Avalon 7.1 Spirits Alight, part 4 of 6

Lunch did not last long, and they stopped in a green field when they had plenty of daylight for the horses to feed.  The day remained cold, but the winter there still produced some green feed by the river.

When Lincoln finished his duty, helping to tend the horses, he pulled out the database, and after reading for a bit, he reported his speculation.  “There, on the hill, or in those hills, should be the city of Ephron.  Tomorrow, we should pass Pella in the morning and reach Amathus by afternoon.  They should all be on the other side of the river from the way we are traveling.  We should be able to wave and pass right on by.”

“How close to the border of Judea?” Katie asked.

“Um,” Lincoln figured.  “Based on the information I gathered in Philoteria, I would guess the Maccabees have not yet moved out of Judea.  That narrows the time frame to early in the rebellion.  I would guess we should cross into Jewish territory about lunch on the next day, about a half-day from Jericho.”

Katie nodded.  “That is the day we will have to watch carefully.  Both the Syrians and Jews may have men guarding the border, and they may not be too happy with people crossing over, one way or the other.”

“True enough,” a woman said.  People looked, expecting Tama, or maybe Aleah to appear.  Instead, Anath-Rama, the goddess of the Amazon paradise appeared, though it took the travelers a minute to figure it out.  Katie was the first to speak.

“I’m not dead yet,” she said.  “And I was told I don’t qualify as an Amazon.”

“And you are correct,” Anath-Rama said.  “But you carry three who are dead.  I thought it only right to apologize for burdening you with them.”

The travelers looked at each other and asked, “How so?”

Anath-Rama took a seat between Katie and Alexis before she spoke.  “The Jews are kept in a place apart.  Not even the gods know that place.  Since Alexander, things have become muddied.  Baal, Hades, Erishkegal, and many other cathartic gods from here in the east all the way to Egypt have argued at times on just where some people need to go.  Some spirits have had to wait for years to be placed.  These three, however, were different.  No one wanted them.  No one dared take Jews into their place.  But the source did not take them, either.  No one knew what to do with them.”

“That is terrible,” Alexis said.

“To have to wander that town, without hope, for more than five hundred years.

“Five hundred and sixty-eight years.  But they were not alone.  I broke down and took them in so they would not have to be alone.  Your adopted android daughter, Artie, prevailed upon me, kind heart that she is.”

Lockhart looked up before he turned his head to the flames.  Katie stiffened, before she confessed, “She got her kind heart from her father.”  Lockhart kindly did not say anything.  He remembered how they found Artie crashed to the earth, and how Elder Stow was instrumental in setting her free from all the restraints her Anazi makers placed on her.  He remembered how he and Katie adopted her, long before they actually married, and how she became transformed at one point into a human, so she became like a real daughter to the couple.  But in the end, she transformed back into an android so she could set her people free of their Anazi slave-masters.  He knew she was gone but felt glad to know she continued among the dead.  He remembered Anath-Rama volunteered to watch over the spirits of the android dead until what they called the time of the dissolution of the gods.  He felt grateful to know Artie was in good hands, but thought he better listen, as Anath-Rama picked up her story.

“Once that became settled, the gods prophesied.  These three, a man, a woman, and a child, would be a sign for when the days of the gods would end.  You may have noticed the gods are not around as much as in the past.  It is said, when these three reach Jerusalem, the time will be two weeks and two days.  By dead reckoning, that is one hundred and sixty years.  The Gods have that time to finish their work and go over to the other side.  When the time is up, the day of the gods will be over.”

“Dead Reckoning, good pun,” Decker said.

Anath-Rama smiled for him.  “Thanks.  I saved it for years.”

“But wait,” Lincoln spoke up.  “Not all of the gods are anxious to end their days.  What if one of them tries to stop us?”

Anath-Rama shook her head.  “These three are protected by the full power and might of the gods.  Any attempt would send the offending god or spirit instantly to the other side.  You will be left alone.”

“The other side?” Millie asked, quietly.

“Death,” Alexis explained, with equal quiet.

“So, I am sorry to burden you, but when you came through the time gate, I felt—no—I believed you were the answer we were waiting for.  I am glad you don’t mind.”

“Mom?  Dad?”  The voice came before Artie appeared.

“Artie?”  Katie jumped up and opened her arms.  Lockhart stood and watched Artie the android race into Katie’s embrace.  Katie and Artie started to cry, and Lockhart slipped his arms around his two girls, and without the awkwardness or embarrassment he used to show all those centuries ago.  After a while, Artie talked.

“Mom, my people are all gone now.”

“I know,” Katie said as she took her hand to brush Artie’s hair.  “But you lived a good, long time, and your people lived free.”

“We did,” Artie said, and began a new round of tears.

“But where will you go when the gods have all gone?”  Lockhart had been thinking.

“We are not sure,” Artie said, and with a glimpse at Anath-Rama, she added, “No one is sure.  But most believe it will be a great adventure.”  Artie grinned, and looked at Boston, who returned the grin.  “And mom,” Artie said, and waited.

“I am here,” Katie said.

“My big sister, Sekhmet, wants to say good-bye, too.  She says she will see you at the time gate in Suez.”

Katie, Lockhart, and Artie hugged again, and then Artie and Anath-Rama began to fade, until they disappeared.  Evan waited until they were gone before he asked.


“The Egyptian lion goddess, defender of the upper Nile,” Katie admitted.

“I’m not sure how we adopted Sekhmet,” Lockhart said.  “I suppose she sort of adopted us.”

Katie nodded, and said, “But I don’t mind.”

“No, I don’t mind,” Lockhart agreed.  “She is a good daughter.  Both of them.  We had two good daughters.”  Katie nodded in agreement as Millie turned on Evan.

“I want a daughter.”

Avalon 7.0 Brigands, part 6 of 6

The following day, they rode extra hard.  Lockhart’s horse and Decker’s horse nearly gave out, having carried such big men for so long.  Sukki’s horse, Freedom, struggled.  Boston’s Honey and Elder Stow’s horse seemed fine, but Lockhart grew concerned.  Their journey through time was long enough and hard enough as it was.  The horses made it tolerable.  He could not imagine walking the rest of the way back to the twenty-first century, especially since the time gates began to get further and further apart as humans started traveling greater distances from home.

After lunch, they crossed a couple of rivers and moved into the foothills of Mount Othrys, leaving the coast behind them.  They knew they were getting close, and this time they would not stop at dark.  Even so, they had to get down and walk the horses now and then.  During one of those times, Arias told them about the Athol.

“It is an isolated valley nestled in the foothills of Mount Othrys.  The road bypasses the valley, running through a gap in those foothills.  The little Athol River is not much of a river.  In the dry season, you can wade across it in spots.  It runs into a small, but deep bay where there are great docks for merchant shipping.  The people of the Athol have a great reputation making weapons and branding the horses that run in the hills—some of the best horses in Greece.  They have a silver mine, a copper mine, and an iron mine in those hills with hamlets scattered here and there.”

“Weapons?” Lockhart asked.

“They made the bronze weapons used at Troy.  They made the iron weapons Alexander used against the Persians.  The city is barely a town.  It has a wall only part way around; never finished.  My husband Damon teaches the martial arts at the Athol Academy.  Sophia’s husband is the Princess’ older brother, Darien.  He is a Roman citizen, a tribune for the province, charged with keeping an eye on Phillip and his Macedonians.”

“And the Princess is married?” Boston asked.

“Yes, of course.  Her husband, Julius, is the son of a Roman Senator.  It is a long story.”

When they rode again, they did not get far before they saw another horse, struggling among the trees.  Arias sensed something and raised her shield before the arrow struck.  Lockhart pulled his handgun and fired at the tree. Decker fired three shots from his rifle.  Elder Stow did one better.  His handgun was on a low setting, but it still flashed bright in the afternoon and set the tree on fire.  The dead man that fell to the ground looked badly burned.

“Mylo,” Arias identified him.

Boston nodded to confirm Arias’ perception before she complained to Elder Stow.  “A little overkill, don’t you think?”

“Sorry young Boston,” Elder Stow apologized.  “It is at a low setting, but I see I need to lower it some more.”

Althea said, “Wow.”  Meriope and Aurora appeared to have trouble closing their mouths.  Sophia did not look pleased.

“I agree with the Princess,” she said.  “I hate the killing part.”

Barely an hour later, the group topped a rise and saw two large companies of men camped across the road from each other.  They were not fighting but looked ready to go at it at any moment.

Arias pointed when they stopped.  “On the left it looks like two or three hundred actual soldiers, Athol guards and maybe Damon and some fourth-year students from the Academy.  Not long ago, the Romans camped on Euboea, the army of the Aetolian League camped just below Thermopylae, and Phillip and the Macedonian army camped around Thebae.  They circled the little valley, all about a day away, and they stared hard at each other.  The Athol mustered four—less than five thousand men, and some women, for self-defense, and that just about emptied the valley.”

“It doesn’t sound like a very big place,” Lockhart said.

Arias agreed.  “It isn’t.  That is one of the reasons it has survived at peace for all these centuries.  It is isolated, of no strategic importance, and never had a population big enough to threaten anyone.” Arias turned her eyes.  “On the right, the collection of what may be a hundred and fifty or so men, is Xitides and his brigands.  They are the ones who look like three pirate ships emptied their dregs on the beach.”

“Why is he here?” Sophia pushed forward and asked.  “Thermopylae is only a long day away.  He could be half-way to the Peloponnesus by now.”

“Waiting for us,” Arias answered.  “He wants this settled and doesn’t want me chasing him all over Greece.”  She started her horse down the other side of the rise, and the others followed.

It did not take long to find the Princess.  Arias paused to kiss her husband, Damon, and while they clearly loved each other, neither appeared the type to go in for public shows of affection.  Sophia, by contrast, ran into the arms of her husband, Darien.  They adored each other and did not care who saw.  Boston ran into the Princess’ hug but hugged carefully around the baby.  The Princess smiled, before she put one hand on her belly.

“I remember you from the future,” Boston grinned as hard as she could.  “I saved that up all this time so I could see Lockhart shake his confused head, about remembering the future.”

“No,” Lockhart shook his head and disappointed Boston.  “At this point, I have that one figured out.”

“Pooh,” the Princess said.

