The Elect 18, part 2 of 4: Spring Break

Marion picked up Emily when she arrived, and Emily was not surprised.  Dad likely had to work.  David was deployed again.  Mom hated the airport and Tyler could not drive yet, thank God.

“So how is school?”  The policewoman got that much out before Emily unloaded.  She told her ab columbus police 4everything about Abby and how frightening it was.  She told her about Heinrich, and probably said too much, but she could not help it.  She had to unload this stuff because the stress of it all was getting to her.  She told her about Latasha’s encounter and the message that there were other such things out there, somewhere, lurking in the dark.

Marion never interrupted.  She smiled the whole way, and when they arrived at Emily’s house, Marion only said two things.  “Feel better?”  Emily nodded.  “I won’t be far.” She left after Emily carried her bags inside.

Emily gave her mother a cursory hug, threw Tyler out of her room and slept the rest of the day and all through the night.  She dreamt about Pierce, but they were not pleasant, loving dreams.  They were full of creatures, zombies, vampires, monstrous men and women.  She saw Granger once acting like Abby, drawing people into her spider’s web.  Mostly her friends all turned their backs on her.  Lisa said she was nothing special, that she just used her to get at the campus mystery and solve the murders.  Her friends got a suite, but it was only for four people.  Jessica and Maria roomed together while Amina roomed with Mindy and that left Emily on the outside, in a regular dorm with Gloria Sanchez.  Even Latasha laughed at her and told her what a dupe she had been.  And Pierce died.  And since she was nothing special, she could not keep him from dying.  And then ab dreams 1a mysterious Abby-like witch forced her hand so she stabbed Pierce and killed him.  And she had no power to stop herself.  Pierce kept dying in her dreams until she woke up at five in the morning in a sweat.

The shower helped, but her mother felt her forehead and took her to the doctor.  Some kind of flu, he said to her.  He said something else in private to her mother while the nurse took some blood.  He sent her home with some antibiotics and with something to help her rest.  And Emily tried.  She really tried.

###

The nightmares came again on the second night, or Emily assumed they did.  She did not remember them, exactly, but she woke up tense everywhere, like she had been fighting a great battle all night long.  She had a definite fever now and even the shower did not help.  Then she saw a couple of breakouts and wondered as her mother came into her room.

“That was the doctor.  You need to stay in bed.”

“Why?  What is it?”

“Chicken pox.”  Her mother opened the curtain to let in the sun.

“Chicken pox!”  Tyler yelled outside her open door.  He made his fingers into a cross, which heac emily 5a pointed at her as he walked by the opening and rushed down the stairs.

Emily plopped back on her bed.  “Chicken pox.”

“The doctor said you should be fine in a couple of weeks, as soon as the breakouts are gone.”

“A couple of weeks?  But I only have a week and have to get back to school,” Emily protested.  Her mother made no response.  She simply closed the door on her way out.  Emily thought at least she could get caught up on her schoolwork.  She looked at her Earth Science book, said, “Maynard is a moron,” and picked up her phone to call Jessica.

###

That night her fever got high enough to worry her mother.  They were saying things about how it was harder in older people and they were talking hospital.  She had breakouts everywhere by then, and she had her hands in gloves to keep herself from scratching, not that it stopped her.  She slept in fits, and not the least because her nightmares intensified.  She tossed and turned until her phone rang and she woke up suddenly.  She caught some movement in the corner of her eye.  She turned her head and caught a bit of gray smoke that looked to be seeping into her closet.  But no, it was hard to tell in the dark of night and with the fever.  She shook her head and answered her phone.

“Emily?”  It was Amina.

“What is it?”  She looked at her clock.  “It’s three in the morning.”

“Two here, in Chicago.”  Amina said and paused.  Emily had to prompt her.

“Well?”

ab dream 2“Your fever,” Amina spouted.  “That is not all.  There is something else with the fever.  I do not know what.  It is a nightmare maker thing.  A thing in the dark.  I do not know what.  I called Mindy and she is looking things up.”

“How would Mindy know?”

“Oh, Mindy knows about all sorts of thing.  But I called Detective Lisa too, so she could ask Latasha to ask her friend, Ms Riley.  I do not know what.”

Emily’s eyes got big.  She remembered her own words about things lurking in the dark and sat up and turned on her light.  “Thanks.  Thank you.  I’ll be careful.”

“My queen,” Amina said and Emily could picture the girl lower her eyes as she hung up.  She thought, great!  Now she would not sleep at all, and she stole another glance at her closet.

Emily closed her eyes, but only briefly and only a few times before the sun finally came up.  She passed out when the sunlight touched her window.  Her fever needed the rest.  Mother came in the early morning, opened the curtains, turned out the light, touched Emily’s forehead, clicked her tongue a few times and left. 

Emily slept most of the day.  The better, she thought, to stay awake all night.  The few times she woke up, however, she found her muscles just as tight and her stress just as bad as when she slept in the night.  She saw no smoky images in the daylight, but she began to think it might be under her bed, waiting.  She made Tyler come in and check.  He came with his hand over his mouth and nose in imitation of a surgical mask, but he checked carefully.  No smoke in the closet or under the bed, but her mother worried that the fever had Emily delirious.

###

By six that evening, just after Mama brought Emily her tray of chicken soup and juice, and Emily did her best to behave normally, the fever spiked.  It reached dangerous levels and Emily indeed became delirious.  That was when she found a woman sitting at the foot of her bed.  Emily studied her for a minute and the woman said nothing, being content to study Emily in return.

This woman was what Emily imagined a warrior woman should look like.  She had on a suit of leather—a skirt covered in fine chain mail, with leather boots that came to the knees and fingerless, leather gloves that went up to the elbows.  More than that, the woman had a sword slanted across her back and a short sword, or more nearly a long knife, across the small of her back.  She had to be five-eight, almost Jessica height, with long light brown hair and eyes that were sharp green.  The woman even had the rugged look Emily imagined a warrior woman ought to have, but that did not stop the woman from being beautiful.  She was breathtaking.

zoe 1“It is a mystery,” the woman said at last.  It was a voice as beautiful as the woman herself.

“What?”  Emily sounded like a frog in her own ears.

“You have a pox your elect immune system should not allow you to have, and a fever that worsens.  This is unnatural, as the hunter might say.”  Tyler came to the open door and gasped.  The woman waved her hand and the door closed by itself.  Emily was not sure what else happened as the woman continued to speak.

“You are being haunted by a fever spirit.  They benefit the body by feeding off the fever and thus keeping it from getting too high, I am told.  But like most things in life, they are a mixed blessing.  In the process, while one is asleep, the spirit roots around in the dark corners of the mind.  That is why people have fever dreams, and so many of them are nightmares.  The thing is, this spirit has gotten tied to you, somehow, and is interfering with your immune system so instead of getting better, your fever is getting worse.”

“I can tell,” Emily said softly.  She honestly wondered if she had ever been so sick in her life.

“Don’t do that,” the woman said, kindly.  Emily stopped scratching, clenched her teeth and made her gloved hands into fists.  “Come here,” the woman said to the closet, and Emily’s eyes got big as she saw a smoke-like ghost with a strange little face come to the woman.  She reached out one hand as if to pet it as she spoke.  “You are untied now.  This one is finished.  Down the street, now.  Someone needs you.”

