Avalon 6.7 Yeti, part 4 of 4

“The witch and her outlaws came through here about three months ago,” Rajish explained.  “It was winter, but the storms were not nearly as bad as yesterday. Clearly, she set some traps for you.”

“Don’t play with that,” Lincoln interrupted.  Alexis wanted to touch the bandage around her head.  “Let it heal.”

Alexis put her hand down, reluctantly. “So, we are in a period when the other earth is near and leaking creative and variable energy into our universe?” Alexis asked, to distract her mind.

“Yes,” Rajish said.  “And we are at the beginning of the period, so that will continue for the next three hundred years or so, which will be five or six time zones.”

“Understood,” Lockhart said, as he, and Boston came in from a visit to the stables.

Elder Stow and Sukki quickly followed, coming from places unknown.

Decker and Katie came in sweating. They had been in the work room where they worked out with the monks, and showed them a few martial arts moves the monks did not know.

Since Millie and Evan were already present, Rajish clapped his hands and people brought in food.  Then Rajish spoke.

“Since everyone is here, awake, and alert, let me answer Katie’s question from yesterday—two questions actually.  The second is, I helped save civilization. We gathered the armies of the Ganges and stopped Darius at the Indus—an idea that may be repeated in a couple of hundred years when Alexander comes to call…though I seem to recall that things go differently for Diogenes.”  Rajish shrugged.  “To answer the first question, I am here hiding.”

People looked at each other. Boston spoke.  “What are you hiding from?”

“Well, let’s see.  Zoroaster caught the ear of Cyrus the Great, and now his grandsons and the Magi have taken the ear of Darius and have helped build and direct the Persian Empire.  I best stay out of that.  Then back home, in the Ganges, the Buddha is ready to start teaching, and all that he does, and Mahariva is establishing Jainism, and I really need to not interfere. I talked to Gautama when he was young, but all it did was make me realize I need to keep my mouth shut.  When I came here to deal with the Skudsku, I thought China might work; but then it occurred to me that Laozi is just finishing the Tao Te Ching, Confucius is about half-way through his epic works, and Sunzi is about ready to start writing his book.”

“What did Sunzi write?” Lockhart asked Katie, but Katie, Decker, and Lincoln all answered.

“The Art of War.”

“The point is,” Rajish continued. “These are transitional years in human history, and in human thinking.  I don’t know why it all bunches up like that, but from about six hundred BC to about three hundred, From Homer to after Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, everything changes.  I would say it fits nicely with the influx of creative and variable energy—magic energy from the Other Earth, but…  We won’t have another time like this until the enlightenment, and that fits mostly in years when the Other Earth is out of range.  I would give it another three hundred years then, from about 1650-1950. The age of reason and science, in art and music, and all those revolutions, including the industrial and technological kind.  I may feel different when I get there, but this time around, unless something comes to my attention, I think this hermitage is safe enough.”

“So, you are teaching the monks the martial arts?” Katie asked.  “How is that not interfering?”

“Yeah, well…”  Rajish shrugged.  “My contribution.  The Persians are very good.  They are not Spartans, but good.  And the many, constantly warring states in my homeland, in India, have developed many techniques.  The warring states in China won’t really start for another twenty to forty years. I am sure they will benefit greatly from the monks from here, and all the new monasteries that will be built. These people are Taoists, you know, given to folk religion.  So, will the Shaolin monastery be founded by Taoists or Buddhists?”  Rajish shrugged again.

“You don’t mind if I teach a few things?” Decker asked.

“Local weapons only.  No Patton sabers.  Hand-to-hand is okay, but use your judgment.  No anatomy lessons.”

“Understood,” Decker responded.

With that word, Alexis yawned. Rajish imagined she and Lincoln could use the extra rest.  There were only two more things he felt important to say while everyone sat present.

“Lincoln,” he said and waited for Lincoln’s full attention.  “I’m sorry, but Cortez is finished.”  He waited for Lincoln to nod.  “I have to figure out how to send the horse back to the 1870s so Casidy can get some trade-in value.  Probably not much.  But that leaves you three horses short, and there isn’t anything I can do about that right now with the Storyteller still missing and all.”

“That’s okay,” Katie spoke up.

“We talked about that earlier while Lincoln and Alexis were still in recovery,” Lockhart said.  He looked at Evan, and Evan and Millie both nodded.

“It should work,” Evan said.

Katie explained.  “Alexis can take back Misty Gray, and she and Lincoln can ride him.  Evan and Millie can ride on my horse, Black Beauty.  I will ride with Lockhart on Dog, even if it is a ridiculous name for a horse.”

Lockhart smiled.  The name worked for him.  He spoke.  “It isn’t an ideal solution.  We will have to walk the horses even more than we have.  And we may be in trouble if we need to get away in a hurry.”