“Oh, pooh,” Boston said at the same time.

“My husband, Julius,” the Princess said, as she let go of Boston and reached a hand behind her.  Julius came and took it and acknowledged Boston in the right way.

“Little One.”

“I used to be human,” Boston admitted.  “Alexis used to be an elf, so we kind of evened out.”

“Yes.”  The Princess looked around.  “Where are the others.”

“Katie and the others should be along tomorrow at about this time,” Lockhart said.

“We have to end this,” Arias interrupted.

“Elder Stow and Sukki.  Would you stay here?”  Lockhart continued.  “And Boston—”

“No way, boss.”

“—I know better than to ask you to stay with them.”

Arias spoke.  “Meriope and Aurora, stay with them.” The rest of the crew, including the Princess and various husbands, crossed the road.

Xitides had already come out.  He looked an imposing sight and had a dozen big and mean looking men to back him up.  He looked like he might snarl, but he also looked at the men behind him, like he wondered if he had enough.

Arias stepped forward, stopped several yards back from the brigands, and said one word.  “Explain.”

Xitides stepped right up to Arias’ face.  He looked as big as Lockhart and Decker, a bit over six feet tall, and was one man in Greece that could actually look down on Arias.  It didn’t help.  When he got close, he fell to his knees and whined, like a schoolyard bully caught in the act.

“I’m sorry.  We went around.  I respected Amazon land.  Philocrates took his company and did that all on his own.  When I found out, I threw him out right away.  You have to believe me.  I would never do such a thing.  It wasn’t me.  I didn’t do it.  I’m sorry.  You have to believe me.”

“Okay.  I accept your apology.  Where is Philocrates.”

Xitides got slowly to his feet.  He appeared to be thinking… but thought better of it.  He wiped one eye with his thumb which put a dirt streak across his cheek.  He waved, and Philocrates got brought out kicking and screaming through his gag.  He was tied, but it still took four men to carry him.  They threw him at Arias’ feet.

Philocrates got to his knees, barely raised his head, and did not get to plead, when Arias pulled her sword, fast as a gunslinger.  Philocrates head bounced in the dirt.  Then Philocrates’ body fell to join it.

“Amazons don’t suffer rapists to live,” Arias said, and turned her back on the whole mercenary army.  Xitides put his hand to his own throat and stared, and so did any number of his men.  Sophia hid her face.  Lockhart and Boston dropped their jaws a little.  Decker Spit, and Arias spoke to the Princess.  “You want this pirate for something?”

“Not me,” the Princess said.  “I can’t stand the smell of him.  He is stinking up my beautiful hills.”

Damon, Darien, and Julius all stayed with the little Athol army.  The brigands would move off for Thermopylae in the morning.  They got the men to bury Philocrates’ body beside the road.  After so many centuries, it was hardly the first such grave.  It would serve as a reminder, and mostly a warning to any thief, pirate, brigand, mercenary group, or army that might be tempted to see what silver or other goodies the Athol might have to offer.  The others, Amazons and Travelers, followed the Princess and her four guardsmen along the trail-road through the hills to her little city.

Two days later, Katie and the others arrived, and in the morning, the Princess and Julius took the travelers to one of the dozen stables around the field.  The stables got used when the people brought horses down from the hills and in from the surrounding plains for branding, training, and sale.

The stable she took them to had ten young mustangs, one mule, and a new wagon for the road.  “They are four or five, about the age of the horses you started with.  If you treat them well and give them regular rest as you have been doing, I hope they will last the two plus years you have left to travel.  Glen says hi, by the way, but I dare not bring him here to say hi himself.  Sophia mentioned that you started this journey three years later than I have access to his life.  It would not be good to have you tell him what he has to look forward to, not that he would remember.”

“But what about Honey,” Boston looked ready to cry.  She loved her horse, like a pet.

“I hope to send your horses and the cowboy horses back to Casidy, so he can recoup some of the money he spent.  I don’t know.  I needed Athena, Apollo, and Artemis all working together to get these horses here.  I don’t expect the same help to send yours back.  I may have to put them out to stud, which might be like a reward for a job well done.  The Athol already has a reputation for the best horses in Greece.  A few mustangs bred into the mix would cement that reputation forever.”

“And the mule?” Lincoln asked.

“As strong and hearty as they come.  I had a mule once.  We called him Stinky.  We made him bring up the rear.  You can imagine.”

“When was that?”

“About three hundred and fifty years in the future,” the Princess said, without so much as a grin.

Lockhart smiled for her.  “That’s my Kairos.”

The Princess went on.  “The horses are all tied to you, just like at first, though for Millie and Evan, the tie did not take as well.  I think I didn’t know Millie and Evan as well when I did that.  But they won’t wander.  You may notice the Roman saddles.  I cheated and gave you stirrups, and horseshoes, with extras in the wagon, but you can’t go back to western gear until about a thousand years from now; or about a year from now, travel time.  Your stinky mule may need replacing at that point, and maybe your wagon, but we will have to see what I can do without the help of the gods.”  The Princess shrugged and slipped into Julius’ arms for some hugging.  She had one more thing to say.  “Just don’t screw anything up that I can’t fix.  From here on, history is in the balance.”



Next time, the travelers find themselves in Galilee and pick up three very strange passengers.  Until then, Happy Reading



Avalon 7.0 Brigands, part 5 of 6

Less than a minute after the fighting stopped, the others showed up, with Leodis leading a hundred guardsmen.  Arias looked unhappy at missing it all, but Leodis looked glad that he did not have to fight.  Arias, Leodis, Lockhart, Katie, and Lincoln all came into the warehouse together.  Alexis and Sophia went around to the docks where they had three wounded Amazons to tend.  As the guards picked up their prisoners, Decker confessed.

“Five came riding out from the alley.  I was involved in containing the ones coming out the front door, but I got off one good shot.  The man’s horse followed the others, but I bet I got one of them.”

“So, maybe four escaped,” Lockhart concluded.

“There are still too many roads and gates in this city,” Arias complained.

“Let me,” Leodis said, and he sent guardsmen, two by two, to all the gates with a description of what to ask and what to look for.

“Elder Stow?” Katie asked without spelling it out.  Elder Stow shook his head.  “What about the horses, or their equipment?”

“Maybe,” he said and began to work on his scanner.  Althea inched up close to watch.  Elder Stow did not mind explaining some of what he did, but he would not let her touch the device.

Shortly, Alexis came back in from the docks.  She shook her head, sadly.  “The brigands are all dead,” she announced, and stared hard at Arias.  “Your Amazons laughed when I asked if any of the men had a chance to surrender.”

“It is not a laughing matter,” Arias said, firmly.  “But Amazons do not let rapists live.”

“Well,” Leodis said.  “On that happy note, let us return to the palace.  It will be dark in an hour or so, and as much as you would like to chase them tonight, I am sure, they will have to stop soon and let their horses rest and eat, or else risk losing their horses and end up on foot, which should make them easy to catch.”

“Fair enough,” Lockhart said, with a quick look around for possible objections.  Now that Evan, Millie, and the young girls were safe, no one felt in that much of a hurry.

“So, tell me,” Leodis continued as he walked back to the horses.  “Arias.  Who are these strange friends of yours?”

“They are friends of the Princess,” Arias said.

“Oh, that explains everything,” Leodis joked and chuckled.

“They come from the same land as the general,” Arias added.

Leodis stopped.  “Actually, that does explain a lot.”  He shook his head and began to walk again.


In the morning, the travelers divided.  The brigands appeared headed for Thermopylae, the place Arias first thought they might go.  She had a good hope of catching them before they escaped into the Greek mainland, but she knew they would have to ride hard and fast to do it.  The travelers were headed that way.  Lincoln, Boston, and Katie got together with the two amulets and Lincoln’s database and figured the next time gate would be somewhere on the far side of Corinth.

“Not fair,” Katie complained.  “We won’t be that far behind, even at the slower pace set by the mule and wagon.”

“Can’t be helped,” Lockhart said.  “You have the cowboy horses, but they are older and not in the best of shape already.  We have five young mustangs still tied to us, and they are the only horses that have the stamina and strength to keep up.  Arias, Sophia, and Althea, Meriope and Aurora did some horse trading, so they have fresh mounts.  We can’t do that, much as Leodis admires and might like the mustangs.  I think the selection of Decker, Elder Stow, Sukki, Boston, and myself has been made.”

“I wouldn’t count much on the stamina of the horses,” Katie said.  “We have rested them and cared for them as much as we could these last two-and-a-half years, but they are used up.  We already lost three horses, Cortez, Misty Gray, and my own Black Beauty.  Horses are not designed to be constantly ridden through the wilderness like that, even if we walk them as much as we ride them and rest them a week every ten to twenty days or so.  Two-and-a-half years is a long time.  Even if the Kairos and the gods put a hedge around them and gave them super-endurance, we know they won’t last forever.”

Lockhart was not going to argue, and he knew Katie was not arguing, she just protested, in general.  “You have the prototype amulet, so each group has the means to find the time gates.”

“Millie still has her chestnut.”

“Hardly better than a compass showing the direction to the past and future gates,” Lockhart said, and smiled.  The two lovers hugged each other.  “Besides, you have a half-dozen Amazons under Clarissa to help, but be honest, Lincoln, Alexis, Evan and Millie are not exactly military minded.  You need to be there to lead the group, with your military instincts, your advanced rifle, and your elect senses and intuition.  I thought the job of the elect was to defend the home and family.”

Katie sighed, and changed the subject.  “Millie wants to have children.  She wants to have a daughter.”

Lockhart did not jump nearly as much as he would have three years earlier when they began this journey.  He said, “Maybe when we get home, you and I can have one of those.”

Katie looked up at him and smiled.  They got lost in each other for a while.

When the five travelers and five Amazons raced out of the gate at dawn, Katie waved, so Millie waved.  Clarissa shouted, “Good luck.”  And they waited for the dust to settle before starting out.

On the second afternoon, the ten in front found one of the brigand horses, dead, by the side of the road.  It had been covered, but some predator had already uncovered part of it and began feasting.  Whatever it was, it hid when the people arrived.

