Preview of Coming Attractions: April 10, 2019

The story of Gerraint, son of Erbin, in the days of King Arthur, will continue in the next book:

Kairos Medieval Book 3: Light in the Dark Ages

M3) Gerraint: The Holy Graal   13 weeks of posts

Gerraint feels his days of struggle should be behind him.  All he wants is to retire to Cornwall with Enid, his love.  But when ghostly hands carry a cauldron across the round table, he knows he has to act.  Arthur deftly turns all talk to the Holy Graal, but Gerraint knows he has to stop the older men from recovering the ancient treasures of the Celts and dredging up the past.  Christendom is only a thin veneer, and if Abraxas is allowed to strip that away, history might be irrevocably changed.

Gerraint’s story will begin again one year from now right after the posting of Avalon, Season Six, which will post over 22 weeks and  serve as an interlude between the end of the Kairos and Rome series and the beginning of the Kairos Medieval series.  Of course, the Avalon stories: the prequel, the pilot episode, and seasons 1, 2, and 3 are available as E-books, with the pilot episode free in most places.  Look under the author M G Kizzia.  Avalon, seasons 4, 5, and 6 will also go up as E-books as soon as I can work out some details… But I promised myself I would not turn this into a sales pitch…

First, we have two stories of the Kairos and Rome saga to complete:

Kairos and Rome Book 6: The Power of Persuasion

For those who enjoyed the Kairos and Rome book 5, Greta’s story (R5 Greta), which began on June 4, 2018, and which you can look up in the archives and read for yourself, you maybe realized the story is not finished.  Picking up the story several years later…

R6) Greta: To Grandfather’s House We Go   20 weeks of posts

Greta’s ward, Berry, and her sister Fae, along with Greta’s brother and Fae’s husband go north, looking for Berry and Fae’s father to bless their marriages.  They get trapped in the land of the lost, and the shattered pieces of the old god Mithras stand against Greta when she sets herself for a rescue mission.  Soon enough, the Iranian (Mithraic) tribes in the wilderness come to knock on Dacia’s door, which doesn’t have enough strength to stand against them.  And the Roman ranks are full of Mithraites.

Before that, as we did on April 2, 2018, roughly one year ago, we have the further adventures of Festuscato, Senator of Rome and all around cad, who is good at getting into trouble, but even better at wriggling out of the consequences.  That may be why the Emperor Valentinian and the Pope both tapped him to go to Britain and bring order out of the chaos that had taken over that former Roman province.  That may also be why the Bishop in London got him to take on a special assignment:

R6) Festuscato: The Dragon in Ireland   10 weeks of posts

Festuscato gets roped into providing safe passage for Patrick to get to Ireland.  Festuscato, knowing something of what to him is the history of these events, wants to see Patrick get started on a good foot.  That isn’t going to be easy when the so-called King of the Irish is against you, not to mention the reluctant druids, the Irish pirates, and the Saxon intruders.  The boy and his pet dragon don’t help, either.

 

 

MONDAY

R6 Festuscato:  Festuscato and the bishops relax in Caerdyf.  Before setting out, they are interrupted by a boatload of Irish pirates; an indication of things to look forward to…

Until then, Happy Reading

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R5 Festuscato: Nudging the Future, part 2 of 3

The Huns charged the village, only to be stymied by the barriers.  Julius and his three hundred charged the Huns from the rear and killed about a third from behind.  The archers from the village, mostly hunters supplemented by a hundred elves with uncanny accuracy, killed more than a third of the Huns on the first volley.  Half of the survivors quickly scattered across the open fields to the left and into the forest vacated by Julius’ men on the right.  The other half of the survivors got caught up in the melee where the odds were three or four to one against them, so they did not survive for very long.  Julius lost eleven men, Welsh, Cornish, British, Amorican, and a couple of his Romans. Twenty more were wounded.  By the time Bogus the dwarf finished the ones in the woods and Pinewood and his fairies tracked and finished the ones in the fields, the Huns lost the full three hundred.  No Huns survived.

“Not bad,” Marcellus said as he rode up beside Julius and dismounted with him at the village edge.  “A couple more years under Lord Agitus and you may turn into a pretty good officer.”

Julius did not listen.  He found Drucilla, a bow in her hand, looking mighty humble.  “You!”  Julius yelled, and then he appeared to shrug, caught her up in his arms and got lost in her kiss.

Certain gnomes found Gurt and applied a tattoo to the dead man’s chest.  They dressed him in a white sheet with a dragon emblazoned on the front.  When the sun went down again, they got thirty pixies to sprinkle Gurt and some of his men with enough dirt to make the magic effective.  The pixies carried the bodies several miles to the village of the Raven and dropped them like they were dropping bombs over Dresden.  Gurt landed on Megla’s doorstep.  Megla and his chiefs were frightened by the dragon on the sheet and looked all around the sky for signs of a real dragon.  They shouted their fears, until Megla got them quiet.

“So, wise man.” Megla spoke to a druid who sat at the table.  The druid looked like a man in his forties with a beard to his chest that began to hint of gray.  He sat beside the Lord of the Raven who had been completely cowed by the Huns.  “I say this dragon is nothing but a woman,” Megla growled.  “I say in the spring maybe we will fight like the dragon and swallow this female dragon whole.”

The Druid looked up into Megla’s eyes and Megla looked away.  “I once saw two dragons fighting in the daytime sky.  They looked like old lovers, but the male started eating the babies and enraged the female who killed the male.  The female ate the male.  You can take that as you will.  I am only saying what I saw.”

Megla drew up his courage in front of his chiefs.  “Bah. We will eat this dragon come the spring.”  He tore the dragon sheet off of Gurt’s body only to find the dragon tattooed on the body.

Come April first, and Festuscato said two words.  “Two years.”

“But 440 looks like a good year,” Mirowen said, and reveled in the sunlight.  She twirled twice and her smile lit up the morning. Cador came riding in, followed by some twenty men all dressed the same, but to be sure, all of the eyes of the men at the gate and Cador’s men as well were fastened on Mirowen.  She could do that to men.

“I must say,” Constantine came up sporting his new dragon tunic.  “My wife loves her home.  My son has never been happier, says the whole world has opened up before him. But me, I am afraid to think of all the responsibility you have place on my shoulders.  I hope I don’t disappoint.”  Mirowen took a moment to straighten the man’s tunic, properly. “Thank you for the clothes, by the way. Especially for my wife.  You know women and their dresses.  She and Sibelius seem to be hitting it off very well, which saves me some headache at any rate.”

“There,” Mirowen stepped back and smiled.  “You look ready to receive the very court of Avalon itself.”

“Avalon.  I have heard it mentioned.  It is an island you say, off the coast?  By Iona, perhaps, or the Isle of Man?” The man had been studying his map.

“A bit further than that,” Mirowen said, with a look at Festuscato, but a look that never lost her sunshine smile.

Festuscato waved to Cador, even if he was not the person Cador kept looking at.  “You are full of words today,” he told Constantine.

“I am nervous,” Constantine admitted, and Mirowen took the man’s arm and lead him to the stairs to get down off the wall by the Great Hall.  Festuscato followed and imagined a woman that young and beautiful would likely make the old man even more nervous.

King Ban of Benwick stood in the Great hall with some new friends.  Emet came all the way from York.  King Ban’s wife and daughter were also present with some other British women.  Mirowen went straight to them to greet them and make them feel welcomed.

“We have five hundred horsemen with us, and a thousand men afoot in the woods just north of the land of the Raven.  Your spies tell you that Megla and his Huns are arguing about heading south, to Londinium. This would be good, but we are going to be prepared in any case. As a precaution, we brought our wives and children to this place for sanctuary, if you don’t mind.”  Festuscato shrugged and pointed at Constantine.

“Of course,” Constantine shook Ban’s hand.  “You and your families are welcome here anytime.  My wife and the girls will love the company, and we can always squeeze in one more.”

Ban stared and then let out the slightest grin.  “You have been taking lessons from the Roman.,” he said.

“Charity and kindness are never a bad idea,” Festuscato said, before he got interrupted by a big man at the back of the British pack.

“Your men wear the dragon.  You have no idea what a real dragon is like.  We have been plagued by one these past ten years and I was barely able to get enough men to make coming south worthwhile.”

“Prince Aidan of the Highlands,” Ban quickly introduced the man.  Of course, he meant the British Highlands.

“Forgive me, but she is feeding her babies, what there are left of them.  Find out where she is living and bring her some sheep, maybe some cows.  Then she won’t have to hunt and attack your homes.  They sleep for a time between feeding, like hibernating.  The sleep between each feeding will gradually increase as the babies grow older.  It takes patience, I know.”  Aidan had his jaw dropped.  “Oh yes. I know something about dragons, and your mama dragon in particular.  But here, lets meet the others.”

