Avalon 6.12 The Road Ahead, part 1 of 5

After 267 BC, Qin. Kairos lifetime 84: Meng Shi and the First Emperor.

Recording …

Lockhart and Katie led the travelers away from the oppressive heat of the forges under Mount Etna, and into a pleasant garden of flowers and flowering trees.  Several buildings, haphazardly placed here and there around the garden, looked oriental in the extreme.  Katie chided herself for not remembering.  Katie’s blonde locks and Major Decker’s African appearance aside, at least Boston, Sukki, and Elder Stow could adjust the glamours they wore to appear more oriental.  Alexis could produce a glamour for herself as well.

As they stepped into the wonderfully fragrant garden, they startled many young women, who screamed and ran to the buildings.  Men screamed as well, but Katie imagined they were the eunuchs that watched over the concubines of whatever great house they invaded.  Katie at least got a good look at the clothing of these women, and changed her fairy weave clothes into a more modest replica of what she saw.  She nudged Lockhart, but he seemed too busy staring.

“It was bound to happen, eventually,” he said, quietly.  “We can’t expect the time gate to always be hidden behind a tree.”

Katie nodded, and as the others came through, she made sure they made the proper adjustments in their appearance.

Boston and Sukki led their horses, Honey and Freedom.  Boston helped Sukki adjust her glamour.  Alexis, Lincoln, Millie, and Evan came together, and Alexis immediately helped the others do what they could with their clothing.  Dog followed them, bringing the wagon behind.

Decker and Elder Stow came last, leading their horses.  Elder Stow made quick adjustments in his look, but Decker made the rest of the people in that garden scream louder and cover their faces.  Decker thought it a good idea to check his rifle, but he had no interest in changing out of his camouflage fatigues.

The travelers did not have to wait long. Three men came to greet them. One, middle aged, stared, open jawed. He winced on seeing Decker, and mumbled something about demons of the gods.  The elderly one got down on his face and prostrated himself.  The young one in the middle spoke, kindly, though carefully.

“Welcome to Ji and the court of King Xi, my father.  I am Prince Dan of Yan.”  He bowed slightly before he continued.  “The one beside me is Jing Ke, one who works for my father in many special ways.  The old man at your feet is Ju Wu, my father’s most trusted counselor.”  He paused before he apologized.  “I am sorry my father is not here to greet you himself.”

“Quite all right,” Lockhart said. “We are pleased to meet you. Please tell Wu Ju to stand.  We are not gods.”

“Ju Wu,” Katie corrected, and added, “But we are friends with many of the gods, and would like to be your friends, too.” She gave it her friendliest smile.

Lockhart looked at her, but did not question her sixth sense about such things.  “I am Lockhart, and my wife is Katie.”  Lockhart tried to match Katie’s smile, but Prince Dan looked up at the giant in front of him and swallowed.  He repeated Lockhart’s name with no problem, but turned Katie’s name into two names, Kay-Di, which made Katie sigh before she shrugged.  Di would indicate a clear connection to the gods, like their friend, Tien Shang-Di, the high god of the heavens.

Ju Wu did stand, though he trembled a bit, as Lockhart introduced the rest of the group.  When he got to Boston, she appeared to be focused on conferring with Lincoln.  She had out her amulet, and Lincoln had out the database.  Lockhart tried not to yell.  “Boston, your horse is eating the flowers.”

“Honey!”  Boston did yell, and went to fetch her animal.  “Sorry, boss.”

“We have a long journey ahead of us,” Katie said, to continue the conversation.  “But we thought it only right to pay our respects to the king of the land we are traveling through.”

Katie had no idea what might have gone through Prince Dan’s head, but he suddenly returned their smile and confessed, quietly.  “Right now, my father is hiding with the women.”

“I don’t blame him,” Katie said.  “It must have been shocking to see us appear out of thin air like that.”

“Indeed,” Ju Wu found his voice. “And where have you come from?”

“Most recently, from a land of fire under a mountain,” Lockhart said, honestly.

“I felt the heat,” Prince Dan said, softly, and Lockhart turned his head.  The time gate opened when they went through, and the heat radiated into this place. But now that they were not moving through the gate, it seemed to have closed up, or deactivated, or whatever it did to keep ordinary time-locked folks from stumbling through.

Katie took up the telling.  “We came from more than four thousand years ago, and have more than two thousand years still to travel, helped by the gods, as you saw.”

“Boston?”  Lockhart spoke only her name.

“We checked against the map in the database.  The Kairos appears to be outside a city.  Anyi, we think.  He may have a home there, but my guess is he is moving toward us.  Lincoln guessed we will meet him in Handan.  That looks like Zhao territory.”

“Your friend?” Prince Dan asked.

“The Kairos, one counted among the gods,” Katie said.  Katie felt the need to play up the god hand as a way to insure their safety.  Her instincts proved accurate when the third man, Jing Ke, spoke loud and clear.

“You carry weapons and ride horses like the three evil ones who came here two months ago.  They killed my friend, Li Ao, and now, have you come to finish the job?”

The travelers looked surprised and did not know what to say until Decker spoke up.  “They are outlaws.  We have come to find them and stop them.”

“The gods will judge,” Prince Dan spoke to Jing Ke.

Ju Wu had another thought, and he sounded very surprised.  “Your demon guardian speaks?”

Lockhart looked back.  “Demon guardian?”  He grinned.

Decker shrugged.  “I can live with that.”

Evan stepped up.  “We have several assignments, and things the gods have asked of us. But, you know about special assignments for the king, don’t you Jing Ke?” Jing Ke appeared to understand very well, and as he considered it, Evan turned to Katie.  “Lincoln let me read some about this time period from the database.”

Katie nodded.

When they finally got to meet the king, the minister Ju Wu told a fanciful tale to introduce them.  They were sent by the gods to capture the outlaws and drag them back to Diyu, the Chinese Hell, where they belong.  In fact, the travelers just came from the burning court of Diyu, where they picked up their demon guardian, and now are on the hunt. The king was pleased to know the three evil ones would get their just reward, but he became more afraid than ever. The travelers spent the night, but in the morning, they all got horses with the hope that they would be out of Yan territory as soon as possible.

Prince Dan went with them three days, to the edge of Zhao territory, where he added some silver to the purse they carried.  Jing Ke accompanied them ten days, all the way to Handan, the capitol of Zhao, which appeared to be under siege by the armies of Qin.

“I have been charged to spy on the generals Sima Shang and Li Mu of Zhao,” Jing Ke said, frankly.  Jing Ke seemed an affable fellow, once he got to know the travelers a little.

“Slick as a used car salesman,” Lincoln described him.

Jing Ke, now more relaxed in the presence of the travelers, finally told more of the real story of the outlaws, as they sat around the evening fire, in a small clearing in the woods.

“Two of them came through just outside the city almost three months ago.  They killed Li Ao with their magic weapons, their “gunds”, and fled to the south, where I hear they joined with King Zheng of the Qin and promised to make some magic powder.  The third came to just south of Ji about a month ago.  The king sent a troop of soldiers to catch him, but his horse proved too fast and strong to catch.”

“So, the three are together,” Lockhart concluded.

Jing Ke nodded, and added some thoughts. “King Xi has sent me to check on the Zhao.  The Qin have already conquered Hann.  If Zhao falls, the king fears Yan may be next.  I know Li Mu, the Zhao general, has built and strengthened the great wall, and built fortifications to hold off the Qin, but will it be enough?”

“He won’t fight?” Lockhart asked.

Jing Ke shifted in his seat.  “Li Mu beat the Qin in battle once.  He is about the only general to do so, but his losses were so great, he believes he only has enough army left to defend the capitol.  Two years ago, the ground shook in Zhao.  We felt it in Yan, 1000 li from Handan.  Smaller shakes in the earth followed, and many died, as houses and whole villages collapsed. People rebuilt, but then in this last year, floods came where there had been no floods, and the earth dried in places where rivers and streams used to run.  The crops were not many.  More people died of hunger.”

“Sounds like the general has limited resources,” Decker said.

Jing Ke agreed.  “The Qin sent two armies, not just one.  They came, one from the north and one from the south. The Zhao, under Li Mu have fortified the ways, and the Qin have become frustrated, unable to break through.  Whether they are frustrated enough to turn around and go home, who can say?  The ministers are talking.  I believe ministers are born talking.  It does not necessarily mean anything.  I suppose they may find a path to peace, but I believe King Zheng of Qin does not want peace.”

“It sounds like you already understand the situation very well,” Katie said.

Jing Ke agreed again.  “But I will look and report to my king what I find.  Li Mu may make the taking of Zhao too expensive, so the Qin may reconsider and go elsewhere for a while.  Like to Wei or Chu.  That may give Yan time to make alliances and build our own formidable army. Who can say?  That is the future.”

Things wound down, and people got plenty of sleep that night.  When they got up the next morning, they stayed mostly quiet.  They had some very strong morning tea, and Lockhart said thank you before he mumbled, “It still isn’t coffee.”

Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 6 of 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that it?” Lockhart whispered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minerva nodded again, and disappeared.

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

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

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


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

“This way,” Lincoln said, pointing again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tone deaf,”

“That too.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They all said thank you and hurried before they melted.



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


Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 5 of 6

By the morning of the third day, Galatea got right up behind Petracles again, a very contented smile on her face. Apparently, everything went well in the night, though Petracles looked exhausted.  The six soldiers Petracles brought with him to escort the group rode at the back and had the good sense to keep to their own camp in the night and keep their mouths shut.

