Avalon 6.5 Zombies, Murder, and Mayhem, part 1 of 6

(In case you are a new reader) we return now to our regular schedule of 3 posts per week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and 6 posts (2 weeks) for the whole episode.  Enjoy.

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After 643 BC Babylon. Kairos lifetime 77: Labash, Gardener

Recording …

“Labash, male, 643-588,” Lincoln read on the first night.  “He is a gardener.”

“The Kairos?” Evan asked, still not quite understanding, thinking that the Kairos would not be anything like a lowly gardener.

“Apparently, he built the hanging gardens of Babylon,” Lincoln said.

“Oh…” Evan imagined that as better.

“You did not meet Labash?” Boston asked.

“No.”  Evan shook his head.  “We avoided people where we could.  We avoided Babylon in both directions.”

“Both directions?” Lockhart asked.

“Wait,” Katie said.  “Start at the beginning.  What did you see in your travels.”

“A good question,” Elder Stow said, as he shook his scanner, and only half-listened.

“Well…” Evan began.  “We left through the time gate in Italy and found ourselves in Palestine, or maybe I should say Israel.”  He paused Alexis in mid-breath.  “Whatever it is called.   It was similar to the land in the time zone we just left.  We did not go to any of the cities, and especially avoided Jerusalem. We learned to shape our fairy weave clothing to local styles, to blend in as much as we could with the local people.”

“What did you eat?” Decker asked.

“Food doesn’t move well through the time gates when you jump fifty years into the future with one step,” Alexis said. “Or into the past either, I suppose.”

“We found that out,” Evan said. “But that was why we could not avoid people completely.  We asked for bread, and always managed to find someone willing to share, and usually some olive oil, and fish or something besides.”

“Wow,” Boston said.  “You just went up to people and asked them for food?”

“News flash,” Alexis said.  “No internet in 1905.  No video games, television, on-line purchases, e-mail, or any way of isolating yourself from the human race.  People still knew how to talk to people in 1905.”

“I know that,” Boston retreated.

“Anyway, we traveled through that time zone without causing a ripple.  Only two things of note.  One was personal.  I was always interested in the Hasmonean revolt.  I kind of thought I might go back there one day to check it out.  Second, that was when we first noticed something seemed wrong with Nanette.  Millie said it felt like she became a different person, and not Nanette at all.”

“The evil twin,” Boston said.

“Come to think of it, she was the one who most strongly urged us to avoid Jerusalem, which is odd, since she was such a strong believer.  I would think a visit to Jerusalem would be high on her list.  Anyway, we moved from there and came into the Greek countryside. I didn’t mind that so much either. We crossed the Peloponnesus and traveled all the way up to Byzantium.  I did not mind that trip, and we met more people, mostly nice ones.”

“How could you talk to them?” Lincoln asked.

Evan nodded.  “Athena.  When Bodanagus gave us the fairy weave clothing, and she gave us the green and red chestnuts that point to the time gates, she also laid hands on each of us, one at a time.  She said she was giving us the little one ability to understand and be understood, no matter the language.  She also said she was setting a hedge around us, and a message so that when we moved from time zone to time zone, other gods might add to and strengthen the hedge. Funny, I did not understand what she was saying, but I did not question any of it at the time.”

“The gods have a way of clouding the mind when they want to,” Boston said, and Alexis agreed.

“Yes,” Evan seemed to understand. “But I have been speaking in English with people all this time, and hearing English, and it never occurred to me that there was anything odd about that.”  He paused to consider.  “What did she mean, hedge?”

“It is a partial block on your mind,” Katie explained.  “So even the gods cannot read your thoughts and learn about future things.  It also lets us talk about things freely, and no god can overhear us unless they are here, with us.”

“What if they go invisible, like Elder Stow?” Evan asked.

“No,” Elder Stow answered for himself. “I asked about that.  No tricks will work.  The gods or spirits themselves have to be present so we know it, and we have to deliberately include them and tell them something or they hear garbled noise.”

“Bodanagus said Salacia put the first hedge around us when we appeared in Rome, his time period.  He said he felt a disturbance in time, and traced it to us.”

“Amphitrite,” Katie reminded the others. “The Kairos,” she said for Evan, who nodded that he figured out that much.

“Professor Fleming thanked Athena for the languages.  I think he may have known who she was, hard as that may be to believe.  She said, she was glad to help a true scholar and man of knowledge, as opposed to Bodanagus who only pretended to know things.”

“I bet he had a comeback,” Decker said.

Evan nodded. “He told her to go suck a sour olive.  But, if that was truly the goddess, wouldn’t that be a very dangerous thing to say?”