Hywel and Anwyn were there leading the Welsh, and very happy to be back in Cadbury.  They seemed very gregarious and shook hands with the British, the Cornish, the Amorican’s and the Romans, but decided to hold back from the Four Horsemen who stood, guarding the door.  That made Death grin under his helmet.

R5 Festuscato: Over the Alps, part 1 of 3

Festuscato spent six months at home, getting ready to travel, which moved the calendar into 438. Britannia would be a long way.  He bought horses and put the entire troop on horseback first thing.  He made them ride every day, and encouraged them with the notion that they did not want to have to walk to Britain.  He got every man a spear, and made them practice stabbing at targets from horseback. He also bought a wagon load of arrows, and long swords like the barbarians used.  They had to practice with those, too.  He made it as much fun as possible, kept it competitive, and felt relieved to see Julius at the top of the class with Marcellus.  It would not have done to have the officers lagging behind.

After twelve weeks of what he called basic training, he started to push them.  In the second twelve weeks, he taught the basics of judo and karate.  He talked a lot about the vulnerable points.  He gave them round shields with dragons painted on them for their left arm while on horseback.  The shield protected their center, could be used to knock away an enemy spear, and yet they were small enough not to impede their horsemanship, such as it was.  Then he got creative and made them learn to fire arrows from horseback.  Not everyone mastered that, but the result was, after six months he had forty men ready to conquer the alps, and just in time.

Spring came due, and Festuscato gave Mirowen April first as an absolute deadline, “No foolin’,” he said.  True, he had properties throughout the Italian peninsula that she had to get squared away.  She had to make sure she had accountants to collect rents and pay taxes and in general watch things without skimming off the top.  She found gnomes, and Festuscato said it could not be safer at Gringots. She didn’t ask.

Come April first, Festuscato started itching to leave, and so did the men, believing that once they hit the road they could get some rest.  Father Gaius came riding up at the last with two fellow priests, Lavius, a large fellow, and Felix, a shy scholar and a far cry from their old friend Felix, the smooth-talking silk salesman.

“The Pope sends his blessing,” Gaius said, and handed over some papers to that effect. “Privately, he said you will probably save everything or break everything, being the scoundrel that you are.”

“I may save a soul or two, but I save my breaking for hearts.  Don’t tell him I said that.”

“No problem,” Gaius said.  “We are going with you.”

“What? Mirowen,” Festuscato put just the right amount of whine in his voice.

“I heard. Hello Gaius.  If you would follow me.”

“Good fathers,” Julius came up.  “Problem?”

“No.  The Pope sends his blessing and three tag-alongs. I assume they are headed for Britain.”

“The road, being what it is these days, I don’t blame them for tagging along where there is some chance of protection.”

“Why do you think I beat you and your men so badly these last six months.  At least now I feel we have a chance of reaching our destination.”

Julius looked serious.  “You don’t give yourself enough credit.”

“Oh?”

“You beat the hell out of the men.”  Julius grinned.

Festuscato responded with a straight face.  “Well, that should make the priests happy,”

There were always four, on rotation, that scouted and served out front on the point, and four who also served in the rear-guard position.  Four more drove or rode with each of the four wagons, which counted for sixteen men.  The wagons were the bulk of what kept them at a slow and gentle pace.  Oxen would only move so fast.  The first wagon carried weapons, tools and spare wagon parts. The second got stuffed with food, though every wagon had some emergency food and a barrel of water.  The third wagon had tents, blankets and whatever else would be necessary to make camp.  The fourth wagon carried Mirowen’s stuff, though to be honest, it was not all fluff stuff.  Among other things, she remembered to pack a good medical kit.

There were six men who rode on each side of the column, and rode out from the column when they could, to protect the flanks.  One side got led by Sergeant Marcellus and the other by Tiberius the archer, though he was not really any more experienced than the others.  The final four men stayed with their commander, Julius, and they got followed by Festuscato’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Those were, in fact, four elves who volunteered to make the journey to Britannia.

The ten passengers, as Festuscato called them, rode in and around the wagons.  Besides the three clerics, there were five from the household.  Mister March, an old man, wanted to go home to die.  Mascen and Eselt were a middle-aged couple who claimed to have no ties in Italy, but said they had family in Britain.  The fact that Mascen was a wagon-master and Eselt was a great cook made including them a real plus.  Two were house elves, the maidens Sibelius and Drucilla.  Festuscato was not thrilled with putting them in danger, but the Four Horsemen liked the idea, and Festuscato really had no option.

“We came to keep Mirowen from going human,” Sibelius said, in all seriousness.

“You are a bad influence, you know,” Drucilla agreed.

“And you are not the first to say that,” Festuscato admitted, with a sigh.

The last two so-called passengers were a fairy couple who spent most of their daylight hours scouting ahead or doing who knew what, as Festuscato thought.  They were Pinewood and May.  May claimed to be from Gaul.  Pinewood said he had been raised in the alps.  Festuscato appreciated the scouting and whatever knowledge they might be able to provide concerning the areas ahead, but he mostly left them to their own devices.  He also said nothing about Gerraint and Pinewood’s days to come.

They made good time overall.  By Mayday, they were already up into the hills beneath the mountains.  Festuscato hoped to cross the continental divide in early July, to give them two whole summer months to make it down the other side. By September, he wanted to be solidly in Gaul. and on route to a place where they could comfortably winter.

Avalon 4.8: part 6 of 6, A Dragon’s Work is Never Done

At the moment the sun cracked the horizon, Nuwa dragon finished her exhale.  She had risen high in the sky with no wings for support, and it looked for a second like she might fall, but all eyes were fastened on the darkness that appeared the instant the flame stopped.  No one, who did not know, could guess what it was, but they saw it immediately sparkle in the sunlight and then vanish in one small burst of light.dragon 6

Nuwa dragon caught her fall and curled herself a half-dozen times around the dragon on the ground.  “Hush baby,” Nuwa dragon said in the right language.

“Mama.  Hurting,” the dragon responded.  Now that the sorcerer’s control was gone, the dead wolves returned to being dead, and the dragon recognized that it had been shot several times.

Thalia stepped out from the trees, and she did not even stop when people and horses came out from the great worm hole a short distance away.  Nevah felt afraid for Thalia in the face of that enormous dragon.  Bezos made sure his hammer was at hand.  Phadon put away his sword, willing to trust Thalia’s judgment, but he watched carefully.  Anwanna hugged and quieted his donkey.

“Nuwa,” Thala said, knowing right away who it was.

“Thalia,” Nuwa responded.  “I brought your friends.”

Katie 8“I thank you most kindly, Thalia said.  “Excuse me one minute.”  Thalia turned around and yelled, “Boston.”  She opened her arms to give the girl a hug.

Katie paused on seeing her.  Her mouth breathed, “Elect?”

“Yes, I know,” Thalia answered Katie’s thoughts.  “I get strange some times, but I figure as long as I don’t join or start an Amazon tribe, I should be all right.”

“Me too,” Katie agreed.

“You have friends?” Lockhart said, and Thalia took the time to bring everyone out from the woods and introduce them.  She explained to Nevah that Boston used to be human and Alexis used to be an elf.

“You can do that?” Nevah asked, excited.  “I can be made whole?”

“Whole what?” Thalia asked in return.  “You have a mother and father who love you, and that seems pretty whole to me.”

“Thalia lost her family to Amorites rampaging through the Levant.  She has been alone ever since,” Mingus whispered to Lincoln and Alexis, knowing that Boston would hear with her good elf ears.  Thalia may have heard, but she offered no thoughts, turning to Nuwa instead.

“Where is Fuxi, I need him too,” she said.

“Sleeping would be my guess,” Nuwa said.

“Fuxi,” both Thalia and Nuwa called.  The travelers imagined Nuwa’s call would travel a good bit further.Thalia 1

“Might as well see what’s for breakfast,” Thalia said.  “And probably lunch and maybe supper too as long as we are waiting for Fuxi.”

“Can I keep this little one?” Nuwa asked.

Thalia shook her head.  “You can help him heal, but he needs to go where he won’t get into any trouble.”

“It is a shame not to heal this magnificent creature, and for my friends, let me say I do not blame you for defending yourselves.  I hold the sorcerer entirely responsible.”

“Good to know,” Lockhart said, having just realized why the dragon was injured.

“Sorcerer?” Lincoln asked.

“You can’t help,” Thalia insisted.

“I imagine that isn’t what he was asking,” Mingus said.

“Father!” Alexis scolded him.

“Can I come this time?” Nuwa interrupted the family drama.

“No,” Thalia said.  “You cannot come with us.  We have three days to journey up the mountain, and I figure it will take three days for you to lead our friends to the next time gate.  I need you to protect them, please.  The sorcerer will dare not interfere if you are with them.”