Emily watched as the puff of smoke went through her window and vanished into the evening.  “But the nightmares,” she wanted to protest.

“Children bounce back from nightmares.  Some people need to see what is in their dark corners.  Some people deserve nightmares.”  The woman shrugged.  “It is not our place to decide such things, but it is my place to look after my queen.”  She touched Emily on the forehead and Emily ab war wo 3relaxed for the first time in days.  “How this fever spirit became attached to you I cannot say.  It is a mystery.  I must think on this.”  The woman stood, and vanished, and Emily imagined it was just another fever dream, but all the same, she responded.

“What do you mean, your queen?  I’m no queen.”

Tyler burst into the room.  Mother came on his heels.  Tyler looked all around, but found no woman in armor.  Mother admonished Emily to eat her soup and left.  After he checked the closet once more, Tyler said nothing because Emily was already asleep, the fever already gone.

Emily’s breakouts took another two days to clear up, but she was feeling better and all well in time to return to school.  She scolded herself for not getting more schoolwork done when she had the chance, but she congratulated herself for getting some done, even if Maynard was a moron.

Avalon 2.7: Mind Your Matters

            It looks like the travelers are going to be allowed to see Beltain.  There is a Sybil, a seer in the camp who has said as much.  But then she also talked about a terrible power looming on the horizon.

###

            Lockhart stepped up to Katie and the Sybil.  “I think you better take us to Beltain.”

            The Sybil looked up in surprise and immediately looked again at Katie.

            “He’s the boss,” Katie said, and the Sybil looked very confused for a minute before she seemed to understand something.

            “Of course.”  She spoke as Katie and Boston helped her back to her feet.  “I must remember you come from a very strange world.  This way.”  She started to waddle off.  “But I advise against seeing Beltain right away.  She is very busy right now.”

            When they arrived outside Beltain’s tent, they were met by two women, one maybe eighteen and one that looked closer to eighty.  The eighteen-year-old jumped in front.  “Hi,” she said.  “My name is Asterasine, but everyone calls me Star.”  She shook Boston’s hand and repeated the same phrase for Lockhart as she shook his hand.  Lockhart laughed and looked at Boston. 

            Lincoln at least said, “Nice to meet you.”

            When Star got to Katie, she was smiling and already had her hand out to shake, but the girl stopped still, and after a moment went down on one knee, lowered her head and eyes and said, “Majesty.”

            The Sybil took over.  “Hannah is our wise woman.”  She pointed to the old lady.  “Asterasine is our hunter.  I am as you have named me, the Sybil.  Beltain is our priestess.  All we lacked was a woman of magic, a healer and our Queen to make the Amazon pantheon complete.  And now you have come.”

            “Oh, no –“ Katie started to speak, but Lincoln interrupted.

            “Beltain is the priestess?”

            “What priestess has ever had a greater claim than one who is herself counted among the gods.  Beltain is a holy vessel –“

            This time Lockhart interrupted.  He pushed passed the women and into the tent.  The others followed and everyone froze.  Beltain was naked and giggling.  A naked man was on top of her and moaning.  And the two appeared to be having a wonderful time.  Everyone turned around, but not before the picture was indelibly etched into their minds.

            They heard Beltain speak.  “Damn it. Grogan get off.  We have company.”  There was the sound of shuffling and cloth being tossed here and there before Beltain spoke again.  “Okay.”  They turned again to face her.  “Sorry ladies, you especially Boston.  Lincoln, close your mouth.  Lockhart, how the Hell are you?”

            “Holy vessel?”  Lincoln whispered.

            “I see you have met Star, Hannah and Anath-Isis.”

            “The Sybil?”  Boston asked.

            Beltain nodded while she tugged on her dress.  She was a short, plump woman, not fat like the Sybil but leaning in that direction.  She had long, light brown hair with a few streaks of gray which she took a moment to put up while she eyed them all through very ordinary brown eyes.  In every way she appeared unremarkable, so much so that Lockhart was prompted to ask.

            “How is it you managed to be the one to lead all these thousands on this migration?  I assume this is a migration.”

            “Right,” Beltain said once her hair was in place.  “The Sahara, Arabia, and even Caana are suffering through a dry spell, like for the last thousand years.”  Beltain rolled her eyes.  “The last ten years have been especially bad in Caana.  Blame man-made global warming.”  Beltain smiled, and it was an inviting smile.  “You know, Anenki built some nice permanent settlements around the Tigris and Euphrates in the east.  Then Cophu finally showed up with his Shemsu people.  They turned those settlements into cities, massive stone walls and everything.  Now we, and hundreds of other migrations are going to fill the places up.  My own people call it the land of green and plenty, but most call it Sumer.”

            “Sumer?”  Katie had to ask.

            “The Ubaidian way of saying Shemsu.  Some of the originals still call the land Ubaidai, but even most of them now call it Sumeria.”

            “Wow!”  Lincoln mouthed the word before Katie could.

            “But you –“ Lockhart started to bring them back to his question, but Beltain waved at him to quiet him.

            “So there are cities in Caana, like from Byblos to Sodom.  You have been to the biggest, Jericho.  But they are in no better shape than the countryside.  It was Astarte that first contacted me.  The gods want the migration.  Enlil and Enki want to see the cities in the east fill up.  They are anxious to see real wars start.  I told them that was stupid, but you know how boys can be.”

            “Enki with his glasses.  He did not seem like the warrior type,” Boston said.

            “Yeah, well, I made him the glasses to see but I have no control over what he sees,” Beltain threw her hands to the side like she was washing her hands of the whole thing.  “So anyway, we are not the only groups migrating.  Some went ahead of us.  Many more will follow us over the next hundred years or so.”

            “But you in charge?”  Lockhart would not let go.

            “Easy,” Beltain responded.  “We travel a day and stop for three or four before we travel another day.  When we stop, my little ones bring what they cull from the herds which we then divide between all the groups.  You know, people will follow anyone who feeds them.”

            Lockhart nodded, but Lincoln thought to say something to the man who was standing by, silent.  “Grogan, is it?  Sorry to interrupt you and your wife.”

            Grogan smiled, but Beltain laughed out loud.  “Grogan is not my husband.  I mean, my husband is probably around here somewhere screwing some young tart.  We don’t have that kind of a marriage.” 

            “Oh.”

            “Grogan was third in line.”

            “Oh!”

            “Forget it,” Beltain said with a final grin at Grogan.  “Oktapi should be here soon.  I suppose we should go out to greet him.”

            As they stepped outside, the Sybil nudged Lincoln.  “What priestess has more direct access to such things as Beltain.”

            “I suppose,” Beltain heard and responded.  “But there is nothing more natural in this time and culture than having a priest and priestess in the ruling position.”

            “How about an Amazon Queen?”  Katie whispered to Beltain as they went outside.

            “Oh yes, sorry.”  She turned just outside the door of her tent and spoke to everyone.  “Listen up.  Katie is an elect, and Boston, I suppose, is a woman of magic, but Zoe says they are on special assignment.  Hannah, Star and Anath, they are not the ones you are looking for.  Just wanted to be clear about that.  Beltain turned again and whispered to Katie.  “And I can hardly be my own priestess.”

