After 914 A.D. North Coast of Egypt
Kairos 105: Yasmina, Arabian Princess
Lincoln came around the wagon. Tony mumbled, “Old Roman Road.” Lincoln had the database out and read for a moment before Lockhart interrupted.
“Where are we?”
“We might be in Arabia. Yasmina was born in Mecca, daughter of… the ruler of Mecca under the Abbasids. Sorry, I can’t pronounce the names. It doesn’t matter because she ran away at age sixteen and…” He had to read for a moment. “I would guess we are somewhere on the coast of North Africa. That could be anywhere between Egypt and Morocco. Maybe Tunisia?”
Lockhart managed a grin. “That certainly clears that up.” Lincoln shrugged.
“Smells like Egypt,” Boston said as she and Katie came up beside Lockhart. Katie pointed in the direction they were to travel.
“Looks hot,” Lincoln said.
“What is the word?” Tony shouted ahead from the wagon. Nanette got down and got her horse. That would be a little less for the mule to carry in this heat.
“Sun at our back this morning. Sun in our eyes this afternoon,” Boston returned the shout, though that did not really say much. Tony turned the wagon to the old Roman road, and they moved out. Alexis had a comment when Nanette joined her on horseback at the back of the wagon.
“After so many time zones, I figure I am just along for the ride. Hard to believe I have actually learned to trust the men to get us where we need to go. Now, if only I could get them to stop and ask for directions.” she shrugged and almost laughed. Nanette did not exactly understand but she got the gist of it. “So, we can bring up the rear and work on your magic lessons. Lincoln says the other earth will be out of phase in the next time zone so you won’t be able to practice for the next three hundred years, however many time zones that may be.”
“All right,” Nanette agreed. She reached for her wand and she and her horse lifted about three feet off the ground, much to the horse’s protest. They settled down after a moment, and Nanette smiled, but Alexis shook her head.
“Telekinesis is too easy for you. We need to work on other things. I was thinking we could work on our glamours so the next time you are in China, you can make yourself look Chinese.”
Meanwhile, up front, Katie had a thought. “We may have to walk the horses more in this heat. Maybe we should think about getting Decker’s rope and let the horses take turns helping Ghost pull the wagon.”
Lockhart nodded and looked back. Ghost seemed to be doing fine. “Maybe take a longer lunch and stop a bit earlier in the evening,” he said. He glanced at Lincoln, but Lincoln had his nose in the database and hardly paid attention to where he was going. Fortunately, his horse had learned to follow the others.
Decker rode in from the wing. “Too many sand dunes on the wing. I’ll take a fly around at lunch.” He fit himself in beside Lincoln.
Elder Stow reported in. “I am picking up a large settlement about twenty-eight miles away. We may get there by evening, or in the morning depending on how far we get in this heat.”
“Roger,” Lockhart responded through his wristwatch communicator, but he said no more as Sukki came riding back from the front.
“We have people ahead, on the road,” she said. “Five or six armed men on camels. Boston called them Bedouins, but it was just a guess. She said maybe Berbers.”
“Fine,” Katie said, and thumbed Sukki to ride behind. Sukki fit in beside Decker while Lincoln dropped back to lead the wagon.
It did not take long to catch up to Boston. Elder Stow came in to ride beside her as they pushed into the line in front of Decker and Sukki. Lockhart looked back to be sure Lincoln was far enough away to not hear the conversation well. Hopefully, he would not shout out unwise answers to whatever questions these Berbers asked.
“You have come from Fustat?” the chief Berber asked without introducing himself. He talked like a soldier not interested in small talk. “This is the road to Fustat.”
“We were last in Norway,” Lockhart said. They all still had the fairy weave they wore shaped and colored like the Norwegians and Vikings they lived around for the last ten days, so it was an easy admission. “A land far to the north. We are looking for places where we may trade.” Trade was his one lie, a concession to simplify things.