Arias leapt down, and Boston, Sukki, and Aurora joined her.  Sukki, raised a hunter in the days before the flood, and Aurora, the Amazon hunter, both pointed off to the right where trees disguised the gentle rise of a hillside.  Boston, who hunted with her father and brothers in western Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and once in Canada for bear, stood and stretched out her elf senses in that direction.

“Seven humans,” she said.

“Six,” Aurora countered, and pointed at the horse tracks in the dirt.  She forgot to count the dead horse.

“Hush.”  Arias appeared to sense something, but she said nothing as she got them mounted and led the group into the woods.  After a short way, she got everyone down.  Lockhart, Elder Stow, Meriope, an older Amazon, and Sophia, who was not inclined to blood and killing, stayed with the horses.  Arias, Althea, Aurora, Decker, Boston, and Sukki all moved in among the trees as quietly as they could.

Ahead of them, five men sat around a fire in a clearing.  One spoke.

“I tell you, Philocrates and Mylo rode on to Thebae.  Whatever Amazons are on our tail should follow them and skip right by us.”

“I still don’t like this,” one said.  “When the job in Pherae went bad, we should have headed off the road, to the coast.  I got friends in Demetrias where we could hold up.”

“We probably got people chasing us, too,” another said.

“Safety in numbers,” the first one responded, as an arrow stuck him dead center.

The men jumped up and drew their weapons, but the Amazons were wise enough to keep hidden.  Three more arrows quickly took down three more men.  Decker shot the last one while he tried to escape.  He shrugged when Arias looked at him.

“You don’t suffer rapists to live,” Decker said, and Arias nodded.

They heard the shotgun go off back where they left the horses, and they all ran.  They found two more dead men.

Sophia let out her stress in her words.  “Meriope got one.  Lockhart blasted the other with his shotgun.  Elder Stow got a cut in the arm.”  Sophia knelt beside the Gott-Druk and practiced her healing arts.

“Father?”  Sukki sounded upset.  Elder Stow had adopted the girl from the deep past, so they were family in the deepest Neanderthal sense.  Family was the root and fiber of Gott-Druk society and culture.

“I’m all right, daughter” Elder Stow assured the girl.  “I would not have been caught, but I think I got the brigands on the scanner, or two of them, anyway.  I was not paying attention.  Thank you, my father, for saving my life.”  Lockhart waved it off, but Decker spoke.

“We watch out for each other and take care of each other,” he said.  “Like Amazons, I suppose.”

Arias nodded to that description.

That evening, they had a quiet meal at the inn in Thebae, except for Althea, who went back to drooling over the equipment Elder Stow carried.  She couldn’t believe he called them mere toys.  The scanner alone seemed ages beyond anything she ever heard of, even in the year 2160.

Lockhart explained.  “Elder Stow can fly, invisible, protected by his personal screen, and with his heat-ray handgun burn the whole city.”

“It is not a heat-ray,” Elder Stow huffed.

“My wife says I call every ray-gun a heat-ray,” Lockhart confessed.

“It is not a ray-gun,” Elder Stow said.

“What else do you have?” Sophia got curious.

“He has a sonic device,” Boston said.  “Like a sonic screwdriver.”

Elder Stow pulled it out to show, but he had a question.  “What is a sonic screwdriver?”

“From a television show,” Boston answered

Decker shrugged, but Lockhart had a thought.  “Lincoln might know.  He goes in for all that science fiction mumbo-jumbo.”

“Not your cup of tea?” Arias asked, sounding very much like Susan from 1976.

“No,” Lockhart admitted.  “But Katie might know.”

Avalon 7.0 Brigands, part 4 of 6

Boston and Sukki sat quietly in the alley where they could watch the warehouse side door and keep one eye on the brigand horses tied there.  The sun passed the midpoint in the sky a couple of hours earlier, and the afternoon felt hot, and boring.  Boston looked at her watch and saw it was after three.

“Hurry up,” she whispered.  “It is going to be dark soon. We don’t want them to get away.”  Immediately, she heard the voice of Lockhart come from her wristwatch communicator.  Boston grinned.  It was just the sort of coincidental, perfect timing the little spirits of the earth tend to do without any effort.

“Decker. Any movement?” Lockhart asked.

“Nothing on the docks,” Althea spoke into the communicator she borrowed from Lincoln.

“No movement,” Decker spoke over top.  “Since Alexis mentioned it, Elder Stow decided he wants to go invisible and sneak into the building.  If he can isolate Millie and Evan, he has two more discs tuned to the invisibility spectrum.”

“Sukki,” Elder Stow spoke.  “You still have an invisibility disc.”

Sukki took Boston’s wrist and spoke into the watch.  “Yes.”

Elder Stow meant to tell Sukki to stay out of the warehouse, invisible or not, but Lockhart interrupted.  “Elder Stow.  Go ahead inside but take your screen device.  There should be a couple of young Amazon girls in there that we did not know about before now.  See if you can isolate them all behind your force field.”

“You got a screen device, one small enough to carry around?” Althea spouted her excitement over the radio.

Elder Stow huffed.  “My father.  It is not a force field.  That description is so wrong, I cannot tell you.”

“Just go,” Katie spoke.  “We will be there in five or ten minutes, and Leodis is bringing a hundred guardsmen.  We want our friends safe, and don’t want them used as hostages.  Out.”

“Going,” Elder Stow responded, and added, “Out, as you say.”

“Boston?”  Alexis’ voice followed.  “You are not allowed to go invisible and follow Elder Stow into the building.  Do you hear me?”

“Yes, mom,” Boston said, in her best sarcastic voice.

Alexis turned off her wristwatch device and spoke to the others, looking only slightly embarrassed.  “As long as she listens…”

“Are you going in anyway?” Sukki asked Boston.

“Absolutely,” Boston responded.

Sukki pulled her knife and made sure Elder Stow’s invisibility disc stayed in the pocket in her belt.  After a minute, Sukki turned invisible.  Boston immediately went invisible, the way elves do, especially when they are working around humans.  Sukki could not see Boston, but Boston could still see Sukki, so she took Sukki’s hand, cautioned her to quiet, and took her in the side door.

Boston and Sukki stepped to the back as a man came to poke his head out the door, looked at the horses, and shut the door again with a shrug, like maybe the door blew open.  Boston counted twenty men in the warehouse, all standing lazily by the windows, looking out, occasionally, and waiting for something.  Boston figured they were waiting for the sun to go down.

“Millie,” Sukki whispered and pointed.  She seemed to want to drag Boston in that direction.  Millie and Evan appeared to be unhurt, but sitting quietly on chairs, while two young girls sat on the floor behind them.  She wondered how many young girls the brigands carried off originally from that village.  She would find out later.  She tried hard to wait, patiently.

“Hush,” Boston said.  “Wait for Elder Stow.”

Boston watched and listened to the two that sat at a table.  She caught the names, Mylo and Philocrates.  They looked like the ones in charge, if only because they were not standing beside a door or window.  She thought of all kinds of things she could do to spook them.  The thoughts came to her, instinctively.  Some of her notions, the true imps might describe as trixie-fixies.  She had to force herself to refrain, but she did pass the time thinking what she could do to get the two men to draw swords on each other.

Finally, Elder Stow came in the front door.  Sukki started right out across the warehouse floor.  Elder Stow saw her and frowned.  Sukki and Elder Stow could see each other, even if no one else could see them.  Boston, on the other hand, stayed invisible to everybody, though she might have been seen if there were other spirits around, at least little spirits.  Lesser and greater spirits and, of course, the gods would see her, and she might not see them.  She could not worry about that.  She had to catch up to Sukki.

“Millie. And Evan,” Sukki gave it her best whisper.  She clutched her knife and turned to see if any of the men heard.

“Hold the girls,” Boston said.  “We don’t want to frighten them.”

“Boston?” Evan spoke softly as he took Libra’s hand and Millie hugged Chloe.  A few of the men’s heads turned toward them.  “Is Elder Stow with you?”

“Right here,” Elder Stow said in his normal voice.

As he got close, he got ready to turn on his screen device, but Boston yelled, “Hey.”  She got knocked over from behind.  Elder Stow nearly dropped his screen device in a sudden wind.  The wind coalesced in mid-air.  A wraith appeared in the image of a zombie-like woman with flesh rotting off her body.  The wraith floated six feet off the ground.  She turned her head all the way around to grin wickedly at the travelers and Amazon girls, then finished turning her head the rest of the distance to face the two men at the table and the men against the walls.

“Your enemies have found you,” the wraith spoke in an eerie, chilling voice.  “Now, you will all die.”  The wraith laughed, and a number of people in the room threw their hands to their ears to not have to hear that laugh.

Boston got mad.  She whipped out her wand and lost her concentration on staying invisible.  Fortunately, when she became visible again, she came with her glamour of humanity in place.  Boston aimed her wand at the wraith, and a stream of fire, like a miniature flame-thrower came out of the end.  The wraith shrieked and managed to side-step in mid-air.  Then, because Boston and Elder Stow might hurt her, or because she finished making her dastardly prophecy, she raced to the ceiling.

“Die,” she yelled, and laughed again as she went right through the roof and out into the afternoon sun.

Elder Stow turned on his screen and turned off his invisibility disc so he and Sukki became visible again, looking human enough.  Elder Stow looked like a bearded fifty-year-old, which was plenty old for that day and age.  Sukki looked like a big, broad-shouldered girl, like maybe an Olympic weightlifter, or wrestler, or some such thing.

The screen made a bubble, covering overhead, as well as beneath the floor.  Boston got caught outside the screen, but she knew how to get through the screen, and quickly phased through to get behind the protection.  All at once, the men around the room appeared to wake up from their shock.  They all moved.

The two at the table ran straight for the side door where their horses were tied up.  Three men followed them.  Ten burst out the warehouse double-doors that faced the docks.  They ran into the dozen Amazons who were ready for them, and well hidden.  The rest raised their bows and tried to shoot the intruders, only to see their arrows bounce off Elder Stow’s screen.

A couple of them shouted, and two joined the others on the dock, to be cut down by the Amazons.  The rest tried for the front door where Decker played turkey shoot.

Inside the screen, the Amazon girls pushed past Millie and Evan to get at Sukki and Boston.  “You are a spell caster,” both said to Boston, more or less together.  The awe in their voices could not be hidden.

“I wish I was a spell caster,” Chloe said, while Libra turned to Sukki.