“I understand,” Nuwa dragon said, but she did sound a bit disappointed.

volcano 1Thalia’s gang and the travelers helped the dwarfs put out the fire in the great hall.  They ended up missing breakfast but had a fine lunch.  Thalia showed the travelers the distant tower on the smoking mountain, and said over and over, “No.  You can’t go with me.  The last thing we need is for the sorcerer to get his hands on weapons of mass destruction.”

Lockhart was the only one who really said anything.  “You know, since starting on this journey, I have come to realize that getting home alive is the second most important thing.  Helping you keep history on track is first, and all you have to do is ask.”

“I know.  I appreciate that,” Thalia said.  “But not this time.  And for the record, Katie is an elect, and she will do things that you would rather she not.  She will take risks, and you just need to deal with that.  What it really comes down to is do you trust her judgment or not?”

“I do,” Lockhart said.  “but sometimes I might not want to watch.”

Katie and Thalia shared a grin and Katie took Lockhart’s arm, just because.

Nevah and Boston spent the day together, talking about everything.  Nevah, though she was only half-hobgoblin, had less couth than the elf.  She trapped Mingus and Elder Stow, and let them have it.th nevah 5

“I like my companions.  We have come a long way, though not nearly as far as you have to go, but I don’t think we would have gotten this far if we did not like each other and if we were not nice and good to each other.  Whatever your personal feelings, you should keep them to yourself.  You need to be good and nice and supportive and encouraging to all of your team or you will never get where you are going in one piece.  I don’t care if you are a wise elder elf and from the elder race.  You are acting like boobies, and spoiled ones at that.”

Nevah huffed and puffed as she walked away and Boston asked, “Boobies?”

“That is what my mother called me.  I used to chew on her boobies when I was first born.”

Fuxi dragon showed up mid-afternoon.  Thalia had instructions for him and could only hope he would remember it all.  “Take this dragon to the Khyber and seek out Lord Varuna.  Tell him that I am asking the dragon be taken to the land in the sky and given to the oread Parvatayas.  The dragon has four or five-hundred-years of life yet.  Tell him, please don’t let him feed on people.”

Fuxi looked at her.

“Take the dragon to the Khyber and Lord Varuna to give the dragon to Parvatayas.”

Fuxi nodded, sort of.  Nuwa intervened.

“If you do a good job, you can come up to lake Bosten for a time and fish.”

“I’ll do it,” Fuxi said, and somehow, he got the dragon up on his back where he made the dragon hang on, and he took off for the south and vanished in the clouds.

Nuwa 2The following morning, Nuwa and the travelers said good-bye and headed toward the next time gate.  Katie had a thought.

“I suppose Mingus knows how these stories basically work out.  I assume she finds a way of overcoming the sorcerer in the end.”

“No telling,” Lockhart responded.  “At the beginning, I remember Pan saying that our presence put everything in flux.  Things might still be changed if we are not careful.  We may read about her story someday if the Storyteller ever makes it back from the void and then lives up to his name.”

“Change, as in our future might change?  History might be changed?”  Lockhart shrugged, and Katie considered their position.  “I see why you said helping the Kairos keep history on track is the number one priority.”

Lockhart nodded.  “Not that there is much we can do about it.”

Meanwhile, back at the dwarf camp, Thalia got suspicious.  She found Boston’s belt with the Beretta and big knife among Nevah’s things.  She yelled, and it was the kind of yell that made Nevah give everything back.  She had Phadon’s whetstone that he thought he lost, Bezos’ bag of gold nuggets, that he did not care one whit about, and Anwanna’s ring, for which he got excited and praised Ishtar and the divine Mithras for its return, and Lord Visnu for its preservation.  She also had a beautiful bronze cup, dwarf size, and Chief Zed looked flabbergasted.

“Forget it,” Thalia said.  “The copper and tin these good dwarfs dig out of this place is hard to come by.”

“True enough,” Chief Zed said.  “We keep running into tar and lakes of oil.”

Thalia nodded and looked at the weapon.  “No,” she decided at last.  “Too risky.”  It disappeared and everyone gasped, so she explained.  “I set it to Avalon.  I’ll have to remember to give it back to her in my next life.  So, are we ready to go?”th phaedon 2

“In the morning,” everyone decided, and Phadon had a question.

“I heard your friends talk about a volcano. Is that what is making all that smoke on the mountain?”

Thalia nodded.  “Let us hope it remains quiet until we finish there.”  She nudged Nevah.  “And you better pray Boston doesn’t need her weapon before I can give it back to her.”

“What’s for lunch?” Bezos asked.

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Monday, the travelers arrive in the south seas, but a few years before people start building all those relaxing beach resorts.  In fact, there is a rumor that inland, there are space creatures that might want to eat them.  Check it out.  Monday begins the six part adventure of Avalon Episode 4.9, Tropical Paradise.

Meanwhile, there is a cure for the hot summertime blues.  It is called Happy Reading…

a happy read 3

Avalon 4.8: part 5 of 6, Into the Fire

The goblin king paced and shook his head.  “You have come at a bad time.”  He repeated the phrase over and over before he explained.  “The sorcerer in the tower demanded that we serve him.  That is not our way.  You travelers have been around long enough to know.  Our work is in the night.  Sure, people fear us in the dark, but we avoid them when we can.  Our god has made clear to us.  We are not to mingle.”  He sat on something like a throne, worried his hands and furrowed his brows.dwarf underground 1

“Elder elf,” one of the dozen dwarfs caught in the hall interrupted.  “We have made a space along the wall for you and your horses.”

“Thank you,” Mingus responded.  He got people to gather the horses.  They noticed a few imps among the dwarfs, and several gnomes who had no business being underground, but got caught in the trap all the same.  Lockhart, Katie and Nuwa stayed to face the goblin king, and the king continued his thoughts when he could.

“We had some volunteer to serve the sorcerer.  Brave fellows.  We had hope he would leave us alone after that, but he is greedy beyond words.  I think he wants everyone to serve him, and he has uncanny power.  He called up the shadow from the shadow realm, and we have no defense against such a creature.”

“A shadow is a lesser spirit,” Nuwa explained.  “These little spirits have no such power, even when they combine their magic.”

“And who are you?” the goblin king spoke like he just noticed her presence.

“I am Nuwa,” she said, with a slight bow to the king.  “Do you not know me?”

The goblin king looked at her for a long minute before he spoke.  “I saw Nuwa when I was in Tibet and she came to send those space creatures home.  I was very young, not yet mature, less than a hundred, and though that was eight-hundred-years ago, I still remember.  You look like her, but not exactly, and she died long ago.  You are not my goddess.  Thalia is a mere human in this life.  Who are you, exactly?”

Nuwa 1Nuwa smiled.  “I take Nuwa’s form from time to time to let you know that you are not forgotten.  Your goddess is even now headed for the dark tower on the fire mountain, and though I do not know how it may turn out, I know your goddess will not leave you in bondage.”

“And you can do something about this situation?” the king asked.

Nuwa bowed again, and let out a small smile.  “And the first thing I will do is give these good people a time of rest.”  She bowed a third time and took Katie and Lockhart to the others.

Boston got the dwarfs to dig a hole and set up her tent on top of it.  She made a hole in the fairy weave floor of the tent so people could go to the bathroom in some privacy.  Katie was the second to use it, after Boston herself.

Alexis and Lincoln got out the bread crackers.  Most in the hall did not go for elf bread, but it was better than nothing.  Decker had a portion of deer left over, but that did not last long.

Mingus and Elder Stow spent some time trying to plot a way out of their dilemma.  Elder Stow brought up a three-dimensional map of the tunnels and chambers in the goblin underground and they went over it, and over it.  In a way, it was pointless since they had no way of pinpointing where the shadow might be in any given moment.

No one slept well that night, but when Alexis and Lincoln settled in, and Lockhart got up for his turn on watch with Mingus, he told Elder Stow to get some rest.  He said who knew how hard they might have to run in the morning.

Lockhart sat and watched the goblins put logs on the fires, and he wondered how long it might be before they ran out of firewood.  Mingus talked quietly with a dwarf who finally admitted they had a small, secret connection from their mines to the goblin lair.bonfire

“And you suppose the dark elves do not know where that is,” Mingus said.

“They haven’t said anything,” the dwarf responded, and looked toward the tunnel they would have to navigate if they planned to go that way.  “But you would never get your horses through that narrow gate.”

Mingus nodded and glanced at Nuwa dragon who appeared to be sitting, eyes open, never blinking.  It was unnerving to look at her for too long.

Decker got up early and sat beside Lockhart.  “Hard to deal with a creature impervious to bullets,” he said.