Boston was not so sensible.  She turned to Sukki, pointed at Galatea snuggling up to Petracles, and said, “See, that is how you do it.”  She said it several times.

“What makes you think I want to do it?” Sukki responded, but turned her face away, and turned red.

They found a narrow wooden bridge across the Simeto River, and felt grateful to be able to cross without incident. It did not seem a very wide or deep river, but the travelers were glad not to have to go out of their way to find a ford.

Katie said, “Hopefully, things like roads and bridges will become more common from here on out.”

“That is Mount Etna?” Lockhart asked about the snow covered peak they headed toward. Katie nodded.

“That would be my guess.”

“I don’t see any smoke,” Lockhart pointed out.

“No,” Katie agreed.  “Lincoln could probably read in the database about every eruption around this time, but all I know is, while the volcano erupts often in history, most of the time it is inactive.  Like maybe a hundred years of quiet between eruptions.  An eruption might last a month, several months, a year or two, but then the mountain gets quiet again for the next twenty years or maybe two hundred years.  Who can say?”

“Like predicting earthquakes,” Lockhart suggested.

“Yes.  Related,” Katie said.  “I had a friend at the Pentagon who worked on that very thing… To predict earthquakes, not to trigger them.”

Lockhart nodded that he understood.

“Wait,” Katie said, and stopped, so the whole train of horses stopped.  “We are being followed.

“Where?”  Lockhart looked back.

“Since the river.  A whole troop of men.  They have cut us off from the bridge.”  Katie looked at Lockhart.  “I’m sorry. I got busy loving you and stopped paying attention.”  Her head snapped toward the front, but then Boston and Sukki were galloping back from the point.  A minute later, Decker and Elder Stow both raced in from the sides.

“There is a whole army out there,” Boston said it first, as Petracles with Galatea came along side.

“Yes,” Galatea said.  “Men from Tauromeni and Catina.  I was wondering when you were going to notice.”

“I smell the witch,” Lockhart said.

“I hear that,” Decker agreed.

“I can put up my screens, but not for long.  Then we will be out of power.”

“They may try a mass attack from all sides.  Our weapons are good, but not against an army.”

“It would be like Custer’s last stand,” Boston suggested.

“We can’t draw the wagons in a circle. We only have the one,” Lockhart joked. “Why don’t we see what they want before we start shooting people.”

They moved forward, slowly in a group, and stopped a hundred yards from the phalanx of men.  Lockhart and Katie then rode out to the fifty-yard line and stopped there, to wait.  Petracles, and thus Galatea followed them, but the rest wisely stayed behind.

“Petracles wanted me to stay back,” Galatea said, with a true smile that made the others smile.  “He wanted to protect me.  Isn’t he the cutest thing.”

Petracles did not think he was cute, but he spoke, and tried to stay serious.  “I represent Pyrrhus here.  These Greeks have no business turning out soldiers against their king.  The king has given you safe passage.  In fact, he insisted.”

They did not have to wait long. Six men rode out from the other side. Galatea whispered, like it was a conspiracy.  “They are under the spell of your witch.  She is hiding.  Shh. Don’t tell that I told you.”

“Hello friend,” Lockhart began, but Petracles interrupted.

“I am here as representative of Pyrrhus the king.  These people have been given safe passage to their destination. How dare you bring an army out against your king.”

“These are not people,” one man spoke in a hypnotic monotone.  “They are demons from beyond time.  They must surrender all of their things.  They must surrender themselves to be burned at the stake.”

“Friend,” Lockhart began again, but this time Katie interrupted.

“Galatea.  Can you set these free from their hypnotic spell?”

“Oh,” Galatea shook her head.  “I don’t know if I am allowed to do that.”

“Please,” Lockhart said.

“Just these six,” Katie explained. “I’m not asking you to set them all free, or anything big like that.  Just a little thing.  Just these few.”

Galatea’s smile returned, like she could not stay serious for very long.  “Okay,” she said, and the six men covered their eyes, shook their heads, and looked confused before one of them spoke.

“What are we doing here?”

“Wait.  I remember,” another said, and looked at Katie and Lockhart with an odd expression on his face.

“You don’t look like demons,” a third said.

“These good people are under the protection of the king,” Petracles spoke up again.  “I am sure you don’t want to make King Pyrrhus mad at you.”

“Dear, no,” one man said.

“How did we get here?”

One figured it out.  “It was the witch,”

The city elders awkwardly turned on their horses to face their own army.  Only a moment later, they saw the witch come out from behind the men. “No,” she yelled.  “That’s not fair.  Attack.  Attack.”

Decker had somehow managed to get the rest of the group to form a defensive circle around their one wagon. He made sure the Eporites had their bows ready, and made Boston and Alexis get out their bows, even if Alexis protested.  Boston gave her Beretta to Sukki, and Decker gave his handgun to Evan.  They did not have a spare for Wallace, but that turned out to be just as well.  On sight of Nanette, Wallace rode his horse as fast as he could across the field, shouting.

“Nanette.  I’m here for you.  Nanette.”

No one could stop him, as the cavalry troop that cut them off from the bridge prepared to attack.  At the same time, the phalanx of Greeks began to march forward.

“Hasty retreat,” Lockhart said. Katie had her rifle ready, but she agreed.  Petracles rode in all seriousness, but Galatea got her grin back, like it was all too exciting.  The six elders did not seem to know what to do.  Two rode with the travelers.  Two rode slowly back to their troops, knowing they could not stop them.  The final two just stayed where they were, like men frozen in indecision.

Katie spoke when Wallace rode past them. “Let him go.  Nothing we can do for him now.”

When the riders got to the wagon, Katie quickly gave Millie her handgun, having shown Millie how to use it whether Millie liked it or not.  She pulled her rifle up to her sight, and Elder Stow let his sonic device squeal as loud as he could set it.  Even the traveler’s horses protested.  The oncoming horses stopped, bucked, stumbled, turned aside, or turned around and rode back the way they came regardless of their riders.

“Fine and well,” Decker said, “But that is not going to work on the foot soldiers.  The men advanced, seven or eight feet of spear poking out of the front of the formation.  “Captain.”

“Ready, sir,” Katie said in her crisp, military voice.  The others stepped up around them with their bows and handguns.  Bullets from handguns might not penetrate the shields with enough force to do damage to the man, but at least they would not bounce off, like arrows.  Katie and Decker had the rifles, and Lockhart had his shotgun.  Not much against five hundred or more men.

“Aim,” Decker said, and one of the Eporites yelled from behind.

“The cavalry have regained control and are preparing a charge from three sides.”

“I’ve got it,” Elder Stow countered. “Stay on the foot soldiers.”

The cavalry began yelling and started to ride.  The foot soldiers got to where Decker prepared to yell fire. when the cavalry froze, horses and all in mid-stride, and a massive stroke of lightning came down in front of the Greek phalanx, knocking the whole front row off their feet, and some of the men following as well.

Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 4 of 6

Petracles took the travelers straight to the king, though they had to wait a few minutes to see him.  The king had to confer with his generals first. When he finally came from the tent to meet them, he paused to watch his generals scurry off to their assignments. The generals all but bowed, though bowing to superiors was not a natural Greek trait.  Pyrrhus looked like a hardened general himself, more than a king. He had an aura of a man that had advisors, but rarely listened to them.

“So, these are the merchants?  Did you save any of your wares?  I’m sorry for your losses.”  Pyrrhus made a lot of assumptions in his words.

Lockhart answered straight, and Pyrrhus paused at having to look up at the big man.  “We are travelers, not merchants, and thanks to the intervention of the gods, we all survived.”

“Travelers?”  Pyrrhus frowned, but he had something in mind.  “And you suffered no losses?”

“We lost two horses,” Katie said, and watched Pyrrhus’ face turn sour.

“Over here,” one of the young soldiers waved to the travelers.  “We found your horses.”

Pyrrhus looked mad, but paused to watch.

“Honey,” Boston yelled, and ran faster than humanly possible—faster than the horse ran to her.  She hugged her horse and the horse responded.

Lockhart merely called.  “Dog.”

The horse broke free of the soldier holding it and trotted up, exactly like a faithful dog.  It might have licked Lockhart, but Katie grabbed and kissed Dog’s nose.  “Where did you find them?” she asked.

“Porus found them.”  Pyrrhus waved at the young soldier who spoke.

“They wandered right up to the camp. I figured they came to shore and came inland to escape the storm.”  He smiled for the group.

Pyrrhus frowned, but admitted the truth. “Obviously, your horses.  I might buy them.  Your horses are bigger than my own, and they seem steady and strong.  I could get some good stock out of those horses.”

“Sorry,” Lockhart said.  “They are a gift from the gods for our journey.”

“Hera’s Butt,” Pyrrhus swore.  “Why does everyone credit or blame the gods for everything?  We have to make our own way in this world, and damn hard it is, too.  But we win or lose by our own hand, not because of some mystical gods.”

“I beg your pardon,” Galatea spoke nice and loud and stepped forward.  Boston, Sukki and Millie all wanted to say something, but decided it would be safer not to get in her way.  “I’ll have you know these travelers are friends with all of the gods.”

“Not all,” Lincoln mumbled, and Galatea heard, and nodded.