“You look really strong.  I wish I was really strong.”  Libra touched Sukki’s muscled arm and Sukki smiled but did not know what to say.

“She is stronger than you might imagine,” Elder Stow said, and the two young girls bowed their heads slightly to the old man as a sign of respect.  “And Boston here was the first spell caster in the Amazon nation, back when Zoe was queen of the people.  They called her Little Fire.”  Elder Stow looked at Boston.  “I remember, even if I spent most of that time passed out in a drunken stupor from that Amazon beer.”

Chloe’s eyes got big, but Libra did not buy it.  “Can’t be.  That was a gamillion years ago.”  She looked at Millie for adult confirmation.  Millie smiled with her response and responded gently.

“I wasn’t there at the time, but I believe it.”  Libra still looked uncertain, but Millie turned to Evan and said something not entirely unexpected.  “I want to have a daughter.”

Evan opened his eyes, wide.  While he did not say no, he looked glad when Elder Stow interrupted.

“We have prisoners.”

Three men threw down their weapons, put their hands on their heads, and knelt, one with his eyes closed like he started praying.  Decker came in and shouted.  “Lie down on your faces.  Hands over your head.”  The men did not argue.

Elder Stow turned off the screen device as Althea and three Amazons came rushing in the warehouse double-doors.  Boston walked up to the corner of the building where her flame-thrower started the wall on fire.  She had to think, and that felt hard to do with Chloe clinging to her side and walking in her steps.  Finally, she pulled out her wand and pointed at the building fire.  The flames appeared to suck back into the wand, though the wooden wall still smoldered, and the fire looked like it might start up again any minute.

“Amazing,” Chloe said.  “I wish I could do that.”

Boston smiled for the girl and patted her head.  “You are an Amazon.  You can do whatever you want.”

Avalon 7.0 Brigands, part 3 of 6

“They are off the scanner,” Elder Stow admitted in the morning.  He gave the scanner a little shake, but it did not help.

“They must have moved in the night,” Lockhart said, what many thought.

“I should have anticipated this,” Arias scolded herself.

“With luck, they went into Larissa at first light,” Althea suggested, trying to sound positive.

“Not lucky,” Arias countered.  “Larissa is a real city, with a number of gates and a number of roads that lead off in every direction.”

“I wish the Princess was here,” Sophia said.

“Why is that?” Alexis asked.

“Hunting and tracking is what Princesses do best,” Sophia responded with a big grin.

“Gifted by Artemis,” Arias explained.

“Artemis would help,” Katie said.

“Can’t,” Arias said.  “The gods can’t interfere in that way, you know.”

The travelers and Amazons crossed the river bridge at Metropolis where they picked up some food for the journey.  Only Boston looked for the Daily Planet building.  When they actually stopped for lunch on the path they called a road, Elder Stow got excited.

“I got them.  They are in the city ahead of us.”

“Great.  Wonderful,” people said.

“They appear to be alive, as far as I can tell.”

“Thank God,” Alexis said.

“Have they stopped moving?” Lockhart wondered.

‘Let me bring this up,” Elder Stow said, and the scanner projected a three-dimensional map of light.  He zoomed into the city, but when he got to the street level, the map became fuzzy to look at.  Only two red dots stood out against the cityscape.  Arias and Sophia looked as carefully as they could and agreed.

“They are in the warehouse section by the river,” Arias said.  “We need to enter the city and bypass them to talk to Leodis first.”

“Rachel will help,” Sophia said.

“Leodis?” Alexis asked, and Lincoln got out the database to see what he could find out.

Arias nodded.  “Larissa is a democracy with a king.  The legislature is the city assembly, but the executive is the king.  That would be Leodis’ ancient father, but Leodis and his wife, Rachel, run most of the operations these days.”

Decker shared his thought.  “If they are in a river warehouse, they might be looking for riverboats to lose us on the water.”

Lockhart agreed.  “If we bypass them to go through channels, they might escape.”

“We can set some guards while the rest of us go to the palace,” Arias said, and they spent the rest of their lunchtime planning to do that.  The only interruption came when Arias asked Althea a question.  Althea did not answer the question.

“I’m drooling over that scanner.  We don’t have anything nearly so capable or sophisticated, even in 2160.”

“This toy?”  Elder Stow shook his head.  “This is only a little thing such as a ship’s officer might carry on his person to play with when he is bored.”

“Where on Earth did you get that?” Althea asked.

“Not on Earth.  It came from the Gott-Druk new home world.  My planet.”

“You are Gott-Druk?” Althea’s eyes widened.  “I—Erica me—has only heard rumors.  You are like legends.”

“Gott-Druk?” Sophia asked.

“Neanderthals,” Lockhart said and left it at that, but Katie thought she better explain.

“Elder Stow and Sukki’s people were taken into space at the time of the flood.  They were given a new home world where they could survive and prosper.”

“The flood?” Sophia asked, but quickly figured it out.  “Oh.  Noah.  The flood.”

“Yes,” Elder Stow huffed.  “And it has only taken us ten thousand years to figure out the new home world is a good place, and we were not cursed by being taken away from Earth.”

“And Sukki?” Sophia asked.  “They don’t look Neanderthal.”

“Thanks,” Sukki said.  “I was practicing being human.”

“And you do it well,” Alexis said.  “They wear a glamour.”

“And Boston?” Arias asked.

Everyone paused.  Boston also wore a glamour to make her appear human, but clearly, Arias noticed something.  Boston did not mind.

“I’m an elf.”  Boston lifted her glamour briefly to show her pointed ears and all, but put it back on after a few seconds.

“Little one,” Althea said in a reverential tone, and lowered her eyes.  “The little ones have always been a sign of good fortune for the Amazon nation.”

Boston grinned.

“Fair enough,” Lockhart said.  “But now we need to figure out how to divide our forces and make sure the brigands don’t escape down the river.”


Inside the warehouse, Evan and Millie sat beside each other and nibbled on the bread Philocrates procured for their sustenance.  Chloe and Libra, ten and twelve-year-old girls, sat behind them for protection.  They did not talk much, but mostly they encouraged each other to hold on.  Have faith.  The others would find them.  Chloe and Libra insisted Queen Arias would save them.  Evan and Millie felt sure the travelers would find them, and Elder Stow might already have them on his scanner.

Mylo stared at Millie from across the room, but Philocrates slapped him in the arm.  “Hands off,” Philocrates said.  “You know used goods don’t fetch nearly so much in market.”

“If they catch us, we may never get to market,” Mylo countered.  “And I will have left a prime female untouched.”

“Chief,” one of the men spoke.  “Why are we dragging around the man?”

“He will fetch something at market,” Philocrates hedged.  “Besides, if they catch us, as Mylo suggests, we may need him for bargaining.”

“I don’t like hurting a servant of the gods,” a second man spoke, and several men nodded in agreement.  When Philocrates looked at him, the man explained.  “Where else would they get those Seleucid weapons? I heard after Athens, they all got rounded up and destroyed.”

“Gumbs,” one of the men tried to remember the name of the weapons.

“A quick strike to steal the temple gold and race out of town did not work too well,” Mylo teased a little, and Philocrates slapped his arm again.

“We had no idea those people would be there, or the Amazons.”

“Maybe that village was not such a good idea,” one man dared to say it.

“We had no idea it was an Amazon village,” Philocrates raised his voice.

“But now we got no money.”

“We are going to be caught,” one of the men said.

“Now, just hold on,” Philocrates raised his hands to calm the men.  “No one knows we are here.  And since Phillip V and the Romans made peace, the whole city has relaxed.  The prince of the city isn’t out looking for spies or enemies.  Larissa is a big place, with plenty of gates and roads.  We just need to keep quiet, and by the time they get done checking all the ways out of the city, it will be dusk, and we can steal a riverboat and be gone.  They don’t know we are here.  Just don’t be loud and stupid today, and we will get away in the dark.”

“Then what?” Mylo asked.

“Then…”  Philocrates had to think a minute.  “We take the road off the river and make our way to Herakleion, where we can sell our wares and get some new horses.  Then we just follow the coast road around to Chalkidiki.  I have some family there and we should be safe enough.”

The men grumbled, but no one objected to the plan.  As the men returned to their lookout duty, Philocrates slapped Mylo’s arm again.  “Hands off,” he said.

At that same time, Althea, Meriope, and some thirteen Amazons climbed on to boats and scrunched down behind ropes, barrels and boxes of merchandise on the dock where they could cut off the brigands from the riverboats.  Decker watched the front door, while Elder Stow kept one eye on his scanner. Boston and Sukki found a side door, where all the brigand horses had been tied up, out in the sun.

“We found the horses,” Boston spoke into her wristwatch communicator.

“Front door covered,” Decker said.  “Amazons have the river.”

“Good,” Lockhart responded through his wristwatch.  “Hopefully, we won’t be long.”

“Boston,” Alexis spoke into her own wristwatch.  “You are not allowed to go invisible and try to sneak in to see Evan and Millie.  You need to wait until we get there, or until we get the go ahead.”

“Oh, puts,” Boston said, but into her wristwatch she said. “Roger.  Out.”

They sat in silence for a minute before Sukki asked, “Are you going to do it anyway?”

“I’m thinking about it,” Boston answered.

At the palace, Lockhart grabbed his shotgun and Katie grabbed her rifle.  They did not expect trouble, but they did not want the palace guards playing with the equipment.  Lincoln carried the database, and Alexis carried her medical bag, and her own wand, if she needed it.  Arias and Sophia got down, and with an honor guard of six Amazons, they all marched into the palace.

A woman ran to Sophia and gave her a hug.  “Leodis was just asking about you.”  The woman appeared obviously pregnant.  Alexis and Katie wondered about Sophia, and Katie especially wondered about Arias, because Arias did not appear to be in the kind of perfect shape Katie expected from an elect.  Sophia could not keep her mouth closed.  She explained.

“Rachel is in her sixth month.  I’m just starting my second.  Arias is in her third.”

“The Princess is in her seventh month,” Arias said.  “She is ahead of us all.”

“No,” Sophia said.  “Rachel is ahead.  She has a three-year-old son.”

