Avalon 4.11 part 7 of 8, Kairos Interruption

“What am I doing?” Artie asked, as Alexis and Katie sat on each side of her, and comforted her.  Boston’s eyes teared up in empathy.

“Crying is a good thing, sometimes,” Alexis said.

“Are you afraid for Andy and your people?” Katie asked.

Artie stopped crying and looked up into Katie’s face.  She nodded.

They got interrupted by the sound of horses.  Elder Stow groused as he turned his screens back on.

“I just turned them off to conserve the energy.”fire-campfire-1

The sun was up, and everyone was awake, but they stayed near the fire and looked warily toward the sound of hooves, unable to see through the trees, but curious to imagine who their visitors might be.  They relaxed when they heard a woman’s voice.

“Lockhart.”

“Ishtara?” Lincoln always had to be sure.

“Grumble, grumble,” Elder Stow said as he shut down his screens.  Decker laughed softly.

Two men with spears appeared, but stopped at the edge of the trees as a woman came into the camp.  She was dressed in the armor of the Kairos and sporting the full regalia of weapons.  They did not doubt who it was.

Ishtara’s walk was hard to describe.  It was sexy—desirable in a way that made the men open their eyes, wide, and made Alexis and Katie want to hold on to Lincoln and Lockhart.  But at the same time, there was something in her stride which said she knew perfectly well how to use every one of those weapons she carried.  She appeared unnaturally attractive and supernaturally dangerous at the same time.

“Boston,” Ishtara held out her arms.  Boston hesitated, and offered a small curtsey before she ran into that loving hug.  “You have a visitor,” Ishtara noticed.

ishtar-3“Artie, short for Arthur,” Lincoln said, wanting to gain some attention from the beauty.

“Stand up,” Ishtara said, like one used to giving commands.  Alexis and Katie did not hesitate to stand, so Artie stood with them.  “Let me look at you,” Ishtara said, and walked around Artie with a critical eye.  “She appears human enough to pass inspection, I think.  How does she act?”  Ishtara paused to hug Artie.  “Welcome to the free and living people of the universe,” she said.

“I am confused,” Artie said as she let go and turned to Alexis to explain.

“She is learning human,” Alexis said.  “We are working on feelings and emotions, something she did not know she had three days ago.”

“They were suppressed, I think, for fear excessive strong emotions like fear, hate, anger, maybe love would impair her in her work,” Katie interjected.  She looked to Mingus and Elder Stow, both of whom nodded.

“Now that Artie is free,” Alexis continued.  “We are learning, but something like a child for the time being.  I don’t mind.”

“We’re keeping her,” Boston blurted out.

“She is not a pet,” Ishtara said, and Boston held her tongue.  “Why are you confused?”  Ishtara sat, so everyone sat except the two spear-carrying servants who stood back from the fire.artie 4a

Artie paused to look down at the fire before she spoke.  “When I look at you, I feel many things.  I do not understand them.  You are very beautiful.  I am a little afraid.  I dare not look into your eyes.”

“Lincoln, have you been falling down on the job?”  Ishtara smiled, and the men melted to see her smile, except Lincoln who felt ashamed.

“No.  I haven’t had much time to read and inform the others about this time zone.”

“We have been rather busy,” Mingus added, almost like he was defending his son-in-law.

“Okay,” Ishtara said as she took a taste of what was cooking for lunch.  She did not care for it, and her dislike appeared on her face.  “The short-short version, and then you need to pack up.  I need you back at the city, and you can get some real food there.”  Ishtara gathered her thoughts before she began.

“I was eighteen, a slave, scrubbing the floor, singing some Disney tune, which I guess is my habit.  Ishtar appeared to me and said she had need of me.

“You are not my mother,” I said, but she smiled and said I was not her son.  Then she stepped inside of me.  I don’t know how to explain that, exactly.  It felt weird.  My whole body changed and shifted until I had Ishtar’s likeness.  I have no godly power whatsoever, but she gave me an abundant spark of her being.  I am filled with love and war, and I can’t help it, so there is no point in asking me to tone it down.

ham-1“A week later I stood in line with a dozen other girls.  The King, Muballit, was anointing his eight-year-old son to be king after him.  Three of us were chosen to become the future king’s wives, though I think Muballit wanted nannies.  Hammy was a wild one.”  Ishtara grinned.  “I didn’t help matters.”  She didn’t explain.  “Anyway, no one knew where I came from or who my parents were, or anything.  I, that is, Ishtara had always been a servant in the house since I was a child.”

