Avalon 9.5 Men in Black, part 6 of 6

Elizabeth felt sorry for the Wolv.  If his cryogenic chamber malfunctioned in some way, he may have spent the last five or six hundred years slowly dying.   “Lockhart.  Please remind the Wolv that he does not belong on this planet.”

Lockhart had to think about it.  After a moment, he made some sounds that the Men in Black did not know a human could make, but the Wolv appeared to understand.  It made some similar sounds, and then said one thing plainly in English or Greek for all to hear.  “Kairos.”

Diogenes objected.  He did this already, once before, in the future…  He agreed and came to stand in Elizabeth’s place, the armor adjusting automatically to his shape and size.  He pulled Wyrd from the sheath across his back, said, “God forgive me,” in the Macedonian dialect.  He chopped the Wolv head off in one clean sweep.  He went to one knee, holding tight to the sword like a cross and prayed for forgiveness.  Several of the men, and Bram who had caught up with them, went to their knees with him, not doubting his intentions.

When Diogenes stood, he traded places immediately with Elizabeth, who returned in her dress and quickly pulled it up out of the muck at her feet.  “Boots,” she said, and her lady boots were instantly replaced by the boots from her armor.  They came up to her knees and would keep her feet much warmer.  “Good,” Elizabeth said.  “Now we can get on with the business we came here for.”

“You mean, this is not why we came here?” Sir Leslie asked.

“It was first, but there is more important work to attend to.”

“What on Earth might that be?” Conner O’Neil asked.

“The lights flying through the night sky,” Jack said, having figured it out.

Lockhart and Decker laughed, and Katie spoke.  “Welcome to the world of the Kairos.  There is always something more.”

A half-day’s ride down the loch brought the travelers and Men in Black to a scene that Elizabeth both expected and prepared for.  When she stopped short of the event, and all eyes turned to her, Elder Stow turned on his screen device.  One of the aliens they confronted tried his handgun.  It did not even register on the screens, but Elder Stow and several of the travelers looked at Elizabeth.  She spoke to everyone and pointed.

The ones with the big heads, big eyes, holes for a nose, and no lips are Reichgo.  Their genesis planet was the Pendratti world, now devoid of life and ready to be swallowed as their sun goes red giant.  The Little circular metal box floating over there is the Kargill.  No one sees the Kargill.  The one in the middle is the Zalanid.  His home world has been destroyed by the war between the Kargill and the Reichgo, but the Zalanid have taken it upon themselves to negotiate a peace between the two sides.”

“Is that an insect?” Duchamp asked, like he might have a phobia for wasps and such.

“Not really,” Elizabeth offered.  The Zalanid looked human enough in his arms, hands, legs, and head.  His feet did look a bit insect-like and his waist was skinny as a wasp.  Plus, his face looked normal enough, but like he dipped his face in acid, or got hit in the face with several buckets of ugly.  He was hard to look at, but he smiled for the crew, his natural disposition, and already the people were thinking he might be a nice person.  “The Zalanid and the Kargill were made on the same planet—a third genesis planet closer to the galactic center.  Of course, they do not know this, but it may be why the Kargill can relate to the Zalanid where the Kargill doesn’t want to even talk to us or the Reichgo, or any other species for that matter.  The Kargill is very private.  Now, I must go.  You all need to stay here.”

Elizabeth got down from her horse, traded places with the goddess Danna, and phased through Elder Stow’s screens to confront the aliens.  Sure enough, the same Reichgo that tried its weapon against Elder Stow’s screens fired on Danna.  Danna did not even break her stride.  She said, “This meeting is being broadcast on the Zalanid planet where right now the Zalanid are trying to negotiate a peace between the Reichgo and the Kargill.  They will see and hear everything.”

Danna raised her hand and every Reichgo weapon or what might be used as a weapon vacated the Reichgo hands and pouches.  It all appeared in midair, and as Danna closed her hand, the weapons squished together into a little ball of metal before it disappeared.  She snapped her finger, and the trigger-happy Reichgo appeared before her.  “That is not permitted on this world,” she said and snapped her finger again.  The Reichgo vanished.  He appeared on the planet of the Zalanid, millions of light years distant, but she did not tell the Reichgo that.  She began again.

“This is a Genesis planet where intelligent life is created.  It is one of only a half-dozen planets in the galaxy.  Other worlds may develop life, but intelligent life is special, unless you behave stupidly.  Now listen very carefully and hear what Helen has to tell you.”  She did not say who Helen was.  She just reached back to Sherwood Forest and traded with the girl she had once been.  Danna left an aura of protection around the girl in case someone got incredibly stupid, but Helen came, not in the armor of the Kairos, but dressed in her own dress and smiling her own smile.

“By right of discovery and first landing, this planet is a Kargill planet.  The Reichgo may visit here, but only visit.  They are to limit all contact with the native population, and in no way interfere with the natural course and development of the life on this planet, intelligent or otherwise.  That is the law, spoken.”  Helen, a thirteen-year-old girl, turned to the travelers and got a big smile.  “Hello friends.  It is wonderful to see you again.  I have to go now.  I think I have to marry the miller’s son.  Goodbye.”  She blew a kiss and waved, and Danna returned.  It took a second to wipe the smile from her face before she could turn again to the aliens.

“The law has been spoken.  The Reichgo need to leave and leave this world alone.  The Kargill may park at the bottom of the lake for the moment.  You may keep the Zalanid in suspension as long as he is willing.  I will need him for the moment.  When I return him to the lake, you may send a shuttle for him.  Then you must park in the depths of the ocean where you will not be seen or found.  Henceforth, you must send the Zalanid to tell my Men in Black when this planet is in danger of an alien intrusion.  Those native to this world may be permitted to visit, but all other outsiders do not belong.  You may watch and listen, which I know is your inclination.  It that clear?”

The floating metal box blinked a light once.

“Good,” Danna said and turned to the Reichgo.  “There will be no fighting on this world.  This is a genesis planet and a sanctuary world, now, begone.”  She waved her arm and the Reichgo vanished from that place.  Only a few moments later, the travelers and Men in Black saw a ship take to the sky.  The metal box dove into the lake where the Kargill ship had already parked, as Danna knew.  The Zalanid looked at Danna, willing, though not without some trepidation.  Danna waved her hand once more and the Zalanid became clothed in a full-length jacket and some fine-looking boots.  “This world is made up of nation states and many different cultures.  But all the people on this world are human.  When you are sent among us, you must be clothed to appear as human as possible.”  Danna changed to Elizabeth in her dress.  Elder Stow took down the screens and Elizabeth continued speaking as if she was the same person as Danna, which in a real sense she was.

“You will be called Mister Smith among the humans.  It is a very common name.  I am Lady Elizabeth Stewart MacLean of Gray Havens.  Allow me to introduce the Men in Black who belong in this time zone.  It is the custom in this place to shake hands when introduced.”  She took the Zalanid’s hand and shook it to show what she meant.  Then she took the Zalanid’s arm like a lady might take a gentleman’s arm.  She introduced Sir Leslie and Jack Horner as the founders of the London branch of the Men in Black.  They looked reluctant but shook the offered hand only to find it felt human enough.  Mister Smith was a fast learner, and he laughed before he objected.

“You say men in black, but this one is dressed in red.  And I see much red, green and blue, unless my translation device is malfunctioning.”

“Men in Black is an organization title.  I am sure in time they will dress in black, but meanwhile the one in blue is Jean Duchamp.  He is French and works from the Paris office…”  She continued from there, introducing DeWindt, David Wallach, MacDonald and Campbell as founders of the Scottish office, and Conner O’Neil as their man in Ireland.  “Now, let me introduce the Travelers from Avalon.  They are time travelers come back from three hundred and sixty years in the future.

“You cannot travel in time,” Mister Smith said, but then considered Elizabeth and changed his mind.

Elizabeth spoke candidly.  “I am the Traveler in time, the Watcher over history who is tasked to make sure it comes out the way it has been written.”

“And how do you know the way it is written?” Jack Horner asked.

“I have lived in the future.  I read the book,” she said.  “But you must pay attention because Lockhart is the assistant director of the Men in Black in the future.  He can tell you some real stories, some of which you might not want to hear.”

“But say,” Sir Leslie interrupted.  “How did you know that the Reichgo and Kargill… and Mister Smith would be here right now?  That could not have been coincidence.”

Elizabeth looked up at the nearby tree.  “Heather,” she yelled, and the fairy fluttered down to say hello to the travelers before she landed on Elizabeth’s shoulder as far away from Mister Smith as she could get.

“Oh yes,” Sir Leslie said.  “I had forgotten.”



The travelers find a Mohawk to guide them through hostile territory to the big Swede, Lars of the Lenape in episode 9.6 Earth and Sky Until then, Happy Reading.


Avalon 9.5 Men in Black, part 5 of 6

The Buchanans, Lady Elizabeth, and the Men in Black examined the escape pod.  Clyde and his father hauled it up on shore.  It had been there, underwater, for as long as anyone in the clan could remember.  People ignored it, not knowing what it might be.  Elizabeth explained the basics.  Jack Horner, David, and DeWindt seemed to grasp things well enough.  Duchamp took notes which he said he did not understand.  MacDonald and Campbell gave up arguing and started telling jokes which Conner O’Neil did not find nearly as funny as their arguments.  Bram and Clyde Buchanan explained their part in this fiasco.

“Clyde heard the wolf.  So did his mother.  Between them, they pinpointed this old Roman thing.  We always thought it was some old Roman thing.  The wolf was not seen in the nearby wetlands at this time, as it had been in the past, but we got the men of our family and neighbors to help us drag the thing to shore.  It took all day, and we gave it a rest.  We feasted in Bramwell Hall, my home, but young Clyde, being a curious boy, stayed to examine the globe more closely.  He found the door.  Then he found some buttons which he just had to push, and for which he has been rightly whipped.”

“Come and see,” Elizabeth called to the men, and they squeezed into the pod as well as they could.  She began to point out things against the wall.  “The power gauge.  It is about half-charged since it came out from the water and is getting the light, even if it is just the poor light of a Scottish winter.”  She moved her hands along the wall in that place and console pushed out from the wall.  She studied it for a second before she made her pronouncement.

“There are six sleep chambers in this pod.  Three have been emptied.  Three still have Wolv inside, but the life signs are gone.  To be blunt, they are dead.  My estimate is these have been here since the incursion into the Black Forest around a thousand AD, only about six hundred and fifty years ago.  The Romans left long before that.  These arrived about the time the Vikings began to attack the shores.”