Lockhart nodded.  “Nuwa said even Elder Stow’s force field would be ineffective.  Mingus, Roland and now Boston could walk right through the thing with little effort.  This shadow, she says, might not even know it was there.”

“Not much I can suggest other than make a run for it.”

Lockhart agreed.  “We might lure it to the tunnel farthest from the way we want to go, and run for daylight, once there is daylight.”

“I’ll be bait,” Decker said.

Lockhart shook his head.  “Probably me.  I can’t ask or let anyone else do it.”

dwarf underground 2Decker said no more.

Mingus, meanwhile, brought the dwarf to view Elder Stow’s schematic of the underground.  “Here, this way, and through here,” the dwarf said.  “But believe me, you won’t get your horses through.  Your big men might be a problem.”

Mingus nodded, thought, one problem at a time, and went to bed, leaving Elder Stow to puzzle out the passages.  With help in direction, Elder Stow managed an outline of the dwarf mines, almost to the surface.

When Boston and Katie got up, Nuwa said the only thing she said all night.  “Saddle up.”  They took their time, but did that thing, quietly, not daring to ask why.  They hoped it meant Nuwa thought of a way out, but “saddle up” did not give them much to go on.

Nuwa gently woke the travelers.  “Follow me,” she said.  “You too,” she told the dwarfs.  “You too,” she said to the gnomes.  While the travelers woke and got ready, Nuwa exhaled.  She inhaled for a whole minute as they heard shouting and screaming from down, what Mingus was calling, the dwarf tunnel.  Three dwarfs had gone to explore the route home.  Two came back, screaming.

Nuwa began a slow exhale that was pure white fire.  She began to transform back into the dragon form even as she moved into the tunnel.  People had to wait while her enormous bulk made the tunnel plenty big for the horses, but at last her tail whipped out into what was now a dark passage, and the people, elves, dwarfs, gnomes and several others poured into the tunnel.

Nuwa dragon turned this way and that, all the while with a slowly exhaled fire in front of her.  dragon 1When she slithered through a big chamber, she did not make her flame any larger.  Alexis figured out that Nuwa dragon had the shadow trapped in a ball of flame and was forcing it to move ahead of her.  Katie heard and repeated the theory for the others.  Still, Nuwa moved forward.

She crashed through a wall at one point, and made a narrow, hidden opening into a big one.  Those who knew or paid attention understood they had moved into the dwarf mines.  Dwarfs scattered in every direction, but Nuwa had thought ahead to give warning.  Any who were too slow or too hard-headed to listen got crisped.  There were a couple.

Nuwa, with everyone else following her zoomed through the cavernous dwarf halls, one after another.

###

On the surface, Thalia woke when the wolves arrived, about an hour before dawn.  Chief Zed and his three guardsmen yelled about it being unfair.

“We already killed these wolves.  They should stay dead.”

th nevah 1Everyone climbed up on the roof of the great hall, and Nevah yelled, “Skeleton formation.”  She grabbed Bezos’ axe while Bezos pulled his hammer.  Anwanna sat in the middle of the roof, unable to think of anything he might do.  Phadon and Thalia had their swords out, but Thalia was ripping up chunks of the roof and getting Nevah to set them on fire.  Thalia used the fire to whip the wolves and dropped it on their heads, while the wolves tried to find a way they could reach the roof, and Chief Zed complained.

“You’re going to set the whole house on fire, and then we’ll be in it.”

Nevah heard and stopped flaming the wood.  Of course, she began to fire flame balls at the wolves directly, so evidentially she heard but did not exactly understand.  Nevah stopped when it became apparent that as long as they remained on the roof, the dead wolves would not be able to reach them.  That was when Chief Zed shouted.

“It’s the damn dragon.”  He pointed, and Thalia saw the winged serpent, a middle-aged dragon bleeding from the bullet holes put in it the day before.  A couple of places appeared to be festering.  The beast looked to be in pain, but it came in, meaning business, and Thalia had little time to act.

Thalia grabbed all four dwarfs and made them yell with their words and their minds.  She gave them the words to say and prayed they would get through to the dragon.  She also prayed the dragon would obey the commands.  When dragons matured, the command language was not always effective.

“No fire.  Do no harm,” the dwarfs shouted in the right way.  All the same, the dragon came in and let out a great burst of flame.  People dropped to the roof and covered their heads, but there was nowhere to hide.  To get down from the roof was suicide, but the dwarfs were not for giving up.  dragon 7“Fire the wolves,” Thalia shouted in the command language.  “Flame the wolves.”  The dwarfs picked up the new words, even as Thalia realized it was a long shot.  She had to assume the dragon knew what wolves were.  Then again, dragons were not exactly dumb beasts.  Given its age, it probably knew what people were, and if it did not know wolves exactly, it could figure it out.

“Flame the wolves,” the dwarfs yelled, and after landing, the dragon did exactly that.  Of course, the great hall of the dwarfs caught fire, and Thalia imagined it would burn quickly.  Anwanna was actually the first to leap down.  He ran inside the building to get his donkey.  The wolves had no interest in the donkey because, being dead, they were not there for a feast.

The others jumped down, and Thalia had to slice off one wolf’s head, but otherwise, the dragon was at least concentrating on the other side of the hall.

“To the trees,” Chief Zed shouted, and it was just before the dragon decided to see if all that flame made anything edible.

Thalia 5Thalia got behind a tree and watched.  She figured fried, dead wolf was no treat.  She recognized that the dawn was up and the sun was about to break above the horizon, when the earth began to shake beneath their feet.  People fell and rolled.  Several yelled to watch out for limbs and trees.  The donkey brayed, and the dragon yelped, unable to lift into the sky since it was half-way through swallowing a wolf.

The earthquake grew to dangerous levels before a much bigger dragon burst out of the ground like a giant worm reaching for the sun.

Avalon 4.8 part 2 of 6 Dragons

“Ugh,” Boston sounded frustrated.  “We are getting closer, but it is so slow.  It is almost like Talia is moving away from us.”

“Thalia,” Mingus said.

“Thalia-Anath,” Lincoln corrected him, and Alexis smiled for her husband.

“So,” Lockhart interrupted before people started shouting.  “Are we sure these are the Zagros Mountains?”Katie 9

“Oh, yes,” Katie said, meaning to be helpful.  “The north end of the mountains, I would guess.  Not far from the Caspian Sea.”

“Lincoln?”  Lockhart looked at Katie and frowned.  She missed the whole point of his interrupting the others.

“Yes,” Lincoln confirmed.  “This is not Syria.  The mountains are too high.”

“If we have caught her in the middle of her quest for the amulet of peace and prosperity, we may be headed for trouble,” Mingus said.

“The Kairos?  Trouble?”  Lockhart joked and at least Katie laughed.

“But that is the trouble,” Boston shouted.  “We can’t catch her anywhere if she won’t keep still.”

Lincoln had to add something, just to be contrary.  “On the other hand, if we were in Syria, we would probably in the middle of a war.  Take your pick.”

zagros 6Lockhart frowned at everyone as they came to the edge of the woods.  They came to a grassland that appeared to stretch all of the way to the distant hills.  “The way looks good up ahead.  Time to ride.”  At least when the group rode, only the two side by side could talk.  They mounted, even as Decker rode in from the flank, and Elder Stow joined them on the other side.

“Dragon,” Decker said, and Elder Stow pointed.

“Damn,” Lincoln looked all around the sky.

“The rocks?”  Katie suggested.

“Back to the rock outcropping,” Lockhart shouted.  “Tie the horses under the trees as near to the rocks as possible.”  People turned around.

“I see it.”  Lincoln pointed to a dot in the sky.  No one doubted that the dot would get very big, very quickly.

“Decker.  Elder Stow.  Up in the trees.  Protect the horses.”  Lockhart gave instructions as they tied the horses to whatever low hanging branch they could find.  “Lincoln, stay with the horses to cut them loose if things get too hot.  Alexis, Mingus and Boston up on the rocks.  Think of something.  Katie, with me.  We need to protect the magic makers.”dragon 3

The dragon came in high, breathing fire that licked the tree tops.  Everyone heard Elder Stow’s sonic device.  Boston and Mingus covered their ears at the sound, while the air around the dragon waffled.  It lost its stability and had to work hard to keep from crashing to the ground.

Decker and Katie opened up with their rifles, firing three-shot bursts.  The dragon’s natural armor repelled most of the bullets, but there were some softer spots where bullets struck home.  The rest of the bullets spanked and bruised the beast.

Alexis fired two arrows, empowered by both Mingus and Boston.  One exploded by the dragon’s belly, and the other blew up against the wing, no doubt straining the muscles there.  Lockhart stood, close as the dragon was.  He shot buckshot into the dragon’s face and neck, and ducked as the dragon let out a short burst of flame.