            “Exactly,” Katie responded in the same soft tones.  “You are Zoe, or at least you were.”

            “Exactly,” Beltain echoed.  “Right now I am not Zoe, I am Beltain, and while I would not mind loving Artemis, Vrya, Astarte and the others, being Zoe’s high priestess would be too weird even for me.  What is that noise?”

            Beltain asked the last because there was a shrill sound in the air that was growing louder by the second.  It sounded at first like the screech of the bokarus, but this was much, much bigger.  People covered their ears, and still the sound grew until no one could think straight.

###

Avalon 2.7:  Mindless … Next Time

.

Avalon 2.4: Fight to the End

            The oldest war of all is that between men and women.

###

            Zoe led the others down to the open field and stopped some distance from the line of men.  Chloe and Zoe got down, and Iris held the reins.  Katie stayed up on her big stallion where she could look down on all the others and she held her rifle gently in her arms like a mother might hold a baby, just in case.

            After a short wait, three riders came out from the other side.  Two of them looked like tough old hunters who were no strangers to battle.  The man in the middle looked to be Zoe’s age and appeared in Katie’s mind like the proverbial tall, dark and handsome that she so despised.  That man dismounted when he arrived to face Zoe.

            “The child,” The one who also dismounted to hold the reins recognized Chloe.

            “She is here only to observe,” Zoe said quickly.  “She will be Queen after I am gone and must learn.”

            The dark man paid no attention to the girl.  His eyes were all on Zoe and he stepped up to face her.  He was a head taller than her and looked very strong and in excellent shape for a middle-aged man.  He looked down at her when he spoke.

            “Zoe,” he said.

            “Revelon,” she responded, and they simply looked at each other for a long minute before he spoke again.

            “Are you expecting to die so you have selected a Queen to follow after you?”

            “I am not even expecting to fight unless you insist on the foolishness.”

            Revelon touched his well-trimmed, dark beard that was only just showing signs of the coming gray.  “Lord Ares is not pleased with what you have done, you know.  You stand in the way of wars between many lands and build a nation of women.”  Revelon shivered slightly, turned up his nose and spoke his sentiment.  “It is unnatural.”

            “Ares has no place here,” Zoe said.  “And peace is always better than war.”

            “Ares is welcomed all along the coast of the sea.”

            “And he better not show his face, besides.  He has been warned, you know,” Zoe finished her thought.

            Revelon took one step back.  “I will never understand the attitude you sometimes display toward the gods.  It is a wonder to me why they don’t strike you down dead where you stand.”

            “Because they know I speak out of love,” Zoe said in a very coy voice.

            “What do you know of love?” Revelon suddenly sounded angry.  “You are not haunted by it and unable to sleep,” he yelled.

            “You do not know how I sleep.  Everything haunts me,” she yelled back.

            “But for you, love is a mere moment of passing pleasure.  It is the man, not the woman who goes away feeling ashamed.  It is unnatural.  You are unnatural.”  The man drew his sword and took a great swing at Zoe’s head.  She ducked, stepped back and drew her own sword from across her back.  They went back and forth for a good five minutes, and Zoe got in the stronger blows, but after five minutes, Revelon stepped back and raised his hand.  Zoe waited.

            Revelon threw his broken copper sword away.  The man who was still mounted put a new sword there.  “I brought extras,” Revelon said.

            Zoe lifted her sword and looked at it.  “Bronze,” she said with a glance at Katie.  “That won’t happen for another thousand years.

            “It is a wonder to remember that some of the gods actually like you.”

            “Hephaestus does good work,” Zoe said, and they started again.  This time they traded barbs between swings.  They got nasty, personal and ugly.  And it went on for another five minutes before there was an explosion in the rear among the men.  Everyone stopped and a beautiful young woman appeared behind Chloe.  She put her hands on Chloe’s shoulders and looked around.  Iris went straight to her knees.

            “Hello Chloe, Zoe, Katie,” the woman said.  She knew them all, well.

            Katie squinted, but recognized something in the bow, the dark hair and sparkling eyes.  She swallowed before she said the woman’s name.  “Artemis.”  Artemis smiled for her and she smiled down at Chloe who took one look with her mouth open and then closed her eyes like she was waiting to see if those soft, motherly hands on her shoulders were going to hurt.

            “Poor Boston couldn’t keep the wall up any longer, and Roland refused to help her more,” Artemis reported.  She looked at the two men with Revelon and they jumped.  All of their weapons vanished.  “I hate poison knives.  That’s cheating.”

            “What?” Revelon was too angry to think straight.  “So you blew up my sorcerer?”

            “No, I did that,” a man said as he appeared on the men’s side of the action.  “I hate magic.  That’s cheating.”

            “Ares,” Zoe named the man and she did not say the name like he was a particular friend at the moment.

            Revelon’s anger finally overflowed.  He threw his weapon away and took a swing at Zoe’s head with his fist.  Zoe dropped her weapon and swung back.  Revelon got in a few good hits, but again Zoe got the better of it.  She beat the man.  He kept trying to grab her to wrestle, believing his weight would prove to his advantage, but Zoe used the man’s weight against him and tossed him in several directions.  Still, he got up and came back for more. 

            At last he grabbed Zoe by the shoulders, and though she tossed him, this time he did not let go.  When he landed on his back, Zoe landed on top of him, and they stopped and lay there, face to face for a long time.  Revelon finally spoke.

            “Can I at least see our daughter?”

            “Of course,” Zoe said as she appeared to squirm a little to find a more comfortable position.  “You know the rules.”

            “Come alone and unarmed,” he said and Zoe nodded.  “But you know I could steal a weapon after I arrive.”  He was being clever.

            “You would not live long enough to make it out of the valley.”

            “I will not be a consort.”

            “I don’t want a consort.”

            “Good, so we understand each other,” Revelon said and he reached his hand behind Zoe’s head to draw down her lips.  After that it was hard to tell who kissed who more passionately.

            Chloe turned away embarrassed, and Artemis looked away with her.  “I agree,” the goddess said.

            “I hate happy endings,” Ares said and disappeared.

            Revelon and Zoe stood and immediately turned away from each other.  Zoe retrieved her sword while Revelon made sure there were no stray weapons to be found on his person or the back of his horse.  Katie holstered her rifle as Revelon turned to his men.  “Tell the men the bitch defeated me once again.  Tell them to wait, I will be back in a few hours.”  Zoe coughed.  “Tell them I’ll be back in the morning.”

            Zoe gave Artemis a sisterly kiss on the cheek and Artemis kissed her in return before she vanished.  Iris got up, but looked reluctant to touch Chloe so Katie called her over so she could ride with her.  It was four horses that climbed back up the hillside, Katie with Chloe, Zoe, Iris and a humble Revelon.

            The Sybil took Amira on her pony again.  Roland tied the reins of Boston’s horse to his saddle and picked up the sleeping Boston very gently.  He cradled her in his arms as they followed the procession back to the village.