“Build that bridge when we come to it,” Decker said.

“Not to mention the wear and tear the extra weight will put on those poor horses,” Katie said.  “I worry about the horses.  We have been riding them a long time.”

Rajish held up his hand.  “I understand.  I am trying to send some fresh mounts into the past, but that is not so easy.”

Lincoln interrupted.  “I think part of what happened to Cortez was he just got exhausted.”  Alexis nodded, pointed at Lincoln, and yawned at the same time.

Boston spoke up.  “Sukki and I will take Lincoln’s saddle and equipment.”

“Yes,” Sukki said, and almost closed her mouth when every eye turned to her.  She pulled up her courage.  “But what can we do about the traps of the witch?”  She turned her eyes to the floor.  Millie stepped in to help.

“From what all you say, it will take more than normal time to get to the next time gate, and we won’t be able to hurry up.  So, how can we do that, safely?”

You still have your chestnut?” Rajish asked.  He held out his hand, and Millie pulled it from a pocket she had in her dress.  She did not hesitate to hand it to the man. Rajish looked at it carefully, and continued his thoughts.  “I have three masters of the mystical arts.  Individually, they cannot match the witch, but combined, they should be able to sniff out whatever traps the witch may have set.”

“I assume we cannot continue to count on help from the Yeti,” Lockhart said.

“No,” Rajish shook his head.  “When the witch came through, my memory got jogged. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I remembered you, and that you would follow fairly soon, but I had no idea when that might be.  I let it be known to the Yeti and… whoever, to please help you.  I assumed the witch did not have your best interests in mind. The three stood against her, so she did not come here, but…”

“But look,” Evan interrupted.  “I knew Nanette.  She was a fine, kind, and lovely woman.  What happened to her?”

“Power corrupts, absolutely,” Lincoln suggested.

“That isn’t it,” Rajish said.  “The Nanette you know is still with Professor Fleming, I believe.  It was her concern for you traveling into the past that inspired her to beg Minerva for some way to help and protect you.  The goddess agreed, and before I could stop her, she made a duplicate Nanette, like a twin.”  Rajish shook his head.  “It was as I feared.  In the spiritual world, identical twins, same gender, are rare and special.  When they are like fraternal twins, like Apollo and Artemis, they are fine, but identical twins are often a problem.  It is mostly a human myth, but in the spiritual world, it is often true enough that there is one good twin and one bad twin.  I feared this would happen.  The fact that Nanette has proved to be a very capable witch is a complication.”

“I’ll say…” Alexis yawned again and laid the non-bandaged side of her head against Lincoln’s shoulder.  She appeared to be ready to sleep.

Rajish stood.  “You need to stay here a few days.  Alexis, being a healer, will heal faster than most.  Still, I wouldn’t recommend moving her for a few days.”

###

When the time came, the three mystics helped the travelers avoid a flash flood in a valley as they headed toward the foothills.  They avoided a tiger attack one morning as they climbed up into those hills, and on one evening, they drove off an attack from a pack of about fifteen dholes. Lockhart thought they were jackals, but Elder Stow said they were more like hyenas.

Elder Stow and Decker each took one of the mystics to ride with them.  Sukki and Boston doubled up on Boston’s horse, Honey, so the one mystic who knew how to ride a horse could ride Sukki’s horse, Freedom, and lead the way.

Decker and Elder Stow still moved out on the wings from time to time, but the mystics said that was where they wanted to be.  The third one often rode out front.  They said that their senses could stretch out and pick up the lay of the land in front and around the travelers.  They could also sense that the witch had come through the area, but they admitted that they did not know if the flood and predators was something the witch did, or just natural phenomena.  The dhole and the tiger might have just seen the horses as large prey after a long, hard winter.

“Getting close to humans might have been a calculated risk, not having experience with your weapons,” one said.

To be honest, they did not ride much. They walked most of the way, in part because of the burden on the horses, and in part because of the uncertainty of the terrain under the snow.  Lincoln did not want another overburdened horse to slip and twist a leg, and Alexis still touched her head, though she had healed well.

On the eighth day, the mystic who rode out front looked at the chestnut he had been given.  He affirmed Boston’s prediction that they would reach the time gate by sundown.  A short time later, they all began to hear howling and screeching in the wilderness.

“Yeti?” Lockhart asked.

“Snow leopards,” one mystic said.

“They are often blamed for the myth of the Yeti…” Katie began, thought about what she said, and added.  “Of course, now we know otherwise…”

They came to the edge of a woods and another steep hill, like the hill of the mudslide, except this one looked covered in snow.  At once, like the last time, the ground began to tremble.  The distant yowling increased.  The snow gave way.

