She is a great healer.”  Emotep shouted to the crowd.

            “Emotep?”  Lincoln always had to ask to be sure.  Emotep nodded.

            “Lord,”  Elder Stow stepped up, and though he was staring at some instrument in his hand, he gave everyone a new start, never having seen or even imagined a Neanderthal.  “I have their position, roughly.  It is not a clear picture because I was not able to scope their parameters, but they have indeed stopped in the village just below this one.”

            “Probably devastating it and stealing their children too,” Ankara suggested.  Emotep nodded again.

            “Decker,” he called.  “Are you going to join us, and put down that gun.”

            “I do not understand, my son,”  Meni stepped closer to Emotep.

            “Lockhart.”  Emotep pointed at his father.  “Don’t you want to meet my mother?”

            “Of course,” Lockhart and Katie spoke together and turned toward the waiting crowd where Alexis was already at work.

            “Lincoln, I need you and Roland to assess the damage and see what can be fixed and what must be replaced.  Boston, who is your passenger?”

            Boston wrinkled her brow as if she had to think to remember.  “Sakhmet,” she said.  They watched Captain Decker help the girl down from the back of his horse where she had been holding on.  “She said her mother is gone and she is escaping from a horrible, mean man who won’t let her do anything.  A stepdad, I assume.  She said she is trying to reach her real father.  He is all the way downriver in Memphis.”

            “A runaway.”  Emotep tapped his foot.  The girl looked to be about ten or eleven, at least no older than twelve.  As the girl came close, Aha stepped up and shoved Emotep behind him.

            “Sakhmet.  I am Aha-Aa, the eldest.  Welcome to our village.”  He gave a little bow and she smiled but walked passed him to put her hand gently against Emotep’s cheek.  A most curious expression crossed the girl’s face before she turned and picked up Neferet.

            “Yes, he seems very nice,” she said to Neferet.  “But I don’t really know him.”

            Usersi stopped grinning as Sakhment and Neferet walked off to see what the adults were doing.  He nudged Aha, who frowned.  Ankara spoke.

            “Nice moves, he teased.

 ###

Avalon 2.11:  Joining the Club … Next Time

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