The dragon rose up to get out of range.  It circled the travelers once from overhead before it headed off back into the sky.

“I would say it lost interest,” Lockhart decided.  “There must be easier prey out there.”

“They are smart,” Mingus countered.  “They are perfectly capable of setting up an ambush.”

“We need to get out of the trees,” Lincoln said, as they untied their horses and walked them back to the wide open ground at the edge of the woods.

zagros 3Katie was the only one who said something while they walked, and she merely whispered to Lockhart.  “How dare you stand up like that in a dragon face.”

When they got to the edge of the forest, they got ready to ride, but Decker pointed and made them pause.

“We have company up ahead,” Decker reported.

Elder Stow quickly checked his scanner.  “I’m picking up nothing.  There are carbon traces, but I get no life forms.”

“We go look,” Lockhart said.  It was an easy decision as they rode across a flat, open field.  There were no trees, and the next set of rocks for hiding were much further on.

“Not good,” Katie managed to say before they started out.  She was feeling uncomfortable about what might be in the distance, and Lockhart understood her elect instincts were acting up.  Katie, Mingus and Boston actually pulled up first, though the others were not far behind.

“Dead people,” Boston called them, being able to see them clearly with her elf eyes.

Twenty skeletons blocked the way and started toward them when they stopped.  Decker and Elderskeletons 2 Stow came in from the flanks where a dozen more blocked each side.  Lockhart was prepared to tell everyone to turn around, but Boston screamed once because they were behind as well.  They rode into the middle of the trap.

Decker just looked at his rifle.  What good was shooting a skeleton?  Elder Stow tried his sonic device.  The ones out front shook, but did not collapse.  They kept coming, and the ones to their sides began to fire arrows, though they were still out of range.

“Forward,” Lockhart said.  The ones there were closest, even with the temporary shaking.

“Alexis,” Mingus commanded her attention.  Mingus and Boston gave the reigns of their horses to Lockhart and Katie.  Lincoln took Alexis’ horse with his own, while Alexis went to join her family.

Boston put her hand on Mingus’ shoulder as Alexis took her hand.  With three magics combined, Mingus started to throw out fireballs that exploded on contact.  Bones went everywhere, and the group began to move forward at a good walking pace before the ones on the sides and at their back got close enough to make their arrows effective.

“We need to hurry.”  Lincoln judged the tightening circle of skeletons.

Boston LF1“Boston.  We need your flamethrower,” Mingus said, and he touched her shoulder.  Alexis let go of Boston’s hand and touched her other shoulder.  Boston got out her wand.  The skeletons in front appeared to have enough self-awareness to understand it was pointless to get too close to the fire—or maybe it was the one pulling the strings.  The exploding fireballs were devastating, but the flamethrower was unrelenting.  With skeletons burning in front, people quickly mounted and rode the gauntlet.  They made it past the burning bones without an arrow strike and almost celebrated before another two-dozen rose up again to their front.  Some of them still had vestiges of flesh clinging to their bones.

“We must have stumbled into a graveyard,” Katie shouted.  She felt helpless.  For all her strength and fighting skill as an elect, she felt stymied.  Her rifle and sidearm were useless.  She might chop her way through with her Patton saber, but there were so many of them.  She would probably collapse from exhaustion before she got everyone clear.

A strong light came from the edge of the group of travelers.  Elder Stow had his weapon out.  The skeletons in front of the group went to dust under the blast of Elder Stow’s hand weapon.

“I don’t know what I was saving this for,” Elder Stow said as the travelers began to ride to try and get beyond the reach of the fifty or so skeletons now coming up behind them.  They came to a small rise in the field, and halted at the top of that rise.  Down below, there were two or three hundred skeletons rising from their graves.skeletons 1

“Mingus, Boston and Alexis up front,” Lockhart said.  “Elder Stow, let’s try to get the ones at our rear.  Katie, Decker and Lincoln, Patton sabers.”  They stood around the horses like people prepared to face the inevitable.

Something whistled in the wind.

“What is that sound?” Boston asked first, and Mingus looked up and all around.  Something flew overhead, something invisible, though they felt the breeze, and they saw the skeletons behind get swallowed in a ball of flame a hundred times bigger and stronger than Mingus, Boston and Alexis could produce, even with every ounce of their combined magic.

“Dragon,” Katie guessed.

“Invisible dragon,” Lockhart did not disagree, though the thought was frightening.

“They are collapsing again,” Alexis reported from the front, and everyone watched as several hundred dead went back to being dead.  All the same, they saw the dragon flame spray all across the field in front of them before the dragon became visible—the most enormous dragon they had ever seen.  But it was one they had seen before, and they saw it quickly shrink as it came close.  When it was no bigger than a person, it took the shape of a person, and Boston had to shout.

“Nuwa dragon.”

“Boston,” Nuwa responded with a smile, and open arms.

“Thank you for saving us.”  Boston accepted the hug.

Nuwa 8“Yes,” everyone agreed.

“It was nothing, literally.  As soon as I showed up, the sorcerer withdrew in an attempt to hide.  I am sure he has more tricks, but I hope he will keep them to himself as long as I am here.  Shall we go find Thalia?”

“You ride with me,” Kartie said quickly.

“Oh man, speedy girl,” Boston complained.  “I was going to ask her.”

“Which way?” Lockhart took Boston’s attention, and she pulled out her amulet.  Boston pointed and Nuwa shook her head.

“That is a rough road; not one for horses.  I know a shortcut.”

“Shortcut?” Lincoln asked.

“I do make roads for a living.”  Nuwa smiled.

Avalon 4.2: part 5 of 6, Caught

The travelers caught up with the thieves when the thieves stopped for a good, long lunch.  Lockhart, Decker, Avi, Devya, and four men of the city guard circled around to cut off the way to Merv.  Katie, Lincoln, Elder Stow and six more guards held the road to Sanctuary.  The groups kept in touch with the wrist-watch communicators, and Lockhart gave what he thought were some simple instructions.

“Patton sabers, everyone.  Last time, the guns failed to fire near the amulet.  I don’t know if the sabers will be any more effective, but I figure it does not interfere with Devya cutting her meat at the table.  Hopefully we won’t have to find out.  Keep back and let Devya and Avi negotiate.  Tell Elder Stow he might want to cover you with his screen, just in case.  Katie, disengage and return to Sanctuary if it gets hostile.  Avi says we can get help in Merv.”

“Archamenis!” Devya called out to the man as her group approached and stopped with plenty of distance between them.  “You have taken my property.  Return the amulet and I will let you go in peace.”Nuwa a1

Lockhart did a double take as Nuwa walked up beside him.  He looked at Devya and back at Nuwa as she spoke.

“I am a greater spirit.  I can take any form I wish.”

Lockhart nodded.  “This one is not so frightening, though I would imagine the little ones might not think so.”

“You mean like these?” Nuwa said with a smile and a wave of her hand.  Lockhart caught a glimpse of a dozen gnomes in the grass, prepared with bows, arrows and long knives to do battle.  He had no doubt there were another dozen on the other side, and who all knew what else.

“You mean this?” Archamenis grinned an awful grin and held up a necklace with a bright, red ruby on the end.  The ruby looked as big as Lockhart’s fist, or at least the size of Boston’s fist.  “But with this I can defeat all my enemies and my people will always prosper.”

“If you were a good Magi your people would prosper because you would not have any enemies,” Avi shouted back.

Archamenis’ grin turned to a frown as a man came up and whispered to him.  He looked around and saw Katie and the others behind him.  When he turned back, he looked for Devya, but could not find her.  Vanu had slipped through time to stand in her place, and he clothed himself with the armor and weapons of the Kairos.

“That is my blood stone,” Vanu hollered and stuck out his hand.  The necklace nearly vacated Archamenis’ hand, but he grabbed it tight and the man beside him helped.

“No!  I will keep it for my people.” Archamenis yelled.

“As you future people say,” Nuwa smiled again for Lockhart.  “Showtime.”  She vanished, even as Vanu went away to be replace by Mikos.  Mikos stuck his hand out and the ground rumbled.  He Mikos 2was a demigod, after all, the son of Ares, god of war.

Water pressed up from beneath and burst through the surface in a number of places, shooting toward the sky like an oil gusher.  Nuwa, the dragon, let out a roar and burst of flame over everyones head at the same time.  The earth shook like an earthquake, and Archamenis and his men shouted and screamed, and fell to their knees and faces.  Archamenis dropped the amulet.

Lockhart just stood there, staring.  He wondered where the gnomes went.  Decker and Avi said nothing.  Neither one looked surprised, until Decker pointed.  Katie came riding out from the other side.  The big black horse she called Beauty could not be mistaken, even if their view of her was clouded by the water and the steam.  No one attempted to stop her as she rode up to Archamenis, got down, grabbed the amulet, and let Beauty finish the trip to the other side.

