Avalon 7.2 Ides of March, part 1 of 6

After 104 B.C. Rome, Italy

Kairos 87: Bodanagus, the King

Recording …

“We are somewhere just north of the toe of the boot of Italy, I would guess an easy fifty miles below Capua,” Lincoln said.  He stared at the database and never looked up.  “Via Popilia-something.  We should pick up the Appian Way in Capua.”

“That is interesting,” Evan said to the group.  “When we traveled into the past two years ago, the time gate was in Capua.  That was where Minerva gave us the chestnuts that we used to find the time gates.  Two years later, you are telling me the gate has moved a hundred miles south.  Maybe King Bodanagus is not in Rome.”

“No,” Boston said, as she pulled out her amulet.  It showed a significant map of the two time gates and the major towns and obstacles that lay between them.  “We went over this carefully.  As near as I can tell, the Kairos is in Rome, probably with Caesar.”

Katie glanced at her own prototype amulet.  “The next time gate appears to be around Genoa, well beyond Pisa.”  She thought to explain.  “If you recall, in Diana’s day, last time we were in Rome, the time gates were in Pisa and around Capua.”

“So, the gates are getting farther apart, as you guessed,” Lockhart concluded.

“Well,” Katie said.  “People are moving more and longer distances in this age.  Maybe just Bodanagus is moving more than the Kairos moved in the past.  He is Gallic, right?”

“From up around Belgium, maybe Holland,” Lincoln answered.

“He came to Rome.  That is a long way.  And then where?” Katie asked.

“He went to Spain,” Millie remembered.

“Let’s see,” Lincoln scanned the database.  “Spain, Illyria, Greece, Egypt, Tarsus, North Africa; and lots of trips to Italy in between.”

“So, you see?” Katie concluded.  “We are lucky the time gates are not in Arabia and Great Britain.”

Lockhart added it up in his head.  “But that leaves us ten days to two weeks to Rome, then ten days to two weeks to the next time gate.  If we rest five days or a week in Rome, that adds up to a whole month in this time zone.”

“How many more time zones do we have to travel to get home?” Decker wondered.

“Thirty-four,” Lincoln was quick on the answer.  He kept track.

“Just shy of three years counting a month per zone,” Lockhart said.

“Cuts it kind of close, Princess-wise,” Decker said.  “2007 to 2010 is three years.”

“Three years before the Storyteller gets lost in the Second Heavens and everything goes haywire,” Lincoln said, half to himself.

“See?”  Alexis said.  “Lincoln is worrying for me already.  Food is ready, and I am changing the subject.  I am calling my horse, Chestnut.  How about you?”

Boston frowned.  “Your horse is sorrel colored, not chestnut.”

“I always called that color chestnut,” Katie said.  “Mine is a bay.  I think I’ll call him… Bay.”

“As in, somebody bet on him?” Lockhart asked.  Katie nudged him.

“Mine is Strawberry,” Boston said.

“Well, yours is roan,” Alexis said.  “Not strawberry, exactly.”

“Are we going for colors?” Sukki asked.  “Mine and Elder Stow’s horses are brown, but that is not a good name, and he already picked the name Mudd.”

“Mud?” Katie and Alexis frowned, but Lockhart and Decker smiled.

“I can spell it with a double D,” Elder Stow said.  “His name is Mudd.”

“Works for me.”  Lockhart grinned.

“Well, I’m thinking of naming my horse Dumbo,” Lincoln said.

“Can’t,” Decker protested.  “The ears aren’t big enough.”

Boston also protested.  “Your horse’s color is dun, not dumb.”

“That is a matter of opinion,” Lincoln said.

Katie ignored them and turned to Lockhart.  “You got the gray one this time.  What are you thinking?”

“He is gray like the sea,” he said.  “I think Sea would work.”

“The letter C?  See as in vision?”  Katie thought a moment.  “Seahorse?”

Lockhart shrugged.  Decker chuckled.

“Maybe Dumbo is a good name,” Alexis said.

“Chestnut is a good name,” Lincoln said.  “But it is taken.”

Alexis shoved him a little.

“I haven’t decided,” Decker admitted.

“I didn’t know we were naming our horses,” Millie confessed.

“I’m going to have to think hard now,” Sukki said.  “There aren’t any good brown names.”

“How about Chocolate?” Alexis suggested, and everyone stopped to stare at her with their meanest stares.

“That was cruel,” Boston verbalized.

“What is Chocolate?” Sukki asked.

“A future delicacy of infinite delight,” Elder Stow answered. “I will be happy to introduce you to it when we get there.”

That ended the horse naming time.  After that, people spent the rest of the night reminiscing about the best deserts they ever had.