###

            Lockhart filled Elder Stow’s tankard with that poor ale they were drinking.  The Gott-Druk had no jokes to tell.  He swore his people had no sense of humor, but he laughed readily enough, and all the more as he drank, even if he did not drink much.  The four woman escort them stayed with them as well as the husband and wife that brought all the food, and they laughed as well, no matter how bawdy the jokes got.

            One of the escort got close to Lincoln and only looked slightly disappointed when he said he was married.  Two of the others cozied up to Lockhart and they were not at all put off when he said he was seeing someone.

            “Harper?”  Lincoln asked.

            “Of course Harper,” Elder Stow yelled.  “Your human eyes are too small.  The mother-father relationship is as plain as can be to my big eyes.”

            “Oh, I see it,” Lincoln responded.  “I just wanted to see if Lockhart might be too embarrassed to admit it.”

            Lockhart said nothing.  He was feeling very much like a sixty-eight year old man.  Then he thought of Katie and felt like a teenager.  It was confusing.

            The door opened and Zoe came in followed by a man with a little girl in his arms.  The escort slid away from Lockhart and Lincoln and looked a little embarrassed, especially when Elder Stow laughed.  The couple that brought the food stood, bowed and exited no doubt to get more food.

            “Fine chefs you have,” Lincoln told Zoe, but before she could answer, two women came in carrying a cot.  Roland followed with a sleeping Boston that he laid down gently and covered with a blanket.  Katie came in next and went straight to Lockhart.

            “Sadie Hawkins,” she said and bent down to plant one right on his lips before she moved a chair up to sit beside him.

            “I said I was seeing someone,” Lockhart told the young women who looked at each other and scooted a bit further away from the elect.

            The Sybil was the last to come in.  She had an arm around each of the sisters, Chloe and Amira.  They looked happy, and Chloe began to cry.  This caused Katie and Zoe to both turn to her, but Amira stopped them with her hand and her word.

            “It’s okay.  She is just so happy to be home.”  And Chloe nodded and proceeded to hug everyone in the room, except maybe Revelon and Elder Stow.

            “I like this place,” Lincoln slurred through his ale.  “It is quiet.  Nothing ever happens here.”  He laid his head down on the table and shortly began to snore, and the two women who brought in the cot were sent to fetch some more.

###

            Depression, anxiety and a little dementia are hard to cope with, especially when there is not a convenient pharmacy on the local street corner.  Heck, around 3650 BC there aren’t even any streets, or corners for that matter.  But when the dementia strikes the Kairos, that means the travelers need to figure out this time zone on their own.

Avalon 2.5:  Broken Days … Next Time.

Avalon 2.4: The Elect

            Both Chloe, the young girl native to 3700 BC, and Lieutenant Katie Harper, the Marine from the early twenty-first century have been called “Elect,” and neither one of them has any idea what that means.

###

            They arrived in front of a great, long log house and found a woman of about thirty-five years standing out front.  The travelers had no doubt who this was.  Her hair had the same extra light golden brown look that the Princess had and she was also clearly a warrior, being in the same excellent health and Princess shape.  She was the same height as the Princess as well, or just a smidgen taller at about five foot, eight, which made her a very tall woman in that world.  But the give-away was the armor she wore.  It was the armor of the Kairos they had seen before.  Only her eyes were not like the Princess, being sparkling green instead of penetrating blue, and while this woman, this Kairos was beautiful, perhaps very beautiful, she was not the Princess.

            “Glen?”  Boston felt obliged to say it.

            Zoe frowned before she smiled and said, “No.  But about time you got here, Boston.  I was getting ready to worry.”

            “We had some followers,” Lockhart said.  “No big deal.”

            “Revelon,” Iris said as they all dismounted.

            Zoe nodded before she spoke.  “Lockhart, Lincoln and Elder Stow, you need to go with the escort.  They have prepared a place for you and some food.  Roland, you and Boston need to escort Amira and my Sybil wherever the Sybil tells you.  Katie, you and I need to talk.  Iris, go fetch Minas.  Chloe, come in.”  And with that said, Zoe turned and stepped inside the long, log house that had to be city hall and the national government offices as well.

            “What is this place?”  Katie looked around and found Chloe stuck close to her side.

            “The hall of the goddesses,” Zoe said.  “You may meet one or more at their pleasure, of course.”

            “Goddesses?” Chloe spoke with a shiver in her voice.

            “Chloe,” Zoe put her arm out to invite the girl in.  Chloe looked at Katie first.

            “Go on,” Katie said.  “Zoe is probably the best person you will ever meet.”

            “Now, I don’t know about that,” Zoe said as Chloe stepped in close and Zoe slipped her arm over Chloe’s shoulder.

            “Man or woman,” Katie said.  “I haven’t found one to complain about yet.”

            Zoe did not answer directly.  She brought them to the center of the room where a table was laid out with all sorts of fruits and vegetables, greens, flowers and breads.  “Our offering table,” Zoe said.  “No blood, though some of the goddesses would not mind if there was.  We always give the best of the first fruits.  You must learn this if you would be Queen.”

            “Me?”  Chloe asked and looked back again at Katie.  “But you are the Queen,” she spoke to Zoe.

            “But the gods require me in some way I cannot explain, but I cannot be Queen for much longer.  Someone must be Queen and you are the elected one.  In the future days, there may be regents, but only an elect can be Queen of the Amazons.”

            “What about Katie?”  Chloe took a step back.

            “I don’t belong here,” Katie said.  “And I don’t even know what an elect is.”

            “One in a million,” Zoe said.  “Though in your day with over a billion inhabitants that has become more like one in ten million.”

            “But what does it mean, elect?”  Chloe asked.

            Zoe squatted before the girl and took her hands.  “An elect one is a woman with a strong mind and a pure heart who is gifted by the gods to protect and defend her family and community.  Strong as any man, she has great speed, dexterity, agility and coordination.  She has a high threshold for pain, is hard to injure, but when hurt, she heals quickly.  An elect has an uncanny ability with whatever weapon comes to hand, but she can fight just as well with no weapon at all.  She is a strategic and tactical thinker with great energy, perseverance and courage.”  Zoe turned her eyes on Katie and stood but kept hold of one of Chloe’s hands.  “Does that sound about right, Katie?”

            Katie shook her head to deny it, but Zoe would not let her.

            “Didn’t you out shoot and out run and beat up the boys in your training?  Even back in high school and college I am sure you surprised yourself and often deliberately kept yourself hidden.”

            “No, I –“

            “And on this trip you matched Decker, the expert Navy Seal every step of the way, though you are a lowly scholar.  Don’t think the Marines did not notice.  That is why you are here.”

            “No, but –“

            “Minas.”  Minas stood.  They had not seen Minas and Iris come in.  The two women were kneeling with their heads bowed.  “Iris, give me your sword.”  Iris gave it to Zoe who immediately handed it to Katie.  “Minas came to us just a few years ago, but she has learned quickly.”  Minas was one of those women who were much too big and strong to ever play the helpless role.

            “But I have never held a sword before,” Katie admitted and felt good that she knew which end to hold.

            “Then this should be fun,” Minas said, and she drew her own sword, and smiled.  Katie felt cornered as Minas made three quick swings.  Katie backed up and parried, but on the third, a backstroke, Katie lost her grip and her sword crashed to the floor and slid well out of her reach. 