“Katie!” Mikos yelled at her one second before Lockhart yelled.

Katie handed the amulet to Avi as Lockhart grabbed her and pulled her aside for a real yelling.  Meanwhile, the water settled down, Nuwa settled down, and Devya came back to receive the necklace from her husband and put it around her neck.

“Archamenis.  You and your men need to go.  Now.” Devya yelled.  Some of the men began to peal themselves off the ground and collect their things.  “I did not say get your things and go.  I just said, go.”dragon 1

“But—” Archamenis did not know what to say, as dozens of gnomes and others appeared suddenly and urged the men to move off.  Some ran and some screamed, but most walked with their heads down.

“Archamenis.  you can have your horses and things back when you come to Sanctuary and ask my forgiveness and promise not to steal again.” Devya said, and turned to say something to Nuwa, but the dragon was focused on the distance.

###

Boston had chills in the night, but she slept.  Alexis stopped crying around midnight, but she refused to speak to either of the others before she also slept.  Father Mingus kept his mouth closed all night, and kept to himself.  No one could say that he slept.  And the rain continued all night long.

It was still raining in the morning when the servants brought as warm a meal as they could prepare.  At least it was not waterlogged.  Alexis and Mingus ate in silence, while Boston wept softly and looked back and forth between the two.  Alexis had let it all out, and no doubt regretted it.  Mingus had nothing to say, because however slanted he might call her words, they were essentially true.  After the meal, Alexis and Mingus went their separate ways.  Boston put her head down on the table and moped.

dev temple 2Lunch was much of the same, and the tableau might have continued into the afternoon if a city guard, one of the few left in the city, had not come running up, yelling.  “The Afridi have broken into the city.  They have come in the south gate and they have weapons and plan to take the city.”

The servants screamed as one older man grabbed the city guard.  “You know this?”

“Why else would they come with weapons?”

Mingus interrupted.  “Obviously they do not mean good.”

The old man began to shout orders to the servants and guardsmen who were coming up the palace steps.  Men and women started pushing furniture to the terrace to hide behind, and the old man turned to their guests.

“You have horses.  You should ride out while you can.”

Mingus looked up and for the first time caught the whiff of something familiar.  “All the same, I think we stay.  Boston.  Alexis.”  He began to give some order of his own.

By the time the first Afridi came rushing up the street, Boston had her bow out and never ending arrows.  Mingus had treated a number of the arrows, as he had before, and she began to shoot them at the oncoming horde.  They exploded.  Some in front of the crowd, but some within the crowd.  A couple exploded on the stone and wood was of the nearby houses and showered the enemy with stone shards and deadly splinters.  The Afridi backed off, even as Boston shot another arrow and it did nothing.

“I don’t get it.  Why didn’t it explode?” Boston asked.

Mingus pointed up, and they all heard a laugh and saw the face of the djin in the cloud.

“Devya!” Boston yelled.dev rain 1

Mingus had a different idea.  “Nuwa.  Fuxi.  We need you to defend Sanctuary.”  Being an elder elf, he knew his words would carry, that is, if the djin did not catch them and cut them off.

Alexis had a third idea.  Even as the Nuwa dragon and Devya were looking up, and Lincoln and elder Stow were joining the group, a word came across the wrist-watch communicators.  It was faint and crackling with interference, but they heard Alexis.

“Benjamin.  Help.  It is the djin.”  Then the sound cut off.

Avalon 4.2: part 4 of 6, Missing Peace

Miras and Megul the Short took the main part of the city watch with them up the hills and into the mountains toward Samarkand.  Chuchi and Fuxi dragon also went with them so the dragon could clear the way, if necessary.  Decker meditated, and let his eagle eye fly up over the road.  He saw no large group of travelers, but admitted there were plenty of places where the rocks and trees obscured his vision.

“My only concern is if they find our thieves, Fuxi may eat them, along with the amulet.  That would not be good,” Devya said.dragon 11

“Your son will be able to control the dragon?” Katie wondered.

“Not exactly,” Avi admitted.  “But the dragon has adopted my children like they were his own—like they are the children of Fuxi and Nuwa.”  He pointed at Devya and explained no more.

“Are we ready?” Lockhart asked, and they headed out on the road to Merv.  Devya and Avi were bringing a few men and were grateful for the traveler’s willingness to help.  Decker and Lincoln took the point.  Lockhart, Katie, and Elder Stow with his eyes glued to his scanner, came with the main group.  “Gonna rain,” Lockhart mumbled with a last look at the darkening sky as they pushed into the wilderness and Bactra fell out of sight.

Mingus, Boston and Alexis stayed behind, over the protests of both Alexis and Boston.  Boston wanted to be with Devya, goddess of all the elves.  Alexis kept saying if there was a confrontation, they might need her healing skills, but Mingus would not hear it, and in this case, Lincoln agreed that she would be safer staying behind.

“The time gate is east of here, maybe by the Khyber pass,” Boston admitted.  “The others are going on an errand away from the gate, but I figure this time I don’t have the skills they need.  No alien contraptions to analyze and fix, you know.  Lockhart is like a sheriff in real life, gong after the thieves.  The marines will help, and Lincoln I guess has some similar experience from his days with the CIA.  They honestly don’t need us,” Boston tried to make sense of it for Alexis.  “We would just get in the way.”

Alexis folded her arms, determined to be in a bad mood.

When the rain started to fall, and the lightning split the sky, it all poured out of her.  Alexis caught her father Mingus encouraging Boston and showing her all manner of kindness, and she exploded.

“You two-faced, hypocritical—you never treated me like that, your own daughter.”  That was where it began, and Alexis held nothing back.  He lived in the history department and ignored his own children.  She practically had to raise herself.  She wondered why he even wanted children.  Poor Alexis 5Mingus tried weakly to defend himself, but her words were close enough to the truth, he could hardly speak.  Poor Boston sat and covered her mouth, but her eyes got big.

When Alexis married Benjamin, it was a good thing he did not come to her wedding because she did not want him there.  When he kidnapped her and dragged her back to the eighteenth century, what?  Was he trying to start over?  Well, it was too late.  Then when he dragged her back to the beginning of time, it was not to save her, but to save his own skin.  He knew he did wrong and did not want to be caught.  He would have killed her in the chaos before history if the Kairos had not saved her.  And now he was responsible for everyone being stuck in the past and desperately trying to get home without being killed.  He is responsible for every bad thing that happens on this journey, including the death of Doctor Procter, and including the death of his own son.

Boston shrieked beneath her hand.  They had no evidence either was dead, but the evidence was strong that they might very well be dead.

Alexis was not finished.  “And then,” she said.  “And then you kidnapped me again.”  Worse.  He violated her mind, like raping his own daughter.  Like incest.  And now, he is acting like mister nice guy to Boston, poor young child.

“Well, guess what?  It is not going to bring your son back to life.”  Alexis covered her face against her tears and ran off.  Mingus dared not follow.  Boston dared not so much as move.

###

“The amulet is infused with the greater spirits of peace and prosperity,” Devya tried to explain what Vanu once tried to explain.  “They radiate out from the amulet and affect a much larger area than just the immediate area around the amulet.  They kind of get into the brain and make nice thoughts.  Neighbors help neighbors and life is good.  I am afraid without it, all of the different tribes and people groups that pass through here will be forever at war.”

“From what Lincoln told me about the timing of everything,” Katie said, thinking out loud.  “Aren’t we about a thousand years or more from the settlement of the Medes and Persians?”

Devya shook her head.  “The people begin to move into the area now, and on down into Iran.  By av horse 8the time the Assyrians come along and more or less force the Medes to become a cohesive people, they already have a thousand year history of slowly changing from divergent tribes through trade and marriage and each adding their two cents, to a relatively common culture and one, or at most a couple of common languages, like Median and Persian.  They are like the Scandinavian languages get to be in the twentieth century.  They share a lot of word, or similar words, even if it takes some effort to understand each other.  But by then, which part of the culture is Median and which is Persian, or originally Elamite or Mesopotamian for that matter is anybody’s guess.”

“I see,” Katie said, while Lockhart was not so sure.

“You know, Avi is the first Magi,” Devya said proudly

Avi shook his head and pointed at Devya.  “She says it has to be a man.  I think she did the same thing to Lin’s husband, making him the first Emperor of the Hsian people.”

“That is not a very good thing for feminism,” Lockhart pointed out.  “Aren’t you helping to create the patriarchy?”