Elizabeth pushed a button to uncover all six sleep chambers at once.  Several men screamed at the sight.  Three chambers were empty as she said, though they all showed residue as if they had been used.  Three held Wolv.  One Wolv looked long dead, like melted in some way so it was hard to distinguish the form and features.  One looked like a soldier at attention. All the men recognized that when they stopped screaming.  One, a female, might have been a queen.  She stood tall and looked proud, in so far as they could read Wolv expressions.

“This is the distress call.”  She turned it off.  “There is a short in the system besides.  But basically, this and all the other systems function under full power, but when the power level drop below a certain point, all the systems get shut down except the life support system designed to keep the occupants alive.  Underwater, the pod had filtered Scottish sunlight at best, which probably charged things slowly.  It might have taken years to charge up enough to turn the systems back on, and even then, the distress call would have flickered and might have been off for most of the time.  Bram.  Are there any legends in the clan about livestock going missing or being shredded, or maybe people?

Bram appeared to be thinking hard.  “Around the time you mentioned, some six hundred or so years ago, lots of things happened and I always imagined the stories got blended together, somehow.  “We had reports of wolves seen around the lake.  We had reports of a monster in the lake.  Mostly, the stories talked about the big jaws and teeth, but it was like a monster that would suddenly appear and then disappear just as suddenly.  We had reports of Vikings.  Some came to the loch.  They got blamed for most of the shredded livestock and people.  There was a great wolf hunt in those days, and the wolf got killed, but then there have continued to be reports now and then of a wolf being seen around the lake.”

“Probably picked up by a small number of people sensitive to such things,” Elizabeth said, partly to herself.  “The other earth is out of phase right now, so there are no actual, active witches presently.  But back seventy-five years and for all those years before, anyone sensitive to the magic might have picked up on the distress call.”

“What do you mean, there are no actual witches?”  Jack Horner sounded more surprised than offended.

“Later.  I promise,” Elizabeth responded to him before she talked to the rest.  “At least one of the Wolv got out when the escape pod crashed.  It probably could not figure out how to get the pod up out of the water without help.  But then, it got hunted down, so you see they can be killed.  Now, we have one or two Wolv on the loose.  They will require some careful hunting.”

“People have been eaten,” young Clyde Buchanan spoke up for the first time.  “And livestock has gone missing as you said.”

“I have littered the woods with traps,” Bram said.

Elizabeth shook her head.  “I would be surprised if a Wolv stepped in one.  They might step on a well disguised landmine, but a trap would just bloody them without holding them.  They would get out of the trap and be extra angry.  Trust me, they are naturally mad.  You don’t want to make them extra angry.”

“My friend Ella’s grandmother got shredded in her bed,” Clyde said.  “Ella went to take some treats to her grandmother’s house in the woods and found the old woman half-eaten.  It was terrible.”

Elizabeth grinned, though there was nothing humorous in the story.  “Let us go up to the house where it is warm to plan our attack and have a bit of lunch,” she said, and people began to walk with her.  “I will tell you all a story from Bavaria in the Germanies.  The story is called Little Red Riding Hood.”

David perked up.  “I have heard that story.”  He smiled before his expression turned sour.  “I never imagined it might be a true story.”

Two days later, with plenty of Buchanan help, Elizabeth and her Men in Black backed the Wolv into a marshland beside the lake.  Plenty of bushes and trees littered the area, but the ground had turned mostly to slush in the winter—ice mixed with freezing rain.  Even the spots that appeared frozen over might crack and cover the foot with ice-cold water.

“It won’t be easy getting them out of there,” Sir Leslie admitted.

“Normally, I do not recommend backing dangerous people into a corner.  Some tend to lash out when they feel trapped,” Elizabeth said.  She looked carefully left and right and figured only the Men in Black would see.  She called for the armor of the Kairos, which replaced her dress faster than a blink.  She imagined the sword called Salvation, which she used in the past, worked out with, and knew she could lift, but she found Wyrd, her biggest and heaviest sword at her back.  She pulled Defender, her long knife, and saw Clyde slide up to the group.  He came with a message but could not resist commenting first.

“Lordy-lordy!  Where did you get that armor?  You look great.”

Elizabeth smiled.  She knew she was not the prettiest girl.  Far from it.  But she appreciated the compliment, in part because she got so few of them.  “We have to be extra careful.  You have a message?”

“Yes,” he began, but people all stopped when the group next to the Men in Black got suddenly attacked by the Wolv.  They had seen it twice in two days.  One time, a man said he got a shot off and swore he hit the beast.  Now, they all saw the caked on and frozen blood on the beast’s shoulder, but only for a moment as the blood there went everywhere. The three men there did not have time to draw their knives, much less fire their guns.  The Wolv appeared to be making a way of escape from the trap, and it looked like he would make it before they all heard a gunshot, followed by several gunshots in rapid fire.  Finally, a streak of power hit the Wolv, and the upper portion of the Wolv burst into flame.  The Wolv collapsed and Elizabeth heard Sukki in the distance.

“Sorry.  Sorry.  I hope none of the people got burned.”

Soft words got spoken in return, and the travelers rode up, the locals getting well out of the way, given the power they just saw.  Elizabeth alone was not surprised.

“Lockhart.  Good timing for once, but I think there is another one.”

“Elizabeth?” Lincoln asked.

“No.  I just look exactly like her and borrowed the armor on a whim to show off my legs,” she said in her sarcastic best.  She might not be pretty, but she had nice legs.  She opened her arms and called for Sukki.  As she hugged the girl, she said kind and very motherly things to her.  Then she had a request, and Sukki was willing.  “I need you and Elder Stow to fly invisible over the swampy area and see if there is another Wolv hidden in the bushes.  You need to let us know.  Then let Elder Stow become visible over that spot, because he has a personal screen, but you need to stay invisible in case the Wolv has a handgun.  We will come to that spot, but you need to keep us appraised as to what the Wolv is doing.  Can you do that?”

They did that while Nanette, Tony, and Lincoln patched up the one Buchanan that would survive and gave what they had to the other two to make their last moments more comfortable.  The rest of the travelers with the Men in Black moved as soon as Sukki found the Wolv.  The old, gray haired Wolv never moved, and when they arrived, they saw why.  Its rear legs looked shriveled and useless, and it looked old enough to where some of its fur was missing, showing bald patches of skin.  The Wolv looked at them and growled, but there was no strength in the sound.  It looked old and tired and ready to end life.

Avalon 9.5 Men in Black, part 4 of 6

Elizabeth and her Men in Black ended up staying three days in Glasgow.  Elizabeth spoiled her children.  Erin and the children’s nursemaid did their fair share of spoiling as well.  Sir Leslie was very generous.  Jack Horner said something about sparing the rod and spoiling the child.  MacDonald and Campbell argued most of the time about stupid things, like which clan made the best haggis.  O’Neil, the Irishman laughed a lot.  Duchamp and DeWindt made peace with David, and found they had many things about which they could relate, not the least their all being from the continent and wanting nothing to do with haggis.  James and John watched over the women and children, but then, everyone had questions. In the evenings, Elizabeth did her best to answer the question she could.

Our Earth was formed about four and a half billion years ago.  The creation of the universe was more than twice that many years ago.  There are star-suns that have planets that are twice as old as Earth.  Some planets are just now forming around some star-suns.”

“What is a billion?” David asked what many wondered.  Elizabeth went through the numbers.

“One, ten, one hundred, one thousand.  One thousand, ten thousand one hundred thousand, one million.  One million, ten million, one hundred million, one billion.  One billion, four and a half billion when the earth was formed.  She showed with her hands and arms.  The universe was created more than ten billion years ago.”

“Good Lord,” Jack spouted at the incomprehensible number.  “But look.  The Holy Book tells us the age of the earth is six thousand years old.”

“The age of modern humans.  There were many ages before that.  In the beginning, in our beginning, a darkness was on the face of the earth and the Spirit of God moved across the waters.  The whole earth had been flooded.”

“Noah?” DeWindt asked.

“Not yet,” Elizabeth said and struggled to find the best way to explain it all.  “The Earth entered a cold spell and much of the land became covered with ice.  The seabed lowered.  It is a long story, but basically, the ice all melted at once.  A moon, not our moon and not Venus, bumped the earth roughly on the north pole and set it to wobbling.  The Earth cracked and erupted if you know what a volcano is.  The ice all melted at once and the sky filled with steam, ash, dust, and smoke, so the world fell into darkness.  I mean dark as night, not an evil darkness, though it may have been that as well.”

“Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light,” Jack recited.

“The sky cleared,” Elizabeth continued with a nod.  “And some men were saved through that flood, though I am not at liberty to say how.  The other people who were made on this world were taken off world to planets of their own.”

“Wait…” Sir Leslie wanted to object but Elizabeth held up her hand.

“This is a Genesis planet, one of only half a dozen in this galaxy—in this area of space.  You know what Genesis means.  I should not have to explain that.  But in four and a half billion years, many people have been made here.  After the meltdown, flood, and let there be light, only humans remained, mostly.  People built a world-wide culture, all speaking the same language.  It was a garden-like existence, for sure, but the people screwed it up.  You know, like Adam and Eve.   The earth began to freeze over again until the asteroids, some comets trailing after the little moon that hit and glanced off the north pole, caught up with us and smashed into several places, notably Greenland.  Everything melted suddenly again.  That was Noah.”

“But the age of the earth…”  Jack was not for giving up.

“Six thousand years ago, or a little more, there was another change event.  Nimrod the moron built a tower.  In Scripture it is called the Tower of Babel, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.  And God said he would never again destroy the Earth by waters of a flood for as long as the Earth abides.  Let me say, the ages represented in the Bible are correct, only there is some missing information not meant for the general public in this day and age.  Basically, after Noah, people stopped living for eight hundred years and eventually started living eighty.  But that was gradual, and there are scientific reasons for that which I am not prepared to go into.  A narrowed population will do that.  But consider this, all the men mentioned in the Book of Hebrews trusted God, though they never witnessed the promise when the Messiah walked among us.  They lived faithfully, though they did not know the whole story.  So, let me just say the languages became confused after Babel, marking the beginning of modern man, and I was first born under that doomed tower to try and keep track of it all.”  She paused to let them digest that bit of information and was not disappointed by Jack.

“Good Lord.”