“Jacob.”  A man down the hall yelled for the three-year-old boy that escaped his hand and went running to his mother.  Rachel paused, and moaned while she picked up the boy who wanted to hide his face in his mother’s shoulder in front of all these strangers.

The man, Leodis, Prince of Larissa arrived, and Arias immediately began to explain their situation.



Millie and Evan appear to be safe, but the brigands have them prisoners in a warehouse, so nothing is for certain.


Avalon 7.0 Brigands, part 2 of 6

The priest passed out beside the altar.  Alexis could not wait.  She pulled the arm with the arrow away from the chest, so the arrowhead slipped out from the man’s side.  He still had an arrow through his arm, but Alexis felt one wound at a time.  The chest began to bleed, terribly.  Alexis pressed both hands against the wound and the whole area began to glow with a golden light.

The Priestess ran up.  She paused when she saw the magic glow around Alexis’ hands.  “Sophia.”  The priestess gave her name before she knelt beside Alexis to look at the man’s arm.


The priestess pushed the arrow further through the arm where she could snap off the arrowhead.  Alexis watched as Sophia carefully pulled the shaft from the arm.  The man moaned but did not wake.  Alexis almost said something.  She could not turn her magic on three wounds, and she dared not let go of the man’s chest until the wound closed up.

As the blood began to ooze from both sides of the man’s arm, Sophia covered both holes in the arm with her own hands.  A soft, white light surrounded the arm, and Alexis went back to concentrating on the chest wound.

Lincoln arrived by the altar and asked what he could do.  “Gauze and tape from my medical bag,” Alexis said.  “Better get me a couple of pain relievers.  Just give me the bottle.  The wounds will stay closed, but the pain relief magic will wear off fairly soon.”  Alexis saw Sophia nod.

The priest woke.  He spoke through his groggy state.  “Tell me again how you are simple travelers and not of the gods.”  The healing appeared pretty god-like to him.

Twenty warrior women came from the back of the temple to check on the enemy dead and wounded.  Three women came to the altar, not threatening, though they held long knives in their hands.  They appeared to want to be sure their priestess remained safe.  Lincoln grinned sheepishly for them and knelt closer to Alexis.

Three more warrior women jogged to the entrance even as Elder Stow and Sukki arrived.  Elder Stow carried his scanner and spoke to the travelers.  “I have Millie and Evan specified in the scanner.  We should be able to track them if they don’t get too far ahead of us.”

Althea perked right up.  “A real scanner?  Where did you get it?  It’s so small.  How can you specify two individuals?  Can I see it?”

Elder Stow looked at the woman, and looked willing, but Decker spoke.  “Probably not a good idea,”

“She is from about a hundred and fifty years in the future from us,” Lockhart said, and Elder Stow pulled his hands back with a word that said he would trust Lockhart.

“My father.”

Althea looked disappointed but nodded and backed off while Katie and Arias sized each other up.

“Elect,” Arias identified Katie.  Arias was also an elect, a one-in-a-million warrior woman, gifted with strength, agility, a sense when danger came near, and an ability to fight like a she-bear to protect the home and family. The ancient gods designed them that way.

“Second in all the world after Zoe,” Katie admitted.

Arias lowered her eyes briefly.  “I thought that might be the case.  The Princess would know.”

“Princess Cassandra?”  Katie asked, and Arias and Althea snickered.

“Just Princess,” Arias said.  “She hates her name, Cassandra.”

Althea added, “You call her Cassandra, and she will punch you in the arm, real hard.”

“I remember.  Princess, not Cassandra,” Lockhart said.  “From meeting her in the future,” he explained.

“Boss,” Boston interrupted.  “They all got horses.  How are we going to catch up with them when some of us are on foot?”

“Take their horses,” Arias shrugged at the obvious solution, but then the three warrior women could wait no longer.

“Majesty,” one of the women spoke.  “What are your orders?”

“I get to be the Amazon queen,” Arias whispered to Katie.

“Zoe says I’m not allowed to be an Amazon queen,” Katie responded in kind, as Arias turned to the women.

“Help the guardsmen clean up this mess, and then Meriope, you need to lead the women back to Amazon land.”  Meriope, an older woman, looked like she wanted to be stubborn.

“But Majesty, we haven’t caught the brigands yet.  There may be hundreds of them.  We don’t know how many.”

“Fair enough,” Arias said, not willing to argue.  “You can help us retrieve the ones kidnapped by this little breakaway group, but you must camp apart from these people, and after we save their friends, you must go back to Amazon land.  I will be traveling with these people to the Athol, and I don’t want to debate about it.”

Meriope looked like she might say something anyway, but all that came out was, “Yes, Majesty.”


Cleaning up took time.  Boston and Sukki got anxious, but there were seven dead and three badly wounded prisoners for the city guards to haul away.  Alexis said one of those prisoners would not last the night.  Sophia said good, but then she apologized.

Sophia also had another life in 1976, a young Lebanese woman named Lydia.  Lydia escaped Beirut in the early seventies to get away from the bloodshed.  She could not stand the bloodthirsty Greece Sophia lived in.  There were armies everywhere fighting each other, and everywhere in between, there were brigands, warlords, pirates, and you name it.  To be fair, Sophia had limited tolerance for bloodshed as well.

Arias later explained.  “That is why so many women, widows and children, have run away to the north where we made a small enclave of Amazon women.  We protect and defend each other from the madness all around us.  That doesn’t always work.  Some years ago, a half-Celtic, Macedonian general pushed a whole army through our land.  He had help from the Gallic people up by the Danube.  That was when the Emperor Phillip of Macedon was thinking of invading Epirus, and he wanted to clear the land to send through supplies.  Hundreds died.  Now, the warlord Xitides came through from Epirus.  God knows what he stole in Dodona.  But they burned, looted, and raped through one Amazon village.  I think Xitides knew better, but he could not stop the sex-starved men.  Now he is racing to Thermopylae, so he can get lost in central Greece and not have to worry about Phillip turning out the Macedonian army to chase him.”

“But he must have known you would chase him,” Katie said.

Arias nodded.  “But I know Xitides.  He will give me the ones responsible, or tell me where I can find them, and that will be that.”

Lockhart and Katie got a mule to pull the wagon, so Katie, Lincoln, and Alexis all got cowboy horses.  The twenty Amazons brought the warlord horses that used to belong to the dead and wounded men.  Two would be available for Millie and Evan, once Millie and Evan got rescued.

The travelers and Amazons left the temple and the city before noon.  They rode as hard as the mule could handle.  They got close, but finally had to stop before dark.  The horses needed to rest and eat, and so did the humans.  Arias assured them that they would catch up before the brigands reached the city of Larissa.  Elder Stow more or less confirmed that.

The Amazons set up their own camp in the wilderness as instructed.  Katie, Boston, and a curious Lincoln had questions, but they refrained when Sophia explained.

“The Princess says the less exposure to future things, the better.  Too much information in the hands of smart people could change history in unpredictable ways.”

“She says knowledge of the future can be as dangerous as guns,” Althea added.

Heads nodded as Arias changed the subject.  “Let me get this straight.  You say Lady Alice, the Kairos we know as the Princes, has a crystal on Avalon that is recording all of human history.  And you were able to travel through the crystal to a point deep in the past.”

“The Heart of Time,” Alexis named the crystal.

“The Tower of Babel,” Katie mentioned where they ended up.

Arias responded with a nod.  “Then you say something like a time zone surrounds the Kairos—whichever life she is living at the moment.”

“Or he,” Lincoln said, and got quiet.

“And you say bracketing the time zone are two of what you call time gates.  One gate, the one you came through on Mount Olympus, brought you from the previous time zone, in the past.  The other will shoot you to the next time zone, in the future, and that might be a year, or it might be more than sixty years into the future all at once.”

“Yes,” Katie said.  “And we are trying to get home, one time gate at a time, but in every time zone we run into one snag or another.”

Sophia smiled about it.  “The Princess does tend to live in the eye of the hurricane, while everything dangerous swirls around her.”

“I hear that,” Decker said, and got up to cut another piece of lamb.

“Hey, I know,” Sophia continued.  “Why don’t you let the Princess send you back to Avalon?  Can’t you go back to the future through the crystal, the same way you came?”

“The Heart of Time only records what has happened up to the present,” Lincoln said.  “It doesn’t have a record of the future.”

“That hasn’t been written yet,” Arias understood.  “Even if it has been written in the future.”  It sounded confusing, but people grasped the concept well enough.

“No way back through the Heart,” Lincoln concluded.

“Actually,” Lockhart shared a thought.  “I believe the original plan was for Lady Alice in the future to reach back through the Heart and pull us out, sort of like she sent us into the past in the first place.  Unfortunately, the only way we could succeed in our task was for the Storyteller to leap into the void in the second heavens, back before history began.”

“The void?” Sophia asked.

“Sort of a swirling, pastel colored cloud of stickiness about the consistency of cotton candy,” Boston said.  “I didn’t taste it.  I should have tasted it.”

“Glen went missing?” Arias asked.  “But the Princess can still access him, you know, like make contact through time and even trade places with him through time.”

Althea interrupted.  “Her contact with him right now is to the year 2007.”  She turned to Katie.  “You said you came back into the past from the year 2010, and you have been traveling over three years so it is now 2013 for you, estimated.”  Althea paused to look at the others.  “My future life works records and such.  She is good with numbers and dates.”

“But that means the Princess is about three years behind,” Katie said, doing some figuring of her own.

“Six years,” Lockhart said.  “You say it is 2013 back home. From 2007, that is six years.”

“No,” Katie said.  “I meant three years behind 2010, the year the Storyteller disappeared into the void and everything got confused.”

Alexis had a thought.  “Maybe all of the persons of the Kairos are a little off time sync with each other.  That may be why Alice can’t bring us home the quick way.”  She explained for the others.  “That is why we have to get home the slow way, by way of the time gates.”

“But that gives us three years,” Lincoln said.  “And maybe more like two and a half years to get home before everything goes haywire and maybe everything shuts down, and we can’t get home at all.”

“What can we do?” Sukki asked, the fear and worry evident in her voice.

“Don’t worry about it,” Alexis said to comfort her.  “Two years from now I will let Benjamin worry about it.  He is a much better worrier than I am.”

“Thanks.”  Lincoln groused and Alexis kissed his cheek.