###

The travelers reached Capua in three days and figured they had another five, or more likely six to reach Rome.  It did not seem too bad, as long as they had good roads.  The trip would be longer if they had to travel through the rough.  In Capua, they shelled out a couple of their coins for rooms and to stable Ghost the mule and their horses.  Lincoln had his doubts about letting the horses out of their sight, but Lockhart convinced him that they had to get used to it.  They would be staying at more and more inns as they moved forward in time.  Of course, they took their guns to their rooms, and Decker had no intention of going anywhere without his rife.

In the morning, they got supplies for the trip, including plenty of vegetables and fruit.  Alexis, Sukki, and Elder Stow were happy about that, not being big meat eaters.  “I wouldn’t mind picking up fish on our way, from one of the villages on the coast,” Alexis suggested.

“I don’t know what to say about that.”  Boston scrunched up her face and looked conflicted.  “I like fruit and veggies well enough, but I grew up on meat and potatoes.”

“You’re young,” Alexis told her.  “Your metabolism is still racing.  But when you get older, keep in mind, too much meat will just make you fat.  No one wants a fat, old elf.”

“Santa,” Boston said, and grinned, but she would have to think about it.

On the way out of town, they filed past a group of soldiers sitting by the side of the road, waiting for something.  Lincoln noticed that two of the soldiers hid their faces when Boston rode by.  He looked closely.  He had a gift for facial recognition, and these two men looked familiar, even if he could not place them.  He paused.  Naturally, he could not place them, not having been in this time zone before.  He supposed if he looked hard enough, he could find plenty of familiar faces, similar to people he met or saw in the past.  Of course, they could not be the same people.  He shrugged it off.

For four days up the Appian Way, Katie felt anxious.  She said they were being followed by soldiers.  Boston felt it too but wondered how Katie could tell.  Elect senses were made to sniff out enemies on the horizon—whatever might pose a danger to family and home.  Boston also felt they were being followed, but she could not pinpoint the feelings to soldiers, necessarily.  She said the road was full of soldiers and groups of soldiers traveling; mostly headed to Rome as they were.

“No,” Katie said a few times.  “It feels like one group is following us, specifically.”

Boston did not disagree, but since neither had any reason to feel the way they did, and since no one else felt the discomfort, they let it go.  It came up on the last night before Rome.

R5 Greta: Woman of the Ways, part 3 of 3

“I believe you,” Caesar said, as they set his chair upright.  Caesar seemed to need to sit down, so Bodanagus joined him.  “Salacia?”  Caesar added. He remembered what Bodanagus had said.

“Amphitrite.” Bodanagus named her in the Greek. “I lived her life, what?  Sixteen hundred years ago at least.  It was before Akalantas sank into the sea.”

Caesar hardly knew what to say.  He sweated and looked dazed.  “How many others?”  He asked at last.  Bodanagus understood well enough.

“Many, but I only rightly remember a few.  There is Candace of Nubia and Lydia of Tarsus, but neither of them has yet been born. There is Ali among the Arabs in the East.  He, too, will face his Caesar in Trajan in the days to come.  And then there is the Princess and the Storyteller, Doctor Mishka, an excellent field surgeon from the Russian front, 1914, and Diogenes of Pella. I did mention that I was once Alexander’s cousin, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did,” Caesar said, and his face brightened at last.  Clearly, he had great admiration for Alexander the Great. “Do tell me about him.”

Bodanagus shook his head.  “There will be time for that.  We make peace first.”

After a brief moment, Caesar nodded.  He became his pragmatic self again.  “I must hold what I take, but no God will interfere?”  He checked.

Bodanagus nodded.

“And how will this be enforced?” Caesar wondered.

“I will be going with you,” Bodanagus said, without emotion.

“But will you not return to your people and your home and family?” Caesar asked.

“I will return to conclude the peace, but I no longer have any family.”  Bodanagus felt the deep stabbing wound of the loss of his wife, now seven days gone.  The grief nearly overwhelmed him in that moment, and it might have if he had not forced himself to think of something else.  He thought of Sheik Ali, the Arab in the days before Islam.  Rome would have her limits, he thought, and they would be set by a Spirit infinitely greater than the gods.  Still, there was much work yet to do.