“They have a history,” Lockhart said, and left it at that.

“So, who was in the Greek countryside?” Alexis asked, wanting to get back on topic.

“Three armies.  Romans, Aetolians, and Macedonians; but I think the first two made a pact against the Macedonians.  Two men and two women explained it all to us.  They were a strange group.  The Greek was a Roman tribune.  The Roman was a Greek magistrate.  One woman was a priestess of Olympus and for the Amazons, or so she said.  The other woman was an amazing beauty, if I may say so. But she wore armor, very similar to Bodanagus, come to think of it.  She had a sword over her back and a long knife across the small of her back, and I, for one, did not doubt she knew how to use those weapons expertly.  She gave us gold, silver, and copper coins out of her bag, for Wallace and I to stuff in our pockets.  She said the bag would disappear, but gold would not.  She also said they were the oldest coins she could find. An odd statement, don’t you think?

“Not if you are traveling into the past,” Lincoln said.  “Young silver will also disappear and go back into the ground before it got dug up.”

“So you think…”

“The Princess?” Lockhart asked. Lincoln nodded.

“Another time zone I might like to return to someday.,” Evan said.  “Anyway, from there, we came into China.  We did not fit in and moved on as quick as we could.  That was where Millie noticed some strange behavior in Nanette, but she said nothing at first.”

“Point,” Lockhart interrupted.  “If you notice anything strange or unusual, you have to tell us all right away.”  Evan stared, and then laughed.  Everyone laughed a bit.  Everything they were going through was strange and unusual.  Lockhart conceded the point when he said.  “Just don’t keep secrets.”

“All right.  So, then we got to Sicily, and there is not much to tell other than what I said.  Nanette chased us out of that time zone, and back into the Greek countryside, only this time, we came in around Megara and found the exit somewhere out on the Black Sea. When we went around Pella, you know, the Macedonian capital, we ran into a young man named Diogenes.  He gave us a few more coins and said to buy a boat.  I don’t know if he was a rich man, or what. I don’t know how he knew we would need a boat.  But we used the coins and rowed to the time gate.  We appeared in the river, and got out of the boat before it disappeared.  I suppose it went back to the tree from whence it came.”

“Where was that?” Katie asked.

“Italy, well north of Rome, at last. We hurried to the city where we were found by a wonderful woman, and her ward, a young blind girl.  The woman called herself Diana.  She said it was her name from a child, when Diana visited her on several occasions… Now, come to think of it, I suppose she meant the goddess, Diana.”  He paused to swallow before he went on.  “The last time was when Diana brought her the blind girl to raise.  Poor Justitia had no parents who would raise her, is what I was told.  She was a very sweet girl.  But the best part came when I found out Diana was actually Marcia Furi Camilla, daughter of Marcus Furius Camillus.  Isn’t that incredible, to have stumbled upon her?”

“If anyone other than you and I know who that is,” Katie said.

“I could look it up,” Lincoln offered.

“Never mind,” Katie said.  “How long did you stay there?”

“About three months.  A bit more,” Evan said.  “Wallace is still there.”  He sounded a little disappointed that they were not overly impressed with his discovery. “Finally, Millie agreed to go with me to resolve the debate about the founding of Rome.  But first, we had to land a third time in the Greek countryside. The Peloponnesian war was raging and the Athenians and Spartans were busy destroying each other, and dragging all the others into the war on one side or the other.  We did not stay there, though we got stopped and delayed several times.”

“Something to look forward to,” Decker said.

“The next time zone was hard travel. I don’t know about horses.  I think we landed somewhere in the Himalayas. There was plenty of snow and slippery rocks.  Then we came here, and we traveled in this direction, around Babylon, and then the same place, but traveled in the other direction, around Babylon again. Then we ended up where we got separated, and I almost got eaten.  Then I found Valencia, and you found me.”

“That covers it,” Lincoln said.

“That is why I think it is best that you don’t read ahead,” Lockhart pointed at Lincoln, but did not explain.

“Not much help,” Decker summed it up.

“Well, I’m sorry,” Evan said.  “We felt it best not to get involved.”

“And you were right,” Alexis encouraged him.

“Something we might consider from here on out,” Katie said.

“No way,” Boston said.  “I’m not going through any time zone without finding the Kairos.  And if that puts us in the middle of the hurricane of whatever is going on, too bad.”

Avalon 5.10 Family Feud, part 4 of 4

Alexis and Lincoln took the first watch, though people stayed up and talked until about nine, and there was not much need to watch with Elder Stows screens running.  Decker said they were better to keep to the pattern, regardless, and Katie reminded everyone about the djin.