“Avalanche,” Lincoln yelled, and this time, they had no time to mount and ride away.  Fortunately, Elder Stow flipped a switch on his screen device, which he wisely set up ahead of time, for once.  The snow, rocks and uprooted trees stopped and piled up at the edge of the screen, or slid over top.  Elder Stow had to get his weapon out to burn a short tunnel away from the hill.  They made it out from beneath the mess without too much difficulty, and when they reached the camp beside the next time gate, the mystics had something to say.

“It seems to me you have the resources to counter about anything the witch might attack you with.”

“That depends on what she throws at us,” Decker said, as the only negative comment.

“Still,” the man continued.  “Don’t worry about us.  We are adjusted to this environment and have some resources of our own. We should be home in about four days, five at the outside.  It took longer coming here because we needed to find a route safe for the horses and we had obstacles to avoid.”

People nodded.  On the return trip, the mystics did not have anyone trying to kill them.

The travelers stepped through the time gate first thing in the morning.  When Boston and Sukki got relegated to the rear again, they shared their thoughts.

“I hope the witch thinks we got killed by one of her traps,” Boston said.

Sukki only said one thing.  “I’m scared.”

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

MONDAY

The travelers look for Ophelia, a Spartan princess just after a war with Athens, and they run into Wolv, one thing to make Spartans and Athenians join forces.  Until then, Happy Reading

*

Avalon 6.7 Yeti, part 1 of 4

Don’t forget.  4 posts this week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Don’t miss it.

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

After 529 BC, The Himalayas. Kairos lifetime 79: Rajish the Defender

Recording …

The travelers came out of the time gate and landed in a snow storm.  They stopped and thickened their fairy weave clothing to imitate the best winter coats, scarves, hats and boots.  The fairy weave tents got repurposed to cover the horses against the cold.  Then they walked and rode very little over the rough ground, looking for shelter against the storm.  They found a rock overhang where they and the horses could at least stay out of the wort of it.

By lunchtime, it did not look like they would make much progress on that day.  They huddled around the fire, watched the deer cook, and talked quietly against the silent, falling snow.

“I’m not picking up any signs of human habitation,” Elder stow said, with a shake of his scanner device.

“I couldn’t find anything either in this storm,” Decker agreed.  “Only the mountains in the distance, and we appear to be heading that way.”

“But, where is this place?” Evan asked. He looked at Millie, who shrugged. “We came this way, well, reverse, mostly through a storm, stronger than this one.  There is a monastery up the mountainside, about a week from here. Chinese, I think, though not exactly. They saved our lives, let me tell you.”

“Something to look forward to,” Lockhart said.  Katie shivered and pulled the blanket up as she snuggled closer to him.

“Let’s see,” Lincoln said, as he pulled out the database.  Alexis imitated Katie, pulling her blanket up and hugging Lincoln, but without the obvious shivering.  “Rajish. He is from the Ganges river area. My guess would be we are somewhere in the Himalayas, and it appears our path is uphill.”

“In winter?” Millie dreaded the idea.

“Spring.”  Boston took a big whiff of air.  “Really early spring.”

“But, he is from India?” Lockhart interjected.

Lincoln nodded.  “He went up into the mountains on rumors of Skudsu in the snow.” He paused when he saw curious faces, so he reminded everyone.  “You remember Lakshme, and her faithful elf companion, Libra.”  People smiled and nodded.

“Lucky girl…” Boston whispered.

Lincoln finished his thought. “Apparently, one piece of the stuff landed this far north, and froze.  It stayed dormant until a human found it. Of course, we don’t know if that has happened yet,” Lincoln added.  “We have to assume it has not, but at least we know he made it into the mountains, or we would be on the Ganges, or the Indus in the heat.”

“And he has been here for a while,” Millie said.

“We came this way before,” Evan repeated, and nodded.  “I imagine he has dealt with any rumors by now.  So, what is Skudsku?”

“An alien plant,” Lockhart said.

“Intelligent,” Katie added.

“Spreads like wildfire,” Alexis said, and Lincoln cleared his throat.

“Kills everything in its path.” Lincoln shivered, and not from the cold.

After a moment of silence, Evan said, “Sorry I asked.”

“Hush,” Boston said, sharply.  She looked behind her.  Katie sat up and looked in the same direction.  Decker’s head followed a moment later.

“What is it?” Millie asked.

“Shh!” Boston insisted.

“Something out there,” Decker said.  Sukki moved to the other side of the fire.  Elder Stow started up his scanner, but it would take a moment to change it from wide range to short range.

“Not a bear, or tiger, or whatnot,” Boston said.

“I’m not picking up danger,” Katie agreed.

“Gone,” Boston said.

“I’m not seeing anything,” Elder Stow admitted.

“Maybe just a squirrel or something,” Lincoln suggested.  Lockhart frowned at him, but no one contradicted him.