###

Ali looked out from his hilltop hideaway over the camp of the Roman armies.  Panic gripped the camp as the massive explosions shook the earth itself.  The factory that made the weapons of Trajan became rubble, but there was much work yet to do.  He remembered.  All of this had to be cleaned up to the last detail lest some future archeologist flip out. Amphitrite volunteered to help, and Ali felt grateful.  At the moment, he remembered the grief of Bodanagus, and his own grief due to his own losses in his own war with Rome mingled in, like salt in the wound.  He reached out through time and Amphitrite came to stand in his place.  The goddess looked first to the moon, full and bright overhead.  Ever so briefly she thought she saw the face of Artemis in the sculptured face of the moon; but then it had to be her imagination.  The time of dissolution had long since passed.

“You missed a wagon train of guns and ammunition.”  Artemis seemed to say.

Amphitrite nodded. “My Greta will have to deal with that. The guns will never reach Rome. They will be hijacked along the way and I feel my Greta may be my next life after Ali.

“I miss you.” The face of Artemis beamed down and looked to be filled with tears.  Amphitrite cried for her very best friend in all the world.

###

Greta opened her own tear filled eyes and saw the full moon shining down.  It appeared full, her Artemis moon.  She had always called it that, only now she knew why. Then she saw the creature in the window and frail Mother Hulda holding it at bay with her broom.

“Werewolf,” Greta cried, and her hand sprang up, almost of its’ own volition.  A
bright light, light as day, streamed out from her hand and struck the creature square in the face.  The wolf howled and became engulfed in flames.  It turned and raced back into the woods with all speed.

Mother Hulda turned at last and gasped at what she saw.  Amphitrite was still present in the room for an instant before she vanished and Greta came home.  Greta considered what a strange birthday she had just before she collapsed to the floor. She remained unconscious for three days.

###

When Greta woke, she found herself at home and in her own bed.  Mama hovered there.  She rushed to the bed the moment Greta breathed for her.  Hans appeared there too, and very sensibly brought her some water. Greta felt dehydrated.

“Thanks.” Greta spoke through Mama’s tears. Hans spit on his two fingers. Greta had no spit but she touched his fingers with her own and smiled as well as her cracked lips allowed.  They were a team.

Mother Hulda came in quickly.  She had moved to their house when Drakka, Rolfus, Sanger and Koren carried Greta the two miles to her home.  Mother Hulda said she had seen the gifted pass out for a time after a particularly draining experience; but after two days she became as worried as the rest. Outwardly, she kept up a good appearance and claimed she only wanted to be near in case Yani went into labor.

Once it became clear that Greta would recover, Hans quickly wagged his tongue.  “Absolutely everybody has been by to see you. Vanesca and Yanda have been here every day, and Venice, Karina and Liselle came by.  Karina is absolutely beautiful.  And all of the young men, the older ones, I mean.  Koren carried you some of the way and he has been here every day. And Sanger carried some, I think, but Drakka carried you most of the way by himself.  He said it would just not be right not having you around.”

“Drakka said that?”  Greta breathed.  “What else did he say?”

“That’s pretty much it,” Hans said, before Mother Hulda and Mama made him go away.

“Let her rest,” Mother Hulda said, and Mama brought Greta some broth and a little bread, if she felt up to it.

It took three more days to recover, and all the while, Greta refused to talk about what she had seen.  In part, she felt afraid if she talked about it, it might all come crashing down on her head again.  It all seemed so real, Nameless, Danna, Salacia, though she had not experienced living their lives.  Then there was the Princess and the Storyteller, Diogenes and the good Doctor Mishka, and Bodanagus and Ali, of course.  And her fear was not helped by her staying in bed.  While there, she discovered two more lifetimes, and her feelings of closeness to them was especially distracting.  One was Festuscato, Senator of Rome, and the other, Goreau, or rather Gerraint, Prince of Cornwall, and they felt very close, indeed. This time, though, she only had dreams.

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

MONDAY

R5 Greta, The Little Mother. Greta begins to move into the position of the Woman of the Ways, as Mother Hulda encourages her.  But, as always, in the life of the Kairos, nothing is ever so simple.  Until Monday, Happy Reading

*

R5 Greta: Woman of the Ways, part 2 of 3

After a rather late supper, Mother Hulda brought out her tonic and made Greta have some.  Then at last, when they were fed and relaxed, Mother Hulda reached for Greta’s hands.  They were going to see what they could see, if there was anything in the wind that night.  Greta felt the electric warmth of Mother Hulda’s touch, and she let go of her thoughts and feelings as she had been taught.  One could not will the sight or make a vision when there was nothing to be seen.  One could only open oneself to the breath of life and if something came, it came.  If not, they would likely be asleep in half an hour.  Even as she relaxed, the wood cracked in the fire, sparks flew across the room, and Greta found herself somewhere else, altogether.