“You don’t know your family?” Alexis sounded sad and Boston and Artie both picked up on that sentiment.

Ishtara shook her head.  “I am sure I looked different, but everyone says I always looked the way I do now.  I believe I had a different name, but I have no idea what it might have been.  Ishtara means something like ‘of Ishtar’.  It is an unknown name, so I can’t imagine I was always called that, for real.  I scolded Ishtar for her cruelty in taking me from my family, and she finally broke down and told me my parents died when I was very young, and that was how I came to be a servant in the house; really, a slave.”

“You were a slave?” Artie asked with some disbelief in her voice.

“Yes, but mostly that just means I had a job to do, and I did it as well as I could.  Human slaves still have their own will and still think and feel for themselves.  There can be consequences for disobedience, but no one can make a human slave do anything they don’t want.  I suppose, in that respect, it is like all of life.  There are consequences with everything we do, though the consequences tend to hit slaves immediately, and sometimes in an unkind and unfair way.”  Ishtara shrugged.

“God help us if someone invents obedience crystals for humans,” Lincoln was thinking the worst.

Ishtara gave him a hard look, but said nothing about that.ishtar-2

“So, at eighteen, I got married to an eight-year-old, and six months later, I gathered the men in the city and drove the Elamites from the gates.  We slaughtered them, or at least I did.  Muballit, who could not keep his eyes off me since he first saw me, wanted to annul my marriage to Hammy and take me for himself.  Ishtar showed up.  I’ve seen her a number of times in these past few years.  She said, “No.  She married already.”  And she dragged me from standing before the throne to Hammy’s side, and I kissed him smack on the lips, like a real lover’s kiss.  I couldn’t help it.  Ishtar made me do it.  But then, Muballit was not about to argue with the goddess.”

“So now you are a wife and a general?”  Katie wanted to get it straight.

Ishtara nodded and smiled again.  “Not-my-mother Ishtar says it is Marduk’s turn and Assur can just suck it.”  Ishtara stood.  “Pack it up.  A friend of yours is in the city, waiting to see you.”

“Wait,” Katie needed to know something.  “Hammy?”

babylon-gate-1“Hammurabi,” Ishtara said.  She went to get in her mule-drawn chariot-wagon to wait while the travelers, and Artie, packed the camp.

###

“Babylon,” Lincoln named the city.

“I see they finished the Ishtar gate,” Lockhart pointed over their heads.

“I see they cleaned up the slums,” Alexis said.  “They look like real row houses now, like permanent dwellings.”

“Busy place,” Elder Stow pointed out.

“See, now this is a city,” Decker agreed, though that was not what Elder Stow was pointing out.

Ishtara led them to the stables by the palace.  She let the fifty men at arms that trailed her go back to their families to rest and relax.  There were gnomes in the stables, and the human grooms were strictly instructed to listen to the gnomes concerning the care and feeding of the horses.  Then they stopped in the doorway and watched while three Anazi battle cruisers in the distance, headed off into space.alexis-t2

“Well,” Alexis said with a smile in her voice.  “None of the soldiers or stable boys said anything about Artie.  I think her human disguise is working.”

“But why were all the men and boys staring at me?” Artie asked.

“Boys and girls.  Girls and boys.”  Ishtara let out a sly grin.  “Lockhart?”

“I’m not going near that question,” he said, and several people laughed.  Katie, Alexis and Boston walked with Artie and tried to give her the quick scoop before they reached the throne room.

Avalon 4.4 part 5 of 6, Fire of the Gods

Boston stared out of the gate at the distant enemy.  “What are they waiting for?” she asked.  Alexis raised her hand to shade her eyes, and was sorry she did not have good elf eyes.  Elf eyes were far better than human eyes.

“Father?”

“What?” he responded in a surly voice.

“Can you see what they are doing?” Alexis asked, in her calming voice.

“Do I care what they are doing?”

Alexis stopped and turned on him.  “You sound like Elder Stow.”

Mingus frowned and walked away, while Boston spoke to Alexis.  “He is mad at you.  I’m sorry.  I Katie 3hope it wasn’t anything I did.”

Katie stepped up and lowered her binoculars for a minute.  “Lockhart has the wall,” she explained when the women turned to look at her.  When they continued to look at her, she said something more.  “Mingus claims he has one good daughter and one bad one.  Sorry.  Not my words.  Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”

“It’s okay,” Alexis said.  “I thought it was something like that.”