“Well, most of them, anyway.  They are my friends, and they are honest and good people.  I’ve been following their travels for nearly four-thousand years, and maybe the gods get too much credit and too much blame for life, but that doesn’t mean they just sit around doing nothing.”  Galatea snapped her fingers in Pyrrhus’ face and floated up three feet in the air.  Her legs got replaced by her mermaid tail. “Now I am hot and bothered.  I need a swim.  I need to get my tail wet.  Good-bye.  See you later, Boston.”  She snapped her finger again and disappeared, leaving a splash of sea water in her place.

“See ya later,” Boston shouted.

“I guessed, you know,” Petracles said. “No mortal woman could be that beautiful.”

“Careful,” Alexis said.  “Sukki mentioned that Galatea thought you were cute.”

“That could be really good,” Petracles said, but as he thought about it, he added, “And really dangerous.”

“Pyrrhus.”  A woman in the distance shouted as she came up with several men. “Did you forget we had an appointment this morning?”

“What?  No.” Pyrrhus said.  “I’ve been busy.  We had a storm, in case you failed to notice.  There was a shipwreck.”

The woman got close and opened her arms. She shouted, “Boston.”  Boston raced into the hug, again, faster than humanly possible.

“The red-head gets singled out a lot,” Petracles noted.

“She is an elf,” Lincoln said, and left it at that.

“So…” the woman stepped up, nodding to Lincoln who named her as Umma.  “What did you have to offer?” she asked Pyrrhus.

Pyrrhus looked around at his generals, her generals, the travelers and their horses.  He closed his eyes, raised his head and hands, shook his hands and said a very loud, “No,” like he tried to make it all go away.

Umma took the moment to speak to the side.  “Lockhart. As usual, good or bad timing, depending. I don’t know where the witch is.”

“No, no,” Pyrrhus yelled.

Umma turned to the young soldier, Porus. “Hello son.  Thank you for saving the horses.  Your mother loves you.”

“Mother…” Porus objected at being singled out.  He walked behind the tent and no doubt disappeared.

“Proteus,” Katie whispered in Lockhart’s ear.

“Yes, thanks,” Lockhart whispered to the wind.

“No,” Pyrrhus seemed to get hold of himself, and he turned on Umma.  “You need to open the gate and let me come in.”

“Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin,” Umma responded.

Pyrrhus’ face turned deadpan.  “You are a woman.  You don’t have hair on your chin.”

“That can be worked out,” she responded.

“Diogenes?” Millie whispered, not really having had a chance to talk to the young man.

“No,” Evan told her.  “Alexander made his soldiers stay clean shaven. Now, having met them, I think it is because Alexander could not grow a good beard.”

Millie nodded, while Umma spoke, sharply. “I thought you said you had something to offer to end the siege.”

“I tried negotiating with your people, but you are all as stupid and stubborn as the Greeks; but the Greeks want Carthage gone.  So, once again, I am stuck choosing between bad and worse.  I should just break your walls and crush your city.”

Umma nodded, and spoke sweetly. “You have had several victories since coming to Italy, and lost most of your men, and your best men.  I figure one more such victory and you won’t have any army left.”

“Not funny.”

“So then, offer something realistic so we can make peace.”

Pyrrhus paused to look down on the woman, remembering how he felt when he had to look up at Lockhart.  “I don’t like negotiating with a stupid and stubborn woman.”

“I beg your pardon,” Umma said, sounding very much like Galatea.  “My family is keeping the city fed and happy.  My ships, my food, my city.  I’m what you get.  Besides, the city elders decided if you get really stupid, my life is expendable.  I told them even you are not that stupid.”

“So, what good is talking to you? Your city elders will make the decision.”

“My city, remember?  They do what they are told.  Besides, I was not about to let you talk directly to them.  They would negotiate away the whole city and get nothing in return.  City idiots, I call them.”

“She does call them that,” one of the generals with Umma sat beside the travelers who had already taken seats to watch the fireworks show.  The older general sat beside him, and two of Pyrrhus’ generals sat on the other side.

Pyrrhus and Umma spent the morning yelling at each other, until Umma held up her hand and said, “Lunch break.”

Pyrrhus watched the sailors stack wood, some of it still wet, in the place set aside for a fire.  He stared when Boston pulled out her wand and started the fire with a little flamethrower action.  Two soldiers cooked some onions and leeks, while others brought over a whole pig that had been cooking all morning.  The soldiers brought some fruit, and it made a very fine meal, and the conversation around the fire was both cordial and warm.  Though, mostly that was because Pyrrhus spent most of his time in his tent planning for the afternoon argument.

Pyrrhus started the conversation with, “You are the most formidable enemy I have ever faced.  You give no ground, and keep trying to sneak up on my flanks where you think I am unprepared.”

“Nice lunch,” Umma said.  “Did you get enough to eat?”

The afternoon ended with Pyrrhus yelling. “I will get my own ships and block your port and sink your ships.”

Umma said something like the Carthaginian version of “Nyah-nyah,” and added the fingers wiggling on her nose and in her ears, and the butt wiggle besides.  She marched her generals back to the city, and Pyrrhus threw things for a while.  Fortunately, Porus came back by then and moved the travelers out on to the open field where the horses contentedly grazed.  They set their camp near some soldiers, and did not have to deal with Pyrrhus until the morning.


When the morning came, Petracles spoke for his king. “Pyrrhus wants you off his land as soon as possible.  He is lending you enough horses so you can all ride, to speed the journey.  He will get his horses back when you take ship in Messana.”

“Boston,” Lockhart yelled, though she was not far away.

“The time gate is around Mount Etna. Lincoln and I checked it in the database,” Boston shouted back, just to be even.

“That is closer than Messana,” Katie said.  “We can get out of the king’s land sooner than expected.”

“Somehow, I believe you,” Petracles said, as Galatea showed up.

“Do I get a horse?”

“Please,” Petracles said without blinking.  “Take mine.”

Galatea smiled and stepped right up to the man.  “We could ride together,” she said, and placed on gentle hand against the man’s cheek while she stood within a hair’s breadth of him.

Petracles swallowed.  “You know how to ride?”

“Only on a seahorse, or in a chariot, but it can’t be hard.”

Petracles nodded.  “Can you hold on?”

“I would love to,” she said, and Petracles swallowed again.  Of them all, maybe Decker laughed the loudest.

Galatea turned to the women in the group. “When my sister rides in her husband’s chariot, she always scrunches down in the back and covers her eyes.  I hope I don’t have to cover my eyes.”

“Mostly road between here and Etna,” Petracles said, as he reached down to help Galatea up behind him.  “We might make it in two days, maybe morning of the third.”  He spoke over his shoulder. “Sister?”

“Trite,” Galatea said.  “I do have ninety-nine sisters.”


“Amphitrite,” Lockhart said.  “Her husband, Poseidon.  I guess Neptune in this part of the world.”

Petracles laughed, nervously. Galatea did not help when she held him around the middle, snuggled up tight against his back, sighed, and put her head gently against the back of his shoulder.

Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 3 of 6

Once everyone hit the sand and pebble shoreline, the men rushed back into the ship to retrieve what they could. The wagon had been well made and would survive the soaking.  The blankets and tents, being made of fairy weave, rejected the water and felt dry. The saddles, however, would dry, but probably squeeze out water for the next month or so every time someone sat in them.

Boston, Sukki, and Millie gathered whatever wood they could find.  Lockhart and Even broke off some pieces of the ship to burn, knowing that Boston could get a fire going no matter how soaking wet the wood might be.  Lincoln and Elder Stow checked their equipment, while Decker checked the area, and Alexis and Katie looked over the horses. They paused on finding only three horses.

“Dog…” Katie called out to Lockhart’s horse that sometimes behaved more like a loyal dog than a horse.

Alexis got Katie’s attention.  “Dog and Honey fell into the sea when the rocks tore a hole in the side of the boat.”

“Damn…” Katie whispered.

Boston cried for her horse.

“She is an elf,” Alexis explained. “Her love and attachments are strong.”

“I think Boston would have cried even if she was still human,” Lockhart said, looking plenty unhappy about the loss of his own horse.

“It is midnight,” Lincoln interrupted. “The tents and blankets are dry. We should think about getting some sleep.”

“Robert and I have the first watch,” Katie said.  “Major, and Elder Stow, do you mind a two-hour nap before the middle watch?”

“Don’t worry about us,” Major Decker said.

“If I can sleep at all,” Elder Stow said. “I am worried about my equipment. It is all safe and working, but the power sources are severely depleted.  I don’t know how much use they will be from here on unless I can find a way to charge them up.”

“Rest while you can,” Major Decker said, and Elder Stow nodded.

Sukki spoke up.  “Boston and I will take the morning, as usual.”

“Everyone get some rest,” Alexis agreed, even as Katie put another plank from the ship on the fire.  The ship did not burn well, but they were limited on what they could find in the dark, in the way of wood.  At least they found enough food stores to fix a meal.

Boston still sniffed in the morning when she saw the Greek soldiers in the distance.  When the sun cracked the horizon and the world became bathed in light, Sukki saw them too.  They appeared a long way off, so the women cleaned up the camp in the light, brought the fire to life, and made whatever they had that might substitute for coffee. Lockhart and Lincoln still complained now and then about not having real coffee in the morning, but they were the only ones.

Katie got up first.  Being an elect, she had a natural sensitivity to enemies and potential enemies approaching.  She looked, and then agreed with Boston.  They would make the soldiers welcome and hope they did not turn hostile.