###

Bodanagus entered the tent and let the flap down slowly.  A man stood at the table studying what appeared to be a map.  The map, lit by two braziers, one to either side, and a candle the man had on the table.  It seemed as if he could not see clearly, but whether that was the map or some way out of a dilemma seemed uncertain.  He had little pieces of wood cut to various shapes and sizes which he moved around the map like pieces on a chessboard, and then he would pause, shake his head, and move the pieces again.

Bodanagus waited patiently.  He examined the tent itself.  The good, sturdy canvass got divided by silk streamers behind the table that no doubt portioned off the man’s sleeping quarter from the rest of the tent. Bodanagus recognized the red dye as common enough, but he thought the purple stripes were a bit ostentatious. Then again, he remembered that what Caesar wanted, Caesar got.

“You’re not Marcellus or you would have spoken already.”  Caesar said, without looking up.  “And you’re not a guard because you did not beg my pardon.”  He looked up.  “You also cannot be an assassin or you would have tried me already.”

“I am a man of peace in search of peace.”  Bodanagus said.  His heart broken for his beloved, now lost to him forever.

“Your armor and weapons call your lie.”  Caesar squinted at him.  “May I ask how you evaded the guards?”

“A magician never reveals his secrets, only they should not be punished.  No man could have done better,” Bodanagus said.

“Punished? Oh, they will be.”  Caesar insisted and he put down the paper he was holding.

Bodanagus shrugged.  “You are Julius Caesar, soon to be dictator of Rome in all but name,” he said, as if to imply that Caesar could do whatever he liked.

Caesar looked serious for a moment.  He looked away before he looked in Bodanagus’ eye.  “I will not be dictator.  All I do is for the people and the glory of Rome.”

Bodanagus shrugged again, and the two men stood in silence for another long moment, eye to eye, to see what might come.  At last, Caesar returned to his map and moved a piece.  “Clearly you know who I am.  Who are you?”

“Bodanagus,” came the response.  “Brother of the King and General of all the Nervii.”  Caesar immediately looked up again, sharply.  He looked surprised, a bit confused, and then squinted again at this intruder.  “I have come seeking peace,” Bodanagus continued.  “There has been enough killing.”

Caesar seemed to accept Bodanagus on face value.  He had looked into the man’s eyes; the only man ever to have fought the great Caesar to a standstill.  “A brilliant move, the way you charged the hill before my defenses were ready.”

“While your men were working and tired, and not ready to defend themselves,” Bodanagus said.

“Yes,” Caesar confessed.  “I will set a better watch from now on.”

“Your camp and fortification procedures overall are too predictable,” Bodanagus said.  “I have followed your campaigns since you crossed the Alps.”

“Indeed?” Caesar did not know whether to be complimented or to kick himself for not foreseeing this possibility.  “I must say, the way you came out against my cavalry was.”  He paused for the right word.  “Artistic.”

“You still have cavalry?” Bodanagus quipped, but he grinned.

“Yes.” Caesar did not take that personally. “But I understand your allies have deserted you.”

“Your spies are misinformed,” Bodanagus responded.  “I sent them home by telling them I intended to make peace.  I could recall them if you want to have at it again.”

Caesar took another long moment before he shook his head.  “No need.  If I had not rallied the tenth and seventh that day, you would have eaten me alive.”

“As it was, a strategic withdraw seemed best, even if it took a couple of hours to affect. My people are not as disciplined as you Romans,” Bodanagus admitted.

Caesar simply nodded.  “So, what will you offer in this search for peace?”

“All of Gaul. Iberia apart from Galacia and Leon. And the island of the British, but only up to the Firth of Fourth, and including Wales, Cornwall and Lyonnes if you can hold them.”

Caesar gave him a dazed look, and then laughed as if given a good joke.  Clearly, he did not believe a word of it.  “And what will you require in return?”

“The assurance and protection of Rome, to make all of the other tribes and Rome herself respect the territory of the Nervii.  And when Amorica is cleared of Veneti, to let my people, all who are not happy with the King, my brother, emigrate into that land.”

“So, what? I should have Nervii to the East and to the West?  I think not.” Caesar said a bit too quickly.  “The Veneti?” he questioned.

Bodanagus did not explain.  Instead, he turned the point.  “Divide and conquer.  I thought that was Caesar’s way.”

Caesar paused and put his hand to his chin.  “Divide and conquer,” he said, softly.  “This is a sound strategy.”  He looked up. “May I quote you?”  Bodanagus shrugged again.  Then Caesar laughed once more.  “But I already own Gaul and Pompey took Iberia some time ago.  You speak like a fool, though I had not thought that of you.  The world is not yours to offer.”