“Though I don’t suppose he would dare show his face to the Olympian gods after he set that volcano off in the last zone.”

“I don’t know,” Diomedes hedged.  “What we have here is a family squabble among the gods.  The Greeks and Trojans are just playing out the reflection of that, not like mindless pawns on a chessboard, but with willing hearts, shall we say.”

“So, Helen?” Katie did not know what to say in front of Nestor, even if he appeared to be already sleeping.

“The last straw,” Diomedes explained.  “You see the Dorians, for want of a better name, came down into Greece from the north and conquered the cities and the land, all the Aetolians. Achaeans, Mycenaeans, Corinthians, Eubouians, Boeotians, and so on.  The Dorians became like a ruling class over the rest of the people.  I was involved in the final work, when we overran Thebes, so it was that recent.  Well, plenty of people did not like being ruled and having their independence taken away.  They rebelled, mostly by escaping to Asia, that is the coast of Turkey in your day.  Troy opened her gates to the rebels and became like the central city of the rebellion.  Helen, one of the original Achaeans, got forced into marriage to Menelaus, brother of the high king, Agamemnon.

“High king?” Katie asked.

“Yes.  Right now, under Dorian rule, Greece is as close to being a united nation as it gets up until the twentieth century.  Even under occupation by the Macedonians, the Romans, and the Turks, the various cities hold on to as much independent power as they can.  The idea of a Greek nation has to be ground into them over a couple of thousand years.”

“Sounds painful,” Lockhart said.

“Yes.  But when Paris convinced Helen to join the rebellion, and she ran away with him to Troy, that became the last straw.  I’m not discounting Aphrodite’s work in the mess, but this war is really a political thing, mostly.  It is like most wars, I guess.  It is trying to decide who is going to rule and be in charge here, if you know what I mean.”

“I get it,” Katie said.  “There is more at stake for the Hellenes than meets the eye, or the history books.”

“No, actually…”  Diomedes had to pause to think what he could say.  “The Hellene are another people group altogether; one that is more of a loose confederation of tribes, like brigands, like the Huns, or Mongols.  They kill with abandon.  Shortly, after the Dorian Lords get home, for those who get home, the Hellene invade the land, and they have something that the Greeks don’t have.”

“What is that?” Lockhart asked, while Lincoln pulled out the database.

“Iron,” Diomedes said with a sour look.  “And a thirst for blood.  You see, after we took Thebes, I was fifteen, and got married off to the princess of Argo.  I ruled for only a couple of years before raising the army again to come on this adventure.  Who would have guessed ten years of war?  I just turned twenty-eight.  I look older, I know.  It’s the stress.  But I don’t know.  My wife—even having a wife at fifteen was weird.  We kind of bonded, but not really, since she was older and way more mature.  I don’t know.  With the Hellene coming, I may go to Italy.”

“The iron age begins?” Katie was surprised at the early date.

“Not exactly,” Diomedes said.  “With the arrival of the Hellene, the country eventually takes the name of Hellas, as a general idea or description, but otherwise, they plunge into two or three hundred years of dark ages, and don’t emerge until Homer writes about this mess we are in right now—and really not until Socrates in the five-hundreds.”  Diomedes lay down, and said, “Good-night.  I wonder if Italy gets snowy cold in winter.  Maybe the southern coast.”  He went to sleep.

Alexis and Lincoln got up and went into their tent.  They were like newlyweds, now that Alexis turned human again.  Katie and Lockhart were actual newlyweds and did not do much watching between nine and midnight.  The others were glad that Elder Stow had his screens up.

Elder Stow and Decker had the wee hours, and Boston and Sukki agree to take sunrise.  When Elder Stow woke Sukki for her turn, she surprised him with a question.  “You don’t want to marry me?”

Elder Stow’s eyes got big.  I have three wives and plenty of children.  I already have a big family group.  And I am old, I’m thinking too old to be a father again, he thought, but he said.  “You don’t want to be my daughter?”

Sukki considered it, and nodded.  “I can, but I won’t always be a good girl,” she said.

“Expected,” he agreed and gave her a small kiss on the cheek to seal the agreement.

Sukki sat happily with Boston, and opened-up about many things.  She found it hard to talk to the humans, but the crazy elf seemed easy to talk to.  She was just explaining how children spoke to their parents, when Boston told her to be quiet.  She got quiet for a second before she started again.

“Hush.  Listen.”

“I don’t hear anything.”

“Listen real close,” Boston stood and walked to the edge of the campsite.  They waited a long time before Sukki finally spoke.

“A baby?”  It sounded so far away, she could not be sure.

