Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 6 of 6

The ground trembled under the Greek soldiers, and those who were not knocked down by the lightning stroke, fell from the earthquake.  It seemed a curious earthquake, because the travelers did not feel it at all.  All that happened was the Greeks lost their footing, and a hole opened up in the side of a very small ridge.

Everyone stared at the figure in the field.  The helmeted figure of a woman looked like the avenging angel of Almighty God.  The sword she held looked impossibly big and unquestionably sharp.  It seemed the very scythe of the angel of death, the reaper come to harvest souls. The Greeks wailed and tried to hide themselves in the ground they felt surely they would be buried in.

“Athena,” Galatea said, and clapped.  “I mean, Minerva.”

The Eporites did not hear, being too busy prostrating themselves.  The travelers vaguely heard, as the struggled to shut their mouths.  Minerva roared.

“Tramp!”  Nanette appeared in front of the goddess, and trembled.    “I don’t need Apollo to laugh and point at me.  And I don’t need the Kairos to tell me this is not how it is supposed to go.  I made you, and this is what you have done with your life?”

“It’s not fair,” the witch complained. “Why are the gods on their side? They have the weapons and the power. They have everything.  It isn’t fair.  I should have it.  I should have it all.  I want it now.  Give it to me.”  The witch may have put every ounce of compulsion and magic into that demand, but in the face of a goddess, that would have been like a drop of water trying to put out the sun.  Not only is that nonsensical in terms of size and strength, but the sun is not even the kind of fire that water can affect.

“Your other half does not feel this way,” Minerva said, silencing the girl to interrupt her.  “Don’t ask me how I know, but clearly you were corrupt from the beginning.  I will find the source of that corruption.”

“No.” Nanette shrieked.  “We serve that one.  She is my source.”

“Of whom do you speak?  Who is your source?”

“No,” Nanette, the witch screamed and instantly caught fire.  She continued to scream for a few seconds before she entirely burned up, leaving only a small pile of ashes on the dirt.

Minerva reached out to put her hand over the ashes before they blew away on the wind.  The ashes came up to Minerva’s hand, and they saw a small clay jar in that hand.  Somehow, the ashes squeezed into the jar so not one escaped, and Minerva put a stopper in the top of the jar.  “And there they will stay until the opportune time.”

“Is that it?” Lockhart whispered.

“I don’t honestly know,” Katie answered in the same soft voice as Minerva looked at the travelers.

“Go home,” Minerva said, not only did the cavalry troop vanish, and the soldiers on the ground, but Petracles and the Eporites, and all of their horses vanished as well.   Only the travelers remained, and Galatea, who suddenly looked miffed.  Minerva ignored the girl as she talked to the travelers.

“I did not look close at this one. She is no more. She will neither bother you nor hinder you any longer.”  Minerva waved, and Katie vanished to reappear beside Minerva, well out of ear shot.  “I went and saw her.  My daughter.  She is beautiful.”  She began to cry.  “She is so smart.  She reminds me of him.  I love her so much.”  She began to weep, and Katie held her and offered what comfort she had.  Minerva did not have it in her to cry for long, and shortly, she pulled back.  “Don’t tell. Please.  Keep this our secret.”

“Your secret is safe.  You just love that beautiful girl.”

Minerva nodded and nearly smiled. “And you and Lockhart should have a girl.”

Katie looked in the direction where the others stood.  “I hope. Someday.”

Minerva nodded again, and disappeared.

As Katie slipped back down the little ridge, she found the others excitedly talking to someone.  She could not see him until she practically stood on top of him.  “Bogramus,” she said.  It was the dwarf from the last time zone, and after sixty years, he only had a touch of gray.

“Well you see, Miss Boston, it was like this,” Bogramus spoke like a grown man to a young child.  “Hephaestus, er, Vulcan said he wanted some minerals dug out of the Nebrodes Mountains, and since I had a whole crew of bored fellas, we said we could do that.  We are dwarves, you know.  Digging for gold is our specialty, but we take work where we can.”