“I’m sorry,” Boston got weepy.  “I would never want to get between you and your father.”

Alexis nodded and looked at her Father who was climbing to the top of the gate pillar.  He certainly heard what they were saying with his good elf ears.  “I understand, and Boston, it is not your fault if he wants to behave like a three-year-old.  We only have to work together to get home in one piece.  After that, he can take his fat body as far away from me as he wants.”  She reached out and hugged Boston because Boston looked ready to cry. In the way of young little ones, Boston’s mood switched in a blink.

“He does look like he is putting on weight,” she said with a grin.

“Elf metabolism slows with too much meat protein. Most elves don’t eat so much meat, but we have been on the deer, deer, elk, deer diet, Atkins gone wild, you know,” Alexis said.

Boston 3a“The Paleo diet, but without all the fruits and nuts,” Katie agreed.

“I hope I don’t start putting on weight,” Boston said.  “I just got elf skinny.”

“I wouldn’t worry.  You are young.  Your system can handle it.” Alexis said, and hugged Boston again, just to say she held no grudge against her.

“We got company,” Katie said and pointed to the gate.  Three dwarves came in the gate, and men backed up to make room for them.  They were armored after a fashion.  One even had some chain over his leather.  One dwarf had a sword and shield, one had a more traditional dwarf-like axe, and Pluckman, in front, carried a spear, but he had a shield on his back and a sword at his side.

Ulrik was right there to hear Pluckman speak.  “Reporting for duty, sir.”  Pluckman and the dwarves turned and offered a bow and words to Channa.  “And the lady is looking lovely today.”

Channa turned her head to Boston, Alexis and Katie.  “My Ulrik has the most interesting friends.”  She turned to the dwarf.  “Thank you Pluckman, you dear little thing.”

Alexis looked at Boston, and Boston spoke.  “I feel it too,” she said and stepped up to speak to Channa.  “You know; the little ones only pay that kind of attention to a person that their Lord has a special relationship with.  In this case, I would say Ulrik loves you.”kissing 1

Channa’s eyes got big and Boston almost caught a glimpse of the wedding dress in Channa’s mind as she grabbed Ulrik for a big, very sexy kiss.  When Ulrik could breathe again, he turned first on Boston. “I wasn’t going to tell her that,” he said, before he turned on Pluckman.  “You know what I said.  This is not your fight.”  He raised his voice, but by then a man appeared beside him, and the appearance of the man, more than Ulrik’s displeasure, made Boston humbly lower her head.

“No cheating,” the man said.

Men were still coming for Lincoln to direct.  Lockhart and Decker were on the walls.  Mingus was up the pillar, and Elder Stow was playing with some piece of equipment, but the women were right there, and it was Alexis who recognized the man first.

“Marduk.”

Katie spoke up.  “I didn’t recognize you without your other half.  Where is Assur?”

Etana warriorMarduk growled.  Katie and Alexis shrank back, and Boston let out a small shriek.

“I am not cheating,” Ulrik said.  “I was just about to yell at the dwarves, if you waited a minute.”  Marduk growled again, and Ulrik was afraid some of the men in the gate might die from fear.  Channa hid her face in Ulrik’s chest when Ulrik traded places through time.  He changed to Doctor Mishka and she clothed herself in the armor and weapons of the Kairos.  She had something more direct to say to Marduk.

“Sit.  Keep your thoughts to yourself, and tone down the awesome nature.  You are scaring the men.”  Marduk sat and quieted, and he did so without question.  Mishka went away so Ulrik could come back.  He kept the armor and weapons.  “Man that gate,” he yelled at the men, and the men turned away from him and toward the enemy, except for the three that ran away.

A light showed up on the other side of the field.  It was a fireball some six feet across, and it headed straight toward the gate.  People panicked.  There was no time to do anything.  But all at once, the fireball stopped.  It spread out and dissipated twenty yards out.  Elder Stow stepped up.

“Setting a single sided screen like a wall is difficult on equipment not designed for that purpose,” he said.