The travelers reached Perth on one of the few sunny days.  The road to Sterling would be a push if the weather turned, but they figured they might make it in a day.  It would be another day after that to reach Glasgow, which appeared to be where the Kairos settled.  Lincoln read about the alien encounters and the Men in Black that began in 1649, but as usual, he was not sure what it was safe to say until certain events played out.  He understood both Katie and Tony were past their era of expertise.  They would not necessarily know more than the others.  He wondered if it was safe to mention that Charles I, King of Scotland, England, and Ireland would be beheaded at the end of the month.  He would have to think about that.

Katie and Nanette noticed and confirmed a familiar face among the patrons in the inn.  The man sat with friends at a nearby table.  They confronted the man over supper in the big room, and Katie named the man.  “Bishop Pierre Cauchon.”

The man looked up from his seat.  They saw his face and imagined his mind raced through a hundred ways to deny what they called him, but in the end, he smiled and said, “You got me.”

“Lord Peter?” one of the men seated with him wondered what these women were talking about.

“It is Lord Peter Cameron, actually, and being a good covenanter, we will leave the bishop part in the past.”

Nanette remembered Joan of Arc, that lovely young girl they met so briefly in that day, and she spoke.  “Condemn any innocent young women for witchery lately?”  Her voice sounded hard and full of anger.

“Not lately,” the man said in a voice that suggested he may have used the charge of witchcraft at some point or other.  “I have been busy with my assignment, helping Scotland shatter to pieces.  We have Montrose, royalists, covenanters, engagers, clans fighting clans, and Argyll the stubborn fighting everyone.  I’ll admit, the battle of Sterling did not turn out the way I wanted.  I was hoping for all-out war, but we take what we can get.”

Lockhart and Decker came up to fetch the women to their table, and Katie spoke.  “Why would you want Scotland divided?  Though I assume the Masters would not want peace in general.”

Lord Peter smiled some more.  “Invasion,” he answered.  “Most of Scotland will stay home when the invasion comes.  They will not take up arms to fight alongside people who they count as enemies and traitors.  Scotland will fall to a military dictatorship, and it will happen centuries before Hitler.  And the Scottish will not rebel, so there will be no reason the greatly improved army should not invade the continent.  Soon enough, the army on the continent will make a pact with the Vassas and the Hapsburgs to fight the Ottomans, and we will have the First World War two hundred years ahead of time.  Of course, the Masters hope they beat each other senseless, but one can only hope.”

“Cromwell is not that kind of man,” Katie said, as Lord Peter stood and got his men up from their meal.

“A push here.  A whisper there.  Men are malleable,” he said, and marched for the door, his men following.

“What was that about?” Decker asked.

“Why did that man look familiar?” Lockhart asked.

“Bishop Pierre Cauchon who killed Joan of Arc.  Now, Lord Peter Cameron planning to turn Oliver Cromwell into Adolph Hitler and bring war to the entire continent and beyond.”

Lockhart looked at the door and reached for his handgun.  Decker ran to the door, but the man was not to be found.  He cursed when he returned.

“You should have killed him on the spot,” he said.

“Decker?” Nanette asked what he meant by that and only partly protested.

“Servant of the Masters and a repeat face that is not one of the good guys.  That is an enemy combatant.  You should have shot him immediately.”

“Decker?” Nanette asked again, not knowing what to ask, but Katie spoke.

“Yes.  I should have.”


Elizabeth said goodbye to her children in the morning and sent them on the way to Gray Havens.  In the afternoon, Sir Leslie and Jack Horner came up with another question.  Jack quoted the scriptures.

“It is appointed a man once to die and after this the judgment.”

Sir Leslie added, “I assume that goes for women, too.”

Elizabeth nodded.  “But that is just it.  God won’t let me die.  Oh, I feel all the pain and loss of death.  It is hard every time.  I get right up to the point of going over to the Heavenly shores, and my spirit gets stuck in another womb, like it or not.  I have no say in the matter, and nine months later, I get born somewhere new on the planet.  As a baby, I have no idea I ever lived before.  Those thoughts don’t occur to me until I am twelve…  Ten?  Thirteen or fourteen?  It varies.  But then I discover things are happening that will throw all of history off track unless I act.  So, we are acting.”

“That must be hard,” Sir Leslie said in his most sympathetic voice.  “To die again and again and never be allowed to go to heaven.”

“Who?” Jack asked, but she knew what he was asking.

“I call them friends in the future.  They may be angels deciding where I need to go.  In any case, they could only do such a thing under God’s watchful eye.”

“Assuredly,” Jack said.

Elizabeth stopped the group in front of a big house in the country.  She pulled a handkerchief and dabbed her eyes, before she got down and said, “The home of Bram Buchanan.  His son, Clyde evidently set the Wolv free.”

Avalon 9.5 Men in Black, part 3 of 6

“When you say Wolv, I assume you don’t mean an ordinary wolf,” Sir Leslie said as he rode up beside Elizabeth.  It stopped raining for the time being, so Erin pulled her horse back to make room.

Elizabeth grinned.  “They can run on all fours, but their front paws can function like hands.  When they stand on their hind legs, they are maybe six or seven feet tall.  Their mouth is like something between a wolf and a bear—maybe a snub-nosed wolf, and the teeth are like daggers.  They are constantly hungry and strictly carnivores.  They eat people.”

“Sounds bad.”

“Oh, it is worse,” Elizabeth continued.  “They are intelligent.”

“They are clever?  Very clever?”

Elizbeth shook her head.  “Intelligent,” she said.  “They have a language and talk to one another, share ideas and so forth.  At one time, they had access to a technology more advanced than anything you would understand.  This one has probably been asleep for more than a thousand years.  It is a special kind of sleep where they don’t age.  The problem is the material they sleep in begins to break down and degrades after a thousand years or so.  Think of it like old bread that starts to get moldy, or milk that goes sour.  If the Wolv has been set free from rancid material, there is no telling what condition it may be in.  Mad, certainly, but that might be hard to tell from normal Wolv behavior.”

“And how did you get wind of this?” Sir Leslie asked before he shook his head.  “Of course, the fairies.”

“Not exactly,” Elizabeth said.  “There have been reports of wolf scares around the lake going back for centuries. That suggests an escape pod from a ship.  Something like a longboat with sailors needing rescue from a sunken ship.  The pod has an automatic distress signal limited only by the rechargeable power source.  Needs sunlight.  Not a problem in space.  It notes who is in stasis and projects that information in the distress.  It almost guarantees Lord so-and-so will be picked up by someone, and even if he is then held for ransom, at least he is alive.  Anyway, my guess is the projector malfunctioned in some way and it projected on the wetlands around the lake like a ghost image.”

“I had not heard of that,” Sir Leslie said.  “I heard of a monster in Loch Ness, but not Loch Lomond.”

“The projected image probably did not last long, and it would stop and take time to recharge, maybe decades, before it could send the message again.  That suggests the pod is buried or more likely, underwater, stuck in the mud where it gets at best very filtered sunlight.”

“But now the Wolv has gotten free.”  Jack Horner spoke from behind where he moved up next to Erin.

“Do we need to capture it?” Sir Leslie asked.

Elizabeth shook her head again.  “Sadly, there is no way to send it back into space, and some species are too dangerous to be left running free.”

“So, we hunt the Wolv and end its days,” Jack said.  “My powder is dry.”

Sir Leslie looked back at the man with a thought.  “But I have a feeling this is not all we are looking for.”  He turned to Elizabeth.  “Something you said.  What more is there?”

Elizabeth hesitated because she did not know what to say.  Finally, she came out with it. “Lights in the night sky.  Moving lights seen even when the sky is clouded over, and no stars are visible.  It clearly indicates something is up there flying around, checking us out, looking for a place to set down.”

“I don’t understand,” Sir Leslie admitted.  “What do you mean, set down?”

“Land,” she answered.  “Probably attracted to the distress call.  Listen, I have already used the ship at sea image.  Consider it a ship, but instead of floating on water, it floats on the air.  When a ship at sea makes landfall, they reach the shore and sometimes sail off the coast for a time looking for a good place to come ashore.  It is honestly no different with spaceships.  They fly close to the earth but stay in the air until they find the place where they want to land.”

“I see that.  It makes sense,” Sir Leslie thought about it.

“But what are these alien people looking for?” Jack asked.

Elizabeth shrugged.  “What does the Englishman want with the natives in New England or Virginia, or the Africans along the Gold and Ivory coasts?”

Sir Leslie grumbled.  “Gold and Ivory.  Every precious thing the people have.  Land, and most of all, slaves.”

Jack countered.  “We bring them civilization and the true faith.”

“They have their own civilization,” Elizabeth said.  “It is just different from our way of thinking.”

“They have slaves of their own,” Jack responded.  “Some of them are headhunters and cannibals.  I heard the natives in New Spain practiced human sacrifice.  They cut out people’s hearts.”

“And the celts used to build wicker cages for their enemies in order to sacrifice them to the flames.  The Romans used to crucify their enemies and criminals.  To this day, Moslems go to war in order to impose their prophet on the whole world, and we fine Englishmen, when someone won’t agree to our way and believe the way we believe, we chop their heads off.  What is your point?”

Jack fell silent, but Leslie had a thought, and another question.

“Basically, there is no way we can know what these alien people might want.”

Elizabeth shook her head once again.

“But say, where do these aliens come from?  You have not made that clear.”

Elizabeth had to think again as they climbed a hill.  She stopped at the top where the wagons and the others could go around.  They saw a village in the valley, and would stop there for the night, though at this rate it might take them three whole days to reach Glasgow, and maybe another two days to the loch, and another three for the children to reach home in Gray Havens.  Finally, Elizabeth spoke.

“Look down into the village.  There, in the center square.  What is that?”

Sir Leslie squinted.  He might need glasses.  Jack hesitated before he spoke.

“A tree.  Maybe an Elm.”

“Yes,” Sir Leslie nodded.  “A tree.  I can’t claim Elm.”

“It looks so small and hard to see because it is so far away.  It is no different when you look up into the night sky.  On a clear night, you might see some small lights in the sky, but you know, being educated, that a few of those small lights are actually planets, like the Earth, only they look small because they are so very far away.  We call them Venus, Jupiter, and Mars.”

“You are not suggesting these aliens are from Mars, are you?”

Elizabeth smiled.  “Martians would be too rich, but no, they come from much further away.  Do you know what the stars are?”

Sir Leslie nodded.  “I understand they are like sparks of the sun, or like the sun in some way.”

“They are suns.  Some are bigger than our sun.  They only look small to our eyes because they are so very far away, like the tree.”

“Good Lord,” Jack spouted.  “The distance must be enormous.”