“So, we go this way?” Lincoln asked, and pointed into the cave.

“Yep.”

“But wait,” Katie said, trying to catch up in the conversation.  “Where is the time gate?”

“This way,” Lincoln said, pointing again.

“But it would not be right to come all this way and not say hello to Vulcan,” Millie added.  “You said he invited us.”

Katie agreed before she said, “Wait. Where is Wallace?”

No one wanted to say it.  Alexis stepped up.  “He didn’t make it.  He waded into the soldiers and Nanette screamed and pointed right at him, so they killed him first.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Katie said, especially to Millie and Evan. Evan nodded and Millie sniffed and nodded with him.

Katie returned the nod and started toward Lockhart and the entrance to the cave, but this time Galatea said, “Wait.” She hugged all the women and shook hands with all the men, including Bogramus. “I don’t do underground stuff. Well, I do grottos and sea caves, but with water and high tide.  Smokey, hot underground? No, no.”  Galatea waved and vanished with the words, “See you next time.”

Then they began to walk into the cave and found it well-lit with torches.  “So how many dwarves are working here?”

“Seven,” Bogramus said with a straight face.  “And all bachelors.  Ah, this is the life.  No females to make us miserable, and no children running around getting in the way. Ah.  Mind you, I wouldn’t mind if you knew where some unattached females were hanging around, bored, maybe.”

“Do you whistle while you work?” Lockhart had to ask.

“No, not especially.  Ragtide likes to sing, but we gag him as quick as we can. He is what they call stone deaf.”

“Tone deaf,”

“That too.”

Within an hour, they came to a big open cave, well ventilated, but full of iron works and coal fed boilers and furnaces.  It got hot in there, but Vulcan stood by a forge, waiting patiently.

“Elder Stow,” he called, and the Elder went to the god, meekly, wondering.  “Put your equipment on the table here.  Put it all down, and don’t leave anything out.”

Elder Stow looked briefly at Lockhart and Katie, who both nodded and encouraged him.  He had misgivings, but did as instructed, and stepped back with a word.  “It would probably be best if even you did not get a good look at the inner workings of some of my equipment.”

Vulcan laughed.  “Your secrets are safe.  It is your power source I am concerned about.  Apollo says the time of disillusion is drawing near, and I am thinking the gods might not be around to charge up your equipment next time you need it. There.  Everything is charged except your scanner.  Now here.  This is a new piece for you to carry.  It is a charger.  It should build up a full charge in a few minutes under a light source.  Let us say there are a few things you don’t need to know, either.  Then you touch it to the power source point and it should charge whatever piece of equipment you have in seconds.”

Elder Stow took it and tried it on the scanner.  “Thank you.” It worked perfectly, and did not overcharge the scanner.

“Sure, sure.  You can have your people take it apart to see how it works if you haven’t already come up with something similar by the time you get home. Meanwhile, I might copy that material, your substitute metal there, for a couple of swords I have in mind.  Probably my last gifts to the Kairos before I go away.”

“Hey Boss,” Boston shouted.  The time gate is right in front of us.”

“Yes,” Vulcan laughed.  “Didn’t you wonder why it was only two days’ distance? I thought it would be better to keep it on shore.  Otherwise, the time gate would have been across the sea, half-way to Epirus.”

“It is noon,” Katie said.  “We could go now.”

“You are welcome to stay here and leave in the morning.”  Vulcan said, and smiled, knowing how hot it was for the humans.

They all said thank you and hurried before they melted.

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

MONDAY

Avalon 6.12 The Road Ahead is the final chapter in Avalon, season six.  The travelers from Avalon confront the three outlaw-cowboys who are giving the First Emperor of China some unnatural help. Don’t miss it.  Until Monday, Happy Reading.