Elder Stow got up shortly, after only an extra hour of rest.  He worked on his equipment and ignored whatever the women talked about.  Wallace got up, and Lockhart stumbled out of his tent and sat quietly drinking what he often called witch’s brew.  That opened Wallace’s mouth.

“Do you think Nanette is near?” he asked.

“I am sure she is not far,” Katie answered, but by then, the soldiers started to get close enough to where they decided to wake the rest of the crew.  Evan and Millie tumbled out of their tent and sat with Lockhart, sipping their morning drink and rubbing their eyes.

Lincoln and Alexis came awake more quickly.  After a couple of years of rising at sunrise in the wilderness, they had gotten used to the early hour.  They went to the horses first before they joined the group around the fire.

Major Decker grabbed his rifle and scope, and immediately checked out their visitors.  He came back to confirm the impression of the others.  “They do not appear hostile.  Just a patrol sent out to check on their visitors.  Probably saw the fire in the night.  Probably think we are a beached merchant ship.”

The sea turned completely calm by morning, and only a few fluffy white clouds scurried across the sky.  The surf splashed against the sand and pebble beach. It did not roar or thunder.  Sukki clearly enjoyed the sea, and watched the waves as she helped pack and store the tents and blankets in their little wagon. She let out a little peep when she saw Galatea rise up and walk across the top of the water.

Boston did not blink.  “Galatea,” she shouted.  “Just in time for breakfast.”  Alexis and Katie found a few fish left behind in pools after the storm. They did their best to clean and cook them.

“Eating my fishies, I see,” Galatea said, when she arrived.  Everyone stopped what they were doing, and some held their breath.  Upsetting a goddess would not have been a good thing. Galatea looked at the faces and took a second to figure it out.  “Oh, it’s all right.  I have fishies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I’ve had cow and bird, and oinker, but they are not as good as my fishies.”

“You are welcome to join us,” Alexis said.

Galatea counted, and then appeared to be counting something else that no one could see.  She pointed to the fire and there appeared twice as many fish as they found.  “That should be enough,” she said.  “Though I don’t know.  Some men are really big eaters.”  She disappeared and reappeared on top of the rocks Katie and Decker used to hide and keep an eye on the approaching soldiers.  Galatea smiled and waved.  “Hurry up,” she shouted. “Breakfast is ready.”

One look at that beautiful goddess, and the soldiers hurried their feet.  Boston laughed.  So much for hiding.  Decker shrugged and got down from the rocks.  He took his rifle over by the wagon where he could sit and watch the soldiers invade the camp.  Katie came into the camp, and Lockhart said to her how glad he was to hear Boston laugh. Katie agreed.

When the soldiers clambered over the rocks, Lockhart introduced himself, and his wife, Katie.  The sergeant responded with only his own name. “Petracles.”

“Greek,” Katie surmised.  “Not Carthaginian or Roman.”

Petracles nodded, and looked again at Galatea who sat between Sukki and Millie.  Galatea talked to Sukki about how she loved the sea, too.

“Breakfast is ready,” Alexis spoke up, and Lincoln waved for the soldiers to help themselves.

Boston leaned over to Galatea. “You are pretty good at appearing human,” she complimented her.

“Says the elf who appears human,” Millie interjected.

“Yes, but Sukki and I just wear glamours,” Boston nodded.  “It is a bit more complicated for a goddess.”

“Yes,” Galatea agreed.  “My sister, Amphitrite, taught me to tone down my awesome nature ages and ages ago.  You know, it is no fun when everyone screams and runs away or falls to their faces in terror.  Triton is okay at it, but my nephew, Proteus is the best.  He is so good at it, he can sometimes even fool the gods, though he says he can never fool his mother.”  Galatea let out that grin.

Lincoln came over, having found enough plates for everyone.  “Fish. Fish.  Fish.  Fish,” he said, and handed a plate to each of the girls.  “I remember Cat saying that once.  He was talented.”  He went back to the fire without explaining.

“I like the tail,” Galatea said, and traded plates with Sukki.

“Galatea,” Boston got her attention again.  “I think you are much smarter than you pretend.”

Galatea smiled and tried to think of how to respond to that, but got interrupted by a couple of soldiers that went to check out the remains of the ship.

“The ship might be salvaged in pieces,” one spoke.  “But with that hole in the side, it is probably not worth fixing.”

The other added, “It is a wonder you made it to shore with such a hole.  What did you hit?”

“Rocks.  A small island.”  Lockhart pointed.  “We banged right into it.  We are a Greek ship, headed for Lilybae, and the god, Yam, wanted to sink us.”

The Greeks paused in their breakfast to stare, some being afraid of the gods, and some not sure who Yam might be.  Alexis had to say, “Finish your fishies.”

Petracles spoke.  “I know the place, I think.  It is a long way from here.  How did you get to shore with such a big hole in the side?”

Lockhart sat up and looked briefly at Lincoln, Elder Stow, and Katie, with a glance at Evan.  Seeing no objections, he spoke.  “About five days ago, we had good sailing, but when it became apparent we were headed for Lilybae, the Phoenician god of the sea decided to sink us.  You saw the storm.  Fortunately, Nereus, the elder sea god, sent one of his daughters to check on us, which she very kindly did.  Then we got hit by the storm, and our rudder broke off when the waves pushed us on a collision course with the rocks.  Thanks to Elder Stow’s quick thinking, we stayed afloat despite the gaping hole in our side; but we were at the mercy of the storm.  Then Triton arrived.  He kindly picked up the whole ship and flew it here, where it keeled over, as you see it. I understand Triton’s grandfather…” He looked at Galatea, who nodded. “Nereus talked to Yam, or at least kept him busy until we safely reached the shore. You may note, Triton did not take us to the city docks, but I guess Yam was willing to let us land here, in Greek controlled territory.”

“A fanciful tale,” Petracles said, though he did not scoff.

Boston appeared a bit miffed at the unbeliever, and whispered.  “We could call him Rockhead.”

“Hush,” Galatea said.  “I think he is cute.”

Sukki snapped her mouth shut, turned a little red and looked away.  Clearly Sukki thought he was cute, too.

“This is Greek controlled territory, is it not?” Katie asked.

Petracles nodded.  “King Pyrrhus has had the city under siege for two months, to no avail.  He is talking to the city leaders, but has come to realize he will need ships to block the port if his siege is ever going to be effective.”

“How do you think that will work?” Lincoln asked.

Petracles shrugged.  “The Greek cities don’t mind having Pyrrhus as their king. They appreciate the strong arm of protection he offers.  They sent him some of their second-rate soldiers as a sign of support, though I believe some of them got dredged up from their city streets, like the losers and petty criminals the city wanted to get rid of.  They might also like the island to be Carthaginian free, but I think they will balk when the king starts asking for money and ships.  They don’t mind giving lip service, as long as it doesn’t actually cost them anything.”

“Not a recipe for success,” Lockhart said, and got everyone to start packing to leave.  They would follow the soldiers back to the main Greek camp.



The travelers find Umma, arguing with Pyrrhus the Great about the city.  Nothing is resolved, but the travelers can’t stick around.  The time gate is all the way on the  other side of the island, around Mount Etna.  Enjoy, and Happy Reading.


Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 2 of 6

After a minute, the ship settled down. It appeared as if the ship survived the time transition.  Alexis, Sukki, and Millie immediately went to check the water and food stores.  Sukki said out loud that they should have eaten a big meal before the time gate in case the food became inedible.  Fortunately, they found the food and water still in good condition, miraculously untainted by sixty years of rot.

“I guess the aura of protection covered the ship and everything in it,” Millie said.

“Good for the horses,” Alexis said, and explained to Sukki.  “At least they won’t starve between here and landfall, however many days that may be from here.”

“Oh, good,” Sukki said.  “I was afraid you were thinking we might have to eat one of the horses.”  Millie looked horrified by the suggestion, but Alexis looked away and shrugged very slightly.  That thought did cross her mind.

They moved faster aboard ship than they would have moved walking on land, though not as fast as they might have ridden on horses.  The advantage being that they did not have to stop in the night.  They slowed a bit more when the favorable wind shifted to the northwest.  They had to tack to stay on course.  Decker and Lincoln figured out where they were, more or less, in the Mediterranean. They also pulled the spare mast out of the hold and set it in the bow, cutting a lateen sail to help.  That took two days to set up, but everyone said it was worth it.  Boston kept her elf eyes on the horizon in search for land.

All of the men, plus Sukki and Katie took turns on the tiller.  The rudder amounted to no more than a big oar pushed out the back of the ship.  It did not turn the ship very fast, and took some real strength to move it, being heavy in the water; but keeping the ship straight on seemed easy enough.

Lockhart found shovels and buckets, and got Wallace to help him keep the ship relatively clean of horse manure. Katie, Boston, and Alexis took the unused portion of the spare sail to make curtains.  They made places in the bow, port and starboard, where the men and women could relieve themselves with some privacy.  Lockhart asked why they built the bathrooms in the front of the boat rather than the rear, which he thought would make more sense—to leave all that stink behind them.

“Because the wind is blowing more or less forward faster than we are moving,” Katie explained.  “We want anything smelly as far forward as possible.”

Lockhart nodded, even if he did not quite understand.

On the third day, Lincoln began to play music from the database, to relieve the boredom.  He stayed with classical music so as not to disturb the group from 1905, but he did sneak in a couple hours of Christmas music over supper; hymns as well as Santa music.  That actually made everyone feel remarkably better.

