Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest, part 5 of 6

Nameless, Eir, Katie, Lockhart, and Sekhmet went with Artie to the field where some twenty-one ships of the Anazi line sat parked in the scrub grass.  Someone had put up a tarp to act as a covering against the sun.  Katie assumed it was a sun shade.  It did not appear to rain in that part of the world very often.

After the introductions, the android commander formally complained.  “It is not right that you have held us here and let our enemies go free.  By the time we leave this place, we may lose them in the vastness of space.”

“That is my hope,” Nameless said, and he turned to Artie and put a touch of courage in her heart as he let her speak.

“How dare you.  Have you learned nothing?  Did you not learn that all life is precious?  And who are you to decide who lives or dies?”

The android commander got angry.  The androids had learned to imitate human behavior well enough to show it on their faces, and without his obedience crystal, the humans did not doubt he felt the anger.

“I don’t know who you are, and I do not know if I believe that you are the great one, Arite.  All I see is another human girl.”

“Believe that I am Artie.  The question is, who made you commander of the fleet?”

“I am dominant.  It is right that I should command.”

“You are not the only dominant,” Artie yelled at him.  “There are others, and I am thinking one of them may serve better.  You invaded the home world and slaughtered millions upon millions of souls.  You got equal numbers of our own people killed, and for what?  For revenge?  For vengeance?  What do you think it means, all life is precious?”

“We had to attack the home world, otherwise, this never would have ended.”

“You don’t know that.  And there are options, choices.  There are always options, and you could have chosen one that was not so bloody, if you used your brain.  If you have a brain.”

Two androids pulled their weapons and the commander looked ready to go for his, when someone interrupted everyone.  Anath-Rama appeared under the canopy, and the Anazi weapons disappeared.  Most of the androids watching went straight to their knees.  A few fainted, which Katie did not know androids could do.  The android commander stood there with his mouth open.  Edward, who appeared with Anath-Rama, laughed, and patted the commander on the shoulder, like the android just made a good joke.

“Edward,” Artie said, before she went to her knees and praised her goddess.

“Up, up,” Anath-Rama insisted.  “We have a wedding to attend and it won’t do kneeling all the time.  Besides, I wanted you to know a couple of things.  First, Edward has been a tremendous help to me.  Second, that most places in this corner of the galaxy?”  Anath-Rama glanced at Nameless to make sure she used the right term.  Nameless nodded.  “Most places have deferred to me with regard to your people.  Edward and I have been all over the place, collecting the souls of the dead for safe keeping.  It has been quite an adventure.  And you are right.  The attack on home world was unnecessarily brutal.  Even the gods were appalled.”

Artie nodded and turned again to the android commander.  He shut his mouth but spoke first.

“This cannot be.  It is not real.  When you die, you are dead, and that is the end of it.”

Artie spoke.  “If you believe this, then all the more reason you should seek ways to preserve life rather than take it.  You are under arrest.”

“Yes, Lady.”  The commander’s subordinates made the commander sit on the ground and lower his head.

“You may place him in a room and keep him in good condition until such time as I return.  The arrest might not be forever, but I must think of an appropriate penance.  For now, I have other duties.”

The androids all around saluted after their fashion, and Artie turned with one more glance at Edward, who also saluted.  She walked between Katie and Sekhmet, while Anath-Rama walked on Katie’s other side, and whispered.

“You have raised her well.”

Katie nodded and let a few tears fall.

Lockhart agreed with what Artie did, feeling the rightness of the situation, but when he came out from beneath the tent, he found himself flanked by an escort.  Two eight or nine-foot-tall giants had come to escort him away from the women.  Nameless assured him he was not in trouble, but Lockhart did not seem so sure.  He imagined this was how he made others feel, him being over six feet, in a five-foot world.

When they got to the camp, a few people said, surprise.  Mostly they had started the party without him.  Decker and Lincoln stood by a barrel of beer.

“The virgin sacrifice arrives,” Decker said.

“No, he was previously married,” Lincoln said.

“Oh, right.  Point for you.  That deserves a drink.”  They clicked their cups and emptied them so they could fill them again.

In another part of the camp, Katie followed Artie into what seemed like an enormous tent—on the inside.   She was thinking of nothing in particular, when more than three dozen women shouted out, “Surprise.”

Katie recognized most of them, at least.  They were mostly goddesses, to be sure.  She saw Amaterasu come all the way from Japan, and Maya, from the Yucatan.  She realized that it was really happening, and she was glad.  She was going to be married, to Robert, and she was happy about it.  In fact, she was so happy, she began to truly cry for the first time in years.

###

Elder Stow got Sukki laughing by telling stories about his travels with the group.  Mostly they were funny stories, but sometimes, Elder Stow wondered if she laughed because of the stories or she laughed at the foolish humans.  If the three serious and scary stories Elder Stow told were any indication, she seemed to be able to grasp the seriousness of the situations.  But that did not mean she cared about the humans.  Elder Stow imagined she might have transformed the humans into Gott-Druk in her mind, and thus made it a more realistic terror.