Boston had something else in mind.  “Dwarves, hold on.”  They grabbed each other and Pluckman grabbed Boston’s leg, and grinned, but stayed good.  “Alexis, I need your wind to get there.”  Alexis looked reluctant, but took Boston’s hand.  Boston’s other hand held her wand, and an equally large fireball started out across the field.  One small fireball came from Mingus up on the pillar and blended into the large fire that raced across the field.  The Gutians had no screen and were not prepared for return fire.  When the fireball reached their line, they were running away.  It struck and exploded, a far more devastating fire than just fire alone.

“Good,” a woman said.  No one knew where she came from, or who she was, but the travelers at least had the same sort of feeling they got when any of the gods showed up.  No telling what the men in the gate felt.ishtar 2

The woman stopped to bow briefly to Marduk.  “King,” she said.  She stepped to King Belusis and said, “Not my king.”  She moved on to Channa who appeared to be frozen, awe struck, and she took Channa by the chin and gave a good looking over.  “Princess,” she said, before she threw her hands up.  “My gate?”

“Everyone who comes in and out of the city will think of you,” Ulrik said, even as the travelers were figuring out that this was Ishtar.

The woman raced up and grabbed Ulrik by the chin.  She stared at him and into his eyes, which made him flinch.  It always did.  “Not my son,” she said, and let him go.

“Not my mother,” he responded, and the woman almost smiled.

“No,” she said before anyone else could say a thing.  “No temple.  No help.”

“Okay,” Ulrik threw his hands down, and Channa grabbed one hand.  She appeared to need the support.  “Yours will be the next temple built, I promise.”

ishtar 5“Okay,” she repeated the word, and threw something over her shoulder.  It was a fireball, but much larger than the first two, being a hundred feet in diameter.  When it hit, the explosion shook the ground.  The woman pointed at Channa and Ulrik, holding hands.  “You marry.  No more discussion.”  She pointed briefly at King Belusis before she finished.  “Make new temple, good one.  I tell witch, go to another city.  Not Nippur.  Maybe I send her.”  The woman vanished in front of everyone.  Only a few men made sounds of shock.

“Marduk,” Ulrik waved the god to come over, and he did.  “So you get to be king of the gods of Babylon, gateway of the gods.”

“I am not going to argue with Ishtar,” Marduk said.

“You mean not his mother,” Katie suggested.

“Does that mean there isn’t going to be a fight? Pluckman asked, and sounded sincerely unhappy.

Marduk smiled and looked down at the dwarf.  “I am so glad that is one burden that is not mine,” he said and vanished.  He let a little sound of thunder follow in his wake.Ulrik 2

Channa stared at Ulrik and thought wicked thoughts.  “We can marry tonight,” she said.

“No!” both Ulrik and King Belusis shouted at the same time.  The king stepped up.

“So, the next temple we build will be for Ishtar, goddess of love and war,” Ulrik said.

The king nodded.  “And without delay,” he agreed.

“Hold that thought,” Ulrik responded as another woman appeared.  This one pushed out of her dress in several places, and was not at all embarrassed by it.  She marched up to Urlik, butted between him and Channa, and locked her lips to his.  Ulrik pulled back as soon as he was able, but the woman did not let him go.

“Some of my Amonites are coming here,” she said in her low and sexy voice.  “I guess that means you need to build a temple for me, too.”

goddess Hebat 1Ulrik frowned.  “Turn around,” he said.  The woman raised an eyebrow, but Urlik insisted.  She turned, slowly, and looked back until she was completely turned.  He whacked her hard enough on her butt to leave a burn mark.  She squealed and spun quickly around, but by then Ulrik had Channa in his arms.

“Do that again,” the woman said with a mighty grin.

Ulrik rolled his eyes.  “Now, what would your husband say?” he asked.

“Oh, putz,” the woman said and vanished.

“Hebat,” the man in the strange clothes was there.  He named the goddess and he had a few tears.  He fell to his knees and declared, “Truly Babylon is the home of the gods and Belusis will be our king too.”

“So it is agreed,” the king said, not about to miss the opportunity, besides, Ulrik was busy kissing his wife-to-be.

Avalon 3.10: part 5 of 5, Dispersal

Hadj’s first wife, Ishitak stood beside a woman, a stranger, and the only suggestion as to who it might be was Ishitak’s downturned eyes. She suggested a pose of reverence. The woman spoke first.

“You must be Hadj. Hadj of the three wives. Traveler in Time. Watcher over history. Kairos of the earth, and I see you have your hands full.”