On the fourth day, the sky began to cloud over.  Several people saw the red sky that morning, but no one said anything.  Boston stayed in front most of the time, and she was the first to spot their visitors, and shout.


People rushed to the starboard side, to watched as the dolphins breached the water and dove back into the deep. It temporarily stayed their worry about the oncoming storm.

Boston got a surprise when one of the dolphins came up to the front of the ship and grabbed on while Boston looked down into the sea.  It wasn’t a dolphin at all, but a girl, and a rather pretty one at that.

“Hi, I’m Boston,” Boston said.

“Hi, I’m Galatea,” the girl said. “We met once, I think.  Ages ago.”  She did not look too certain.

“Are you a mermaid?”

“I’m a nereid.  My father Nereus sent me to check on you, though I am not sure what I am supposed to be checking.”

“Maybe he wants to make sure we stay safe in the oncoming storm,” Boston suggested.

“Yes,” Galatea said.  “That could be it.  Bye.”  She vanished.

“Wait,” Boston shouted, but it was too late.  It began to drizzle.  After an hour, the dolphins left.  Another hour, and the sky turned dark as night, the storm broke, and Lockhart, at the tiller, shouted, thinking Boston might be the only one to hear him.

“Boston.  Make sure everyone gets tied down, then get with Sukki, Elder Stow, Alexis and Lincoln down with the horses.  Be careful, but try to keep them as calm as you can.”

“Right, Boss,” Boston said, directing her voice to Lockhart’s ears.  As an elf, Boston could make herself heard.

Decker came up and tied himself next to Lockhart on the tiller.  Katie stayed with them, and kept her amulet available.  Her prototype amulet could only point to the next time gate, but she imagined she might keep them pointed in the right direction.

The sky turned dark as night, and the waves rose up and seemed to want to swamp the ship.  They furiously crashed over the sides, and Evan and Wallace helped Millie make a dash for down below.  Being tied to the ship would have kept them from being washed overboard, but they could drown in the waves all the same.

Shortly, the ship began to spin as the waves pushed the speck of wood in every direction.  The planking creaked and moaned, sounding like it might be ripped apart at any moment.  With Millie, Evan, and Wallace there to help with the horses, once they got tied, Boston thought to return to the bow to see what she might see through the gloom.

Boston took a second to tie herself to the railing, then she gripped the railing with both hands, and gripped her boots with her toes.  She did not stand long before she shouted.

“Island ahead.  Big rocks sticking up.  Turn to the right.”  She made herself heard at the back of the ship.

Decker and Lockhart did not question the command.  They pushed the rudder as hard over as they could.  Something cracked loud enough to hear over the storm.  The rudder broke off in the water.  Decker fell to the deck, face first.  Katie grabbed Lockhart to keep him from falling overboard and dangling from the stern on his rope line.  Then they heard the crunching sound amidships.

The rocks punched a big hole in the side of the ship.  None of the people got washed out, but Boston’s horse, Honey, and Lockhart’s horse, Dog, ended up in the sea where they began to swim for their lives.  The ship started to sink.

Up front, Boston got distracted when Galatea, on two feet rather than in her mermaid’s tail, appeared beside her and asked a question.

“Is this a bad storm?”

Boston bit her tongue rather than say, “Well, it isn’t a good one.”  What she said was, “Do you think your dad could help us get to safety?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said.  “The Phoenician sea god, Yam, is making sure no Greek ships get to Lilybae.”

“Maybe he could help us reach a shore that isn’t Lilybae?” Boston asked, with all the desperation she felt.  She did not know what was going on down below where the hold was flooding, but she imagined terrible things.  Fortunately, two things happened at once.

A young man appeared and said, “I can help with that.  Yam is a moron.  He never even looked to see who was on this ship.  Triton,” he introduced himself.

“Galatea,” she reciprocated and shook Triton’s hand, as if her nephew did not know her.

Before Boston could offer her name, the rain stopped, suddenly.  Even Triton and Galatea appeared surprised.  They noticed it still rained all around, but the rain no longer reached the ship. Elder Stow switched on his screens. They surrounded the ship like a big globe, picking up plenty of water, and possibly some fish down below, but trapping some air above like a bubble that would keep things afloat, and keep the people and horses from drowning.  Of course, the ship continued to sink until it rested on the bottom of the screens, but the people brought the horses up to the deck which got covered with about an inch of water.  They also carried up the weapons, and as much of the equipment and saddles they could carry. Those who knew a little, prayed that the ship would remain upright.

“The thing is,” Elder Stow told Lincoln and the others as they went up-top.  “I don’t know what to do from here.  My personal flotation device is not strong enough to move this whole ship with all the water we are carrying to a shoreline, even a nearby shore.”

“I can help with that,” Triton repeated himself.  The rain began to pound against the screen.  A stroke of lightning hit the screen and lit up the sky.  It did not penetrate, and the globe of force holding the ship, the air, the water below, and the travelers began to rise in the storm, up to several dozen yards above the sea.  The fury of the storm paused when the ship began to fly to the nearest shore.

“Father is talking to Yam,” Galatea said, and grinned a very blonde grin.

“Yam is an idiot,” Triton said, and avoided saying the same about his Aunt Galatea.  “His lady, Athirat, is hot, though.  I don’t know why all the hot women end up with idiots.  Aunt Galatea has had her share over the years.”

Galatea stood, looking the part of the innocent, dumb blonde.

“Athirat?  Asherah?” Evan asked, not knowing their visitor, and thinking they moved through the air because of some miraculous gadget of Elder Stow.

“She who walks on the water,” Triton nodded.  “And Yam needs someone to walk on him.”

“Asherah is what the Canaanites call her,” Katie said, as she, Lockhart, and Decker walked up from the stern.  “Mother of the gods, though really her mother, Tiamut, filled that role, and Astarte to some extent.  Mother of all the living, which is the same title given to Eve, as in Adam and Eve, and to Hebat, and others.”

“That’s the one,” Triton said with a nod, and roared.  People held their ears, as the ship landed on a shoreline.  Triton disappeared.  Galatea still grinned before she spoke.

“Triton is so loud.  I don’t know if he can say hello without shouting.” she shrugged, and also vanished.

It took a moment for Elder Stow to turn off his screens, but when he did, the ship thumped to the ground.  The deck drained of its inch of water.  As the water rushed over the gunwale, it also drained rapidly through the hole in the hold, and the water picked up by the screens raced back into the sea.  The sky only drizzled at that point, but people got too busy to notice.  They, and the horses, had to rush to solid ground as the ship moaned and slowly tilted on its side.  It would not stay upright resting only on the keel.

Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 1 of 6


I do try to keep my reading posts advertising and spam free, but we are coming to the end of FREE book days.  Now, through May 31, Avalon, the Prequel and Seasons One Two and Three are all FREE, and, of course, the Pilot Episode is free everyday.  This is something Smashwords set up during the stay-at-home time, so help yourself.  You can get all of these books for absolutely zero money, hopefully read and enjoy them, (and maybe leave a good review).  Thanks.  Happy Reading.



After 323 BC, Sicily. Kairos lifetime 83: Umma of Carthage.

Recording …

Despite their best hopes, the time gate appeared to be in Thermaic gulf, directly out from Mount Olympus. Harpalus found them a ship with some of the coins that Phillip paid them for saving his life.  He got them a crew as well, but they told him the crew could not go where they were going.  It would be a death sentence.  The crew, however, could teach them well enough so they might actually make it to the time gate without sinking.  They stayed a week to learn all they could.

Decker already knew something about sailing.  No one asked where he picked up the skill, but being a marine, no one felt surprised.

Lincoln and Alexis knew the basics. They had a small sailboat, a twenty-five-footer that they used to take out on the Potomac and sometimes along the shores of Chesapeake Bay.  Of course, it had a small engine, but they sailed enough to know some.  Lincoln paid close attention to the instructions offered by the sailors.  Alexis spent the week trying to get in touch with Fair Wind.

“I know we are not Ibelam, but it would save me a great deal of effort if you might be willing to help.”

Evan traveled on the PS Cumberland Gap when his family moved from Boston to Baltimore as a child.  That was about 1888.  He called it the most exciting and wonderful trip in his life.  Evan confessed they moved mostly by the paddles, but at one point he watched them set the sails, and he asked lots of questions.

Millie said the big steamship they took to Rome didn’t even have any sails as an option.  She worried if the engine broke down, they would be dead in the water.

Katie said, despite being a marine, she had little chance to go sailing behind her desk at the Pentagon.

Lockhart, who knew nothing about sailing, asked what the sailors did in bad weather.

“Well,” an old sailor said.  “If it rains, we get wet.  If there is thunder and lighting, we ask Zeus to please not strike the boat.  I once saw a lightning strike that split the mast right down the middle.  It took us a week to limp into the nearest port, half-starved and severely dehydrated because our water stores all got contaminated…”

Another sailor interrupted the story. “When the waves get big, we use the rope to tie ourselves to the boat so we don’t fall overboard.  The steersman lashes himself to the paddle.  Then we pray, mostly to Poseidon.  Personally, I ask his wife, Amphitrite, to calm her husband, if you don’t mind.”

“She could do that,” Lockhart said, like he knew.

“Unless he is upset because she is mad at him for some reason,” Katie countered.

Lockhart nodded.  “They have been known to fight.  But, usually she is off somewhere else and very busy.”