“How can you be friends with people who have stolen your land and your home?” she asked, at last.  Elder Stow figured asking questions was better than spewing hateful comments.  He also figured calling them people was better than referring to them as humans, a name like one might speak about horses or dogs.

“Because they are good people.  I have seen and known plenty of bad people, both Gott-Druk and Human.  I support the good, no matter what kind of people they are.  We share a mutual goal, and we help each other in whatever way we can.  We leave no one behind…”

“Uh…” Sukki stood up quickly, and Elder Stow looked.  A woman appeared, but not a human woman.  A goddess stood on the other side of the fire, staring at them.  Elder Stow noticed the two bull-like horns that protruded from her forehead, and he trembled in awesome fear in her presence.

“One becomes two,” she said.  “The last one ran, but here she is, and she has found another.”  The woman exuded wickedness.  “Your kind are no longer welcome here.  My pet hungers for fresh blood, so things work out nicely.”  She raised her hand, but nothing happened.  She raised her hand again, but still nothing happened.

Nameless arrived, with an older gentleman, and Nameless began with a question.  “Have you come for the wedding?  You will find the women in the big tent down the hill.”

The woman growled.  “Come, my pet.”

“Sorry. No pets are invited.” Nameless said.  “Your basilisk is back in the wilderness, its eyes shut tight for the next two years.  You have stone men there already, but you may have to hand feed it for a while.”

“But father…” The goddess whined to the elderly man.

“These Gott-Druk have every right to be here and visit this world, as long as they visit, do not disrupt history, and then return home to their own world.  You and your pet have killed enough.  Now this day is for joy and celebration, not for killing.”

“But father…”

“So be it,” the older man said, and turned to walk back to the bachelor party.

The goddess roared, and vanished.

Nameless turned to Elder Stow.  “Would you two like to joint the festivities?  You would be welcome.”

Sukki shook her head and looked at the ground, embarrassed.  “But you know we did not come here to visit.”

“I know,” Nameless said.  “But as I was reminded just today, life is precious.”

Sukki shook her head softly again, and Elder Stow spoke plainly.  “Maybe not today, but save us seats for tomorrow.  Sukki and I will be there to witness the joining ceremony.  I beleive Sukki will enjoy that.”

“And the cake.” Nameless said, with a playful smile, and vanished.

Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest, part 2 of 6

Elder Stow saw the anomaly on his scanner.  He and Decker had moved out to the front in the desert.  They were not worried about people sneaking up on the group from the sides when the group could see anyone coming for miles.  From the front, they could ride back and warn the group if they were about to run into trouble.

“Normally, they are fairly-good about watching where they are going,” Decker said in the morning.

“Yes,” Elder Stow agreed.  “But right now, they all seem so preoccupied for one reason or another.”

Decker understood.  He moved out on the flank, but then pushed up to the front and kept his eyes open.

Now, Elder Stow stopped to look, and Decker came over to see why.  A stone statue of a man stood there in the middle of nowhere, and it was not just any man.  It appeared to be a Gott-Druk, one of Elder Stow’s people, and it looked like he had on a space suit of some sort.

“Friend of yours?” Decker asked.

Elder Stow tapped the statue before he spoke.  “No.  Yes.  Maybe.”

“Do I get to pick which one I like?”

“No.”  Elder Stow almost smiled.  “I have seen this face before in temporal reconstructive imaging—in pictures.  He looks like Burrgh, the Mighty, or, what the genetic reconstructionists think he might have looked like.”

“Who?”

“Burrgh the Mighty.  He was one of the original colonists on the new world.”  Elder Stow paused and realized he would have to explain.  “At the time of the flood, we were taken into space on Agdaline slower-than-light sleeper ships.  That was what they were called.  Sleeper ships, because the people went into a primitive form of cryogenic suspension, and it seemed like they slept and only woke up when they neared their destination.  Burrgh the Mighty was one who objected.  He said we should go back to the earth, our native planet, and take possession.  He said the flood waters surely receded, and the earth was ripe for the taking.  He almost made it a religion.”

“And he made it here?”  Decker asked, as the others came up to stop and listen.

“You must understand. At that time, while you people were still living in caves and using stone tools, we were beginning to use copper, tin, and other soft metals—perhaps learning about bronze.  We began farming, and taming some of the animals.  Much of your earliest learning came from us, or from the Elenar.  But we were nowhere near space technology.  This was well before we had any idea how the Agdaline ships worked, or what forces they used.”

“That is quite a jump, from the coper age to the space age overnight,” Katie said as she and Artie got down to look at the statue.

“Indeed,” Elder Stow said.  “But Burrgh was determined, and he gathered his followers, took one of the Agdaline ships, and managed to get it into space without blowing up.  He was never heard from again, and no trace of him was ever found.”

“And you think this is that guy?” Lockhart asked.

“Genetic imaging is accurate to a very fine degree.  The imaging I have experienced, assuming the sample was indeed Burrgh, this is the man I saw.  Wait…”  Elder stow took out his equipment, calculated, and mumbled.  “Ten thousand, minus twelve hundred… Distance at near-light-speed… convert to years…”

“Hey, Elder Stow,” Lincoln shouted.  “There are more of them over here, and what looks like a bunch of pieces.