Hadj paused and rubbed his chin before he felt a sudden urge, stepped up and kissed the goddess on the cheek. The goddess’ eyes got big. It may have been the first time she was surprised in her whole life. She lost a touch of control for a moment and let out a smidgen of her awesome nature. Sokar gasped, fell to his knees, and covered his eyes with his hands. Ibin el-Wadi joined him and then thought it better to go to his face. Lockhart bowed as well as a twenty-first century American can bow, and Hadj stepped back to rub his chin again.hadj 2

“Don’t tell me,” Hadj said. “Your face is familiar, like family, but I can’t place the name.”

“Kirisha, your sister,” Kirisha stomped her foot in a playful manner, but she put her hand to her cheek where he kissed her and smiled.

“But I thought you were twins,” Hadj said. “I heard you had a sister.”

“Pinikir has the north here, and Susiana, but she says she doesn’t want it. She says it is too much responsibility, but then she has really played with the queen of Susiana. Poor Sokar is so in love with the queen, sometimes I’m afraid he is going to blow up like that flying air thing.”

“She is very beautiful,” Hadj admitted.

“Pinikir stepped inside the woman and shaped the queen’s body and features to match her own,” Kirisha tattled.

“I see,” Hadj said, while Alexis, Lincoln, Roland, Boston and Mingus all came close to see what was delaying Hadj. Lincoln stood beside Lockhart. Roland and Mingus bowed to the goddess. Alexis and Boston curtsied as well as they could, neither as gracefully as a true elf since Alexis was now human, and Boston had just become an elf and was still learning.Barak Hebat 1

“And may I ask who your mother might be?” Alexis asked with her eyes downcast. She felt the goddesses mother would be the telling connection.

“Mother Ishtar,” Kirisha said with a broad smile, “And yes, Lincoln, my grandmother was Innan,” Kirisha lost some of her smile and everyone felt the heartbreak.

“But I should consider my manners,” Hadj said, with a glance at Ishitak who nodded without ever looking up. Hadj went away and Junior came to stand in his place. “You might give your actual brother a hug,” he said, and held out his arms.

“Amun,” the goddess shrieked her joy and raced into his arms for a real hug. “Pinikir is going to be so jealous,” Kirisha said as she returned the kiss to Junior’s cheek. Kirisha stepped back and said something the others hardly expected. “Oh, I almost forgot. You missed one.” She raised her hand and a ghoul appeared beside her. “Do you want this one?”

hadj ghouls 4“No. No. No way,” the people there all shouted.

“I didn’t think so.” Kirisha snapped her fingers and the ghoul collapsed and melted until he was no more than a green and purple smudge on the grass.

Amun nodded and spoke to the goddess as he took her hand. “Don’t go away. I want to hear all about this place you have, and your husband and the others, but first I have to attend to business. Alexis,” he said, and commanded her attention. Even so, it took a moment to remember what she had to say.

“Commander Slurpee died in the night. I’m sorry. I did everything I could.”

“Cody, are you satisfied?”

“I do not understand why these humans should help the Pendratti, but I begin to understand why this planet is off limits.”

“Good. Roland.”

Roland spoke right up. “The Sevarese commander killed his companion during the ghoul attack.” The Sevarese commander was weeping. “There is one left in the transport, but the transport engines are ruined, and the communicator as well, so they cannot contact their ship.”

“That should be along walk,” Mingus guessed.

“Boston?” Junior smiled for her.

Botson, who was on her knees, shuffled forward to hug Junior’s knees. “Oh, Great Lord, I love you so much, and I am willing to do whatever you ask of me even if I may not do it, but please, can I marry Roland now?” She looked up at him with eyes full of pleading and hope.

“She is a cute one,” Kirisha said. “And she is very much in love. And I should know. My mother is the love goddess.”Boston thanks

“Not just yet,” Junior said. “You need Mingus’ permission first,” He tried to look stern, but found it impossible.

“Yes, Lord. Thank you Lord,” Boston said, and she shuffled over to Mingus, gave his knees one good hug, and then sat back on her heels without ever lifting her eyes.

“One more thing,” Amun said, and he called, “Reglala and Ouklee.” the Marzaotipan couple vanished from where they were hiding inside their ship and appeared in front of Junior. “Do you understand that this planet is off limits?”

“Oh yes, very much. Indeed. We do. Oh yes.”

Junior quieted them. “You got a little closer to the fighting than is normal for your kind,” Junior pointed out. “Now you have several destroyed Sevarese fighters and Pendratti fighters from yesterday. You also have a Pendratti and Sevarese transport to salvage, if you dare. But then I expect you to leave this UFO Birdman 6system and not come back. It is for your own safety.”