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Avalon 6.10 Alexander’s Eyes, part 6 of 6

Five people climbed the rocks to where Lysimachus slept.  From there, they had the best view of the fortification that blocked the pass, and the field that sat between the rocks and the fort.  Katie and Decker carried their rifles and had their military-issue night goggles.  Elder Stow had no doubt much more sophisticated goggles of a sort for night vision.  Bogramus, of course, could see perfectly fine in the dark as might be expected for dwarfs. Lockhart was the only one who couldn’t see anything but dark, and Lysimachus the same when he awoke.  Katie had to describe the scene.

“A group of men are kneeling by some bushes off to your left, there.  Three have come up to Elder Stow’s screen and look puzzled.  They appear to be trying to find the edge of the obstruction, or find a way through.  That must be frustrating.”

“Can they get through?” Lysimachus asked.

“No,” Katie said, and handed the night goggles to Lysimachus to take a look.

“The screens are like a globe or a ball completely around us,” Lockhart explained.

“They even project under the earth,” Elder Stow added, just before an arrow struck where the three Thebans stood outside the screens.  The arrow did not penetrate from inside the screens, so it bounced back to the rocks.

“Hold your arrows,” Lysimachus shouted.

“Not single-sided?” Decker asked.

Elder Stow grunted.  “Bullets can go through.  Arrows are too slow moving and do not have enough force driving them.”

“Don’t get any ideas,” Lockhart said, when Decker raised his rifle to look through his scope.

“My mother and father,” Elder Stow said. “Shall I send out a blast of light?”

Decker immediately pushed his night goggles up on his forehead.  Katie got hers back and held them with a look at Lockhart.  “Go ahead,” Lockhart said, and closed his eyes.  “Maybe it will scare them off without having to kill them.”

Elder Stow nodded and took two sticks from an inner pocket of his shirt.  One was his sonic device with which the travelers were all familiar.  The other stick looked like an enlarged toothpick. He appeared to squeeze the toothpick, and a stream of light shot into the sky where it formed a small globe like a miniature sun.  It would only last a few minutes, but in that time, the whole area became bathed in light.

The Theban soldiers became easily visible, no matter how hard they tried to hide in the bushes.  The enemy officer recognized they were caught, and quickly hurried his men back to the fortification.

An orange light snaked out from the fortification and touched Elder Stow’s blast of light.  The light flared and went out.  The travelers and Lysimachus blinked.  Bogramus spoke.

“Powerful witch, that one.”

“I feel like we’ve fallen into a sword and sorcery novel,” Katie said.

“More like science and sorcery,” Lockhart countered.

“Equipment and enchantment.  Maybe machines and magic,” Decker suggested.

“Maybe we should get some sleep,” Katie said, and took Lockhart by the arm.

“Knowledge and necromancy?” Bogramus spoke up.

“No,” Decker shook his head as they prepared to follow Katie and Lockhart back down the rocks. “It has to start with the same letter.”

“I will stay here for a while to keep watch,” Elder Stow volunteered.  Lysimachus nodded, and went back to lie down.

When Boston came to the lookout at four, to relieve Elder Stow, she suggested, “Elves and engineers.” Lysimachus had gone back to sleep, but Harpalus sat there keeping Elder Stow company.  He asked what she was talking about.

“I have no idea,” Elder Stow admitted. “Is Decker still on with that?”

Boston nodded.  “Bogramus likes dwarves and devices, but Decker says it should be technology and something magical that begins with a “T”.  He says he will have to wait for Lincoln to get up and search the thesaurus in the database.”

“What are elves?” Harpalus asked.

“I am,” Boston said, before she could stop her mouth.  Of course, then she felt she had to show the man.  She lifted her glamour of humanity, but only briefly before she put it right back on again.  Harpalus smiled and almost applauded.  He turned to Elder Stow.

“And are you an elf?”

“Certainly not.  I am a Gott-Druk, and my people used to own all this land before you humans came here.  We lived in peace for a-hundred-thousand years before the stupid Agdaline ruined everything.”