Avalon 7.0 Brigands, part 1 of 6

If you are new to the Avalon series, you can click on the tab above marked About Avalon.  You will find a page that will give you the table of contents for Season Seven as well as a one paragraph introduction to the season.  You can read character intros and a short introduction to the series itself.  Or, you can skip all that and just enjoy the story.  Happy Reading


After 228 B.C. Athol Valley

Kairos lifetime 85: The Princess & Friends

Recording …

The travelers from Avalon came through the time gate among the rocks at the foot of Mount Olympus, even as the sun rose to light their way.  Lockhart and Katie, the leaders of this expedition through time, got down from Lockhart’s horse.  Lockhart led the horse.  Katie turned to help Evan guide the cowboy horse through the boulder-strewn side of the mountain to what looked like a road, and hopefully, without catching or wrecking the wagon that horse pulled.  The wagon held their equipment, including the unused cowboy saddles.  Overall, Katie imagined this journey had been easier when they all had horses of their own, but in this case, it seemed just as well that they had to walk.

The two Gott-Druk, which is to say, the Neanderthals on the expedition, Elder Stow and his adopted daughter Sukki, had to dismount right away for fear that their horses might slip on the uneven, rocky surface and break a leg.  “Careful,” Elder Stow said even as Sukki started to slip.  She caught herself before she banged her knee.

Major Decker, the Navy Seal trained Marine, took a good look at the surrounding countryside before he got down.  Lincoln and Alexis also got off the cowboy horse they shared even as Millie got down carefully from hers.  Millie shrieked a little as her horse stepped on a loose stone and wobbled.  Alexis caught the horse, but Millie looked like she feared she might be the one to fall.

Boston the elf, the former Massachusetts redneck who rode Rodeo in her youth, was the only one able to guide her horse to the road without mishap.

Evan, a doctoral student in antiquities, and his wife, Millie fell into the past from 1905.  Best estimates, given their years in the past, suggested their world had moved on to somewhere around 1912, if they ever got back to their own time.  Evan led the way, and held Millie’s hand through the rocks, offering his help where he could, a help she graciously accepted.

Lincoln, a former spook for the CIA, and Alexis, a former elf who became human to marry Lincoln, were the older couple in the group, having been married for over thirty-five years; an odd confession considering they looked to be in their mid-to-late twenties in age.  In truth, they got regenerated at the beginning of the journey.  Now, Alexis wanted another baby.  She said it would not do, to be younger than their children.  Lincoln rolled his eyes and said he would think about it.

Lincoln and Alexis came from the twenty-first century where men and women were not supposed to be treated differently.  As they brought the horses, Alexis had to find her own way through the rocks.  To be fair, Lincoln kept one eye on her, just in case.

Once on the road, an older man rushed up to meet them.  He seemed to want to bow between sentences while the half-dozen young, teenage-looking girls that followed him kept their eyes lowered, like they were fascinated with their own sandals.

“Praise the gods,” the man said.  “Thanks be.  How great a good fortune to see you step from a hole in the mountain where all the great gods reside.  How blessed to glimpse the land of plenty and glory from which you came.”  The man tried not to cry for joy.  A couple of the girls did cry.  “I must know.  Are you of the gods, or sent as messengers?”

Lockhart explained that they were simple travelers, and not gods or messengers sent by the gods. Even so, it took some time to convince the priest that he could stop bowing, and the young girls, who were acolytes, that they could look up without fearing a lightning bolt.

Meanwhile, Katie pulled out the prototype amulet she carried to check their direction. Boston came over, got down from her horse, and pulled out her more advanced amulet to compare.  Katie’s prototype projected a map, hard to see without excellent eyes, but one that clearly showed both time gates and suggested some of the objects, like mountains and rivers, that stood between.  Boston’s amulet map projected more details, showing cities and towns, sometimes farms, villages, and roads, and it also suggested where the Kairos might be, half-way between the two time gates.

“South,” Boston said, and looked up.

“Uh-huh,” Katie agreed.  “Welcome to Mount Olympus.”

Lincoln stepped up from one direction with the database in his hands.  Elder Stow came from the other direction with his scanner, but Lincoln spoke first.

“Of course, it is just a guess, but assuming we are in Greece, and judging where the little Athol Valley is located, this might even be Mount Olympus.”

“I wonder if Artemis is around,” Katie said, ignoring Lincoln and looking up at the mountain.

Decker came up to ask what was taking so long getting started.

“I wonder if Aphrodite is around,” Boston said, plenty loud.  Decker was presumably on Aphrodite’s list, whatever that meant.

Decker pointed at Boston.  “That was mean.  You are getting more elf-like by the day.”

“Thanks.”  Boston took that as a compliment and gave it her best ear-to-ear elf grin.

“My mother,” Elder Stow tried to get Katie’s attention.  He counted Katie and Lockhart as the mother and father of the group.  The Gott-Druk lived in a very family-oriented society.  Even military groups had a mother and father, elders (officers), youngers (non-coms), and children, who were the privates.  “My mother,” Elder Stow tried again, but Lockhart interrupted when he turned his head toward the group.

“Which way are we headed?”

“South,” Katie said.  She, Boston, and Lincoln all pointed in the same direction.

“Okay,” Lockhart told the priest.  “We will visit the temple, but only to see.  Then we have to go.”

“What?”  Katie kindly turned to Elder Stow

“I was just going to say, there is a settlement, a big town, or I suppose what these people might call a city.  It is just down the hill and around the corner, but apparently, we are going there.”

Katie nodded, but thought to shout to everyone.  “Wagon up front.  Horses to the rear.  We have guides out front.”  She looked at Lockhart, and he briefly nodded.

Pythion proved to be a nice little city, dedicated to Apollo Pithius, the name of a temple up on one of the summits of the mountain.  They also had a big temple to Apollo in the city, and held games dedicated to Apollo; but being at the foot of Mount Olympus, they naturally had a big, eclectic temple to all the Olympian gods.

When they arrived at the temple gate, they saw a couple of dozen horses tied up outside.  Boston commented that it looked like a regular parking lot.

“Tourist season,” Decker joked as they went in.

The half-dozen young women went straight to a back room, while the priest showed off the beauty of the temple.  The travelers thanked him but studied the fourteen statues.  Hades and Poseidon had their own alcoves, which left twelve Olympians in the main room: Zeus, Hera, Demeter, Hestia, and Zeus’ eight offspring.  The travelers could not help themselves and their comments.

“That does not look like Artemis,” Boston said.

“I can see Athena a little bit around the eyes,” Katie said.

“I don’t suppose you can really capture Aphrodite in stone,” Decker decided.

“No,” Millie said.  “That does not look like Vulcan.”  She used the Roman name that felt more familiar to her rather than the Greek Hephaestus.

“I see,” Evan agreed.  “They made him much too handsome.”

“He might appreciate that,” Lockhart suggested.

Only Lincoln, and mostly Alexis recognized the dropped jaw of the priest.  He looked undecided between scared and offended.  About the time he appeared to decide that these people were from the gods, despite what they said, Alexis caught his attention with a handful of gold and silver coins.  Alexis carried an emergency stash in her medical bag, which rarely left her side.  She thought she might need the coins at some point, though she honestly had not planned to give them away.

“Here,” she said, and handed them to the priest, whose eyes got big when he considered the value of the coins.  They were mostly Greek and Roman coins, though she might have had a couple of Chinese ones in there that she picked up from the last time zone.  “Consider this a contribution to the temple on our behalf.”

What could the man say except thank you.  He looked up at Alexis, and at the door, and ducked, but not fast enough.

“Incoming,” Lincoln yelled, just before a woman in the back yelled, “Fire.”  The travelers quickly pushed up among the statues, even as a dozen arrows sped toward the door.  There were men coming in the entrance, but no one imagined they came to worship.

Alexis pulled the priest to the ground behind the altar.  The coins scattered across the floor.  The arrow shot from the front door went through the man’s upper arm and poked into his chest near the heart.  She yelled, “Elder Stow, I need you.”

The men in the entrance ducked, though a couple got struck by arrows.  Then guns started going off, and men began to fall.  Decker had his rifle.  He rarely put it down.  But the others began to regularly wear their gun belts, so all except Millie and Evan came armed after a fashion.  Boston gave her Beretta to Sukki, since Boston had her wand, and a bow of her own from which she could fire magically explosive arrows.  Elder Stow, of course, had his heat-ray handgun, as Lockhart called it, and an assortment of other technologies on his person.

As the guns blasted, another volley of arrows came from the back.  Even so, two of the men grabbed Millie and Evan, who were closest to the front.  Millie screamed, briefly, but quieted as the gunfire stopped and she found a knife at her throat.  The man who grabbed Evan hollered.

“Everybody out.  We ride.”

The men, most of whom barely got inside, rushed back outside to their horses.  They dragged Millie and Evan with them.  Three women ran up from the back, though one, a priestess, stopped to help Alexis.  Katie, Decker, and Lockhart ran, and Boston ran elf fast, and they all got to the doorway in time to see the men ride off.  Decker raised his rifle, but Lockhart made him lower it.

“We want Evan and Mille in one piece, not to give them an excuse to hurt them.”

The taller woman in the door turned to the travelers and commented.  “Nice Pea-shooter.”  She said that in English, and the travelers had to pause to recognize their native tongue.  “Arias, the Amazon,” the woman said, and held out her hand to shake—a normal twenty-first century handshake.  Something happened, and at least Boston recognized right away that this woman changed to a different woman, even if she looked similar.  The others picked up that understanding when the woman spoke in a terrific English accent.  “In 1976, my name is Susan.”

Katie and Decker both shook the woman’s hand.  Decker paused, but Boston shouted out her revelation.  “Like the Kairos.  You have another life in the future.”

Susan nodded and changed back to Arias while she introduced her companion.  “Althea.”

Althea also changed, but obviously so.  She went from dark hair to blonde.  “Erica,” she said, and shook hands.  She added something that caused the travelers to seriously pause.  “2160.  Mars Station security coordinator.”

“Lockhart,” he said, as he shook Erica’s hand.  “Good to have another policeman around.”

“Police officer,” Erica said, as she changed back to Althea.

“Police person,” Katie agreed, and Arias grinned.  “Captain Katherine Lockhart, United States Marines.  2013 by our best estimate.  We left the future in 2010.”