The snow stopped falling by four, but the gray clouds never went away.  They were not going anywhere that day, so they settled in for the night, giving the horses some extra attention since the horses had so little to eat.

The standard watch in the night became Evan and Millie from eight to ten, with Lincoln and Alexis from ten to midnight. The leaders of the expedition, Lockhart and Katie, took the middle of the night when they should have been sleeping. Decker with his rifle and Elder Stow with his scanner took the dark of night, between two and four in the morning. They woke the elf, Boston, so she could rise with the sun, and Sukki got up with her.  In this case, the watchers not only needed to watch over the camp, they had to keep a special eye on the horses, and keep the fire burning bright, and as warm as possible.  Though it stopped snowing, and the sky cleared around midnight, that just made the cold wind feel worse.

All that day, and the next, they traveled under mostly gray skies.  It felt warmer than hard winter, but not by much.  On the second day, they found some green patches in the snow.  They stopped in one large patch of green and let the horses nibble on what they could find.  The horses did not appear picky, and several nibbled on the trees, crunchy as the bark might be.

“I’m getting concerned about the horses,” Katie mentioned privately to Lockhart.

“How so?”  He had his own thoughts, but wanted to hear what she had to say.

“These horses have carried us through sixty time zones, according to Lincoln.  That is about two-and-a-half years, as Lincoln figures.  Decker, who has been counting the days, more or less agrees.”

“How do you figure?”

Katie paused a minute.  “It is ten days to two weeks between time gates, on average.  It was less when we began, but the time between gates has grown, so I am counting the average.  We sometimes stop and rest with the Kairos in the center for a few days, but sometimes we get hurried up by the gods or Tobaka’s Android ship, or some such thing. Altogether, that makes a rough two week per time zone average.  That puts us somewhere in the sixteenth week of the third year since we got the horses. Decker figures we are forty-five days’ shy of three full years, though he counts it from when we arrived on the plains of Shinar, before we got the horses.  Putting it together, I would guess we are a hundred and sixty-four days into our third year with the horses.”

“One-sixty-four sounds pretty accurate for an estimate,” Lockhart said, and smiled.

Katie returned the smile.  “I try,” she said.

“But I figure we got them when they were six or seven, so fully mature, and well trained to the saddle.  At age nine or ten, they aren’t even middle-aged yet,” Lockhart said, doing some figuring of his own.

“But we have worked them pretty hard these three years.”

Lockhart nodded.  “But we walk them as much as ride them.  We stop by six or sooner, and leave at six or later. Figure a two-hour lunch, and that is only a nine or ten-hour work day.  Plus, we do take three or four days of rest about every two weeks.”

“I understand,” Katie agreed.  “But I would guess we have another two to three years to travel to get home.  When we get into landscapes like this where there is so little for them, beneath the snow and all… I don’t know.  I worry about them.  This is some rough duty, day after day.”

“Rough for all of us.  Aren’t you afraid I will wear out?”

Katie reached for his hand.  “Poor baby.”

He stopped to kiss her.

When they got to the end of the third day, Boston shouted from the rear.  “He’s here again.”  As soon as she shouted, Katie looked in the right direction.  For three days, on each day near the evening, they heard and sensed something.  Elder Stow, who did not wander out far on the wing, given the conditions, and the fact that there did not appear to be any people in the immediate area, quickly got out his scanner.

“No, nothing,” he said.  “I am not picking up anything.  Wait… No.”

Decker came in from the other side. “I saw something big moving through the woods.”

“Dragon big?” Lockhart asked.

“No.”

“No,” Elder Stow interrupted.  “The scanner is set for dragon.  Can’t hide such a thing.”

“So, some life form the scanner does not recognize?” Boston asked.  Elder Stow nodded.

“How big?” Lockhart got back to his question.

“Seven or eight feet, maybe nine. Bi-pedal.  It moved among the trees where I could not actually see it.” Decker checked his rifle.

People stood quietly thinking before Lincoln blurted out, “Bigfoot?”

“Yeti,” Alexis corrected him.  “In this part of the world, it would be the yeti. I know that much.”

“Just a myth,” Lockhart said, and everyone looked at him like he lost a screw. “Okay. Forget I said that.”

Katie helped him out.  “I don’t sense any hostile intent.”

Lockhart looked around.  They stood in a large field where some grass tried to poke through the snow.  They seemed surrounded by forest, but some distance away on all sides.  The wind was down.  Lockhart did not think for long.

“We camp here, in the middle of the field.  Be careful gathering wood.  Let the horses loose and build the fire nice and big.  Maybe we won’t be disturbed in the night, but at least we should see something approach.”

People looked up, but the clouds did not appear threatening, so they got busy making camp.  Meanwhile, Boston had to explain to Sukki what she meant when she said, “Bumbles bounce.”