            Minas hesitated until Zoe said, “Finish it.”  She moved in, but Katie dropped to the floor and kicked Minas’ feet out from beneath.  Katie at least knew Karate.  As Minas stumbled, Katie rolled and grabbed her sword.

            This time, Katie was the one swinging, and Minas was hard pressed to counter.  Katie might have been swinging out of fear, but it seemed more than Minas could handle.  In a moment, Minas was backed to one of the many posts in the room that held up the ceiling.  The last stroke was hard enough to wrench Minas’ arm.  She dropped her sword and grabbed her arm as if it might be dislocated.

            “Oh, I’m sorry,” Katie used the line she had used since she was Chloe’s age.  It was the first part of her litany about how it was an accident and she was just lucky and it probably would not happen that way again in a million years.  But she did not get to say it all.  Zoe interrupted.

            “Give Iris her sword,” Zoe ordered, and Katie did.  “Here.”  Zoe tossed a knife to Katie, or at her, but in any case, Katie caught the knife without being cut.  “Now, Iris, kill her.”

            “Majesty?”

            “Kairos?”

            “You heard me,” Zoe said and she squeezed Chloe’s hand to keep her out of it.

            Iris was trained to the weapon since she was a baby, and this strange woman only had a knife, but Iris was wary.  She circled and danced in and out at first to test Katie’s defenses  Katie turned the knife back and countered every stroke, but she felt confused.  It was all happening too fast to think.  At once, Iris moved in for the kill, but instead of backing up as expected, Katie appeared to be waiting for this and moved in as well.  That move negated Iris’ longer reach sword and made the knife the stronger weapon.  Katie could have cut Iris, badly, but instead she kicked Iris in the solar plexus.  Iris flew back several yards and crashed her back against one of the poles.  Her sword clattered to the floor while she groaned.   But then Iris was trained well.  She quickly got to her knees as Katie hovered over her.  Iris bowed her head in submission and spoke.

            “Elect.”

            Zoe let go and Chloe ran up to hug Katie.  “That was wonderful.  That was magnificent, and with only a knife against a trained sword.

            “But I have been trained to fight,” Katie said with a look at Zoe who shook her head.

            “Iris was trained to fight since she was a baby, and trained with knives and swords, and with her hands and feet.  You are an elected one, and you know it.”

            “But how did you know?”

            “I have known since the beginning, but I could not say anything until now.  The whole idea of being elect has just begun with this generation.  One in a million, and right now at Chloe’s age they may be found anywhere around the globe.”  Zoe turned to Chloe.  “You will become stronger as you reach maturity, but remember, finesse can beat strength if you know what you are facing.   You will learn to fight.”  Chloe looked excited by that idea, but Katie wondered if being an elect was such a good thing as Zoe turned to her again.  “Can’t you feel it?  Can’t you feel it in Chloe.  Look at Iris and Minas.  They are both warriors, but Chloe is different.”

            Katie paused and looked at Iris.  Then she looked at Minas.  Finally she looked at Chloe and Zoe beside her and nodded.  “I do feel it.  I understand what you are saying, but I don’t feel it in me.”

            “I do,” Chloe said, and her eyes got big.

.

Avalon 2.4: Unexpected Magic … Next Time

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Amazon 2.4: A Country for Young Women

.

            With the help of the Amazons, the travelers outrun the “bad men” to the safety of the Amazon border, only now they are curious and a bit concerned to see what this fabled land contains.

###

            The travelers, the old woman and a half-dozen young women rode down into a valley full of huts, simple homes and farmland.  Both the village and the distant sea – the Black Sea could be seen from the heights but both disappeared behind the horizon as they came down the hill.  The mountains turned out to be off to their right and still some distance away.  The coast land was hilly, but held the promise of several such fertile valleys.

            There were men in that valley, not nearly equal in number to the women, but some were armed.  One looked like he just returned from a hunt and arrived in time to kiss his wife.  The people gave no notice to the group of armed women on horseback.  They did show some interest in the strangers, though the travelers all supposed it was the mustangs they were really interested in.

            As they approached the village, Katie perked up her nose.  “Foundary,” she said, and amended her word.  “Blacksmith.”

            “Not iron,” Lockhart said, but it was a question.

            “Probably copper, tin and other soft metals.  But just so you know, I don’t intend to leave here without taking a good look.”

            “And the potter,” Iris said and she looked back at the couple.  “My sister is the potter.”

            “I thought all Amazons were like sisters,” Lockhart said, and again it was a question.

            “After a fashion,” Iris responded.  “But some of us are blood as well.”

            “I want to see it all,” Chloe said, but she had to hold on to her seat.  She was not used to horses and Iris’ pony was not as easy a ride as Katie’s with the saddle.

            Boston and Lincoln flanked the old woman who now rode more comfortably at a walking pace.  Roland on the outside held tight to Amira who turned her head everyway as if she was looking at it all and not blind.

            “We are a society of women,” the old woman explained.  Once again she paused to find the right word.  “A matriarchy.  We always have a Queen who may have a consort.  But we treat our men as equals.  There are no slaves here.”

            “Good to know,” Lincoln said.  “My wife would be happy here.”

            “Your wife would be happy where you are,” the old woman responded.  “She is not happy now, but she is remembering.  Give it time.”

            “Be patient?”  Boston was kidding.

            “Little Fire,” the old woman called her.  “If you lived here, that would be your name.”

            “I like that name,” Amira spoke up as Boston turned to look at Roland.

            “It matches your hair,” Roland said.

            “So maybe I’ll shave my head,” Boston responded and Amira and the old woman spoke as one.

            “See?”  It was like she proved their point.

            “But how is it that this land came to be?”  Katie took everyone’s attention.  “And why are there so many women and so many young ones that are mostly girls as far as I can tell.”

            “It is our Queen who saved us from death,” Iris said and then quieted as the old woman coughed and spoke up.  She spoke as loud as she could and even some of the escort leaned in to hear.

            “It began some twenty years ago when a plague devastated the residents of this place.  We are surrounded by many gods and many worlds.  Cimmerians and Scythians to the East with the lands of the Brahmin.  Slavic tribes of all sorts and Asians ride across the northern plains.  Germans rule in the West with the Greeks.  South is the land of the Tigris and Euphrates and the many diverse gods there that stretch all the way to a city I have heard of called Jericho.  South and east also is the no-one’s land of Persia.  This land is in the middle of it all.

            “All of the gods of these worlds around us sent people to attack each other across the borders and over time we became too small in number to defend ourselves and keep the border secure.  When the plague attacked us, we believed it was the end for us, but the gods had something else in mind.  It was the goddesses in particular who saw the real danger in these endless wars.  They feared the gods themselves might go to war and destroy the earth.  They decided a buffer was in order.  Buffer is what Queen Zoe calls it.

            “It was Zoe, the Queen who convinced the goddesses to give her the land.  Then, by her great power, she sent her little ones in search of babies.  All over the world people pray for sons.  Daughters are tolerated, but sometimes they are set out on the rocks to die.  The little ones saved those girls and brought them here to be raised.  My Queen has said it has not done her little ones good in their reputation, to be seen as baby stealers, but now we have a safe place for women to live, though we treat our men well.”