“Usually,” Katie agreed

“Diogenes,” Harpalus mumbled, before he looked up and waved off the questions.  “Don’t ask.  It is a long story.”

By the time they got the horses and wagon loaded, and felt ready, though scared to risk the wind and waves, Katie and Lockhart went to say thank you and good-bye to Harpalus.  They found him talking to a middle-aged man who limped, just like Harpalus.  The man said hello, and seemed to know them.  It only took a second.  Lockhart figure it was one of the gods, even if he did not know which one.  Katie knew.

“Vulcan,” she said as she shook his hand. She used his Roman name, thinking Harpalus would not know.

“Good name choice,” Vulcan affirmed, and he proceeded to say what he wanted, but also used the Roman names instead of the Greek ones for the various gods.  “I talked to Salacia.  I am sorry to say, Fair Wind remains in the Indian Ocean, but Salacia talked to Neptune, and he has promised to provide clear sailing out of this time zone.  No guarantees on what you might run into on the other side.  I have taken the liberty of giving your ship a hundred-year stain, so it will age a bit, but still be a solid, sea-worthy craft on the other side of the time gate.”

“You talked to Salacia?” Lockhart grabbed at the one thing he understood.  He knew Salacia was the Roman name for Amphitrite, the queen goddess of the sea. He met the Kairos, Amphitrite.  He grasped that the god talked to the Kairos, Diogenes.

“Concerning my ex-wife, Venus,” Vulcan continued.  “You know, we were married a long, long… Long time.  I was not happy with her on and off affair with Mars, but then I had a rather prolonged relationship with Bastet, the Egyptian, and even had a daughter and a son.  I really don’t mind the young man.  She can even marry Diogenes if she wants, since after all, she will be marrying my daughter, Danna.”

Lockhart looked confused again.  Katie said she would explain it later.

Poor Harpalus also looked confused that whole time, until the end when Vulcan said his ex-wife might marry Diogenes. His eyes got big when he realized his fellow cripple was the god Hephaestus.

“By the way,” Vulcan said, and held out a coin filled saddlebag.  “Here are the remains of the coins Phillip gave you.  Young Harpalus has what you folks call sticky fingers.  They may get him in trouble one day.  I might have let it pass, but the bag doesn’t belong here. It belongs in the future.”

“Thank you,” Katie said, as she accepted the bag.

Vulcan gave Harpalus a hard, but kind look before he spoke again.  “If you ever get to Mount Etna, look me up,” he said, and vanished.

Harpalus grinned, sheepishly, as he handed over Elder Stow’s sonic device.  The travelers laughed about it as they boarded the ship and headed out to the sea, Alexis only magically helping at first with the wind.


The day proved wonderful, as promised, with a perfect wind and a calm sea.  Lockhart and Decker took turns on the tiller, and Katie stood with them in the stern, checking her prototype amulet to make sure they stayed on course for the time gate.  Boston stayed in the bow where she could feel a bit of the sea spray as they plied through the water.  She only checked her amulet once in a while.

Sukki did not feel comfortable getting that close to the edge.  She stayed amid ship with Elder Stow, who spent most of the day double-checking his equipment and grousing about how his sonic device got stolen without him knowing it. Lincoln and Alexis were there most of the day, seeing to the horses, and they laughed at some of the thoughts Elder Stow expressed.  They assured Sukki, at least, that Harpalus was not an irredeemable son of perdition.

Evan and Millie stayed with Wallace, to comfort him in his distress.  Wallace was still upset that Nanette did not wait for him to find her and save her. He said, when he caught up with that cowboy, he would kill him.  He would take a gun and shoot that cowboy.  Nanette was innocent, like a sweet child, and clearly that cowboy turned her head.  She needed Wallace to save her and protect her.  No amount of sense or reason could get through to Wallace, so mostly Evan and Millie just sat with him, and listened.  Millie hugged the man now and then.

Late that afternoon, everyone gathered by the tiller so Lincoln could share his insights from the database. Only Boston stayed in the bow.  She said she could hear well enough without having to vacate her spot.

“We need to do this while we can,” Lincoln said.  “Last time we waited until we found Diogenes, and after that, there was never a convenient time when others were not around, listening in.”

“So, Umma?”

“Yes,” Lincoln said, and he paused to get his bearings.  “She has a bunch of names, and a very big family.  A merchant family that owns a bunch of ships in Carthage.  She is Carthaginian; Phoenician rooted.  A different jurisdiction of gods from the Greco-Roman jurisdiction.”

“Does that matter?” Millie asked.

Lincoln shook his head.

“Persia tried to invade Greece a few times,” Katie tried to piece it together, and maybe explain.  “I got the feeling the gods sort of backed off by then.”

“The Persians were Zoroastrians. They did not really worship the gods, per se, or they had a very different take on the gods,” Evan inserted.

“The Persian Empire held land in several jurisdictions,” Lincoln said, and looked at the database.  “Anatolia, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and central Asia.  In the old days, that would not have been permitted.”

“Right,” Katie continued.  “The Phoenicians settled North Africa, at Carthage. Trojans from Anatolia settled among the Etruscans.  The Gauls, that is, the Celtic people invaded and sacked Rome.  Maybe the gods figured the human race started growing up, or at least advanced to the point where hard and fast jurisdictional lines were no longer realistic.”

“It says here…” Lincoln spoke, and took back the conversation.  “Alexander received a special dispensation, of a sort.  The geis of Alexander said whatever territory he could take, he could keep.  We know he took the near east, the middle east, a big chunk of central Asia, and Egypt. The Persians also took that, more or less, but none of that counted the Greco-Roman land of Alexander.  He also invaded and took a chunk of India, so he captured land in several jurisdictions, and the gods did not prevent him.”

“So, how is that important to Umma?” Lockhart asked, to get back to the subject at hand.

“Pyrrhus of Epirus invaded southern Italy… Okay, Greco-Roman and Greco-Roman, but by 277, he was facing the Carthaginians in Sicily.  Carthage is North African, or Phoenician.  Anyway, Pyrrhus opens the door for the Punic wars, a cross-jurisdictional struggle, and Umma gets in the middle of the whole thing, both with Pyrrhus and with Rome.”

People stared at Lincoln for a minute, before Elder Stow said, “So?”

Lincoln waved his hand, like they should all understand.  “So…,” he said.  “Wherever we land, there is likely fighting going on, so we will have to be careful going forward not to get caught up in it.”

People nodded a little, until Decker turned the conversation with a question. “So how old is Umma?”

Lincoln did some quick math in his head based on the time Millie and Evan were there.  “She should be forty-seven, or maybe forty-eight.”

“Forty-eight is like sixty in twenty-first century terms,” Decker said.  “I doubt she is swinging a sword.”

“We should be able to avoid the Greeks, or the Romans and Carthaginians well enough, between Boston’s natural elf radar and Elder Stow’s scanner device,” Katie said.  “Whatever is going on, we should be able to skirt around it.”

“Better to keep our eyes open for the witch,” Lockhart said.

People nodded at that when Boston shouted back from the front.  “Here we go.” She had her amulet in her hand. They snuck up on the time gate without realizing it.  The whole ship began to creak and moan.  The ship shook like the wood might splinter and fall apart any minute as the ship aged more than sixty years in a Nano-second.

Avalon 6.10 Alexander’s Eyes, part 6 of 6

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

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

“Can they get through?” Lysimachus asked.

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

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

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

“Hold your arrows,” Lysimachus shouted.

“Not single-sided?” Decker asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Powerful witch, that one.”

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

“More like science and sorcery,” Lockhart countered.

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

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

“Knowledge and necromancy?” Bogramus spoke up.

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

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

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

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

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

“What are elves?” Harpalus asked.

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

“And are you an elf?”

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

“Gott-Druk?” Harpalus asked.

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

“Are you human?”

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

Harpalus did not understand.

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

“I’ll get her,” Boston said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nanette?” Wallace had to ask.

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

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

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

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

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

Athena said nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Maybe next time,” Katie said.



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

Until next time, Happy Reading


Avalon 6.10 Alexander’s Eyes, part 5 of 6

Lockhart, Katie, and Boston got down, with Harpalus and his soldier behind them.  At that point, two lights flashed up to Boston, and they spoke.

“Lady Boston.  They got a witch,” Maren, the young, and Boston thought very young fairy wife screeched.

“They got a cowboy,” Philoxes said, some excitement in his voice.

Katie smiled.  “And do you want to be a cowboy?”

Philoxes and Maren both looked surprised at being seen.  Most humans who tried to see fairies saw only swirls of light and colors, and heard only faint sounds unless the fairies fully manifested.  These travelers seemed able to see them clearly, and Harpalus saw them, which suggested he spent plenty of time in his youth hanging out with the Kairos, Diogenes.

“That is the temptation, Ma’am,” Philoxes said.  “I reckon.”

Lockhart laughed before Maren got serious.  “But they have a witch.”

Wallace, who spent so much time with Diana, and Justitia, had no trouble hearing, and he turned in the direction of the enemy fortifications.  “Nanette,” he yelled once.  He knew his voce would not carry that far.

“Harpalus,” a young man, roughly the same age, rushed up and gave Harpalus a hug.

“Erigyius,” Harpalus named the young man. “I forgot you were assigned to come and hold the pass.”

“Lysimachus is really in charge,” Erigyius said.  “But I volunteered to come to get a break from the master.”

“The master?” Evan asked, as he, Millie, Decker, and Elder Stow came up from tending the horses.

“Our Tutor, Aristotle of Stagira.”