“You left the future?” Arias asked.  Clearly, both sides had some explaining to do.

Avalon 5.10 Family Feud, part 2 of 4

“Howdy folks.  You got room at your fire for a cattle rustler and an old man?”

“Diomedes?” Lockhart asked.  Diomedes nodded, as Nestor interrupted.

“Who was that woman?”

“Athena,” Diomedes said to the side, before he spoke up.  “And you remember Nestor from Jason and the Argonauts.  The old man is eighty or so years old now.  You remember these people?”

Nestor looked around, caught sight of the horses, the tents, and the faces before he let out his surprise.  “Why, you have not aged one speck since the last time I saw you.  You swore you were not gods.”

“We aren’t,” Alexis said right away.  “We are time travelers.  The last time we saw you was hardly ten days ago for us.”

“I don’t understand.  I understand Diomedes, as the Kairos, he travels, as he says, through time.  He borrows a person from the past who shares his soul, so in this way time is not disturbed.  I know Althea did the same thing in her day, but…”  He did not know what to say.

“We move through the Heart of Time.  As far as we know, there is only one in all existence.”  Katie looked at Diomedes.

“On this genesis planet,” he said, then paused, as Boston raced into his arms.

Boston paused.  “You are Diomedes, aren’t you?”

Diomedes looked at Nestor.  “Yes, he is,” Nestor said.  “Though I would not mind a hug from a pretty young woman.  It has been a long time since I have seen my daughters, I should say, my granddaughters, if not my great-granddaughters.”

Boston obliged him with a hug and then stepped back.  “I remember you.  You used to make Iolaus jokes.”

“I was young and brash,” Nestor admitted.

“All right.”  Diomedes rubbed his hands together as Decker and Lincoln came into the light.  “Katie, Alexis, Boston, and Sukki.  You get to go with me to fetch what we can of the cow Decker shot.”  He traded places with Althea all grown up and continued speaking without an interruption.  “You men get to stay here.  You are not permitted to talk about the events at Troy or after Troy, but you can talk to your heart’s content about Jason and the Argonauts.  And Katie, you can ask all you want about Heracles, later.  Right now, we have a job.”

“Right,” Katie got up, with a quick kiss for Lockhart, and she was ready.

“Wow,” Boston said to Althea.  “You aged,”

“Hey, I’m not that old.  I’m just twenty-something, I think.  Anyway, I aged the normal way.  Want to know when I died?”

“You know that?” Alexis asked.

“Yes.  From this point in history, it has already happened.  I know how, why, when, and too many details like it is happening now.  I would rather not talk about it—oh look, we just came out of the trees and the herd of cattle is still there.”

“Sukki?” Boston asked what was the matter.  Sukki looked stressed.

“Why did you want me to come along?” she asked.

Althea stopped, so everyone stopped.  Althea faced the girl, put her hands on her very large shoulders that supported muscular arms, and spoke softly.  “Because this is now your family, and all the girls in the family are invited.”  Althea smiled.  Sukki looked at the ground.  “Do you understand?  You are part of the team.”  Sukki nodded, but did not look up, so Alexis and Katie got on either side of her and hugged her.  She started to cry, softly, and Boston started to cry softly with her, empathic elf that she was.

Althea turned.  “Penthesileia,” she called, and made herself heard.

Three women trudged down from the edge of the herd, as Althea and the travelers made their way up the small rise.  They met on level ground and one of the Amazons spoke.

“We did not expect to find women here,” she said as the others raised their spears to not be threatening.  “I am Alcibie.  My sisters are Antandre and Bremusa.”

“I am Althea from long ago, come with friends to apologize for shooting one of your aurochs.  They did not know you were herding the wild cattle and thought they were part of a wild herd.  They are ten hungry people, but a single aurochs is more than they can consume.  I am sure they will be glad to share it with the Amazons.”

“How can you be Althea from long ago?” Bremusa interrupted to ask.

Althea smiled for her.  “I visited your people in the last days of Otrera, when I was young aboard the Argo, and I yelled at Ares because he is supposed to stay away from my Amazons.”

Alcibie and Bremusa ducked and looked up for fear that such sacrilege might bring the wrath of Ares on them in an instant.  Althea continued.

“I came again with Heracles when Hippolyta gave her girdle to Heracles.”

“That was stolen,” Antandre said, sharply.

“The story changes over time, but I was there.”

“We have a right to our kill according to Amazon law,” Katie said.  “Even if it was accidentally shot from a herd of wild beasts.”

“Who are you to tell us what is Amazon law?” Alcibie demanded an answer.

“I am Katie.  The second elect in all the world after Zoe.”  Alcibie backed off, noticeably.  “If my friend Artemis was here, she would vouch for me.”

Alcibie and the others looked down in something like a head bow, and Alcibie spoke.  “I should have recognized you by your golden hair.”

“Company,” Boston reported.  People looked in the light of the newly risen moon.  Two women came, side by side, and a half-dozen more followed, keeping well back from the couple.  One of the women was in tears.  That was Penthesileia, the queen.  The other woman was Artemis, and she spoke as they arrived.

“And I do vouch for you, Katie.  And Little Fire, and Alexis, my friend.  And I see you have added a new friend to the family.

“This is Sukki,” Alexis said through her smile.  Being called a friend by a goddess is a powerful aphrodisiac.

“I think we can dispense with the glamours for now,” Artemis decided, and raised her hand to reveal Boston, the elf, and Sukki, the neanderthal.  Antandre and Bremusa shivered at the sight of the Gott-Druk, and at the sight of a little one, but in the presence of their goddess, they almost did not notice as they fell to their knees and covered their eyes.  The women who followed their queen from the camp were also on their knees in the mud, and Artemis spoke loud and clear.  “I think sharing the aurochs is a wonderful idea.  Boston, would you do the honors?”

Boston nodded.  “I could use help.  The women might want some of the innards that we normally waste.”

“Alcibie can help,” Artemis said, since the Amazon was the last one on her feet, with her mouth and eyes wide open, staring.  Boston turned her from the sight of Artemis, and accepted Katie’s knife, which she offered for Alcibie to use.  They went to work on the beast, and Althea finally spoke.

“You’re not mad at me, are you?”

Artemis looked at Althea for a long minute before she spoke.  “I don’t think I could be mad at my best friend forever, no matter what.  I don’t think I could hate you no matter what form you took.  I’m sorry you got stuck with Athena, and I think it is terrible what Aphrodite did to you.  I know you cut her, but I know you denied Athena and refused to finish her.  Dite is not mad at you, I think.  Anyway, it was the result of her own meddling.”

“You’re rambling.”

“I feel awkward.  I don’t do awkward.”

“I love you, no matter who I am.”

Artemis nodded.  “Even when you are a male.  I know.  It took me a while to figure that out.  I love you, too.  Without you, I would have no real friends at all.”

“Me too.  Not forever friends.  And you have always been so good to me.”

“You, that is, Nameless, warned me not to pay attention to any golden apples that had writing on them.  I am so glad I believed and trusted you.”

“Me too.  I’m sorry this time we are on opposite sides.”

“Me too.  But this won’t go on forever.”

Althea started to cry, and Artemis and Althea hugged like long-lost, broken-hearted friends.  Then Artemis said one more thing.  “I better go.  I feel like I am going to cry, too, and it would not be good for mortals to see a goddess cry.”  Althea nodded, and sniffed; and Artemis vanished.

Avalon 5.10 Family Feud, part 1 of 4

After 1116 BC Troy.  Kairos 69: Diomedes, the King


Diomedes rolled in aurochs dung, and made the others apply it as well.  When he saw the Amazons ride in, driving a herd of some thirty wild cattle, he imagined cowgirls with whips and spears driving cattle along the trail.  He shouted, “Yee-haw,” and then had to explain to Odysseus what yee-haw meant.  Now, he figured if the women were cowgirls, the least he could do is be the Indian when he went to steal some of those beasts.

“You are disgusting,” Odysseus said as he scooted up and whispered.  “Old man Nestor says he will have to bathe the entire day tomorrow to get rid of the smell.

“Is that a threat or a promise?” Diomedes asked, as he pulled his cow hide further up on his shoulders.  “Thersites could use a bath.”

“Wash his mouth, maybe,” Odysseus whispered.

Nestor scooted up with Sthenelus’ help.  He giggled like a schoolgirl.

“Diomedes,” Thersites called out in his loudest whisper, before he saw them.

“Hush,” Diomedes hushed him.  “No scare-um buffalo.”  He turned back to Odysseus and Nestor.  “Aurochs have a bad temperament.  Spook them, and they will run, but startle them, and they will just get angry and charge.”


Two sets of eyes tried to pierce the darkness.  One looked back and spoke softly.  “Where is that girl.”  She turned to the one still beside her.  “Now that the sun has set, we need all eyes on the herd.”

“Lady.  I don’t see anything but mud and cattle.  Not much for the cattle to eat.  We best get them in to the city in the morning and to the butchers before they become too skinny to bother cutting up.”

“Quiet Bremusa.  Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth closed.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Alcibie.”  The call came from behind, and it sounded nice and loud.  “What is the problem?”

The girl ran up, followed by the queen.  Alcibe spoke softly after she removed the palm from her face, an affectation the Amazons learned from a young woman who visited them in the days of the queen’s grandmother.  “Antandre.  You move that way.  Bremusa, move slowly the opposite way.  Keep quiet, and keep your eyes and ears open.”  Alcibie turned to the queen and deliberately whispered.  “Penthesileia.”  She nodded her head.  “I sense something in the cattle.  Something is not right.  Maybe, for all our precautions, the Achaeans have come up into our midst.”

The queen put her own hand over her own mouth.  She should have known better than to shout ahead.  She looked intently, but saw no movement but among the cattle.  Alcibie had her bow out and strung.  She fingered her arrows.  The Amazons were hard to see in the dark of night, but they were not the only ones who mastered that skill.


Diomedes and his crew stood together and wailed like banshees.  They waved their cow hide cloaks like they were the dead cows, returned from the dead.  The wild cattle were certainly startled, but they were not spooked to run until everyone heard a loud crack in the distance, and one of the cows fell to the ground, mysteriously dead.  Everyone imagined Zeus and a thunderbolt, except Diomedes, who knew the sound all too well.