“Indeed,” Elizabeth said.  “And it is only natural to assume those distant suns have planets of their own; planets like Earth where life exists and where some of that life has learned to fly, and even fly between the stars.  Some of the people from out there look like us, or similar to us, or like things that we have some familiarity with.  Like the Wolv.  Some look very different from us.  But here is the key point.  People come in both good and bad, and even some of the things that they may consider good for us, like civilization imposed on us primitives, may actually be violence against us.  Some may want to hunt and eat us like we hunt the deer in the forest, not thinking of deer as intelligent and worthy of respect.  Some may wish to enslave us, or experiment on us, or gather us and take us to their home world as exotic specimens.  Pray that they are good.  Some may encourage us, like a parent might encourage a child.  Some may want to defend us from other intruders, but that might be dangerous in itself.  Think of the English and Spanish fighting a pitched battle over a village of little or no consequences.  The village will probably be burned to the ground, and many innocent people, men, women, and children will be killed.”

“So, we can’t know ahead of time what they want, what they intend to do, or even how they think,” Sir Leslie mused.

“They may look like us, or not at all like us,” Jack added.  “People do come in all shapes and sizes, and all manner of good and evil.”

Elizabeth agreed.  “The main thing is they don’t belong here.  Our job will be to encourage them to leave this world alone, whatever their intentions.  We may ask them to leave.  Some we may have to force, but that will be difficult since they will have contraptions and greater power and weapons than we can imagine.  Think of native people who first faced artillery and muskets.”

“I get that idea,” Sir Leslie said.

“We are, in a way, much like children,” Elizabeth agreed. “We deserve a chance to grow in our own way and see what we may become.  But keeping intruders from interfering will be difficult.”  Elizabeth saw the wagon with her children pass her by and she added, “Speaking of children.  I must see to mine.  We will stop the night in the village below.  It looks like it may begin to rain again.  We will rest here, though at this rate it may take us a week to reach the Loch.”  She waited for the wagon to pass.  “You gentlemen can see how big the tree is up close when we arrive. Erin,” she called to her maid, and they moved in to follow the wagon.


The merchants found an inn on the road and took one of the two available rooms for the three of them.  Lockhart let Decker and Nanette have the other room, while he and Katie stayed with the rest of the crew in the main room downstairs, at two-thirds the price, paying only for supper and horse feed.

“I don’t mind,” Katie said.  “They are still like newlyweds.”

“It has been a while since the days of Helen and Robin Hood,” Lockhart said, but he nodded.

“My Father,” Sukki spoke up.  Both Elder Stow and Lockhart looked up, but in this case, she spoke to Lockhart.  “I checked the amulet several times today.  The Kairos is moving west.”  People understood, but they committed to the lowland road until Perth.  Then they would see.

The sky cleared that night, and everyone piled outside to see the northern lights, which looked spectacular, until it got interrupted.  Something distant and glowing shot across the sky.  Katie almost called it a shooting star, but it stopped overhead for a minute before it sped off to the south.  “A UFO,” Lockhart named it.  Lincoln frowned.  He would have to get out the database to see what mess the Kairos was into now.  Elder Stow got out his scanner, but the UFO had already moved out of range.



Elizabeth and her men will confront the aliens around Loch Lomond, and the travelers will arrive there, maybe on time. Until Monday, Happy Reading


Avalon 9.5 Men in Black, part 2 of 6

“First, let me introduce the clan.   Please be seated.  Jack Horner, I believe there is a seat back in the corner, if you don’t mind.  Sorry. Only cake.  No Christmas pie.  Christmas was several weeks ago.”  Elizabeth smiled at her own joke which no one else understood.  She cleared her throat. “You may know James and John, my retainers.  Erin is my maid.  You gentlemen will see plenty of her over this next week.  The three big men seated behind are Conner O’Neil, an Irish Catholic, Duncan MacDonald, a royalist, and Stephen Campbell, a covenanter, who you may note are not killing each other.  In this group, there must be peace and petty squabbles are not allowed.”  She pointed at the three men.  Only the Irishman responded.

“You have my word.  I will not bother the Englishmen.”

“All right,” Elizabeth continued.  “The three in front are our guests.  Charles deWindt is Dutch Reformed.  Jean Duchamp is French, Catholic, and works with a few people in Paris.  David Wallace is German and Jewish.”  She paused to let the word Jewish sink in.  “David’s family took the name Wallach, but here in Scotland, Wallace fits better.  All three of these men have either experience in what we are facing, or stories from their parents or grandparents, or both, so they know something of the truth of what we will be facing.  We will leave for Loch Lomond in two days.  You may wish to question these men and hear their tales.”

“None from the Mediterranean, either Iberia or Italy?” Sir Leslie wondered.  The question was not entirely sarcastic.

“I have a small group in Jamaica, another in the Alps, and a group working in Toledo, keeping their eyes open since the 1490s, so they have several generations of watchfulness. I have a couple of small groups in East Asia, in Japan and China.  You get the idea.  Where we are going is not in the history books, and it needs to stay out of the history books.  What we will be doing is not for the public.  I am inviting you men and fully expect your wives to join the most secret society on earth.  You will be my Men in Black.  Eventually, I will have to set up small groups in southeast Asia, India and central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, north and south, as well as the Americas.”

“But what exactly would you have us do?” Sir Leslie asked, this time without the sarcasm.

Elizabeth fought the urge to grab a piece of cake.  She swallowed and came out with it.  “We will mostly watch and investigate what is strange and unusual.  We will be defending Planet Earth from people—aliens who are not native to this planet.  We will send them away in peace wherever possible.  Some we may have to fight.  Some we may have to call on Cromwell’s New Model Army.”

Jack stood in the back.  He was not the tallest of men, but Elizabeth noticed and paused to let him speak.  “Mister Cromwell mentioned something about that.”  He sat as Elizabeth nodded.

“One of those two times of supposedly saving his life was from the aliens I have dubbed the New Exterminators.”  She paused to get her thoughts in order and decided most questions could wait until tomorrow.  “We will meet here again the same time tomorrow.  You will have questions, and I will answer what I can.  For now, lest you think I am just making things up, or perhaps mad, let me share some evidence.  Erin.”  She reached back and Erin handed her something that the men recognized as a rifle of sorts.  Where Erin got it from, they could not say.  “Please follow me out back.  I would not want to fire this weapon indoors.”

When the men gathered around to watch, they saw a typical target set up some yards away.  It was the kind used for musket practice with which they were all familiar.  Elizabeth said nothing.  When she felt ready, she raised the rifle to her shoulder and spied down what functioned as a sight.  She slowly let her breath out like one used to firing a musket, though the rifle she held had no kick to it.  She squeezed the trigger and a red streak appeared.  It burned a hole through the target before the target exploded.  The metal sheet she had set up behind the target began to melt before she stopped firing.  James and John ran out with buckets of water to douse the flames and cool the metal, and Elizabeth spoke.

“The rifle was taken from the New Exterminators who were banished from this planet and will stay away if they know what is good for them.  Think on it.  Any of you who cannot keep your mouths shut in the general public, or who do not wish to be part of defending the Earth, you must decide now.  You may leave without penalty.  Tomorrow at this time, I will share some information which is not ever to be shared except between you and God in the privacy of your prayers.  Some may feel the need to share in confession, but even there I warn you to guard your tongue.  Once we leave for Loch Lomond, you will be committed for life, and not only you, but you will carefully have to select the next generation to follow after you.  Pray that you may spend your lives in watchfulness and investigating dead ends.  Given communication in this age, you will be mostly on your own for the next two or three hundred years.”

Erin stepped up to whisper.  “Lady.  I hear the children fussing.”

Elizabeth looked up at the second-floor window and nodded.  “Leslie, Sir Winthrop.”  She had to call him twice to get his attention.  He had to close his mouth.  “Jack Horner.  You will have to bunk in the barn with the big men.  No fighting.  Be nice to each other.” she shouted and turned to Leslie.  “Come.  I will take you to your room. We have three rooms that are serving as guest rooms.  DeWindt and Duchamp are sharing one.  David has one.  No one will room with him for fear that they might get Jewish cooties or something stupid.  You get the third.”

“Children?”  Leslie asked.

“Young Robert is six.  Bridget is nearly four.  That is what she will say.  Nearly four.”

“Makes you sound human enough.  But say, how did you ever get mixed up in this strange adventure?  And now I am afraid to ask what may be happening at Lake Lomond.”

“Loch,” Elizabeth said.  “Tomorrow.”

When tomorrow arrived, Elizabeth introduced the men to the Kairos.  She made Sir Leslie and Jack Horner hold her hands in an age-old tradition, and traded places with the Contessa Catherine of Aragon.  Leslie let go and shrieked.  Several men made noise. Jack held on because he promised, but he seriously began to sweat.

Catherine told about how in 1470, a servant of the Masters broadcasted a message into space.  That took some explaining, but basically the message invited aliens to come and invade the earth.  “That message is still echoing among the stars,” she said.  “It is time humanity had a group of people prepared for that.”

She changed to Hans and told some things about his day, including his experiments in chocolate.  He changed to Captain Hawk who winked at Charles DeWindt and spoke some in Dutch.  He confessed to being the Flying Dutchman and then told them about the spiders on Hispaniola.  He scared their stockings off, as any good pirate would in telling such a tale.  Elizabeth was not happy, but he said he did not want the men to misunderstand what they were signing up for.

When Elizabeth came back, she introduced Erin once again.  The men all said what a lovely young woman she was.  Then Elizabeth removed Erin’s glamour and reintroduced her as her elf maid.  Erin folded her hands in front of her dress, looked at the floor, and her face turned pink while her pointed ears turned red.  Elizabeth restored Erin’s glamour of humanity fairly quickly and was pleased to see no one jumped up and ran from the room, screaming.

“I have had the grace to have several elf maids over the millennia, all volunteers, and all lovely.  And I love Erin, dearly, so you men better treat her right or you will have to answer to Captain Hawk, or worse.”

“And I love my lady,” Erin whispered.  “Even when you embarrass me.”

“Millennia?” Sir Leslie could not resist the question.

“Yes,” Elizabeth said, but did not stop to properly answer him.  Instead, she looked up.  “Heather.  Please come down and sit on my shoulder.”  They all saw a streak of light come from the ceiling.  It hid in Elizabeth’s hair and Duncan and Stephen both spouted.

“A wee one.”

“Don’t usually see them until I’ve had a keg.”

“I should have said that,” Conner the Irishman protested while rubbing his beard, and all three men laughed.