“Haven’t you graduated?” Millie asked.

“We are all in our last year,” Erigyius said. “Me, Harpalus, Ptolemy, Alexander, Hephaestion…”

“What about Diogenes?” Boston asked.

Erigyius spat.  “That left-handed freak graduated last year,” he said. “Lucky for him.”  Like Hephaestion, Erigyius did not talk like he had anything against Diogenes, as a person.  But he spoke like Diogenes was of no account, and generally to be ignored and forgotten, even if he was Alexander’s cousin.

Erigyius wanted to take Harpalus to Lysimachus in the upper rocks where they could look down on the Athenian fortification, and plan how to dislodge the enemy from their strong place, but he had to wait for Harpalus to settle his charges.

“You can set your tents by ours,” Harpalus said, and pointed to the two big tents that blocked the entrance to the hollow.

“Wallace and Evan, would you mind? Lincoln can help.” Katie asked. “And Millie, you might help Alexis with the wounded.”

“I was just going to do that,” Millie said, and they walked off.

“Alexis will do what she can, but sometimes men die or cannot be fully healed,” Katie explained to the Macedonians, and added, “No promises.”

Harpalus nodded.  “Diogenes explained to us more than once, the gods don’t make promises.”

Maren settled down on Boston’s shoulder, and just then, Philoxes accepted an invitation to rest on Lockhart’s shoulder. Lockhart squinted when the fairy settled down, like he thought it might hurt, but of course it did not.  Erigyius’ eyes got big as he noticed the fairies for the first time.  Decker had to grab the young man’s arm to keep him from running away, and Lockhart laughed.

“I reacted that way the first time I met an elf—an earth sprit.  But I am living proof you can get used to anything,” Lockhart said.

“You have an enemy to deal with, soldier,” Decker sad.  “Don’t let the little things distract you.”  Decker grinned at his own turn of phrase.

Katie had her rifle and her scope. Decker never put down his rifle. Lockhart pulled out his binoculars, and spoke.  “So, let’s go get a look at this enemy.”

Erigyius led the way up the hill. Some of the soldiers among the rocks watched, but said nothing.  Lysimachus, a man who looked to be in his early twenties, frowned at their approach. Lockhart thought to mollify the man. He held out his binoculars. “Here, try looking through these.” And he helped Lysimachus focus them, who then smiled.

Decker held up his rifle, looked through his scope, and said click, click, as he looked around the Athenian compound.  Boston just looked, and could easily see without the need for binoculars.  The fairies could see well enough to make out the threads in the enemy clothing.

Elder Stow studied his scanner for a minute, before he began to program adjustments to his screen array.  “It is a serious stretch.”  He mumbled while he worked.  “Like when I stretched it out to keep the werewolf out of that Celtic village. That was a long time ago.  Lincoln would know when…”  His voice trailed off when Lockhart got his binoculars back, and shared them with Harpalus.  He got a good look though Katie’s scope, which she had detached from the rifle.

“So, what are your plans for dislodging the Athenians from the bottleneck?” Lockhart asked.

Lysimachus paused, because he glimpsed something on Lockhart’s shoulder.  Besides that, he did not know what a bottleneck was, but he understood well enough.  He prepared to speak when they got interrupted.

“Bogramus,” Boston said, and smiled her biggest smile.  “Good of you to join us.”

The dwarf, and four others with him appeared out of the rocks, or they gave up the glamour of looking like rocks so the others could see them plainly.  Boston held back from her inclination to hug the dwarfs when Maren offered a name for them. “Grubby Doodles.”  It sounded like she had her nose turned up.

The other travelers, who understood that dwarfs rarely traveled alone, hardly blinked; but Erigyius’ eyes got big and his mouth clamped shut.  Harpalus saw and laughed.  Lysimachus also got big eyes before he squinted and spoke.

“The people of legend,” he named them.

“What?” Bogramus stepped forward and objected.  “We live here, local, over in Bog Mountain.”  He pointed behind him and then pointed at the travelers.  “These are the people of legend.”

“And good of you to come,” Katie said, echoing Boston’s thought, and Bogramus, and two others took off their hats. The other two stayed busy giving the humans hard, mean stares, which risked appearing comical on those bearded faces.

“Glad to help out, Lady—your majesty. Ragtide and Bellywattle could not be kept back once they found out you folks from Avalon were around.”

“But the princess did not say there was a witch,” one of the dwarfs spouted.

“I hates witches,” another one added.

“We were just about to hear how Lysimachus planned to deal with the witch and dislodge the Athenians,” Lockhart said, and Lysimachus shook his head and got back to the situation.

“They are mostly Thebans,” he said. “Only a few Athenian officers.” He shook his head again and got down to business, doing his best to ignore Lockhart’s shoulder passenger, who he now saw clearly, and the dwarfs, who apparently did not like any ideas. Somehow, they ended with a plan that the dwarfs did not hate.

That evening, around the fire, Lincoln finally got to read some out of the database, which he could not read while others were present.  Philoxes and Maren were present, but occupied with each other.  Bogramus and his four dwarfs had their own little fire going and had their own deer cooking.  Of course, they would eat their deer down to the bones, where the eleven travelers, and two fairies, would not eat half of theirs.  Alexis and Millie, tired as they were, planned to share the rest with the wounded soldiers.

“Diogenes,” Lincoln said, in answer to Katie’s question.  “The reason he does not appear in the history books is because he is not considered important enough to write about, even if he is Alexander’s first cousin.  His mother is the older sister to Alexander’s mother, Olympias.  His father was one of Phillip’s bodyguards, which in these days means close, personal friend.  No doubt he introduced Phillip and Olympias.  She is a Melossian Princess, as is her sister.  His father died protecting Phillip when Diogenes was four and Diogenes’ younger sister turned one.  His mother went half-mad… that is what it says.”

“So Hephaestion called Diogenes the Melossian,” Katie remembered.

“And they call him fatherless.  And he stutters.  And he ls left-handed.  His friends all respect him,” Lincoln said.  “But they consider him of no account, and so do Phillip’s and Alexander’s official biographers.  Apparently, Diogenes and Alexander’s official biographer, Callisthenes of Olynthus, had words, and Callisthenes scratched his name out from every place it got mentioned. Alexander, however, found great use for his cousin.  Diogenes commanded a Thessalian cavalry troop in battle, but mostly, Alexander sent him out well in advance of the troops, not just to scout and track the enemy, which he did sometimes, but mostly to spy on the enemy, ferret out their intentions, and discern their weaknesses.  Diogenes contributed more than maybe anyone else to Alexander’s success in Asia, but he was rarely around, so his contribution never got noticed or recorded.”

“Company,” Boston interrupted.

Bogramus came up, hat in hand. “The boys said I should ask if you have enough to eat.  Ragtide admitted to stealing the bigger one, but felt guilty about it after.  That is not an easy thing for a dwarf to do.”

“What?  Stealing?” Lincoln asked.

“No, feeling guilty,” Boston clarified.

“No, thank you,” Katie said.  “You enjoy your feast.”

Bogramus made a face.  “Personally, I don’t have much of an appetite right before a fight.”

“I have that same problem,” Lockhart confessed.

“Not me,” Decker said.  “You learn to eat when there is food, especially before battle, because you never know when you might get your next meal.”

“There is that…” Bogramus agreed and turned to get back to the dwarfs before the others ate it all.

“More company,” Boston said, softly, and patted herself on the back for knowing when humans were present.  It was something all of the little spirits of the earth had to do to avoid contact with the mortal world.  Though a learned skill, Boston knew that eventually it would become automatic, like a habit requiring no special effort.

Harpalus, Erigyius, and Lysimachus came to the fire.  Lysimachus stayed focused on the human travelers.  He had questions.  Erigyius came to hear the answers, but he turned his back on the dwarfs and tried very hard not to look at the fairies.  Boston considered removing her glamour and showing the man her true elf form, but she imagined that would be mean.  Harpalus sat and watched the dwarfs eat, and laughed.

Lincoln put away the database.  He figured he would not get in anymore reading that evening with the Macedonians in the camp.  Besides, after they ate, he, Boston, and Sukki, helped Alexis and Millie bring the remains to share with the wounded soldiers.  Harpalus helped with that, and Erigyius, though maybe because he started feeling uncomfortable with dwarf eyes on his back.  Evan and Wallace stayed with Lockhart, Katie, and Lysimachus; Evan because he was curious, and Wallace because he was lazy and did not think to help.

Lockhart kept everyone to the watch, even if Elder Stow’s screens protected the camp.  He said in this case, it was not the witch so much as he wanted to watch out for the Thebans and Athenians.  He suspected the Thebans might try to get at them in the dark, or at least scout their position and prepare a better defense for the morning. He wanted someone up to watch for that and be able to get everyone up if necessary.

Katie agreed, and sure enough, around two-thirty that morning, Elder Stow said his scanner picked up about twenty men crawling out from the enemy fortification.  Decker and Elder Stow had the watch, but Katie and Lockhart were not yet asleep.

“Don’t wake the others,” Lockhart said. “Let’s take a look first.”

“My sentiments, exactly,” Bogramus said, which startled the travelers who did not realize he stood there, listening.