Ten of the herd, the group Diomedes and Odysseus agreed would likely split off the easiest, ran in the expected direction.  The Greeks saw the torches lit, which formed a nice tunnel to the sea.  Diomedes and his crew did not wait around to be caught, but they kept yelling, giving their position away at every step.  One of Diomedes’ men got an arrow in the thigh.  It was a good and lucky shot, and Diomedes almost turned back to confront the shooter, but Odysseus turned him to pick up the man and help get him to safety.

Antandre and Bremusa realized too late that they could do nothing with their spears.  Alcibie shot three arrows, but two missed and the third only wounded one who still got away.  Antandre and Bremusa had to quickly turn to keep the rest of the herd from running, and other Amazons came up to help.  The women were well trained and disciplined, so they succeeded without anyone getting hurt, but Alcibie yelled, “I knew it,” and Penthesileia growled and felt like kicking herself.

As soon as Diomedes got the wounded man to where he could hand him off to Sthenelus and his men, he grabbed old Nestor, who was still giggling, and pulled him aside.  He practically dragged poor Nestor to the edge of a stream and together, they got in to wash.  All that while, Diomedes did his best to think to Boston.  Don’t let Decker go out on that field.  Stop him.  Tell Katie to get ready to join me.  I’ll be there quick as I can.

Boston had to run to stop Decker and Lincoln, though the two had stopped.  With the night goggles, they saw what was happening better than any Greeks, Amazons or Trojans could hope to see, and while they might not have understood the full dynamics of what they saw, they decided not to interfere.

“I only looked at the beef,” Decker admitted.  “I assumed these were wild cattle.”

“They are,” Lincoln said.  “Aurochs are a wild breed.”  He wilted a little under Decker’s stare.  “It is too far to tell, even with the goggles, but I am guessing we are closer to Troy than we thought.  I was trying to make out the city and missed the people completely.”

Decker nodded as Boston ran up at super elf speed.  “I guess we both need to be more careful from here on out.”

“That, or we need to stop before dark, no matter how much someone wants to see the fabled walls of Troy.”

“Can’t see the walls in the dark, anyway,” Boston said, as she caught her breath.  “Amazons,” she added.  “We’re supposed to wait for Diomedes, and then Katie is going to fetch the beef.”

Decker and Lincoln said nothing as they turned to head back to the camp they had set up in the woods.


Diomedes crawled out of the water and saw the love of his life standing on the shore, waiting patiently.  How unlike her, he thought, and he stepped up to her and kissed her passionately.  She responded with her whole heart, but when they parted, she stepped back and spouted.

“Now I’m soaking wet.  Thanks a lot.”  she waved her arms, and all the water that covered her vacated her clothes and went back into the river.

“I just wanted to give you something from my heart and ask you to remember later where we left off.  Sadly, I have work to do that just came up.”

“I know.  I’ve been watching them for the last couple of days.  This is not a good time for them to show up.”

“I understand.  And there is a crisis here, already.  I was thinking I may have to trade places with Althea and let her handle it.”

The woman turned up her nose at the thought.  “And you drag the sweet old man with you?”

“Ah, yes.  They met Nestor on the Argo, if you recall.  Volcano day.”

The woman nodded.  “Well, you can start out as yourself.  Who you become is your business.  You have your own work as we have our work, even as you said.”

The woman waved her hand again and Diomedes and Nestor disappeared from that place and reappeared beside a nice, cozy campfire.  Diomedes thought, don’t forget where we were.  He heard the answer, Never.



4 posts in this episode.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and THURSDAY.

Don’t miss it…

Elect II—20 Underground, part 1 of 3

Emily was still in bed three days later when Jessica and Fiona the hunter joined forces and found Carlos in an unused warehouse meat locker.  He was completely drained of blood and stank.  Fiona guessed he had been hanging for two or three days.  They all kept quiet as they looked around the main room for Mama spider.  Officer Dickenson spoke first.

“I imagine the big spider is long gone,” he said.  He knew it was wishful thinking when the others contradicted him.

aa-warehouse-dock-1“She is near,” Jessica said.

“I can sense something, not far,” Latasha agreed.

Harmony called her troop for backup with a word.  “There may be more babies as well.”

“Not what I want to hear,” Dickenson said.  “But if there are more, we get out, call Schromer and get extra back-up.”  It took some convincing, but eventually the women agreed.


At that same time, Sara was in the city hall, waiting outside the courthouse for Paul.  She had come to realize if she did not go see him at work, she might never see him at all.

Lisa came out from testifying against one of the drug dealers Latasha got her mixed up with.  “Off with time served,” she said as she sat beside Sara on the bench outside the courtroom.  She expected Sara to say something about the lack of justice and how the streets will never be safe if the bad guys keep getting off so easy, but that was not what she heard.

“How do you do it?”  Sara looked at Lisa with questions written all over her face.  “With Josh and the kids, I mean.  The only place I see Paul these days is here or over in City Hall where he is working in the Mayor’s office.”

Sara got quiet and Lisa paused for a moment to think.

“I got lucky.  Josh knew what he was getting, police and all.  He knew about my election, not all the details, but that my life would never be normal.  He sent me flowers anyway.  He said his programming job was the kind he could work from home most of the time, and he did not mind being a house husband and doing child care if we should have children.  He said he would always a-trenton-court-hallbe there for me.  How could I say no?”  Lisa smiled and then added a serious note.  “Honestly, I don’t do it very well.  I struggle with guilt the way most women do these days, I suppose.  The days of wife and mother staying home with the kids are pretty much over.  Women work these days because they have to, and the idea that a woman can have it all is a croc.  Either work or Josh and the children are always getting gypped.”

“Not so,” Ashish said.  He had come out of the courtroom in the middle of the conversation, but heard enough of it.  “I think Lisa does a remarkable job of balancing things.”

Lisa gave her partner a brief smile but turned straight back to Sara who looked so serious. Lisa’s intuition was acting up.  “You haven’t told Paul about you and the girls, have you?”

“I have, but not in detail, and I haven’t taken him to meet them yet.  I’m afraid.”

Lisa reached for her hand.  “Complete honesty.  That is the only way to know if he is right.  You don’t have the luxury of picking just any old husband.”

Sara opened her mouth and shut it just as quick.  “When I met the girls I thought I stumbled into a band of superheroes, like the X-Men.  I discovered it isn’t just Emily, you and Latasha.  Each of the girls, in her own way, can do things no human being ought to be able to do.”  Sara stopped and Lisa encouraged her.

“And then?”

Sara took a deep breath.  “And then I found out I could do things that defied nature.  Not big things, but subtle things.”  She looked up at Lisa and let out the smallest grin.  “I can glow in the dark.”

ac-riverbend-3Lisa patted Sara’s hand and stood.  “My pastor says we all have our crosses to bear.”  She returned the slight grin and added the word, “Priestess.”  Then she raised her voice.  “Aurora.”

A young girl stepped around the corner, or more likely appeared from somewhere else.  Sara was not fooled.  She knew this was an elf in disguise.  It was confirmed when Aurora stopped at the bench, looked at Sara, gave a little bow and said, “Priestess,” in echo of Lisa’s word.  She turned to Lisa, nodded her head again and said, “Lady.”

“Anything?” Lisa asked.

“There have been ghouls here, but not here now.”

“Ha,” Ashish interrupted.  “She hasn’t seen the lawyers.”


It was on a Saturday, around sundown, two weeks’ shy of finals, when Jessica and Fiona found their way back to that same warehouse.  Latasha, Harmony and Officer Dickenson followed, and all said they knew the trails would return to this place.

“I about have this old warehouse memorized,” Officer Dickenson said while his eyes continued to search every corner for signs of spiders.

“We have been over this place,” Harmony admitted.

“And we found nothing,” Fiona agreed.

“But all the signs point here,” Jessica looked frustrated.

“Maybe we missed something.”  Fiona began to second guess.

boston-5“At least the place is not full of webbing this time,” Officer Dickenson remarked.

“In here.”  Latasha was by the door and everyone looked in her direction.  A young man and a young woman came in.  “That is why I asked for a second set of eyes.  This is my science teacher, Ms. Riley.”

Jessica opened her mouth but said nothing.  The absurdity of Latasha asking her high school science teacher for help was beyond even Jessica’s ability for quick remarks.  Harmony and Fiona were not fooled by the glamours.  Both heads dipped and Harmony spoke.

“Lord Roland.  Lady Boston.”

Boston responded while Roland took a long look around the big room.  “From the way Latasha described things, I am guessing a secret door.”  Boston sat down in the middle of the floor and opened her purse.  She took out a Jar of dust and a stick, which was her wand.

“Your wife is sitting down to find a secret door?”  Officer Dickenson thought they should be tapping the walls and looking for signs on the floor, but in part he wanted to know who these strangers were.  It was police curiosity.

“Yes,” Roland spoke openly to the police officer.  “My wife was a witch before she became an elf.”  Officer Dickerson just shut his mouth like it served him right for asking.  “Like your Melissa,” Roland added for Jessica who nodded that she understood and stepped back to let the woman work.

Boston chanted very softly and waved her wand several times in between her chants.  Jessica could see the orange colored swirl of the magic that surrounded Boston like a fine mist of fire.  Every time she swirled the wand, the mist expanded to cover more of the warehouse floor.  Officer Dickenson asked his question before it reached the walls.

“What is happening?” he whispered.  “I don’t see anything.”

“Hush,” Latasha quieted him.  “It is like a red-orange mist, and it looks like she found something.”

boston-1The mist began to pull together over one round spot on the floor.  Boston got up slowly and brought her jar of dust to the spot.  She sprinkled the dust and spoke, and the round spot glowed with a sparkling golden tint that everyone could see.  Then she spoke.

“This is not a magical door.  It seems mechanical in some way and that may be why our elves did not find it, because they were not looking with the right set of eyes.”

“You did say at first they were not spiritual creatures,” Fiona reminded Latasha who simply nodded and unwrapped her ax.

“Here, give me a hand with this,” Roland said to Officer Dickenson.  Latasha also got down to apply her strength to what for all practical purposes was like a manhole cover cut smoothly out of the concrete floor.  When it was open, all they could see was down into the dark.