The Berbers stared at the red and yellow hair in the group and did not doubt they were from a place most never heard of. The Berber chief heard of something. “I have heard of the land of ice and snow where the cold is so strong, even the bears turn white.”
“They have polar bears,” Lockhart said in a friendly manner, not knowing for sure, but he added, “It is normally not that cold.”
“There is a town ahead?” Katie asked.
The chief stared at Katie and her yellow hair. He did not answer her. Instead, he moved up to look at Decker. “You are their slave and guide?” he asked.
“I am their protector,” Decker responded with a scowl and cradled his rifle in his arms. The Berber took a careful look at the weapon, like he tried to figure something out, but he came out with another statement.
“I see two who look like they are from the land of silk.” He went again to the front of the column. “Your mule and horses will not survive this day without much water. They are not so good in this heat. Be warned. The Fatimid have great ships to drive away your longboats, and the people have no liking for Vikings, peaceful traders or not.”
“You ride like a military column,” one of the Berbers pointed out.
“Safer,” Lockhart said. “There are thieves on the road.”
The chief grunted and gave a short nod. “And you have many women.”
“Wives,” Katie said, just to be safe.
The man grunted again and gave a sharp retort which got his men up and moving. They quickly moved out of sight around a bend and behind a small ridge.
“I did not get a good feeling about that,” Katie said as they began to move again.
“Me neither,” Boston spoke up from behind
“Like maybe they are some of the thieves on the road?” Lockhart asked
“They seemed especially interested in Decker’s rifle,” Elder Stow said.
“No.” Katie considered her options and concluded. “Like a Masters bad feeling.”
“Yes,” Boston agreed.
The travelers kicked up plenty of sand and dust on the road that hardly qualified for a scrape in the ground. Lincoln drank all of his water and had to refill his canteen at lunchtime. They had a small barrel of water tied to the side of the wagon, a concession to having been in desert environments before, but no one checked it before leaving Norway. It was half empty and tasted stale.
“I know water is water,” Alexis said over lunch. “But we need to find some water in this time zone to fill our water supply. I think some of the water in our barrel has been sitting in that barrel since Canterbury, if not from Charlemagne’s day.”
“Ugh,” Lincoln said. Lockhart did not look too good, and neither did Decker. No one said much over lunch.
In the afternoon, it did not get better, especially when they realized they would not make the city before sundown. They came to an improved road—the coastal road, but the sign pointed up the road to Alexandria, and the way they were headed, to El Alamein. The sign said ten miles.
“Is that nautical miles?” Decker asked, attempting a joke, and rubbing his stomach.
“I would almost rather be in Arabia,” Lockhart said. “At least that was dry heat and not so humid.”
“I’m not sure those Berbers were a good choice.” Katie responded. “Something felt wrong about them.”
“Still bothered by them?” Alexis asked.
Katie nodded and Nanette spoke up. “I felt it too.”
Sukki said, “I know what you mean.” She rode out to join Boston on the point while Decker and Elder Stow rode back out on the wings.
When they found a place off the road where a few palm trees and a couple of fig trees grew, though it did not provide nearly enough shade, they stopped for the night. Lincoln said he would not be reporting that night, and promptly threw-up. Decker also threw-up. Lockhart set up his tent and immediately went to bed. Tony gave Ghost a good rub down, but then he also disappeared into his tent, without supper. Katie managed to get Elder Stow to set his screens around the camp before he went to bed and left the women to sit around the campfire and fret.
“A combination of something like heat stroke and bad water,” Alexis shared her diagnosis. “The men are bigger and need more water. We should feel lucky the horses are not showing any signs of illness.”
Katie nodded. “One-woman watch tonight. Nanette, Alexis, Me, Sukki, and Boston. We should probably leave at first light when it is not so hot and make El Alamein in the morning.”
“We may need to take a day for the men to rest before we move on,” Alexis added, and they ate figs and elf bread before some went to lie down.