“Oh yes, indeed. We will. Yes, we will.”

“So everyone listen,” Junior commanded everyone’s attention, and Kirisha squeezed his hand, attracted to the exercise of power. “Hadj will be taking a detour, to take the Pendratti back to his ship. He will send the Pendratti back into space, immediately. You surviving Sevarese will have to walk back to your ship, and that is a long way, so you will have to hurry. The Pendratti will have a reasonable head start.”

Junior looked at Sokar who refused to lift his head. “Sokar,” he said, and made sure the man’s ears were open. “You will take your men back to Susa where you will no doubt continue to worship your queen. But if you are good, and stop doing the queen’s evil, maybe, and I am saying only maybe, mind you, you will find something in your stocking at Christmas … “ Junior shook his hea. “Frosty the Snowman,” he said. “I mean, maybe Kirisha will find you a woman that you can truly love and who will also love you.”

“I am not my sister. I make no promises,” Kirisha caught the reference to Frosty the Snowman and laughed, and everyone smiled at the sound of pure joy. Junior coughed like he was clearing his throat.

“Reglala and Ouklee will take two goats for whatever Elder Stow needs to charge up his equipment, and then they will take their leave and you can leave this world. And Lockhart, by the way, you might stay here for a day or so. I think the time gate will get closer to you as we go toward the Pendratti ship.”

“We will keep an eye on it,” Lockhart said.UFO alien tech

“Good. Ibin el-Wadi. Everyone needs breakfast, and then we need to be packed to leave at dawn.” Ibin el-Wadi dared not speak as Junior and Kirisha vanished.

An hour later, Hadj walked across the field where it looked like some kind of battle took place, even if the ghouls were no more than purple and green smudge spots on the ground, and the trees set on fire by the fighter crash had burned down to hot, red ash. The sun was coming up, and the bodies of the Elamites and the Sevarese made a spectacle.

Anashk and Leahn, Hadj’s second and third wives came running to hug him and grab his arms to carry him back to the camp. They were grinning, and having been so close to a love goddess, and then seeing Hadj become a god who reflected the same love, Hadj had no doubt they had something specific in mind. Ishitak, his first wife, merely stood and was quiet, wiling to wait, but Hadj could see the calculating in her face. Hadj thought he had enough children, but then again, he was only human.

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

Starting Monday, as we approach the end of season three, be sure to catch Avalon, episode 3.11 Festival of Marriage.  It is about time Boston and Roland settle things …

Boston7

Avalon 3.0: part 2 of 4, Love by the Fire

The travelers and the imps arrived together at the place of the Kairos. The sun was ready to set which gave the travelers hope that they might get a break from the oppressive heat. They found the Kairos, Junior, sitting cross legged by the fire staring at the sand and grass in front of him, or maybe meditating. He had something like a backpack behind him, but no sign of a tent. He also made no indication that he was aware of their presence.

“Make camp,” Lockhart suggested, and everyone turned to tend to the horses first. Magpie and her sons pulled up a seat behind Junior and acted like they were waiting for supper to be ready. Decker came up to Lockhart with a question.campfire

“Should we expect to use the fire that is made or make our own?” Lockhart did not get to answer because Lincoln wandered to the other side of Junior’s fire, before it got dark, to get a look at the land they expected to cross in the morning, and Junior reacted.

“No, no. Lincoln, you don’t want to stand there,” he shouted.

The ground began to shake, but only under Lincoln’s feet. He ran and made it to safety before a perfectly round hole opened up and revealed steps winding their way down into the pit.

“What is it?” Katie asked, having noticed the imps scooted further back from that place and always kept Junior between them and the hole. Junior answered without turning around.

“That is the entrance to the underworld, the land of the dead, where Erishkegal rules and Namtar is her henchman who does all her dirty work.”

“Wow!” Lincoln sounded surprised and impressed, but mostly like he realized what a close call he had.

Junior turned and scooted around without getting up. “Are we all here?” He counted heads as they approached. The imps backed up further to make way for the travelers. “This was probably the worst possible time for you to come.”

“Why?” Alexis asked. “What are you doing here?”

“Alexis,” Roland interjected. “I’m surprised you have forgotten. Father told me the story and I had nightmares for years after.”