“Gott-Druk?” Harpalus asked.

Elder Stow lifted his own glamour for a second before he restored it. Harpalus looked shocked by Elder Stow’s appearance.

“Are you human?”

“Genus homo, yes.  I am human enough, only not sapiens like yourself. Homo-neaderthalensis.”

Harpalus did not understand.

“Where is Sukki?” Elder Stow asked. “We have father-daughter things to do.”

“I’ll get her,” Boston said.

An hour later, Lysimachus was up and ready to lead the Macedonian cavalry against the gate.  Erigyius agreed to lead the men on foot, provided he did not have to have contact with the dwarves or fairies.  That would not be a problem.  Bogramus already took his dwarves around to the other side of the fortification where they could fall on the enemy in the rear.  He left the camp saying, “Dwarves do damage.”

Katie, Lincoln, and Evan with Katie’s handgun went with the men on foot.  Katie kept her rifle.  Lockhart lent Lincoln the shotgun in case he got close.  Lockhart, Decker, Sukki with Boston’s handgun, and Boston, wand in hand, rode their own horses with the cavalry.  Boston said she would burn a hole in the fortification wall if necessary. Wallace also insisted on going, to Evan and Millie’s surprise.  He borrowed Elder Stow’s horse.  He got Decker’s handgun at Decker’s insistence.  He said he had no intention of hurting anyone.  He just wanted to be there for Nanette.  He imagined she needed him to come and save her, and no one could tell him otherwise.

A few Macedonians got assigned to hold the rocks and protect Alexis and Millie who stayed with the wounded in the grassy area.  The rocks would be the fallback position in case the assault did not go well.  Elder Stow stayed with Harpalus in the lookout spot. In daylight, they could see most of the fortification that blocked the pass.  Harpalus had Decker’s binoculars, and repeated the notion that the gunpowder with which the Thebans mined the road had to be in the barrels in that makeshift shed.

“To keep it dry and out of the rain,” Elder Stow had agreed.  It should not matter to the sonic device.  He had the correct frequency to set off the black powder.  The question was whether he could project it far enough and direct it on a narrow band with enough strength to reach the powder.  He only had small devices such as a ship’s officer would carry, including his handgun.  They were trinkets, really, and not designed for constant use, much less designed to do so many of the things he made them do.  Their power sources remained limited, and needed to be recharged on a regular basis.

Elder Stow spent his time on watch and Sukki and Boston’s watch time as well, working on the sonic device.  He attached it to whatever power sources remained, and imagined after this, his equipment would be useless.  Once again, he wished young Garron survived the sudden and utterly unexpected trip into the deep past.  Garron knew the equipment—the hardware, and the programing.  Garron might have easily done all those things Elder Stow had to struggle with and figure out for himself.  Garron might have known how to more easily recharge his power sources, or maybe how to use those Reichgo batteries that Katie and Decker still carried around.  Elder Stow felt glad he was able to make the equipment do things they were not designed to do. He felt glad that he had not broken the whole lot of them.  Trinkets, he thought of them and waited.

“Are we ready?” Harpalus asked, with a small touch of excitement in his voice.

“Not yet,” Elder Stow said.  He heard Lockhart’s voice in his communicator. Harpalus jumped at the voice and stared at the communication device.  Katie chimed in a moment later.

“Just need to keep Erigyius back a bit. Don’t want to get too close.  We don’t know how big the explosion may be.”

“Mother.  I appreciate the confidence you have in me,” Elder Stow answered.  “As the father might say, let’s hope this works.”