Devya looked down for a moment.  “Honestly, before the twentieth century, it is too hard for women.  I have children, a family, a home, and a husband to take are of, and I hardly have the time or energy for anything else, even with some willing servants.  Men have to get stuck with all the religious and political muckety-muck.  Either that or they have to be house husbands.  But I would never do that to my children.”  Devya grinned.  “Not to say Avi is not a wonderful man, but you know what I mean.”

pep ind dravid 4“I have a hard enough time trying to be a good father,” Avi admitted.  “I am amazed at what a good mother Devya is, and I admit, I could never do that.”

“See?  He even knows what to say.” Devya leaned over to kiss him and almost fell off her pony.

Lockhart thought to say his ex-wife was a good mother, before she turned the children against him, but he looked at Katie and bit his tongue.

“Lincoln is signaling,” Katie pointed to interrupt.

“That means good, solid ground ahead.  We need to ride.” Lockhart shouted the last and Avi echoed the words for his men, and then everyone had to concentrate on hanging on to their horses.

Just before sundown, they stopped in a grassy valley.  Decker let his eagle eye fly again into the heavens, and he spied the group of thieves camped about a half-day away.  It seemed like they were in no hurry to reach Merv.  Lockhart made a command decision.

“Break here to rest and get some sleep.  We will leave before dawn and hopefully catch them in the morning.”

“I am gad they are not on the mountain road to Samarkand,” Avi said.

They settled in for food and rest, but Katie found another question.  “Magi?”

“Magus,” Devya answered.  “Wise men in the Bible.  Magicians full of magic, soothsaying, and astrology in other stories.  Evil sorcerers to the Muslims, who hunt them down and kill them.  But then, I suppose everything that is not Islam is automatically evil to the Muslims.”

“So I have understood,” Lockhart said, as he took a seat beside Katie.

Devya smirked.  “Anyway, right now they are like the priest-rulers.  When they go with the Indo-Aryans into the Indus about a thousand years from now, they will be called the Brahmins, the priestly caste and highest caste, even above the warriors.  There, they will still be Vedic priests and sometimes Rajas, which is rulers.  The Iranians, that is the Medians and Persians will retain the Avestan name, Magi, and while at first they will congregate around certain cities, like Rhaga, in time they spread their teaching down into Persia and elsewhere.  That cultural mixing, remember?Devya 2  In those days they might be more like the Persian form of Druids, or maybe Levites, born by blood more than any necessary holiness.”

“The teachings of Zarathustra,” Katie said.

“Yes, mostly, with plenty of older fire cult and Mithras mixed in.  But Zoroaster has not been born yet.  That won’t be until the Vedic-Avestan split with the Indians going Vedic and the Iranians going Avestan.  And don’t ask how that came about.  It’s complicated.”

“My wife says that, plenty.” Avi said, as he sat next to her.  “It’s complicated.” He smiled at some memory.

Lockhart nodded, and glanced again at Katie.  Katie was content to know he was thinking of her.

Avalon 4.2: part 3 of 6, Sanctuary

Devya paced.  She was angry and upset.  She felt like screaming.

“Mother,” the young man in the room spoke up to calm her.  “They will be back soon.  Father will have the amulet and everything will be all right, you will see.”

Devya paused.  She placed a gentle hand against her son’s cheek and smiled for him.  Then she turned and screamed.  “What is wrong with me?  I trusted people.”

“Trusting is not a bad thing,” The short man by the window said.  “You trusted me to be mayor of pep ind dravid 3your little city, and I have tried to live up to your trust.”

Devya stopped pacing again and assured the man.  “You have done a good job, Megul the Short.  In fact, you may be mayor for a third term if you keep it up.”  She smiled again, but Megul the Short sighed and nodded.  Being Mayor was not an easy job.  Already hundreds of light skinned people from the steppes had moved down to the green and fertile land round the  city.  Keeping the peace among the tribes was not hard as long as the amulet of peace and prosperity was in place, but there was no telling what might happen once that magical help was removed.

Devya started pacing again.  It was a very big room, so she had plenty of room to move, and the big table in the center, where Chuchi had taken a seat to watch his mother, allowed her to pace around it in a wide circle, rather than just pacing back and forth.  She paused at the table where a crude map was laid out.

“There is no way to avoid it,” she breathed, though loud enough for everyone to hear.  “The City of Sanctuary is not enough.  We will have to build a little kingdom and exert more control over our connections to the silk road.  I would say from the Khyber pass, up to Bukhara.  From Samarkand to Merv in the other direction.”

Megul the short left his friend by the window and came to where Devya was leaning over the map, and Chuchi was looking over her shoulder.  “That is a lot of territory to control,” Megul the Short Devya 3protested.  “That may be more than any of the Holy Cities of the Indus control.”

“We don’t have to control it.  We just want to oversee it in a sense, to encourage the ideals of Sanctuary.  To support the peace and prosperity of all the people, especially when people begin to move in here by the thousands and tens of thousands.  We need to have a reasonable structure already in place.”

“Horses in the gate,” the man by the window reported, and the others all went to look

“Thank you , Miras,” Devya said, sounding better now that she had decided something.

###

The travelers were led up a steep path to the city gate, the city, really hardly a town, sat on the top of a hill.  It had a wall around it, stone and well fitted, and Katie had to remark.

“I smell Shemsu work in the fitting of those stones.”

“Probably cut, carried from some distant quarry and fitted perfectly.  The Shemsu way,” Lincoln spoke up from behind.  “It says here that Devya’s people have Shemsu roots.  From Zisudra’s day, I would guess.  Devya herself is described as having skin as dark as an African, but with Caucasian features and eyes as blue as the sky.”

“A fair description of my wife,” Avi interrupted.  “And yes, she speaks often of the Shemsu talent with stone, but right now we need hunters to track down whoever stole the amulet.  Devi says with all of the Indo-Iranians that are due to move in and through the area, without the amulet we can expect nothing but war and killing, and the destruction of our fertile valleys.”dev temple 8

They all dismounted, and Lincoln and Alexis volunteered to set the horses for the night so the others could go inside the temple, or cathedral, which is what the palace looked like.  As they crossed the front covered porch to go inside, Lockhart pointed out the rocking chairs.

“My favorite pastime,” Avi admitted.  “I can sit and rock for hours.  Devi says one day, far in the future, Romans and Han will meet here and rock and make treaties.  I do not know who these Romans and Han may be, but living in peace is a good thing.  I have seen too much of the alternative in my life.”

“As have we all,” Katie agreed.

“Boston!”  It was the first thing they heard when they went inside.

“Nuwa dragon already covered that,” Boston said, and stuck out her tongue.

“I see you are maturing in your elf life,” Devya said, as she reached out and gave Boston a hug.  “Lockhart, I am glad you are here.”

Avi went straight for his wife, Devya, and kissed her, which made her smile.

“I’m over forty, and he still makes me smile,” she said.  “Where is Alexis?” she looked around.  “Alexis would understand.”

dev amulet 1“She and Lincoln are looking after the horses,” Lockhart said, anxious to hear about what was going on.  “So Vanu,” he referred to a time zone almost fifteen hundred years in the past, real time.  “Did Dayni’s brother and friend steal the amulet again?”

Devya offered a grin as she remembered.

“You are not supposed to tell her about lifetimes she does not remember for herself,” Mingus scolded.

“It’s all right,” Devya assured them.  “Remembering Vanu was how I thought to get the amulet and bring it here to Sanctuary.”  She stepped to the back of the room where there were arched openings that led out to a tremendous cobblestone court.  She only took one step out, the others hovering behind and around her shoulders, and she called at the top of her lungs.  “Fuxi!”

A giant dragon materialized in the courtyard, and yawned, like he had been sleeping.  “I see you found your friends,” he said.

“Fuxi,” Devya said, sternly.  “Please look up and down your road once again, from Bukhara to the Khyber pass and tell me what you see.”  Fuxi rattled off information about several tribal groups, merchants, farmers, and one group of children paying in the road, but none were the ones Devya was looking for.  Fuxi yawned again as Devya gave her instructions.  “Stay in the court for now.  Do not wander off.  We will need you to help seek out the thieves in a very short while.”  Fuxi said nothing, while Devya led everyone back inside to the map on the table.

“I take it Fuxi saw us on the road,” Lockhart surmised.

Avi nodded.  “We did not expect you to be the thieves, but we thought you might have seen them if they hurried to Bukhara before we noticed the amulet was missing.”

“About thirty men came here a week ago and camped below the city,” Devya explained.  “They were not a typical migration group, being only men without women and children.  that should have raised what you call red flags, but I have been preparing our people to receive migrants by the hundreds and thousands over the next few hundred years, so no one said anything.”pep ind men

“Migrants?”  Katie, the doctor in ancient and medieval history and technology asked.

Devya stopped moving and turned to face everyone to be sure she had all of their attention.  She did not want to repeat herself.  “Yes,” she said.  “People are moving from the north, Siberia, from around the Caspian and Aral and the Tien Shan,  They are moving from all around and north of the black sea.  They are moving.  Areas become over hunted, populations get too big, groups push against groups, people begin to discover agriculture and look for where the grass is greener.”