Elizabeth was not finished.  “Lord Roan.  You have a report.”

Another fairy fluttered down and put his back to the men.  Then he surprised them all when he got big and looked like a well-dressed Lord.  He reported.  “The Wolv has got free.”


“It looks miserable out there,” Lincoln said.  “Can’t we just wait until Spring?”

People ignored him.

Angus set them up with three men who were merchants in fine woolen tartans.  Ewan and William Mackenzie and Graeme Grant would take the coastal road all the way to Perth.  They had two wagons full.  One for the Duncan clan, and the other had kilts for Hay, Lindsay, and Macduff.  The plan was four days to Aberdeen and three more to Perth.

“Three more days from there, through Stirling to Edinburgh,” Katie said.  “I checked the map.”

“That is nearly two weeks just to reach the Kairos,” Lockhart said, sounding like Lincoln complaining.  “I hope it is not another two weeks to the time gate.”

“We might move faster, but in this weather, it is not recommended, and who knows what weather obstacles we may encounter.”   Katie tried to be reasonable.

“Weather obstacles is what I am talking about,” Lincoln griped.

“I like all the travel and all the places we have been,” Nanette said.  “I never imagined doing that sort of thing before.  Taking a steamship to Rome was the most exotic and unexpected thing I ever did.”

Tony countered her thought.  “The thing is, the closer we get to home, the more impatient the men are becoming.”

“Amen to that,” Decker said.

Elder Stow added, “Ditto.”

“I agree with my sister,” Sukki protested.  “I am learning so much about history—about being human.  Lincoln lets me read about the places after we leave, and he is so nice to help me with some of the words.”  Lincoln shrugged.

“I love the adventure of it all,” Nanette agreed.

“If it wasn’t so cold,” Lincoln mumbled.

“The same guy who complained about Cuba being so hot,” Lockhart said.

“I would never retire to Florida,” Lincoln admitted.

Ewan stepped up as Katie finished the conversation.  “Ready to go?”

“William and Graeme have the wagons,” Ewan said.  “We are ready.”

“Lead on, Macduff,” Lockhart said.  “I always wanted to say that.”

“Ha,” Katie said, without laughing, and they headed out into the cold and wet.”

Avalon 9.5 Men in Black, part 1 of 6

After 1624 A.D. Scotland

Kairos lifetime 116: Lady Elizabeth Stewart MacLean of Gray Havens

Recording …

“Not fair,” Lincoln shouted.  “We are in the tropics, the Caribbean islands.  I expected to arrive or leave somewhere at sea, but we lucked out.  We arrived on Hispaniola and are leaving from Cuba with both time gates on land.  But no!  This gate has to be in the middle of a river.  That means we will come out in a body of water, probably the middle of the Irish Sea, given where we are going.  Not fair!”

“What?” Lockhart asked.  “Now that Boston is not here, you have taken over the role of chief complainer?”

“Well, someone has to do it,” Nanette said in her sarcastic best.  Her skin darkened from embarrassment, and she looked at Decker, like sarcasm was his thing.  Decker just smiled for her.

Katie also smiled at the couple becoming one as husband and wife, and she might have said something if Tony did not interrupt.  “Well, whatever we do, it should be quick.  Those natives don’t look friendly, and that Spaniard may be back soon with soldiers.”

“I’m ready,” Sukki said, and nodded to Elder Stow who told her to be careful.  She flew to the time gate, which she could do, and after a second of hesitation, she flew through the gate and into the darkness.  “Hey!” Sukki complained.  “It is nearly nine o’clock.  Why is it dark out?”

“The sun is rising,” a man said, but Sukki hardly heard as she flew up a thousand feet and saw the sun rising over the distant mountains.  She flew back down when the words registered in her ears, and she landed on the ice beside the man.  He had cut a hole in the ice and sat, wrapped in several wool blankets, holding a pole, the string let down into the hole.

“It’s cold here,” Sukki said.

“It has been a cold winter, and plenty wet besides.”  The man answered her but kept his eyes on the shimmering place in the air where she appeared.

“What is the date?”

“Wednesday,” the man answered.

Sukki put her hands to her hips and huffed.  “The date?”

“January thirteenth,” the man said, coming to himself.  “This is the Wool Farm on Mackenzie land.  Who are you and where did you come from?”  He looked again at the shimmering space on the ice.

“The year?”

“1649.”  The man stood. “Look, I would appreciate an answer.”

Sukki paused and answered quickly.  “We are coming from Cuba about forty-three years ago.  Don’t worry, we won’t stay long.”  She pulled out her amulet to check their direction.  Judging the sun, she said, “We will be headed south.”  She pointed before she asked, “Is the ice thick and strong enough to hold horses?”

The man pointed behind himself where a wagon and two mules had been pulled out on the ice.  The mules had blankets, but they looked cold.  “We?” the man asked.

“Do you have a name?  Is this an inlet of the sea?” Sukki asked, and just stopped herself from flying up to look.

“Angus Mackenzie, and yes—no.  It is Loch Broom, and it froze solid this winter but for the center and where it touches the sea.  Of course, there is some ice at sea as well.”

“Thanks,” Sukki grinned, and she lifted a bit off the ice, much to Mister Mackenzie’s surprise as he put that matter out of his mind.  She flew back through the time gate, and it took almost thirty minutes of hurried work to prepare everyone to come through.  They made it just before the Spanish showed up.  Most of the natives ran away when the travelers began to disappear in midair.

“It is cold,” Lincoln said right from the start.  They moved extra slow and careful on the slippery ice.  In the interim, Angus Mackenzie turned his wagon so they could follow in his trail to the shore.  He placed a pole with a flag to mark the hole in the ice so no one would fall in.  The shore was not far, and not much farther through the slushy snow to reach a big barn where they could all get out of the wind.  But it was far enough for everyone to look toward the sun.  It did not appear bright, like it might be obscured by clouds of some sort.  It also seemed too close to the mountains on the horizon in the southeast.  Much too close for nine-thirty in the morning.

Katie commented once they got inside the barn.  “We must be way up north in Scotland.  We might check Lincoln’s map.”

Lockhart had an unconnected thought.  “I thought Lake Broom was at area fifty-one.”

Katie rolled her eyes as Tony asked a question to the man.  “Why are you saddling a mule?”

The man stopped what he was doing and everyone else paused to listen.  “I figure it is up to me to take you safely off Mackenzie land.  The way between here and Inverness is treacherous.  It is not just the poor roads which you might lose in the winter weather.  It is other Mackenzies and other clansmen that might not appreciate your peaceful intentions.  Your intentions are peaceful, are they not?”

“Yes, yes.” people answered, and Sukki said, “Totally.”

“Inverness?” Lincoln asked.  He had the database out and was looking at the map.

“From there, you can take the low road that runs along the east coast and is well kept.  It will take you to Aberdeen, Dundee, and Perth, where it meets the highland road.  You can go to Edinburgh or Glasgow or further south from there.  How far south are you going?”

“Edinburgh, near as I can tell for now,” Lincoln said, having walked up to Sukki where she checked her amulet.  For once, he said nothing about Lady Elizabeth Stewart MacLean, or just Stewart if she had not married yet.

“Isn’t there a highland road that cuts off the big swing around the coast?” Katie asked.

“Aye,” the man said.  “But it is a rough road so not necessarily quicker.  Besides, there was much fighting there these past few years.  The MacDonalds remained loyal to King Charles Stuart, as we Mackenzies.  The Campbells are Covenanters and fought with the lowlanders.  The highland road goes right between the two, so it is not safe to be found a stranger there at present.” The man sighed.  “I was at Preston last August.  Lord Hamilton led us smack into the jaws of Cromwell’s army.  I barely escaped with my life.”

The sun grew dark as the clouds rolled in.  The sun never got terribly high in the sky to begin with and looked like it might set between three and four o’clock.  It started to drizzle, a cold wet rain that would soak through normal clothes.  The man, in his wool clothing, and his mule covered in a wool blanket would get soggy, but would survive the cold

“Care when the sun goes down” Angus shouted to warn them.  “This may turn to sleet or snow.”

“Understood,” Lockhart said.  The travelers all turned their fairy weave to thick slickers that repelled the rain.  They also had their horses and Ghost covered in fairy weave blankets of the same material.  Thick, warm, and water repellent seemed to do the trick.  As the sky darkened Angus offered some hope.

“There is a farm about an hour from here where we can shelter.  A cousin who has no interest in the wool business, though he may change his mind after the winter we have had.”

“Is there somewhere we can buy some food for super?” Katie asked.

“I am sure my cousin would not mind a few coins to feed you lot,” Angus responded.  “But no.  Food is growing scarce.  Unless the spring is good, there may be famine in places.”

“Not something to look forward to,” Lockhart said.

“Not just the weather.  It is the result of war and fighting. Men not home to grow and tend their crops, in some cases for several years.  Other crops being taken by the army or burned to prevent their being taken by the opposing army.  A real mess.”

“We have some coins,” Katie responded.  “Not many, but will your cousin take Spanish doubloons?”

Angus laughed.  “Gold and silver are always welcome.  Copper is not bad either and he won’t care whose face is on the coin.  Doubloons almost makes Cuba sound real.  Of course, I saw the girl fly, so what do I know?”  He laughed again before saying, “There is one thing.  My cousin is a strong royalist and catholic.  I never asked about your faith.  An oversite.”  He waited to hear what the travelers would admit.

“Lutheran,” Katie finally spoke, and Lockhart did not argue.  “Lincoln is Methodist…”

“A. M. E.” Nanette spoke up from behind.  She looked at Decker.  “We go together.”

“Now I go to church,” Decker said, but it was not clear if he was happy or resigned to that.

“Tony is Catholic,” Katie finished.  “He is Italian.”

“I’ve heard of Lutheran,” Angus said.  “Don’t know anything about it.  I assume the others are Christian churches.”

“Yes, yes.” the others said, and Sukki added, “Totally.”

Angus nodded and pushed out front.  Nanette spoke more softly to Lincoln when she felt it was safe.

“Tell us about Elizabeth.”

“Lady Elizabeth Stewart MacLean of Gray Havens,” he whispered in return.  “She became a widow at the battle of Preston, last August…”


“Lady Elizabeth, let me say, once again, how sorry I am for your loss.”  The man in the door removed his hat and looked sad.  “I only met Robert that one time, but he seemed a fine fellow.”