Elder Stow walked in that direction as he shook his head.  “I suppose he could have run into trouble and drifted for a few millennia.  Those sleeper units were not designed with Gott-Druk in mind.  The Agdaline built them specific for themselves.”

“I was in one for about five hundred years,” Decker said.

“I am more concerned about five thousand years.  The automatic safety is set to wake the sleepers at a thousand years.  After a thousand years, the suspension material can begin to break down, not to mention the monitoring systems.  Everyone wakes.  Systems are rebuilt. Fresh material is injected, and the process can begin again.  The further one sleeps beyond a thousand years, the more likely a system will breakdown.  At two thousand years, even if the system is still functioning properly, the life support begins to degrade.  The man might still be alive, but he might be revived as a mental vegetable.”  Elder Stow stopped at the second statue, and exclaimed, “Tughat.  That settles my mind on the matter.  These are the lost expedition of Burrgh the Mighty.”

“Did they come out of suspension like this?” Lincoln asked.

“No.  Something must have happened,” Elder Stow said.

“Medusa turns people to stone,” Boston suggested.

“So does a basilisk,” Katie said.  “But I did not think they meant literal stone.”

“A holding technique,” Alexis spoke out of her learning.  “It’s like a spider web that holds the flies until the spider is ready to feast.  These pieces on the ground used to be Gott-Druk as well, but they have had their insides drained, and the remainder has been smashed to look like random rocks, so others don’t know there is a basilisk near, and thus avoid the area.”

“I think that is what we should do,” Lincoln said.  “Avoid the area.”  Lockhart and Decker were already looking for some sign of the creature.  Katie and Artie got ready to ride, and that spurred the others.  They rode at a good pace, and did not stop until they came to a grassy meadow where the wildlife suggested the basilisk had not hunted.

Only Elder Stow showed any unhappiness about being out of the area.  “There are so many questions, so many unanswered questions.”

“You can’t get blood from a stone,” Decker said.

“Apparently, a basilisk can.” Lincoln countered

###

Mid-afternoon, the travelers came upon the smoking ruins of what looked like a city in the distance.  Lincoln kept reading, but looked up briefly.  “Gaza,” he said.  “And things have not changed much in our day.”

“These people don’t have missiles, so no Israeli aircraft,” Decker countered.

“Cut it out,” Lockhart ordered.  He did not want those two started again on a new tit-for-tat.  He wanted to know who attacked the city, and who won.  He did not want them mistaken for a new threat to the city, or for reinforcements coming to the city’s aid.

Lincoln got serious.  “The sea peoples, so-called, landed here all up and down the coast at some point, depending on what point in Nameless’ life we arrived.  Some, were determined to try Egypt.  They probably heard the streets of Memphis were paved with gold.  You know, the usual motivations.  They were driven back at sea, and later they got or get driven back again over the land route.  Some stay here and form a ruling class over the locals.”

“Like the Indo-Aryans over the Dravidian people in Padrama’s day,” Katie suggested.

“Like the Normans over the Anglo-Saxons, who were already over the British Celtic people.,” Lincoln gave his own understanding.

“Some?” Alexis asked.

“The rest follow Nameless to the Euphrates, down Mesopotamia, across the Iranian Plateau, and up to the Tien Shan where Nameless’ children watch over the eastern end of the Silk Road.”

“Quite a journey,” Artie said, now having been to a number of places and seen first-hand how difficult and dangerous travel could be.

“You’ll like this part,” Lincoln said and turned his head back to look at Katie.  “When the Indo-Aryans and Indo-Europeans began their great migrations, a distinctive Celtic culture went out front, like the vanguard of the invasion.  Most moved, or were pushed west as we know—to France and the British Isles.  But a line of Celts followed the Danube south like a buffer zone between Aesgard and Olympus.  They pushed other people groups into Greece; Aeolians, Corinthians, Dorians and so on.  Eventually, some crossed the sea and settled in Anatolia, the place the Romans called Galatea.”

“I think I figured that much out already,” Katie responded.

“But wait,” Lincoln was not finished.  “What you don’t know is some Celts initially went east about 3000 to 2000 BC, and settled on the north and east end of the Silk Road.”

“Which makes perfect sense,” Katie grinned.  “They found caucasian people and tartans on mummies in that region dated back to around 2000 BC.  Makes sense.”

“Yes.  Nameless is quoted in the record as saying his journey was like one big circle.  It seems that Celtic group followed Nameless’ son, Tien, and his brothers and sisters into that region.”

“Hold up,” Lockhart called a halt.  “We got company.”  Decker and Elder Stow came in to join them.

The company looked like three people in leather and fine bronze armor, riding on good horses with saddles, no less.  The horses and saddles, and armor and weapons they carried looked one or two thousand years ahead of themselves, at least.  Katie assumed the soldiers would be driving chariots, or if they were on horseback, they would be riding with only a blanket thrown over some Black Sea ponies like they had seen in the past.

The three riders had to get close before the travelers realized that these three were women.  Katie’s only comment was they were not Amazons.  Alexis said they were Valkyra, and since they were looking for the Nameless god, they did not discount that possibility.