Avalon 6.10 Alexander’s Eyes, part 4 of 6

Boston and Sukki rode out front, as usual.  Decker and Elder Stow still took the wings, but on this trip, Harpalus and one of his soldiers came behind Boston and Sukki.  Katie and Lockhart got relegated to the third place in line, with Lincoln and Alexis, and then Evan and Millie behind them.  Wallace rode at the back, next to the mule that drew the wagon full of the traveler’s things.  That would have been it, but Harpalus assigned his last two men to act as a rear guard.  They rode thirty paces back and passed the time with quiet conversation.

The group made good time, but they would not reach Thermopylae until afternoon on the second day.  Then, it would be a few days across the Thessalian plains, and they figured they would find the time gate just shy of the Macedonian border.

King Phillip had sent word to the Athenian garrison that had been assigned to block the pass.  Harpalus assumed the Athenians abandoned their position and returned to Athens and a Macedonian garrison now watched the narrow place.  He had an optimistic view on life, and his conversation came out as positive and complimentary.

“I can tell you folks are used to traveling in the wild,” Harpalus said over lunch on that second day.  They had stopped just shy of entering a copse of trees before the pass.  “You seemed uncertain at the inn, last night.  But here, out on the grass, under the blue sky, you seem perfectly at ease.”

“Lots of practice,” Elder Stow responded, absentmindedly.

“Plus, we have a few secret weapons, like a fire starter,” Alexis said, pointing at Boston.

“And a good cook to compliment the good hunters,” Lincoln agreed, and gave Alexis a pat on her shoulder as he leaned over to smell the roast.

“Everyone does their job and it works out,” Lockhart suggested.

“We go with our strengths,” Decker added, as Evan, Millie, Wallace, and two of the soldiers came from tending the horses.

“What?” Boston watched Katie who had her eyes turned toward where the road ahead entered the trees.

“Yes, what?” Millie looked up and echoed the question.  Sukki turned her head to look down the road to see if something might be coming.

Katie shook her head and appeared to come back to reality.  “It’s just… We have been a day and a half and haven’t run into a single trap set by the witch.”

“I hear that,” Decker mumbled.

“Maybe we went in an unexpected route,” Lockhart suggested.  “We came up to the coastal road, rather than traveling the one we were on.”  He made a space beside himself.

“Maybe,” Katie said, as she took that seat by the fire.  “But Thermopylae is a narrow place.  If she expected us to go this way, that is the place where we need to look out.”

“I’ve been looking out for traps this whole way,” Boston said.

“Me, too,” Sukki echoed.

“Me, too,” Lincoln whispered.

After lunch, the woods appeared darker and more foreboding than before.  The sky did not darken, and the woods did not crowd the road any more after lunch.  The travelers just spent lunch thinking about Katie’s words, and the witch, and they got wary.  Elder Stow scanned the little wooded area and saw no sign of people, but it did not prevent anyone from being careful.

Boston rode out front to where she could see the road exit the little woods.  The soldiers in the rear just moved fully into the woods.  Boston got ready to shout about the light at the end of the tunnel, when the trees moved.  They did not pull up their roots and move, but they bent over the road, like trees in a strong wind, and the branches grabbed at the people.

People shouted.  They panicked.  Swords and knives came out to hack at the branches.  People pushed their horses toward Boston and the edge of the woods.  Even as the rear guard closed the gap with the group, Sukki got snatched right out of her saddle.  The branches tried to close around the girl, but Sukki flexed her Gott-Druk muscles, grabbed one of the branches, and ripped it right off the tree.  She fell to the ground.

“Get out,” Lockhart yelled, though it was unnecessary.  After the initial shock, people rode for the exit from the woods as fast as they could. Boston rode back to Sukki, and shot flame from her wand, setting that tree on fire.  In true rodeo style, she reached down.  Sukki grabbed Boston’s hand and leapt up behind her.

The ground beneath their feet began to shake.  Boston and Sukki on Honey rode like wild women as the ground started to open up.  Honey had to leap over a tear in the ground at the end, but they made it to the grass beyond.  They got down right away to try and stand while the ground trembled.  It would not have been good to stay on horseback during an earthquake.  The people and horses protested, but it ended quickly.  People made sure everyone got out in one piece.

Katie and Lockhart stepped up, and Harpalus limped over to the edge of the road, while Elder Stow checked the readings on his scanner.  They examined the crack in the surface of the road which ran into the woods for as far as they could see.

“Strictly local,” Elder Stow reported. “Not really an earthquake.  No depth to it.”

“That crack in the ground would have ruined the horses if we hadn’t gotten out of it,” Lockhart said.

“We might have broken our own legs,” Katie agreed.

Harpalus smiled.  “Good thing I already have a limp.”

“Speaking of broken legs,” Lincoln joined them.  “Alexis says the mule is down.  Decker says the wagon is still in good shape.”

“Pioneer built for the Oregon Trail,” Lockhart said.

“They still make that game?” Katie asked.

“Thanks a lot,” Lincoln frowned. “Now I am going to have that song running through my head for the rest of the afternoon.”

Harpalus could not even imagine what they were talking about, but he could laugh with Katie and Lockhart.

Sukki found her horse Freedom, safe and sound.  The horse had followed the others when Sukki ended up in the tree.  She got right up, but then had to wait while they hitched Wallace’s horse to the wagon.  Wallace would still ride the horse as it pulled the wagon.

“Just don’t expect me to ride very fast,” he said.  The others understood, but up until then, the whole trip had been at a walking pace. Sukki got sent back to keep Wallace company, which neither minded.  Wallace liked the big girl, though he did not really grasp the concept that she was a Neanderthal wearing a magical, human-looking disguise.  He got shown back in Diana’s day, but he forgot. Katie suggested that the fact that Wallace did not remember details well could be why he was not a very good scholar.

“No,” Lockhart countered.  “He reminds me of lots of people I know.  He has a very narrow and limited view of reality. Anything that doesn’t fit with his pre-conceived notions he justifies or rationalizes away, or just erases from his memory.”

Lincoln butted into the conversation. “What a sad little way to go through life.”

Alexis nodded, sadly, but Katie added a thought.  “If we can get him back to Professor Fleming, we need to encourage him to stay there. He will never survive this journey.”

They all looked back.

Sukki, on the other hand, also liked Wallace well enough to talk to him, where she stayed shy around some of the others, so it worked out well for the moment.

Katie and Lockhart moved up to the front, and put Boston behind them.  They opted to keep to the road for the present, but Katie and Lockhart wanted to keep their eyes open.  Decker and Elder Stow sharpened their watch on the wings.

Boston extended her elf senses, trying to find any little spirits that might be in the area.  She sensed a dwarf village in a nearby mountain, but when she sent her thoughts ahead, the dwarfs, in typical fashion, had no interest in helping. One dwarf named Bogramus said he might meet them in Thermopylae.  Closer to the pass, she sensed a fairy camp well off the road and in a different section of woods.  Most of the fairies took the same stance as the dwarfs.  Boston felt their reluctance to get too close to the humans that seemed bent on killing each other at every turn.  Philoxes and Maren, a young fairy couple, thought they might look ahead, but they were not sure what they were supposed to be looking for, and Boston felt reluctant to mention the witch.

The travelers came to a rise in the road and Harpalus spoke as they started down the other side.  “Up ahead, there, where the mountain presses toward the sea, is Thermopylae.”  He expected them to stop and gawk, but the travelers pressed on.

“We have been here before,” Lincoln explained from behind.

Katie spoke from the front.  “Here, three hundred Spartans stood against all the hordes of Asia.”

“True enough,” Harpalus said, and nearly fell as his horse stopped suddenly.  Lockhart and Katie stopped, and Boston stopped short behind them all.  Lockhart pulled out his binoculars.  Katie grabbed the scope for her rifle.  They saw bodies of dead men up ahead, near a fortified position.

Elder Stow’s voice sounded out from the wristwatch communicators.  “Get to a defensive place,” he yelled.  They saw him riding hard, being chased by a troop of soldiers.  Though the soldiers were still some distance off. Lockhart turned his binoculars in that direction and saw one of the cowboys leading the pack.

Decker came up from the other direction, waving for them to join him.  He also got followed by a dozen riders, but these looked like Macedonians or Thessalians.  “Get off the road.  The road is mined.”  Even as he spoke, the two in the rear hit something.  It exploded between the two horses, and the horses went down while the riders got tossed to the ground.

Four of the Macedonians broke from the pack and bravely went to check on their compatriots.  The rest, with Decker, stopped short of the road, while the travelers quickly vacated the highway.  Wallace got the wagon to the grass, and wisely did not stop.  Sukki, Evan, Millie, Lincoln and Alexis stayed right with him and encouraged him in the direction from which the Macedonians had come.

Decker pulled his rifle.  As Elder Stow neared the road, Decker let loose with several streams of automatic fire.  The cowboy recognized the sound and backed off, letting the others get in front of him, even though he could outrace them all on his big mustang. Several men and horses in the attacking party went down before Elder Stow crossed the road, and Decker turned to ride with him.  Elder Stow pulled out his sonic device and let loose behind him.  He expected the pursuing horses to complain, but he managed to set off several of the explosives buried in the road.  They were large enough to damage anyone close, and while the enemy did not yet reach the road, they stopped short and looked hesitant.

The travelers found a sheltered hollow in the rocks that held nearly a hundred horses, nibbling on whatever they could find.  The Macedonians filled the rocks, and most had bows and arrows to defend their position. They had several wagons, but only had two tents set up, so clearly the men had slept in the rocks over the last two or three days.

Alexis found wounded men in one of the tents, so she, with Lincoln to assist, got right to work.