Junior squinted at the elf, like maybe Roland did not need to say that much. All the same he opened up. “My mother’s father.” Junior paused to think it through and started again. “My grandfather had a mistress who had my mother. The mistress is gone now, I mean dead, not recently, and by cause unknown, or at least nothing proved. But that was why my mother grew up in Egypt, where she could be safe until she matured sufficiently to handle herself.”

“Your mother?” Boston was the one who asked, but Junior waved off the question.

“When my mother came back, my grandfather’s wife tricked her, actually challenged her to take a trip down into the land of the dead.” Junior paused and shook his head. “She and Erishkegal must have planned this whole thing ages ago.”

“But who is your mother?” Boston wanted to know.

“Ishtar.”

Katie bit her tongue. She did not want to say, “The goddess?” again.

“So your mother is dead?” Alexis asked.

“No. That’s the thing. She knew enough to not eat the food of the dead, but she is a prisoner and can’t come back to the world. The gods have insisted that I figure out some way to set her free, and that is what I want to do, so I’m figuring.”

Now Katie could ask her question. “Why do the gods want her free so badly?”

“Because Ishtar is the goddess of love, love and war, but love is the operative part. As long as she is a prisoner in the underground, there is no love in the world, even among the gods.”

The travelers took a moment to look at each other and Lockhart responded. “We can all vouch for the lack of love since we came into this time zone.”

“But it isn’t so bad right now,” Katie added with a look at Lockhart.

“I am my mother’s son,” Junior said. “But it isn’t so strong in me, and the gods know they won’t have me around but maybe sixty years or so.”

Decker suddenly grasped something. “I bet the ghosts down there are having a real good time.” He grinned.underground party

Lincoln asked a different question. He was suspicious. “Who was your grandfather’s mistress—your real grandmother.”

“Innan,” Junior said. “And I don’t want to talk about it. I wasn’t here when she went over to the other side.”

Lincoln nodded. They met Innan, and liked her, the one the Kairos called the goddess of desire. With Innan gone and her daughter trapped in the land of the dead there truly was no love in the world. Junior sighed in memory of his grandmother, and then changed the subject.

“Decker and Harper,” he called them forward, and they came, but with one short, curious glance at each other. “Captain Decker. I have these for you.” Junior held out two gold leafs. “It was supposed to be Major Decker when you started this assignment, but Colonel Weber, the dipstick withheld the promotion. I’ve held on to these for about ten years. Glad to finally get rid of them.”

“Sir.” Decker said as Junior removed the Captain’s bars and pinned on the leafs.

“Lieutenant Harper,” Junior continued. “Your promotion has been long overdue.” He took her single bar and had Decker pin on her Captain’s bars. He let her keep the lieutenant’s insignia in her hand and stepped back to offer a salute. “Belated congratulations to both of you. I understand Bobbi and my Alice self are leaning on the Pentagon to offer another upgrade, assuming you make it back to the twenty-first century in one piece.”

“Thank you sir,” Katie said and turned first of all to Lockhart who offered a sloppy salute of his own.

“Captain Harper,” Lockhart said and smiled, and Katie returned his smile and spoke sweet words with her eyes.

“Excuse me.” Junior whistled and yelled. “Magpie, Snot and Puss.” The three imps appeared out of thin air, standing in the fire with their feet on the hot coals. They jumped for their life, but away from the hole in the earth. Junior explained. “They were getting ready to go for a horse.”

“What?” Several of the travelers reacted, and it was strong enough to inspire Magpie to answer.

“But we been all day and haven’t had nothing to eat.” That was not a lie, but only the truth in the way little spirits tell the truth. They didn’t have nothing all day. They actually had an overly large breakfast before they snuck off.

donkey down“Here,” Junior said, and a donkey, one with a broken leg appeared. Magpie and the boys started to drool to look at it, and Magpie made a comment.

“Donkey bacon is even better.”

“Yes, but just remember, you go near the horses and you will get a lot worse than singed toes.

“Yes Lord, yes,” they all said as they dragged the beast off to slaughter.

“Sacrifice right over the pit of Hell,” Lockhart quipped.

Katie shook her head and Junior offered a correction. “Hellas’ place is up where the Black Sea and the Aegean meet, but I get your point. Erishkegal thinks all sacrifices belong to her. But I don’t believe that is the way to get to her. I’m thinking about what Decker said. Sometimes even ghosts gotta party.