“I have to wake the others.”  She started with Diomedes.  “I hear a baby crying.”  She woke everyone, Nestor last, and he commented.

“Many babies are crying in the night now that their fathers have been lost to them.”

“It isn’t that kind of baby,” Boston said, and Diomedes understood. Fortunately, Athena showed up before he could swear.

“It is the djin that has been following you,” Athena said, quickly.  “He is not in this time zone, but I believe he contracted with one of the gods to bring the night creatures here.  There appear to be nine of them.”

Diomedes stepped close and gave her a soft kiss.  “Clever girl to slip through Elder Stow’s screens like that.”  On seeing the others did not understand, he briefly explained.  “Particle, energy, and radiation screens function in the realm of matter and energy, the same that the gods manipulate by divine fiat.  Flesh and blood, even godly flesh and blood, have limits that have to be figured out to get around.  I’m not explaining it well.”  He turned to Athena.  “No, no.  Some things mortals just have to take on faith.  I am sure Athena could explain it, but that is not why she is here.”

“Quite right,” Athena said.  “Someone is protecting them, so I can’t just wipe them out of existence.  I don’t know if they can follow you through the time gate, though, so I figure if I send you to the next gate, you can at least have a three to five-day head start.”

“No, no.” Diomedes made Boston put her amulet away.  “Athena keeps track of where the time gates are.  She is the most-clever person, ever.”

“See?” Athena said, without explaining what they were supposed to see, and she returned Diomedes’ kiss.

“Traveler.” Aphrodite and Artemis appeared.  “You have company coming for dinner.”

“They know,” Athena said, and the icy stares that shot between the girls nearly put the fire out.  Diomedes bravely stepped between them.

“Girls, girls.  You are sisters.  Sibling rivalry is fine, but please remember deep down you care about each other.  We have guests right now who need our help.  You can fight later.”

“You cut me,” Aphrodite yelled at Athena.

“You made me fall in love with the most annoying person in… in… history,” Athena shout back.

“And I love you, too,” Diomedes said to Athena, who backed off a little.  “And I am sorry I cut you.  I was just trying to do my job.”  He changed to Diogenes, Alexander the Great’s cousin, and focused on Aphrodite.  “Show me,” he said.

Aphrodite looked up at him and pouted, but lowered her sleeve to show a small scar in her shoulder.  The other men nearly lost it to see just her shoulder, not to mention her pouty face, but Diogenes leaned over and kissed it.

“There,” he said.  “Now it will get all better.”

Aphrodite huffed a little, but tried not to smile.  Diogenes smiled for her and changed back to Diomedes and he slipped his arm around Athena’s waist.  Athena responded by grabbing on to him like a possessive woman saying, this one is mine, you get your own.

Aphrodite smiled then and turned to point at Decker.  “And don’t think I’ve forgotten you.”

Artemis removed the grin from her face and spoke.  “I got my Amazons.”

“I’ll take the Greeks back to their ships,” Athena said.

“That leaves me with the travelers,” Aphrodite said.

“Thrace.  Across the Dardanelles,” Athena told her.

“Ah.”  Aphrodite’s face lit up.  “I know just the place.”

And everyone vanished.

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Diomedes and Nestor appeared beside Odysseus and a dozen other men who had evidently spent the night mapping out the extent of Elder Stow’s screens, as Diomedes guessed they would.  “So, did you leave me any beef?” Diomedes asked.

“No,” Odysseus said.  “We ate it all.”

Sthenelus came running up.  “Diomedes.  come on.  We saved you some of the cut-up rump.”

Odysseus shrugged.  “You have loyal men.  After ten years of following your orders, it is a wonder.”

“You missed Althea and Diogenes,” Nestor tattled.

“You didn’t let Diogenes do your fighting for you again?”

“One time.  I borrowed him one time,” Diomedes shouted.  “They never let you forget.”

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“Time gate dead ahead,” Boston reported.

“Come eat your breakfast first,” Alexis and Sukki insisted.  Aphrodite transported everyone and everything as is, including the campfire, still cooking away.

Aphrodite spoke once more before she left them.  “This is the land of the Hellene.  I suggest you go through this morning and not wait until tomorrow.  They are a bloody lot.  Ares likes them.  Better they don’t find you here.”  She disappeared.

“Thank you,” Katie said.  Everyone said, “Thank you,” to the air, assuming Aphrodite would hear.

“Eat first,” Alexis added.

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MONDAY

The travelers find themselves in China just before the end of the Shang dynasty, and the rise of the Zhou.  But they hardly have time to examine the evidence.  They need to reach the Kairos as fast as possible, because the night creatures of the djin follow them through the time gate…

Happy Reading

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