The tall red head squinted to let her green eyes focus on the man and the roundhead that stood behind, looking around his shoulder.  She spoke after she swallowed what she was chewing on.  “Thank you, Sir Leslie and unexpected guest, but I would rather you not bring it up again.  We have work to do and don’t need the distractions.”  She wiped one eye where a tear began to form.  “Come in.  Take your coats and hats off and come meet the others.  You are the last to arrive.  The staff made cake for my guests and if I don’t stop eating it you will have to change my name from MacLean to MacFat.”

“Very droll,” Sir Leslie said.

The men in the room all stood when Lady Elizabeth came in, and the room looked full.

“Sir Leslie Winthrop,” Elizabeth introduced her new guest.  “He is Anglican and a royalist, though I understand Cromwell is working on him to bring him around.”

“Yes.  Of course.”  Leslie patted his jacket.  He pulled a paper from an inner pocket and spoke more clearly.  “My companion is Jack Horner, a nonconformist as you may have guessed from his attire.  He brought this letter from Mister Cromwell.”  Elizabeth put out her hand, but Leslie held on to the letter.  “Addressed to me, I’m afraid.  But he said to tell you he has not forgotten how you twice saved his life and how he was sending his best man, Jack Horner, on the chance that he might save your life and make things more even.  He also said that whatever you are doing, it is likely far more important than our little squabbles over religion and the political order.  He said I should do whatever you ask without question.  But say, I cannot imagine anything more important than civil war in the three kingdoms.  Men have fought and died. Good men have died…”

“All in good time,” Elizabeth said.

Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 6 of 6

Most of the men, soldiers and sailors did not make it, but some did for two reasons.  Elder Stow, at the last minute, removed the wall setting and placed an invisible globe of force around the travelers, Captain Hawk and his immediate crew of officers, many Dutchmen, and some Spaniards.  He slowly expanded the bubble as he flew to the edge of the beach.  Once the travelers could wade out into the water, he let the bubble go.  They would have to swim a bit, and their weapons and rifles would need some care to be restored, but they would be safe.  Besides, they had help.  The other reason some made it to the ship.  Three hundred mermen came out of the bay.  They carried harpoons they could throw and trident-like pikes they could use to cut and stab from a distance.  The mermen, legs on, made a way through the spiders for men to get to the sea where the mermaids waited to carry them to the ship.  As frightening as the mermaids were for some of the sailors, the spiders were worse.

As Captain Hawk climbed aboard the ship, he realized the bay was full of his water sprites.  He understood then why the spiders had not overrun the Golden Hawk.  He saw that any spider that put so much as a foot in the water got grabbed and pulled under to drown.  The Mere people just made it so much worse for the spiders.

The mermen did not stay on land very long.  They quickly pulled back into the water, effectively abandoning the rest of the men to their fate.  By then, there were not many left alive.  The deck of the Golden Hawk was littered with men, soaking wet from the sea and from the sweat of fear.  It would be a long time before the nightmares went away.

The shoreline still teemed with spiders, but Inaros pointed to the edge of the woods where after a moment they heard musket fire and arrows began to bombard the spiders.  General Diego had arrived.  The Buccaneers were there to cut off escape to the north.  The natives pressed in from the south.  And now that the sea was certain death, it was only a matter of time before the spiders were finished.  They had nowhere to escape.  Half, or more of the men would die in the fight, but they would finish the job.  Captain Hawk knew his little ones would scour the whole island.  No spiders on the island would survive.

Inaros pointed up.  The old Agdaline transport had taken to the sky and was headed right toward them.

“Damn,” Decker noticed, and then everyone noticed.

Captain Hawk shouted.  “Mister Peevy!  Prepare the ship for flight.”

“Aye Captain,” came the response.

The captain spoke more quietly to Elder Stow.  “Can you project screens all around the ship?”  He explained for the others.  “Agdaline ships are big transports, not warships.  They only have… er, ray-guns to remove objects in space that might damage them or maybe to clear a landing site during planetfall.  Those systems, though, can be used as weapons, so we need protection.”

“Yes,” Elder Stow responded.  “But we will pick up a lot of water and anything that happens to be swimming in it.”

“Wait until we are high enough in the air.”

Elder Stow got out his scanner.  “I did not see any flight engines aboard.”

“Ready Captain,” Peevy shouted.

“Never mind about that.  Just get ready to set your screens,” Captain Hawk said before he returned the shout.  “Take her up.”

The ship rose right out of the water.  General Diego’s men who made it to the shore gawked, shouted, and pointed.  The Agdaline ship came overhead, and as expected, they fired their meteor deflectors.  Fortunately, Elder Stow got the screens up in time, so the makeshift weapon did not touch them.

“One moment,” Elder stow said, as he set his screen device down by the main mast.  He had his scanner out and his weapon.  Sukki said she was ready.  Captain Hawk talked to Lockhart and Katie.

“The thing is, there are probably a thousand or more spiders still aboard the ship in suspended animation or cryogenic sleep chambers, or whatever the current term of use may be.  They will have to be dealt with at some point, but I take back what I said about this day and age.  By brute force and with gunpowder, the human race might be able to fend off the spiders.  Of course, maybe not when the spiders are counted in the trillions.”  He shrugged.

“Let’s not let it get to that point, if you don’t mind.”  Lockhart said, as Katie interrupted.

“So you know.  I saw Captain Esteban and his officers taken by a dozen spiders.  It was while we were running.”

“I can confirm that,” Lockhart said.

“Sadly, there is still Don Fernando Delrio, the mastermind behind the idea of colonizing the Southern United States.  He is the one that mostly needs to be stopped, before the Atlanta Braves become the Bravos de Atlanta.”  Captain Hawk interrupted himself as he saw they were coming up alongside the Agdaline ship.  He anticipated what Elder Stow was working on and shouted.  “Mister Peevy!  Prepare a broadside.”

“Aye Captain.”

Elder Stow raised his weapon and fired, striking the Agdaline ship in three places.  The first shot took a moment to penetrate the Agdaline screens, but the second and third shots were swift.  Sukki, eyes on the scanner, confirmed the three shots struck home.  Elder Stow took the scanner to double check while Sukki explained to Lockhart and Katie.  Decker, Nanette, and Lincoln all walked up to listen.

“The first shot took out the Agdaline screens.  The second killed the weapons system.  The third damaged the engines in a way that would not explode.”

Elder Stow mumbled.  “I figured an atomic-level explosion was not a good idea.”  He looked up from his scanner and spoke more clearly.  “Hopefully, they will come down in the sea and all drown.”

Captain Hawk did not hear.  He was busy shouting, “Fire!”

The broadside from the Golden Hawk, in an equal and opposite reaction, pushed the ship away from the Agdaline transport and into a cloud that was both cold and wet.  The ship rocked a bit, and the deck became slippery to stand on, but at least no one fell overboard.  The little ones keeping the ship up in the air complained but things settled down quick enough.

They came out of the cloud in time to see the Agdaline ship head off to the north.  She had a dozen big dents in the side with a couple of loosened plates in the outer hull, and she had at least five holes in the ship, ruining the ship for spaceflight. Her engines were smoking, badly.  She would not stay aloft for very long.  In fact, she managed to fly all the way to the Delaware River where she sank, somewhat deliberately in the soft mud by the river.  She would awaken, and the spiders would make a mess in the future, but that is a different story.

Aboard the Golden Hawk, the captain shook his head.  “We can do up and down and sail some if we get a good tail wind, but it is very draining on the little ones keeping her up.  No way we can follow the ship and see where it lands.  That will have to be a future headache.”  He shouted again.  “Mister Peevy!  Get the boards and raise the Jolly Roger.”

The boards held the words, Flying Dutchman.  They effectively covered the ship name, Golden Hawk.  The flag had the expected skull and crossbones, but it was offset to make room for an hourglass.  “What do you think?” the captain asked.  “I’m about a hundred years ahead of time with the flag, but someone has to start it.”  He smiled for everyone, and Inaros said Argh

The ship set down in the bay virtually in the same spot where it began, but now pointed out to sea.  They unloaded the surviving Spanish.  General Diego would take them back to Santo Domingo.  The Buccaneers, mostly French and some English, knew Captain Hawk and his crew, and they waved like they were all great friends.  They were not all great friends.  The native survivors did not appear to know what to think.  These Europeans were full of surprises.  But mostly, these spiders were creatures of nightmares.  Who knew what tales they might tell?

Once the deck was cleared, the ship set sail for Guantanamo Bay.  They would sail two days to get there, as long as the weather held.  The travelers would be able to rest there for a couple of days while Captain Hawk sailed back to Hispaniola.  Then they would travel half a day inland across Cuba to reach the time gate.  In all, about a five-day journey to the next time gate. That was not so bad, if the horses did not complain after all that rest and pampering.



The travelers arrive in the frozen north and Lady Elizabeth of Gray Havens brings her recruits into a strange world. Monday. Men in Black. Happy reading.


Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 5 of 6

“You can see for yourself.”  Captain Esteban pointed behind him where the travelers waited.  “I have not damaged them.  I have treated them well.  They even have all their equipment.  I figured we will need their help to drive out whatever landed here in the west.  Do you think?”

“Spiders,” Captain Hawk said, confirming Lincoln’s word.

“As I feared,” Captain Esteban responded.

“We will begin by moving the travelers and their horses to the Golden Hawk.  Then we will discuss what we can do about the spiders.”

Nanette and Suki left off tending the Spanish wounded.  The Spanish were grateful for the help.  Tony had Ghost and the horses and found a dozen human looking men come to help him transfer the horses to the frigate.  They looked human enough, but Tony suspected they were not, given the way the horses readily responded to them.

“Sukki,” Captain Hawk called her and hugged her.  Lincoln had to ask.

“Peter van Dyke?”

“Captain Hawk,” Katie called him.

“It is all in the profile,” Captain Hawk said, and he lifted his eyes and showed the side of his face.  With his aquiline nose, he did look a bit like a bird of prey.

Captain Esteban let his hostages go without trouble.  He had no choice.  His crew had been damaged.  His ship shredded.  His company of soldiers remained intact, but they would all be needed if they indeed faced spiders from the stars.  Besides that, he would need the guns of the Dutchman and his soldiers, and the Dutchman’s ship if retreat became the only option.  If giving up his hostages ensured cooperation, he would do that.

“But look,” Captain Esteban said.  “Neither you nor the Masters want an invasion of alien spiders at this time.  You see my good faith in bringing the Travelers from Avalon to you unharmed.  Perhaps we can make a temporary truce until these spiders are taken care of.  You know, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

“The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy,” Captain Hawk countered.  “I do not trust you, but I will use you and your men in this circumstance as I am sure you will use me and my men.”