            “So that is why the eldest is generally eighteen or younger,” Boston said.

            “But you are older,” Katie pointed out.

            “Yes, I survived the plague, and there are others, but soon enough we will pass away and this great buffer land will belong to the Amazons and to their daughters.  May they stay ever strong to defend the borders and may the whole council of goddesses from all the halls of all the worlds around speak ever of peace.”

            “So what?”  Boston was listening, but also thinking that whole time.  “We left the Neolithic and suddenly we found civilization?”

            “No,” Katie said.  “Different parts of the world discover things at different rates.  Some only learn of things like horses by trade.  Here they have pottery and plows, copper swords and copper tipped arrows, but that is simply several things, not exactly civilization.  Really, it is only one thing, learning how to make a fire hot enough.  Hot enough to heat metal for shaping is hot enough to bake pots, so it kind of goes together.”

            “So here copper is King,” Lincoln concluded.

            Boston corrected him.  “Here I think copper is Queen.”

 ###

Avalon 2.4:  The Elect … Next Time

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Avalon 2.4: The Other Side of the Coin

            Defending the innocent often has consequences.  The travelers cannot simply abandon the girls when they find the next time gate and move into the next time zone.  They need to find a safe place for them to grow up.  Fortunately, sometimes events can help.

###

            Lincoln and Elder Stow had the morning shift, so they were the first to hear the horses in the distance.  It did not take long to wake everyone, but then there was the problem deciding what to do. 

            “If it is Revelon and the men from the city, our live will be forfeit,” Chloe said.  “I do not wish to cause any more deaths and there will be too many of them.  If it is the women from the East, we will be safe, but I worry about your men.”

            “It is the women,” Amira said.  “But we should all be safe with two elect among us.  Even the men should be safe.”

            “We will be fine,” Lockhart said.  “We will have elect to protect us.”  He slipped is arm around Katie’s shoulder right in front of everyone.  She did not mind, but she elbowed him softly.  Neither knew what Amira meant when she talked about Katie being elected, so it was hard to take it seriously.

            It did not take long to find out Amira was right about one thing.  It was the women, though  Lincoln thought they were more like young girls.  He did not imagine any of them was over eighteen until they brought a horse up from the back where an old lady had been straggling at the rear of the pack.  Lincoln suddenly remembered being that old.  He imagined the woman did her best to keep up.

            There were four large and mean looking women that surrounded the old lady.  Two held the horses while two helped her down and walked on each side of her like Secret Service bodyguards.  The Lady made an unwavering path to Katie where she surprised everyone, even her bodyguards.  She got down on her knees at Katie’s feet.  After a moment of hesitation and a few extra looks at Katie, the bodyguards joined her.

            “Elect,” the woman intoned in her ancient voice.

            Katie looked up at Lockhart, but he could only shrug.  She bent down a little toward the lady.  “Please get up,” and she would have helped if the bodyguards were not there.  The old lady stood slowly, like she was crippled with arthritis, but with her head lowered, she made a straight path to Chloe where she did the same thing and said something that shocked everyone present, including the women still on horseback.

            “My Queen.”

            Chloe’s instinct was to look at her sister, but Amira was simply smiling at her own thoughts.  At last Chloe echoed Katie.  “Please get up,” and the old woman did with a nod and made a new path.  This took her to Amira, and everyone prepared for her to repeat the same ritual; but again she surprised everyone.  She wrapped Amira up in her arms and hugged the girl, and Amira hugged the old lady right back like she was hugging her favorite, long-lost grandmother.  Then at last the old lady turned and spoke to them all.

            “Respect these men.  These two are older than I am in years, but by the grace of the gods they have returned to youth in their bodies.  This one is of the elder races.  Do not be afraid.  He will not harm you.  And this good elf and his betrothed are to be given all respect.  For us, the sign of the little ones is always good fortune.  Respect these men, and respect also these women, the elf wife, the elected one, the Sybil I hold in my arms who will follow after me and the future Queen.  Now let us ride.  The men of Revelon will be here when the sun breaks full above the horizon.”

            “Pack’em up, people!” Lockhart yelled and the travelers jumped to action.  “Chloe, you better ride with Katie.  Amira, stick with Boston.  She is rodeo trained and won’t let you slip from the saddle.”

            One of the women in the pack dismounted quickly and ran up.  “Male, who are you to decide such things?”

            “One far older and wiser than you, Iris,” the old lady said before she began to reach for the words.  “And one trained for this kind of operation.  Did I say that correctly?”  She looked at Katie who responded with a kind smile.

            “Perfectly.”

            “I’ll keep to the rear and protect the old lady,” Lincoln volunteered.

            Amira, Iris and Chloe spoke as one.  “Sybil.”

            “Exactly,” Lincoln said.  He did not explain what he meant, but Lockhart imagined he wanted to ask what she knew about Alexis.

            It took less than an hour to get ready and mounted.  Lincoln lamented not having any explosives they could rig as a surprise for the men.  Elder Stow agreed with him, but Boston scolded them both.

            “Three are dead.  We want to avoid killing any more if it can be helped.” 

            Lincoln understood, but Elder Stow shrugged like it did not matter to him since we were only talking about killing homo sapiens.

            As the twenty women and the travelers rode out, they heard a much larger group of horses in the distance.  Iris, who rode on Katie’s other side shouted when she heard the pursuit.

            “If we can make the border we should be safe.”

            The travelers discovered that these young women were riders.  At every opportunity, they let the horses ride flat out.  Fortunately for the travelers and in particular Elder Stow who was not so good on horseback, the women rode Black Sea ponies that they called horses.  The travelers rode mustangs from the mid nineteenth century American West. They were real horses, the product of millennia of breeding, and as such were far larger, stronger and swifter than anything the women had ever seen. 

            They came at last to a broad plain that stretched out before the hills began that rose into mountains in the distance.  Iris led the troop in an all out gallop to the other side.  The men were close by then.  The women came to a wide path up the rocky hillside that could not otherwise be climbed by horses.  Iris paused there and Katie and Lockhart paused with her as the women began that climb.

            “That cliff face,” Iris pointed.  “It marks the boundary of Amazon territory.  The men will not follow us there.”

            “Good to know,” Lockhart said as he shouldered his shotgun and snatched Katie’s rifle right out of her saddle holster.

            “What are you doing?”  Katie yelled at him.

            “You have responsibilities.”  He nodded at  Chloe and turned back to the bottom of the hill where he dismounted and got behind a boulder.  Lincoln saw and joined him on the other side, and when Lockhart slapped his horse on the rump, his and Lincoln’s horses followed the herd of horses up the hill.”

            “Quick volleys,” Lockhart yelled.  Lincoln nodded and in a second the men were in range.  They fired, rapid fire, and might have hit a few men, but certainly sent several horses to the dirt.  It slowed things, not to mention the oncoming horses did not like the cracking thunder that echoed off the hill.  Several more quick shots and the charge stalled.