“But it is,” Bodanagus said, in a simple, straight-forward voice.  He did not wait to be invited, but took a seat on a nearby stool.  “Rome holds these places at present because the gods have been willing to wait and see. Rome can be driven by defeat and disaster as quickly as she can rule by victory.  You can be ruined, or I can grant you the geis of Alexander.”

“Geis?  Alexander?”  Caesar appeared intrigued enough to hear the man out.

“Alexander the Great, my erstwhile cousin,” Bodanagus said.

“Yes, I know Alexander,” Caesar said quickly and came out from behind the table to take a seat opposite his intruder.  “What is this geis?”

Bodanagus waited until Caesar got comfortable, and then he explained.  “They called it ambition, but in fact, Alexander, and his father Philip, were more sensible than the Spartans before them.  Alexander knew the Greeks in Asia would never be free unless he brought down the Persians and their empire.  When he set his sights on this goal, however, he caused a stir in the heavens.  The gods of Olympus, of Asia and Egypt gathered together and debated.  At last they agreed.  They would neither help nor hinder the Greeks nor Persians.  If the Persians could drive back the invasion and overrun Greece, so be it.  If Alexander could succeed against the Persians, he could keep whatever he could hold. This is the geis of Alexander.”

“And so.” Caesar had to think hard about it. “What you are claiming is you have the authority to grant this geis to me?”

“To Rome,” Bodanagus said.  “But there are other players in this part of the world.  Zeus, er, Jupiter has granted me the right through Salacia to speak for the Latins.  I can also speak for Egypt and North Africa through Zeu-Amon.  If the Gauls, united, can drive you out and overrun Rome as they did once long ago.”  Bodanagus shrugged.  “But if you and Rome can take and hold the lands of the Celts, then the Gods of the Celts will not interfere.  But let me add, though my mother herself was German, I dare not speak for Odin.”

“Odin?” Caesar was thinking before he threw his hands to the air.  “But what you say is mad.  No mortal has such authority.”  He might have laughed again, but Bodanagus still looked so serious.

“This is true, but then I have lived some very few lives in the past which were not exactly mortal lives.”

Bodanagus went away and a woman sat in his place.  She appeared tall and dark and very beautiful, and she continued speaking as if she was the same person, which she was.

“You see, I am the Danna, the Don, Mother of all the gods of the Celts, or I once was many lifetimes before Bodanagus.  My children will listen to my voice.”

Caesar leaped back and knocked over his chair.  He found himself on his knees.  It is one thing to give deference to the gods as if they are mere stone statues, objects to worship, but quite another to come face to face with one of them. Caesar trembled ever so slightly, overcome by feelings of dread and awe.  He could not help it.  He hid his face as events unfolded, but his ears never stopped working.

“My Lord.” Danna acknowledged Odin as he appeared. “Grandmother.”  She acknowledged Frigg through her marriage relationship and curtsied ever so slightly to the King and Queen of the North.  “And the crooked one.”  She mentioned Loki, though the feeling of wanting to punch the fellow in the nose was hard to resist.

“Lady Danna,” Frigg said.  “How good to see you again.”

“Let me see my grandson,” Odin insisted.  Like a true grouchy old man, he had no time for the nice things, and instead got straight to the point.

“Of course.” Danna curtsied again and she traded places through time with the young man, another life she once lived, a more recent lifetime, though one still long before Bodanagus.

Nameless squinted for a moment and then growled at Loki.  It was the usual greeting and Loki smirked his crooked smirk in return.

“Rome is not welcome among the Germans.”  Odin spoke bluntly.  “And not among the peoples of the North Sea.  I have plans for them.”

“The time for dissolution is near,” Frigg interrupted.  “Your father Tyr of the one hand is delayed by some geis of his own making, but your mother, the beautiful Frya says she is ready for the journey to the other side.  Would that we all were.”  She cast a sideways glance at Loki before she continued.  “We are counting on you.”

Odin interrupted. “You are to keep Rome out of German lands if the dissolution comes soon.”

“But Grandfather,” Nameless objected.  “You know how it works.  My lifetime came and went long ago.  This world belongs to Bodanagus.  If you wish to work in his lifetime, you must work through him.”

Frigg smiled and nodded.  She knew full well how it worked.  Odin looked frustrated.  Loki rarely betrayed his feelings, and almost never his honest feelings.

“Bodanagus, then,” Odin commanded.

“At least his mother was rightly German,” Loki pointed out and that mollified Odin a little.

Nameless nodded without another word, and went away to leave Bodanagus once again in his own time and place.  There was little more discussion, and certain things passed between the Gods and the General of the Nervii, and then it was over.  The Gods were gone, and Bodanagus helped a prostrate Caesar to his feet.