Captain Esteban grinned before he nodded.  “I was told you are no fool.”

“But maybe I am.  Eh Inaros?” Captain Hawk grinned at his mate.  “General Diego has crossed through the mountains with three thousand men.  They are not all soldiers from Spain, but they all know how to fire a matchlock and can use spears and knives.  LeBlanc has brought around three thousand Buccaneers down from the north.  He has some English pirates with him as well.”

“I was not aware there were that many Buccaneers,” Captain Esteban interrupted with a pull on his beard.

Captain Hawk nodded.  “Then in the south, the Taino and Carib have made a temporary truce, like us, and they have come up with some three thousand more.  My spies tell me the circle is about closed.  The spiders have nowhere to go except this direction, or back to their ship.  Let us hope they retreat to their ship.”

“You are mad,” Captain Esteban said.

It did not take long for Ghost and the horses to be loaded on the Golden Hawk.  Captain Hawk gathered two hundred soldiers and sailors, leaving plenty of men to guard the ship.  He had a company of fifty well-disciplined Dutch regulars.  The rest were from the Netherlands, Holland, England, and some from Brittany, or they were little ones, at least a few, disguised as men.  Captain Esteban gathered two hundred and fifty soldiers and sailors still able to fight.  He left the wounded on the shore and smiled to think he had the numbers to pull a double-cross until a hundred more natives and pirates appeared in the woods.  Captain Esteban frowned at the turning of the odds.  The travelers guessed that these were all native little ones come to lend the Kairos a hand.  Katie guessed in their natural appearance they might look something between gnomes, elves, and dwarfs with a couple of ogre-trolls and maybe a few flyers, if not exactly fairies in the mix.

“Off to see the wizard,” Captain Hawk announced, and the men began to move in among the trees as quietly as they could.  “The wizardess,” Captain Hawk corrected himself.  “The chief spider is a female.”

Lockhart stood close and his old police instincts flared.  “Are you afraid Captain Esteban might make a deal of some sort with the spiders?”

Captain Hawk shook his head.  “He might have with some other species, but spiders do not deal.  They might let someone live a while if they are useful, but they will eventually be eaten.  Spiders don’t bargain.”

“But you said the female was especially intelligent.”

Captain Hawk nodded.  “They may have come here in an old Agdaline transport as Elder Stow has suggested. There may be ten thousand spiders aboard the ship, but most are likely still in suspension.  There is one female in charge and perhaps not a single fully adult male.  When the female’s eggs hatch, the females tend to eat the males.  You have to understand.  On their world everything has been eaten.  They might eventually die out and leave a barren world if people would stop landing explorer craft.”

“Okay,” Katie interrupted, catching up with the conversation.  “But why would they land here on an underpopulated island in the Caribbean?”

“To secure their foothold.  There is plenty to eat here, and not just humans.  Meanwhile, the female lays several hundred eggs at one time.  They hatch in six months, and by a year old, the babies are eating everything in sight.  It only takes three to five years before the females are mature enough to begin laying their own eggs.  By the time they invade Cuba, ten thousand might be a million, and by the time they invade Mexico, or maybe Florida or Venezuela, a million might be a billion, and they will increase exponentially.  Once they cross over to Africa, that will be the end of life on Earth other than spider life.”

“How long do you figure that will take?” Lockhart asked.

“A hundred years before Africa, maybe two hundred at most, but I don’t see the human race coming up with anything other than brute force to stop them, and frankly, if we can’t stop them here at the start, there may be no stopping them.”

“Hold up,” Katie whispered.  She was paying attention to where they were going.

They had not gone far, but they reached an open field, and the hundred natives and pirates that joined them at the last minute became agitated.  Most climbed the trees at the edge of the woods and the word spread among the men to get ready.  The Spanish and Dutch soldiers pushed to the front on either side of the natives.  They each formed two lines facing the field and waited.  The travelers, guns ready, crowded in the middle ground with the ship captains and their officers.  The natives in the trees pulled out bows and grasped their arrows in anticipation.  The sailors gathered behind the soldiers, matchlocks ready, though many held only pikes and swords of some sort.  They waited, but not for long.

Spiders came racing across the field, each one looking the size of a man.  The Spanish military captain panicked and yelled too soon.  “Fuego!”  Some of the shot fell short, but most hit something.  As long as the soldiers fired at ground level, it would have been impossible not to hit something, the way the spiders were massed together.

A few seconds later, the Dutch fired.  Spiders went down, but it hardly made a difference.  There were too many of them.  Most of the Spanish and Dutch soldiers got their matchlocks loaded for a second shot, but it was not a second volley.  The spiders came on as fast as a cavalry charge.  Lockhart admired the courage of the soldiers as many of the sailors already abandoned the fight and were racing back to the beach.  The soldiers put down their matchlocks and grabbed whatever pikes, swords, or knives they had or could find.

By far, the travelers took the biggest toll in the center.  The little ones overhead could fire a half-dozen arrows in the time it took a soldier to load and fire his matchlock once.  Decker and Katie had their military rifles set to automatic and fired hundreds of rounds in a short time.  The rest had handguns, including Nanette, who had Boston’s old Beretta. The handguns brought down plenty, but the spiders seemed endless.

Everything stopped when the spiders crashed into an invisible wall and could go no further.  Elder Stow held on through the crash, then he picked up his screen device, floated up about six feet in the air, and shouted to the travelers.  “It is a wall.  They will find a way around the edge.  I recommend retreat.”

Sukki floated up next to Elder Stow and she let her power pour from her hands.  The front row of spiders burned, but Sukki knew her strength would give out before the spiders stopped coming.

Men began to run back to the beach, and as predicted, the spiders soon found their way around the wall.  The spiders had to rush toward the center to get at the men, and some men got taken.  Elder Stow had to turn off the wall, race a couple hundred yards into the woods, and turn the wall on again.  This again stopped the spiders completely, if only temporarily.  He did this several times between the field and the beach, and most of the men made it to the shore.

What they found was hundreds of spiders crawling all over the shore.  The wounded Spaniards that Captain Esteban left there were all dead.  Some were partially eaten, but several canisters of Mustard gas had been opened.  It was suicide for the Spanish to do that, but the spiders shriveled under the gas.  Everyone avoided that end of the shoreline.

The spiders ignored the oncoming men at first.  They appeared to be scurrying about, looking for a way to cross the water and get to the Golden Hawk.  Captain Hawk had a thought.  “To the ship,” he yelled, but few heard him as the men had to fight their way to the water.

Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 4 of 6

Elder Stow determined that the spacecraft used old Agdaline energy sources.  That did not tell him much.  So many early ships and people new to space travel used the same strictly natural sources of energy.  “If they have managed to master gravitational forces, they might have faster than light craft,” he said.  “But if that is the case, they should be on the verge of discovering new and better energy sources.  We may assume a slower than light speed craft, at which point they may have cryogenic chambers,” he turned to Nanette and Tony.  “That is sleep chambers where the body functions are slowed to almost nothing while the ship travels the great distances between the stars.”

“It may be an actual Agdaline ship,” Lockhart said, hoping Elder Stow would contradict him., but Elder Stow agreed.

“The Agdaline fly in fleets of six or twelve.  The odds are hard to calculate where they lost five ships and only one survived.  Also, their normal destination would be Egypt at the place of the lion.  They would not come here unless they were followed by whatever destroyed the other five ships, and then they would hide.  Whatever landed here has made no effort to hide.  Besides, I spoke with Lincoln earlier.  He has assured me that the Agdaline stopped coming around the year one thousand.  There are no more Agdaline fleets out there.”

“And the Agdaline don’t eat people,” Katie said.

“So, the ship may have been hijacked,” Decker suggested.

“That would be some hijacking to overcome the andasmagora.”  Katie also turned to Nanette and Tony who were not with them back in the early days.  “Dragons,” she explained.

“Sounds like spiders to me,” Decker said, and he did not bother to spell out the idea that if an Agdaline ship or fleet landed on the spider planet, a million poisonous giant spiders might easily take the ship and overcome whatever dragons might be guarding the hallways.

“I was hoping it was not an actual Agdaline ship,” Lockhart said.

“Do you have any idea how many spiders that could carry?” Lincoln said and swallowed.

“Round, but the size of a big city block,” Katie explained to the others.

Lockhart, Decker, and Elder Stow all looked eye to eye, and Elder Stow said, “This way.”  He took them straight to the cabin where their guns and equipment were stored.  They got everything back, and Lockhart sent Tony and Lincoln to ready Ghost and the horses for a quick evacuation.  The others went up on deck.

Captain Esteban saw them, rearmed, but he said nothing.  His attention stayed on the fog that covered the bay.  The ship inched forward.  Only the lateen sail on the mizzenmast was deployed, and it sat limp in the dead calm.   They had oars, twelve to a side and three men to an oar.  In this way, they moved slowly toward the shore, a young officer on one side and the boatswain on the other taking soundings every minute.  They did not want to run aground on a sand bar, or worse, scrape against some rocks that might put a hole in their ship.

“No telling how close we are to the shore,” Captain Esteban said to Decker.  “Unless you can convince the Gott-Druk to scan the area ahead.  It would be for your safety that we do not wreck this ship.”  Both Decker and the captain looked through the mist to where Elder Stow and Sukki stood by the railing.  Elder Stow did appear to have something in his hands on which he concentrated.

“Father?” Sukki whispered.  Gott-Druk were not generally good at whispering, but Sukki made the effort to learn since she was made human.

“Hold on,” Elder Stow told her before he shouted the words, “Hold on!”

The whole ship shook as they heard a terrible scraping sound all along the port side.  It thundered horrendously through the hold where the horses screamed.  Regular cracking sounds came from below as great boards of seasoned oak split and spit out nails.  The captain did not have time to instruct the oarsmen to pull back as a different sort of scraping sound came from directly below.  Forward motion pushed the bow over the area before the ship jerked and shuddered to a stop, stuck fast on a sand bar amidship.

The crew sprang to action.  Men poured into the hold.  They worked the pumps and desperately tried to seal the wall where the water leaked in.  Men lowered the gate and set the horses free.  The gate made a ramp to the sand dune where the horses easily found their way to the shore.  Lincoln and Tony, having made their fairy weave clothes as waterproof as possible, slipped out with the horses.

