Lockhart introduced the travelers, and Alexander spent the whole time staring up, and a bit to the left. Lockhart stood a bit over six feet tall. Alexander stood a bit over five feet tall, but not much over. He did not look intimidated, however. Probably because he spent his whole life around people that were taller than him. The ones with him were in the five-five to five-seven range. The old man might have stood about five feet, three inches. Diogenes was five-eleven, but that was as unusual in his day as it was for Alexander to be around five feet tall. In fact, Diogenes’ height may have been the more unusual of the two options.
Lockhart stopped when he came to the two women; the one with Katie beside Boston, and the one occupied by Diogenes. Katie offered the names, Artemis and Aphrodite, and Lockhart repeated the names.
Alexander reciprocated with his companions, and a little more information. “Father didn’t come. He thought you were the gods, and maybe even Zeus. But Diogenes explained who you were enough to make it intriguing.” He looked like he had some real question. “Father sent Aristander, his soothsayer, to intercede on his behalf with whatever gods might be present. I am sure he is feeling relieved to find only you folks here, from the future though you might be. The soldier is Parmenion, my father’s strategos.
“General, chief of staff,” Katie explained, and looked at Decker for confirmation, but he seemed busy trying to hide from Aphrodite. Lockhart nodded that he understood.
“I think Parmenion came to negotiate if you are potential allies.” He nodded at Parmenion, who gave a slight nod in return. “This fine young fellow, and my good friend, is Hephaestion. And the kind looking one is Hephaestion’s and my tutor, Aristotle, though you should not let his looks fool you. He is a hard taskmaster. I take it you know my cousin, Diogenes.”
“The Melossian,” Hephaestion said, as an insult, though it was not said unkindly.
Alexander took a seat on Lockhart’s invitation, and continued his conversation. “My teacher doesn’t believe in the gods.” He glanced at the priest and gave Hephaestion a grin.
“I never thaid that.” Aristotle spoke with a lisp.
“But then,” Alexander continued. “He doesn’t believe you are from the future, either.”
“That is a little hard to thwallow,” Aristotle agreed.
“And what do you believe?” Alexis had to ask Alexander, because the rest of the travelers seemed to be tongue-tied at the company.
“I trust my cousin, the fatherless, the stutterer, the Melossian, or whatever description Hephaestion wants to give him. Diogenes is my eyes. He sees things the others can’t see. Like, he saw the gap in the enemy line today.”
“I saw it too,” Hephaestion protested.
“Let us say, we all saw it together. But Diogenes and his Thessalians were the first through. We followed with the Companions and hit the Three Hundred in the flank. The Thebans broke and we pushed them into the river. It was brilliant.”
Parmenion spoke up. “It worked, because your father feinted and got the inexperienced Athenians to follow him to where he could turn on the high ground.”
“True enough,” Diogenes said as he came up for air.
“I can’t,” Aphrodite said. “I’m in hiding, far in the east, on the other side of the Persian Empire. I got special permission.”
“Who are you hiding from?” Katie asked.
“Athena,” Artemis said, with a roll of her eyes.
“She hasn’t forgiven me for Troy,” Aphrodite admitted.
“But Troy was a long time ago,” Lincoln said.
“But she is the virgin goddess,” Diogenes reminded Lincoln, and Lockhart had what in some times and places they call a brain fart.
“But wait,” he said. “We just met her daughter in Rome, last time zone.”
“Minerva’s daughter,” Katie tried to cover the faux pas.
“Same thing. Minerva, Athena.” Lockhart started thinking too hard. “Justitia seemed such a nice girl.” Katie softly covered Lockhart’s mouth with her hand. Lockhart’s mind cleared when he saw all the Macedonians and travelers staring at him with their mouths open. Only Elder Stow spoke.
“Justitia’s birth mother. Makes sense. But she should spend time with the girl. Family is important, you know.”
“There is one thing,” Lockhart interrupted, turned to the goddesses, and freed his mouth, but Katie’s hand stayed poised in case it was needed. “One of you needs to talk to you-know-who about Nanette. She needs to take responsibility to do something about the witch.”
“Not me,” Aphrodite said, quickly. “I’m in hiding, far in the east.” She gave Diogenes one more peck of his lips, and almost grabbed him for round two, but restrained herself. “Come find me,” she said, and vanished.
Artemis laughed. That sound brought smiles and a touch of laughter to everyone around the fire. “Good thing you are hedged around by the gods. Athena did not hear any of this conversation, and she won’t be able to read your minds about it, either,” she said, and turned to Katie and Lockhart. “I’ll talk to Athena about the witch. Be good.” She returned Katie’s hug and pointed at Boston. “Be good, Little Fire.” She pointed at Decker, laughed again, and vanished, and the reality of what they saw caught up with the Macedonians.
The old soothsayer began to weep, softly. Parmenion and Hephaestion stared with their mouths open. Aristotle offered a thought.
“You are connected to the gods in thome fashion, I thee.”
Diogenes got some food and sat to eat, while Alexander accepted, at face value, all that he saw and experienced, and like Elder Stow’s “heat-ray”, he shot straight to the next point.
“So, tell me about the future.”
The travelers held their tongues as well as they could.
After three days, Phillip let the Athenian and Theban prisoners go home, and sent envoys to those two cities with an offer for peace. He planned to move his army down to Corinth, where he intended to send messengers to all the main cities in Greece. He expected no resistance to his proposal, except maybe from the Spartans. He already started drawing up plans to ravage the land of Laconia, assuming a negative response from the Spartans. He also got busy deciding which cities needed a Macedonian garrison to help maintain the peace. Phillip wanted the Greeks to support him when he went up against the Persian Empire.
Phillip wrote a letter of safe passage for the travelers, and assigned Alexander’s crippled friend, Harpalus, and a troop of three men to escort them to the next time gate. He also gave them some horses, so for the moment, they all rode. He honestly wanted to horse trade, and might have just taken the traveler’s big mustangs, which stood a good hand taller than his own horses, but he hesitated when Aristander said the horses were clearly a gift from the gods. Phillip examined the horses, saw how they responded to their riders, and backed off.
“I’m sorry you can’t go with us,” Boston told Diogenes, as she gave him a hug good-bye. “For the first time, I really would like to spend more time with you.” Diogenes knew that some of her feelings were the result of his relationship with Aphrodite. Boston could not help it, but Diogenes definitely did not want to go there.
“That w-would not w-work well,” Diogenes said, and smiled for her. “The t-time gate would just move further and further away.” Diogenes smiled, in part because he did not stutter so much around people with whom he was familiar.
“I’m sorry we did not get here ten years in the future,” Katie said. “I would have liked to see Alexander work.”
“I don’t work,” Alexander said. “I have others to do the work for me while I play.”
“You call being in battle play?” Alexis asked.
“That is the most fun of all.” Alexander grinned. “I like your women, cousin.” He turned to Diogenes as they walked off. “They are tall, though.” The boys had a Mutt and Jeff look to them.
“Most women are as tall or taller than you,” Diogenes said.
“Don’t get me wrong. I like them tall,” Alexander said.
The travelers run into a road block in the pass of Thermopylae. The witch and her cowboys have been busy. Until Monday, Happy Reading.