Elder Stow picked up the sonic device and switched it on.  Elder Stow and Harpalus stood for a good fifteen seconds, before the distant powder exploded, all at once.  It sent up a great plume of smoke and fire.  It loosened the face of the cliff that edged the fortress, and sent boulders crashing into the camp.  The blast shattered the little shack to splinters and sent men flying and broken. It knocked down the nearby palisade, where the Macedonians from one side and dwarves from the other hoped to attack the Thebans on foot, while the cavalry kept the rest busy on the remaining wall.  To be honest, the plan might have worked, once the Macedonians and dwarves closed their mouths and got moving; but instead, they all stopped moving altogether. The travelers did not freeze in their tracks, but they got transported with all of their horses and equipment to the other side of the pass.

“What?”  Lincoln asked, but no one else said anything.

Athena stood before them, sadly shaking her head.  “I see why the stupid Kairos says it is too soon for guns and gunpowder,” she said. “I think for once I agree with him. I know where it is being made, and I will remove it, and the knowledge of it from my jurisdiction.”

“Thank you,” Lockhart said, as he and the other riders got down from their horses.

“Nanette?” Wallace had to ask.

“Your witch and your cowboy rushed to the time gate, and with the twister of the witch, they are even now moving into the next time zone.”

“But she is not our witch,” Alexis spoke quickly before the goddess vanished.  “She is your witch.  You make her in the future.  When Evan and Millie, and Wallace too, decide to explore the past, Nanette, the real Nanette asks for some way to go with them, to help them.  You make a duplicate Nanette, like an identical twin.  As I understand sometimes happens with identicals, the real Nanette is the good one, and this Nanette has become the evil twin. I suppose you will have to make her when the time comes.  This one has made a mark on history that should not be erased, but we would appreciate it if you dealt with this duplicate Nanette before she does any further damage.”

Athena stared, stone faced.  “I noticed my fingerprint and wondered,” she slowly nodded.  “I will think on it.”

“Athena,” Katie stepped up.  “May I talk to you?”  Katie looked back at the others.  “In private.”

Since Athena was prevented from reading Katie’s mind by an act of all the gods, she got curious, a rare treat for the gods.  Katie and Athena disappeared and reappeared up the way, well out of earshot, even for Boston, the elf.

Athena said nothing

“It is about Justitia,” Katie said, and found the courage to add, “She seems a wonderful girl.”

Athena looked genuinely surprised for all of a second before she looked to the side and confessed, without explaining.

“Apollo once privately prophesied that I would have a child wiser than myself.  I denied him.  I was the virgin goddess for a reason.  Then Troy. Almost a thousand years later, and I still love him.  The Kairos, of all people.  I know Aphrodite and I were on opposite sides, but… I don’t know if I will ever forgive her.”  Athena found a tear and Katie dared not interrupt.

“I denied the baby for seven hundred years.  Apollo and Artemis tricked me into delivering the girl.  I tried to blind the girl.” Athena sniffed.  “Artemis hurried her away, and took her to her father, though the present life of the Kairos was that woman in Rome.  I let it go.  I watched, sometimes.  She is a lovely girl.”  Athena sniffed again, and wiped an eye.  “I often stand in for Zeus and Hera, you know, Jupiter and Juno in Rome.”  She smiled slightly.  “It was Cronos who confined his father to the Roman peninsula, but Zeus who gave him the name, Saturn.  He reciprocated by insisting everyone else have different names in his part of the world… Except Apollo.  He liked Apollo for some reason.”

“You know, the girl will never be wiser than her mother unless you love her and teach her,” Katie said, softly.

Athena turned her stone face to Katie. She gave the same look as when she said she would think about dealing with the witch.  She might have nodded a little.  Katie was not sure, but instantly, she found herself back where she stood with the Macedonians, ready to assault the fortification.  It was not much of an assault.  The Thebans and Athenians immediately surrendered. Bogramus said his two-dozen dwarves were very disappointed.

“Maybe next time,” Katie said.

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

MONDAY

Shipwreck.  The travers head for Sicily, but first, they have to navigate a water gate, and that is never easy.  Plus, the witch has not given up, but now the gods are on notice.  Who will get there first, and in one piece?

Until next time, Happy Reading

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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.

###

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.”

###

“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.

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

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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