Two boats got lowered and crews went to check the outside of the ship.  The carrack was long and wide, so not a fast ship, though it was stable in heavy seas.  The forecastle was smaller than the aft castle and they weighted down the stern of the ship to keep the bow raised a bit, but it still plodded along slowly in normal weather. When the report came back, they learned that the ship was salvageable, but it would take a week or more of hard work before they could sail back to Santo Domingo for better repairs.  Captain Esteban invited the travelers to shuttle to shore along with his hundred soldiers who would make the camp.  Of course, they found Lincoln and Tony already there, and found they corralled the horses, at least the traveler’s horses.

“Two hours since sunrise and the fog still has not lifted,” the first mate groused as he set about shouting orders to the men on shore.

“It feels more like a cloud has come to ground,” Katie said, and the captain wondered what she might be implying.  He got his answer after another hour.

Even as the soldiers got cooking fires burning to burn a late breakfast, the fog literally lifted.  It did not burn away in the morning sun, but like a cloud, it rose into the sky, like returning to the heavens from whence it came.  In that sudden clarity of vision, they all saw and gasped at the angle at which the carrack had run aground.  It was much closer to the shore than Captain Esteban imagined and turned about forty-five degrees, so its starboard side pointed out to sea.

Men shouted at the same time.  A second ship appeared in the harbor, and the captain barely got to say, “The Dutchman,” before a broadside from that ship tore down the whole length of the carrack, effectively destroying any guns that might have returned fire.  A second broadside came almost immediately and caused whatever remained of that side of the ship to collapse. All three masts got taken down and the ship began to list toward the openings in its side.  Much more water poured in from the starboard side than leaked in around the cracked and loosened planks on the port side.  The ship would still probably not sink, being grounded on the sand bar, but that did not prevent whatever sailors could from jumping overboard and abandoning ship.  The two longboats would row out later and see if there were any survivors.

The Dutch-built ship anchored in safe water.  Evidently, the Dutch captain knew that harbor and where it was safe to sail near to shore.  Besides, his ship did not draw nearly the water of the carrack.  He could easily slide over a sandy bottom, get close enough to take on cargo and back off the sand to reach deep water.

“The Dutchman?” Katie asked.

The captain pointed at the newly arrived ship.  “The Golden Hawk.  Dunkirker design out of Hoorn.  First of the ocean-going flyboats—shallow draft ships.  Well-armed but originally designed to ply the shallow waters around Zeeland and the Flemish coast.”  Captain Esteban clicked his tongue.  “It won’t be long before every navy starts building such ships.  By comparison, our carrack, and especially the great galleons of Spain are slow lumbering beasts.  These Dunkirkers are faster and more maneuverable.  They can swing around, fire a broadside, and sail out of range before the carrack can return fire.  Even if the Carrack is prepared, the slim, low-decked, narrow design and speed make these ships hard to hit, even by the best artillerymen.”

“Frigate,” Decker named the type of ship.

“The Flying Dutchman?” Nanette asked.

Captain Esteban laughed.  “I suppose he is.  The Dutch have not yet come here to the islands.  They are too busy fighting against Spain, their rightful rulers.  Captain Hawk has papers from the English Queen Elizabeth who died a couple of years ago. He claims to be a legitimate privateer, not a pirate, but in truth, he came on behalf of the Dutch to interrupt the flow of gold and silver to the Spanish coffers.  In this way, the Dutch hoped to make the prosecution of the war against the Netherlands too difficult and expensive for Spain to continue.  He has had some success.”  Captain Esteban shrugged.  “But he is Dutch.  There is a big price on his head, and he has no safe port where he can rest.  The French, and even the English interlopers in the islands do not welcome him for fear of Spanish reprisals.”  He shrugged again.

“A Dutchman in a fast, powerful ship that is unable to make port,” Nanette mused.

“Yes,” Katie agreed.  “I imagine many Spanish sailors hate to see his sails on the horizon as those sails bring death and destruction.”

“I suppose so,” Captain Esteban said and looked at the travelers as they watched the Golden Hawk let down four longboats and began to fill them with Dutch soldiers.  The Golden Hawk raised a white flag of truce.  At least they would talk before the shooting started.  “Be prepared to move inland,” the captain told Lockhart and Decker.  Meanwhile, the captain needed to check on his men.  They now had four longboats from the carrack, and they were full of wounded men.

Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 3 of 6

Captain Emilio Esteban proved to be a gregarious sort of man.  He had the travelers dine with him that night, offered plenty of wine, and kept the topics of conversation to pleasantries. The second night proved different.  When the travelers entered the captain’s cabin, they were met by soldiers who stripped them of their weapons and equipment.  Only Elder Stow managed to hang on to his things.  His personal screens went up and the soldiers could neither touch him nor his equipment.

“Hand over everything or we will have to hurt the others.”  The head soldier grabbed Sukki by the arm.  “This is your adopted daughter, is she not?”

“Try not to hurt him,” Elder Stow told Sukki.  She nodded before she removed the hand from her arm, grabbed the man by the shirt, and threw him down the hall to where he crashed into the stairs.  “My equipment stays on my person for now,” Elder Stow announced.  “You soldiers will just break it or push the wrong button and sink this ship by accident.”

“Fair enough,” Captain Esteban said.  He invited the travelers to his table set for twelve, where the first mate, second mate, and navigator were already waiting.  “We are entering Guanabo bay and passing the island of the same name.  I considered dropping you there.  The island is mostly barren, but the Taino people that have taken refuge there would probably help you escape so there would be no long-term benefit.”  The officers stood until the captain got seated.  “I decided you would serve better as hostages.  Of course, depending on who we run into, I might even be persuaded to temporarily return your weapons.  Let us hope the buccaneers leave us alone.”

Everyone sat with questions in their minds.  Katie was the first to frame those questions into words.  “What are you afraid of?” she asked.  “What are we headed into that a servant of the Masters might return our weapons to us?”

The ship’s stewards brought in plates of food for everyone.  The chief steward opened the wine and began to pour.  Captain Esteban sipped his to taste the wine before he spoke.  “It is not fear,” he said.  “The Masters are masters of fear, doubt, and pain.  Resistance is futile, to use the old expression.”  He looked at his plate of food but downed his glass of wine.  The chief steward filled it again while he thought.  Then he began.

“You know the north coast is full of buccaneers—French settlers who hunt and cut the trees.  They trade in leather and lumber and grow subsistence crops to make their daily bread.  But now, they are beginning to leak down into the western lands, looking for places where they can build plantations to grow tobacco, sugar cane, cotton, and other cash crops.  They are beginning to import slaves.  And as if that is not bad enough, they have given ports for French and English, privateers—men with papers from various monarchs and governments.  Some of them have begun to explore the island of Tortuga as a possible redoubt against us, should we raise the men and ships to drive them off.  For the present, though, the north is controlled by buccaneers and pirates.  It is not safe for plain farmers and families.”

“You said the south was full of cannibals,” Decker interjected.

“Natives,” the captain nodded.  “Many Taino have found refuge on the island of Guanabo, as they call it. But most remain in the south of Hispaniola, the southwest, away from the forts around Santo Domingo.  They have begun to protect their territory.  They are not slow to kill any Spanish they find in their land.  But they are not many or strong at this point, and they have been unable to fight off the Carib who have invaded the south coast.  The Carib do sometimes eat people.”

“Why don’t the Spanish fortify the center, here in the west?” Lincoln asked.  “I would think once the center is secure, turning to the north and south might be manageable.  You might even negotiate a peace with the natives and the French.”

Captain Esteban grinned.  Most of the others gave Lincoln hard looks, like he did not need to be helping the Masters.  “That was the plan,” the captain said.  “That, and fortifying Santiago against the English so we do not leave a strong enemy at our backs as we colonize the southern states of what will never be the United States.  Unfortunately, something has landed in the center.  Do you know what I mean, landed?”

“How do you know?” Lockhart asked, as Elder Stow began to fiddle with his scanner to see what he might pick up, long range.

“There are reports of whole villages, French and native, destroyed, not abandoned.  The people that have been found are said to have been drained of blood, and many eaten.  Both the pirates and the Carib are afraid to go there, and the governor of Santo Domingo is drawing up an order to insist the people move closer to the city and forts in the eastern part of the island.  It is for their own protection.”

“Depending on who we are talking about, I don’t see that anything in this age will protect the people,” Decker said, and looked at Nanette and Sukki, both of whom looked frightened, or at least uncertain.

“Yes,” the captain said with a sigh.  “Depending on what we find, I may have to return your weapons temporarily.  I know your weapons have been taken from you more than once in your journey, but I do not have time to train my men in their use and you have all the experience in both their use and in dealing with alien creatures.”

“Maybe the Flesh Eaters,” Tony suggested.  “I might say Wolv, but I am not aware of them draining the blood.”

“Maybe the New Exterminators Lady Catherine mentioned,” Nanette said.  “She did not give many details, so we don’t know what they are, exactly.”

“I hope they are not the arachnids… Panknos… the spiders,” Sukki said and shivered to think of it.

“We all hope they are not the spiders,” Katie agreed, and turned to Lincoln who had dug out the database.  He read for a second before he reported.

“Spiders,” he said.

“Let me see that.”  Captain Esteban reached out to Lincoln.  Lincoln hesitated, but two of the guards in the room stepped in his direction, so he handed it over.  The captain stared at the screen, tried touching the three buttons, and let the first mate have a look.  The man merely shrugged, so the captain handed the database back to Lincoln who adjusted the buttons to get back on the correct page.

“It is as I suspected,” the captain said with another big sigh.  “All we can see is fuzz and wavey lines.”

“The hedge of the gods,” Katie said.  “It prevents ears from hearing, or in this case, eyes from reading about the future.”

“Yes.”  The captain seemed to understand.  “But I have no such hedge.  There is nothing to prevent me from speaking about the future.  Sadly, hardly anyone understands what I am talking about.  When I mentioned the film Gone with the Wind, only Don Fernando smiled and said, “But now, there will be no Civil War, and the film will be in Spanish since we will hold on to California as well as Texas.”  Captain Esteban shrugged like it was a done deal.

“The Kairos might have something to say about that,” Elder Stow interjected.

“Ah, yes.  The other reason you are my prisoners.  You will lead me to the Kairos, and I will get to kill many birds with one stone, as the saying goes.”

Katie frowned.  “Assuming you don’t get eaten by whatever landed on Hispaniola.”

“Of course,” Captain Esteban said, and smiled.  “More wine?”



The ship comes to land not far from where the aliens have landed, most likely the giant alien spiders. Until Monday, Happy Reading.