“People are still just discovering agriculture?” Lockhart asked with some surprise.

“Yes, hush,” Katie hushed him, and Devya continued.

“This place, from Samarkand to Merv and from Bukhara to the Khyber is green.  The Monsoons off the Indian ocean have shifted to come up through Iran and we have benefited.  Tens of thousands, and over the centuries, hundreds of thousands of people will come here, but most will not stay.  History has called them the Indo-Irannian people, but they are really a very diverse people from many places.  When the giants in Iran recede, many will move down into that land and become Medes and Persians, and others.  Eventually, groups known as Indo-Aryans will move through the pass and invade the Indus, though it won’t be a conquest type invasion, more of a gradual takeover as the Indus dries and the Harappan people move down into the subcontinent.  Climate change, you know.  Eventually, the monsoons will shift back to the Indus and Iran will begin to dry, but that won’t happen for a long time.”

“So this is like the birthplace, like the womb for whole people groups and eventual great civilizations,” Katie said, with her eyes wide as if something just clicked in her thinking.

“Yes, but it will be a thousand years of blood if we cannot retrieve the amulet of peace and prosperity.  It must cover the land, and especially the center point, here, in the city which is supposed to be sanctuary.  Without it, we are doomed to war as these various groups fight for supremacy.”

“I can see that,” Decker said, and Lockhart, Katie, Elder Stow and Mingus all looked at him, wondering what was on his mind.  Boston looked at the map on the table.

nat Rhodes inand“What are these lines?” she asked.  “They look like more roads.”

“Very good, sweetheart,” Devya responded briefly as she also looked at Dekcer

“They are,” Chuchi said.  “But they are human made roads, not so good.  Especially the crooked one that edges the mountains to Samarkand.”  Chuchi pointed and smiled hard at Boston.  “Mother calls it a short-cut, but in truth it takes almost as long as going around by way of Bukhara.”  He leaned over to get closer to her face.  “This road is easier to follow, but longer.  It goes to Merv.”

Devya stepped between them.  “No, my son,” she spoke to Chuchi.  “She is an elf, and married.”

“Mother,” Chuchi protested, but the others smiled, except Mingus who appeared to be thinking hard.  Lincoln and Alexis came in at that point and Lincoln had to ask.

“So what did I miss?”

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

You don’t have to miss anything.  Be sure to return next Monday (Tuesday and Wednesday) for the conclusion of Avalon, episode 4.2 The Storm Overhead.  The clouds are gathering as the travelers go in search of the missing amulet of peace and prosperity, and confront the thieves who stole it…

kavalon travelers horse 1

Avalon 4.2: part 2 of 6, The Silk Worm

You don’t have any wings,” Boston pointed out to the dragon something the others were being polite not to say.

“No need,” The dragon responded.  “I can fly well without wings.  This is not my natural form.  I am a greater spirit of the wilderness, or I was once.  My um…  My er…  My mate and I took this form to honor those magnificent beasts.”

“Your mate?”  Alexis now became curious.

“Indeed.  I was charged by Brama to open the way between the Tien Shan and the Zagros Mountains.  Tien of Heaven asked me to continue the work all the way to Longjo, the western edge of the Hsian world.  I have been many times to Lake Bosten.”

“Hey!  That is my lake,” Boston interrupted.dragon 1

The dragon smiled, which is something no one knew she could do.  “Yes, little one,” she said, and continued.  “But I have only been once to the small forts of Tufri, Hami. Axi, and Wewi.  I have never actually been to Longjo.”

“Your work stops at the Zagros Mountains?” Katie was the historian and a bit of a geographer, as far as that went.

“Indeed.  The Masters Enlil and Enki praised my work but said it was enough for one.  They have others in Elam and Susania, and through Mesopotamia to the great western sea that will make a way, and have finished the great silk road.  Though it be a long time, perhaps centuries before this road becomes filled with caravans, it is ready.”

“The only thing missing is road signs,” Decker joked.  “Maybe a stop sign where the road from the south meets the main highway here.”

“Indeed, no, Major,” the dragon smiled again. “Lady Devya has stressed that I must not import future things to this age, though road signs would help.  Sadly, none in this age really know how to read.”

“But your mate?” Alexis got back to her question.

“He has from this village that Devya calls Bukhara, through her village of Palishkul, that she sometimes calls Bactra to the gap in the mountains she calls the Khyber, and by the invitation of the Great Varuna, down into the land of the Indus, where she was born.  I have not been that way.”

“Your voice sounds very familiar,” Mingus said, curious.

“I was going to say that very thing,” Elder Stow agreed.

“But your mate?”  Alexis seemed to be stuck there.

Nuwa and Fuxi“Fuxi,” the dragon said.  “He once joined with Fuxi, and for a time the two became as one being, like a great serpent-man, and thus my mate became Fuxi the idiot.  I miss him, but not that much.”

“Nuwa,” Lockhart named the dragon, and the others nodded.

The dragon Nuwa also appeared to nod.  “When Nuwa and I became as one being, we built the twelve Quans, the forts along the Huang He made to defend the river people from the Qinjong and other nomads who come into the river valley for any reason other than peace.”  Nuwa’s dragon eyes became moist and a couple of tears fell, steaming hot to the ground.  “When Nuwa and I were one, I saw far too much of the future, and her future, or his especially.  The poor Kairos.  How can any god be so cruel to burden her with so much responsibility, so many impossible tasks.  I weep for her every night.”

“People,” Decker interrupted.  “We got company.”  Two dozen men were riding out of the little village on step ponies, and they appeared to be armed.  Obviously, the travelers had been spotted on the road, and it looked like the locals were wondering if they were friendly or trouble.  The travelers watched the Nuwa dragon become visible and held their ears against the roar.  The fire was just a warning, but the locals turned their ponies as fast as they could and raced home, no doubt to lock their doors, if they had locks.

“Maybe we better not stay the night in this village,” Lockhart said, as he yawned to clear the ringing in his ears.

“Please do,” the Nuwa dragon said.  “The people will not bother you in the night.”

“But we usually try to make friends,” Alexis complained.

“Yes, I am sorry, but I can say this much, Boston!”  She yelled her name and smiled again.  “I am sure Devya will say it again when you see her.”

Boston grinned and moved her horse, Honey, toward the village.  The others followed, and Nuwa moved with them, invisible again to all but the travelers.

###dragon 0

When the morning came, they wished the Nuwa dragon well and she returned the blessing.

“I will be moving slowly toward the village Devya calls Merv.  I will move slowly because I smell trouble, and I dare not be far from her if she needs me.”

“I don’t sense any enemies near,” Katie said.

“Lincoln is usually the one with the suspicious instinct,” Alexis added, but Lincoln shrugged.

“And Lockhart,” Boston said with a grin.  “He can’t get that police training out of his system.”

“I sense something uncertain,” Mingus said.  “Like something that should not be, but it is vague and unclear.”

Lockhart thought hard, but in the end he shrugged like Lincoln.  Decker spoke.  “Elder Stow, stay sharp,” and he rode out to his position on the wing while Elder Stow moved more slowly to ride on the other side.

It was just before lunch when they got approached by a dozen men on ponies.  The men did not pause on seeing them, but rode straight to talk to the travelers.

“Glamours everyone,” Lockhart reminded his crew as they rode up from the rear and in from the flanks to present a united front.

The men rode to within twenty feet, and one rode to the front.  He looked twice at the travelers before he spoke.

“Good elves, did you pass anyone between here and Bukhara?”

“Did my glamour slip?” Boston turned to Mingus who hushed her, kindly.

nat nature 2Lockhart pushed forward, Katie beside him.  “We passed no one,” he said.  “What seems to be the trouble?  Maybe we can help.”

The man turned to look again at Eder Stow.  “You are a strange people.  Red hair and yellow hair.  Big monster horses with seats you sit upon and holders for your feet.  Your dress is strange.  I have not seen the like, and I have been up and down the whole silk road.  I think you need to talk to my wife.”

“Avi?” Lincoln asked.  When the man stared hard at Lincoln and nodded.  Lincoln returned the nod and added, “Devya’s husband.”  He tapped the database in his hand.

“But tell me, why are you looking for people on the road?”  Lockhart asked, his police instinct finally acting up.

“The amulet has been stolen,” Avi said.  Both Boston and Katie reached for their amulets in a moment of panic.  Avi saw and shook his head at them.  “I am speaking of the amulet of peace and prosperity.  Come.”  The locals turned around and the travelers joined them.  They skipped lunch and rode hard to make the village by nightfall.  Katie called the village Bactra or Balkh, but the locals said it was Palishkul which meant Sanctuary.