            Katie swore as she raced to the top of the hill, faster than Iris or any pony could keep up.  As soon as she arrived, she let Chloe down.  “Ride with Iris,” she ordered, and Chloe did not argue.  Meanwhile, Boston handed Amira to Roland, who protested.

            “You are not trained for this.”  Boston was not going to argue either, but she added, “I would not trust Amira to anyone else.”  Roland helped the girl up as Boston and Katie sprinted for the bottom of the hill.

            “Lockhart!” Katie was the one who yelled as she brought her horse to a sharp halt.  Lockhart tossed her the rifle, and she did not hesitate to use it.  There were men dismounted and coming up on foot with bows.  Lockhart did not watch.  He simply got up behind.

            Boston did it a bit differently.  Lincoln saw her coming, leaning to the side with her hand down.  He quickly shouldered his rifle, caught her hand and swung up behind her as she passed by.  She turned her horse like going around a rodeo barrel and they started back up the hill.

            Several belated arrows came in their direction once the two horses began to go back up the hill.  They fell woefully short, but they were that close.  At the top, Lockhart slid off and whistled.  The horse he had named Dog came trotting right up.  Lincoln also grabbed his steed and mounted.

            Iris left a dozen of the women by the cliff, well hidden and well protected and also well armed.  The rest of the party she led down the other side into Amazon country.

 .

Amazon 2.4:  A Country for Young Women … Next Time

Avalon 2.4: One Side of the Coin

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            Roughly 5715 years in the past and 97 time zones from home, the travelers try to avoid interaction with the locals, and especially violence that might leave a mark on the future, but when two young girls invade their camp and ask for help against the “bad men,” what can they do?

###

            Roland moved out into the dark.  He had the speed, eyes and ears, but was willing to admit in this situation he would not have minded Captain Decker’s help.  Fortunately, they were far enough from the Black Sea to not have the air filled with salt and sea breezes.  He had no dwarf’s nose.  He had to get clear of the cooking fire to pick up anything at all, even anything as smelly as unwashed human males.

            It turned out the men, a dozen, were not hard to find, and not far away.  They had seen the fire in the distance and stopped only to argue about whose fire it might be.  They feared it belonged to what they called the women, and Roland understood they were not talking about the girls in the camp.

            “That blind one gives me the creeps,” one man said.

            “We should kill it,” another suggested.

            “No,” a third protested.  “It may be useful, if properly broken, like a good horse.”

            Roland left them to argue, but he knew they would be along soon enough.  He went back and told the others and they set something of a trap.  The horses were moved to the other side of the clearing in which they camped.  The men backed away from the fire so they would be hidden by the dark.  Boston, Katie and the girls stayed by the fire and talked.  They were the bait. 

            Boston fingered her Beretta.  Katie had her pistol and her army knife just in case.  An escape route had also been planned in case they had to run.  It was where they could get to safety without running across anyone’s line of fire.  And so they waited.

            Lockhart whispered to Lincoln.  “It’s damn cold out here.  After the last time zone I thought I might never say that again.”  Lincoln said nothing, and Lockhart guessed he was still thinking about Alexis

            “It is chilly,” Roland answered for them all as he moved closer to the Gott-Druk to give his arrows the widest possible angle.  Lockhart looked at Elder Stow, but then Lincoln did say something.

            “He has on a space suit.  Even the vacuum of space would not feel cold to him.”

            “Oh,” Lockhart responded before he fell silent.

            It seemed an eternity, but it was less than fifteen minutes before the men came to the clearing.  Only four walked into the light at first, but Lockhart could make out the outline of the others fairly well.  They were clearly not soldiers.

            “You might as well all step into the light.” Katie, who was a Marine, faced the men and spoke before the men could speak.  The men were too busy trying to look intimidating.  “We were beginning to think you would not get here.”

            “Amazon,” the front man, a big, ugly bald headed man spoke up.  “Give us the girls and we will leave in peace.”

            “Why?”  Boston stood beside Katie which hid Amira and Chloe behind her.  She fingered her Beretta while Katie had her pistol still holstered.

            The man looked like he felt he should not have to explain himself.  “Because, they belong to us and to our village.”

            “All people belong to themselves,” Katie countered.  “Maybe they quit your village.”

            The man looked flummoxed.  “You can’t quit your village.”

            “Maybe they just don’t like you,” Boston suggested.

            “Maybe we will just take them,” the man countered.  “You are two.  We are ten.”

            “Do you think we are the only two here?  Count our tents.  You can count?” Katie asked.

            “Roland.”  Boston called and an arrow sped through the dark and landed perfectly between the man’s feet.  He jumped back, and several others at the edge of the firelight stepped back as well.

            “We are more than two,” Katie took a step forward.  “Chloe and Amira will stay with us.  You would be wise to leave now while you can.”

            The men thought about it, looked at each other and jumped for the girls.  One grabbed Chloe’s hand while she was getting up to escort Amira to safety.  Boston took Amira.  Katie kicked that man in the gut hard enough to bowl over the two behind him, and Chloe was free.  A second man swung a club at Katie’s face, but she ducked, pulled her knife and cut that man across his cheek.  Her bullet discouraged another as she grabbed for Chloe and the guns started to go off around her.

            Chloe just stood there and watched, mesmerized.  As a man tried to grab her, she kicked as Katie had.  That man also flew back to knock over several others.  Then Katie caught Chloe and they were swallowed up by the dark.  A few men fell to the gunfire, but most of them turned and ran when they saw the blood pouring from their comrades and neighbors.

            “I thought you said they were afraid of the women?”  Boston was not exactly yelling at Roland, but she was certainly expressing her fear.

            “It was a calculated risk,” Lockhart said as he stepped into the light to check on the fallen men.  “Double watch tonight.  Roland and Boston first.  I’ll wait while Roland sweeps the area.  I want to be sure they are gone.  Katie and I will take the dark of the night.  Lincoln, do you mind watching with Elder Stow?”

            Lincoln glanced at the Gott-Druk.  “That would be fine,” he said.  He was not getting adjusted to working with the Neanderthal, he confessed privately.  He would just rather see it coming when the Gott-Druk turned on them.

            “And I should watch?”  Elder Stow sounded surprised.

            “Of course,” Lockhart said.  “It is your life too, if they come back.”

            “Thank you,” Elder Stow said, and no one wanted to ask why he should be grateful.

            Meanwhile, there were three dead men around the fire and two wounded. One man caught a bullet in the shoulder, but it went clean through.  They patched him.  They also bandaged the one who had a bullet crease his thigh.  They could walk, well one limped with help.  Lockhart only told them one thing.

            “Don’t come back.”

            When Roland returned and reported that the rest of the men were still running, He, Lockhart and Lincoln dragged the dead a good distance from the camp where they might be found by the fleeing men.  If those men came back, the sight of their dead might deter them.  Then again, it was only right they should be able to bury their own dead.

            All this time, Chloe hung on Katie’s elbow.  “Would you teach me to fight?  That is a magic knife.  What kind of weapons were those you were using.”  Katie expected the words awesome and wicked to escape the girl’s mouth any minute.  Finally, she sat the girl down beside Boston who cried because of the dead.  Then she spoke.

            “Every human life is precious.  Where would you be if your parents decided to kill Amira when she was born simply because she was born blind?  We protected you because your lives are precious.  So far, that has cost three lives and wounded two others.  Are you worth that?  Are your two lives worth the lives of three others?  Think about that.”  She went to finish setting up Decker’s tent which they decided would do for the girls in the night.  Chloe did think about it, and listened when Elder Stow spoke to Boston.

            “Did you cry like that when you killed my children?”

            “Actually, yes, a little.” Boston answered.  It was impossible to tell what the Gott-Druk thought about that answer, but then Roland, Lockhart and Lincoln came back, and Amira, who had been exceptionally quiet all that time spoke up.

            “I shall sleep very well tonight,” she said.  “And thank you very much for saving us.”

            “Yes, thanks.” Chloe echoed.  She was still thinking about her price.  The village men might have sold her for a cow.  Now three of them were dead instead.

###

Avalon 2.4:  The Other Side of the Coin … Next Time

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Avalon 2.4: Amazon

 

After 3735 BC near the Black Sea.  Kairos: Zoe, the Amazon Queen

 

Recording… 

            “Chloe, over here.  This way is safe.”  The nine-year-old tugged on her twelve-year-old sister’s hand.

            “Amira, hush.  They will hear you,” Chloe said, but she followed in Amira’s intended direction though Amira was blind.

            “Chloe, what do you see?”

            “Nothing.  It is only dark night.”

            “Not see with your eyes, silly.  I mean what do you feel?”

            Chloe wrinkled her nose at her sister.  Amira asked questions like that knowing full well that Chloe had no such gift.  Only Amira could see things in the dark as easily as the light.  Only Amira had the eyes to see inside people to know their true heart, though she had no eyes to see at all.  Only Amira felt things like that, sometimes even glimpses of the future.  Chloe was just an ordinary girl with ordinary eyes, but Amira asked anyway.

            “I feel fear,” Chloe said.  “We lost the men in the dark, but they have not given up.  We must not stop.  We have to keep moving.”

            “Not behind, silly.  What do you feel ahead of us?”

            Chloe looked back before she made an effort to look ahead.  She saw or felt nothing in particular but more forest and treacherous little ridges like the one they were on.  They were ridges that would surely injure them in the dark if Chloe was not careful.

            “I’m sorry.  I see only dark, now can we move?”

            “Oh, Chloe.  You hardly try,” Amira scolded her big sister.  “I feel a warm fire and good people who will help us against the dark and the bad men.  I can smell the deer cooking and a treat of grain, elf grown grain made delicious.”

            “By magic, I am sure.”  Chloe looked back once more and strained her ears.

            “They are true people of power.  We must go to them.  They will protect us,” Amira said, and Chloe caught her blind sister before she stepped off the ridge and tumbled and fell twenty feet to the forest floor.  There was an easier way down if Chloe was careful.

            It was not long before Chloe caught a glimpse of the camp fire through the trees, and not much longer before she smelled the roasting meat.  Her stomach grumbled, but it only made Amira laugh.  “But can we trust these people?”  Chloe had to ask.

            “We must,” Amira answered with a knowing smile, and in the end she was the one who dragged her sister into the camp without so much as a “Hello, may we join you?”

            The travelers were surprised, but hardly knew what to do as the two young women walked right into their midst.  The young one had her older sister by the hand and pulled her right up to Katie Harper where she made the introductions.

            “Chloe, this is the second elected one in all the world, and now you are the third.  You must listen to what she says in the short time you have.  Listen to her and her man, for they are wise beyond our years.  Sit.” And the younger one made a reluctant Chloe sit beside Katie.  “My name is Amira, and we are very hungry.”

            Roland, Lincoln and Elder Stow all leapt for the deer to cut pieces to share.  Boston went for the girl and found a place for her to sit.  As she did, she looked close, waved her hand to be sure and then turned to Lockhart with a surprising pronouncement.  “She is blind.”

            “She has always been blind,” Chloe said quickly.  “But she sees better and more than most.”

            “My name is Katie and this is Robert,” Katie said.

            “Lockhart,” he said of himself.

            Chloe nodded, but looked suddenly shy and was glad when Lincoln handed her a piece of meat and some bread.  Chloe touched the bread.  She sniffed it.  “Grain of the elves,” she named it.

            “Yes,” Katie responded.  “How did you know?”

            “Amira told me before we even found your fire.”  She looked at her sister and ate hungrily.  Amira was right about that, too.  They were starving.

            Amira also ate, but more slowly.  It was like she was too busy sensing other things to eat too quickly.  She spoke between bites.  “Elder and elf, please do not frighten my sister.”  She shook her finger at the two before she took another bite, but that only brought something else to mind.

            “Elder Stow and Roland,” Boston managed to say.  “I am Boston and the other man is Lincoln.”

            “Lincoln!” Amira spoke too loud before she turned again toward the elf.  “No, Roland, your sister is remembering, I think.  She disguised herself like an elf the way you disguised yourself like a person.  No one will bother her or her father.”

            “Are they near?”  Lincoln jumped into the conversation.

            “I do not know,” Amira said as she thought about it.  “I cannot judge near and far well at all.  Everything I see seems near to me.”

            Boston turned to face the girl.  “You are what, eleven?  Twelve?”

            “I’m twelve,” Chloe said.  She was beginning to fill up and so inclined to relax a little.  “Amira is only nine.”

            “I bet I can guess how old you are,” Amira said.

            “Don’t bet,” Chloe said.  “Amira only says that when she already knows the answer.”

            Amira stuck out her tongue  in her sister’s direction and lifted her hand to touch Boston on the face.  She touched.  Looked worried.  Touched again.  “Stop it,” she yelled.  “Your age won’t keep still.  I don’t understand.”  The poor girl got upset.

            “That is because I was twenty-five, and then about twenty two or so and then I got very old just recently, only now I get to be young again.  I don’t even know how old I am.”

            “Nineteen?” Lincoln guessed.

            “I would guess closer to eighteen,” Roland countered.  Boston just shrugged.

            “Oh, I see,” Amira started to say something, but then all she could do was say, “I see, oh I see.”  She got really upset and Chloe stood, but Boston hugged the girl and said it would be alright and hush, so Chloe sat down again.  “Angel,” Amira said and cried.  Boston handled it well, almost as well as Alexis might have handled it.

            “So what did she mean, elected?”  Katie asked.

            Chloe shrugged and did not give her full attention until she knew Amira was going to be alright.

            “Better question,” Lockhart interrupted.  “Why were you two girls out in the woods at night alone?”

            “We were running away,” Chloe spoke with some surprise.  “I thought you would know.”

            Katie and Lockhart shook their heads and the others perked up their ears. 

            “Yes.  Mother was killed and the bad men want to sell us, except Amira they might keep or just kill because of her eyes, you know.”

            No one needed to hear anymore.  Lockhart got his shotgun, Katie her rifle.  Lincoln had Decker’s rifle near and checked his pistol.  Boston had her hands full, but Roland eyed his stock of arrows before he checked his blades.  Elder Stow pulled out his sonic device and shrugged.  It was not much on flesh, but it might do in a pinch.

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Avalon 2.4:  One Side of the Coin … Next Time