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Be sure to check back tomorrow for part 3 of 4,  Gollum

Avalon 2.11: Deeper Underground

            It seems the sorceress had more than one trick up her sleeve, but she had no way of knowing that Wadjt and the Kairos were dear friends from long ago.  Once it was clear that the sorceress was effectively disarmed, ten-year-old Emotep acted like a real grownup.  He got Wadjt, defender of the north and young Sakhmet, defender of the south to make friends.  The future depended on it.  After all of that Serket, the scorpion goddess showed up and everyone vanished, together.

###

            Emotep found himself in a great room, cathedral sized, with columns regularly spaced to make a labyrinth of sorts indoors.  The stars could be seen in the spaces overhead.  The sun was to their left and cast great black shadows off to their right.  But the moon was to their right and full, and it cast its own shadows off to the left.

            “Where are we?” Katie asked the operative question. 

            “Home?” Sakhmet breathed the word.

            “Last time I was here, I thought I was in outer space and beyond that, I was a girl.”

            “Yes, about that,” Sakhmet turned on him.  “Would that make you my older-younger sister, or what?”

            “Sorry,” Emotep grinned at his memory of what mother Vrya of the Aesgard always called him.  He paraphrased.  “I am your brother even when I am your sister.”

            “That’s my Kairos,” Lockhart grinned, and all the more when Katie moved in close and took hold of him.  She was frightened.  They all were, and Neferet scooted around to where she could hold both Emotep’s and Sakhmet’s hands, and walk, if she wanted, with her eyes closed.

            Quite apart from the hot brightness of the sun and the glittering, silvery brightness of the moon, there was a greater brightness ahead of them.  Serket was gone, but in her place there came another woman, one who reminded Katie and Lockhart a little of Innan, the goddess of desire they met in the Middle East.  At first they imagined this might be the Egyptian version, but the woman looked at them and spoke.

            “Innan my mother,” she said.  She was dressed in armor, not unlike Emotep’s and looked hard, like for all her beauty she could kill in a heartbeat.  She grabbed Emotep’s chin and stared hard into his eyes for the longest time.  It was impossible for Emotep to bear until the woman made a pronouncement.  “Not my son.”  This triggered something to come up into Emotep’s eyes that blunted the stare of the goddess, and the words helped.

            “Not my mother,” he said.  She almost smiled and patted Neferet on the head before she turned to Sakhmet and grabbed her roughly by the upper arm. 

            Sakhmet protested.  “Mother!” but it did no good.

            “Daughter take too long to be here.”  She dragged Sakhmet off with one more word.  “Come.”

            They all followed until they came to an alter at the far end of the room.  Osiris was there shining brighter than the sun, standing on the pedestal that put him above everyone in the hall.  He was a ghost of sorts, but certainly not dead yet.

            Isis was also present with all four of her children.  Bast was in cat form and came to stand, or rather sit beside Neferet.  She allowed the little girl to let out her nervousness by petting her fur.  Anubis stood quiet, stately, and totally threatening in his jackal-headed presence which would frighten a minotaur. 

            Horus and Hathor were also there and stood beside their mother, Isis.  Hathor, who looked to be about twenty-one and no longer a teenager, had the true look of Innan about her, even more than Ishtar.  She was the Egyptian version of Innan.  Horus turned around last of all, and he had on glasses, and not the wire rimmed ones the Kairos made for Enki.  Horus had on black rimmed, square, purely geek glasses. 

            “I don’t know if I can,” he said to Emotep.

            “Just do your best,” Emotep responded.  “That is all I can ever do, but I have found when you do your best it is often better than you thought you could do.”

            “Very wise,” Osiris said from the podium.  His voice boomed through the great hall and gave all the mortals chills.  The voice was not dead, but not exactly alive either.  “But that is not why you are here.”

            Isis stepped up to Emotep and a few tears fell.  “Thank you,” she said, which was unheard of.  The gods never showed gratitude to anyone, especially a mortal.  “As long as his heart continues to beat now and then he remains partly in this world.”

            “It will be alright,” Emotep said, and added the word, “Grandma.”  Isis looked at him and started to shed some tears in earnest.  She reached out and kissed his forehead so he felt her tears run down his own cheeks.  She turned to walk back to the altar and her children as Mother Bast leaned over and licked Emotep’s hand.

            “Now, as for the worshipers of my brother dancing on my tomb –“ Osiris paused.  Something went out from Emotep, something he did not know, but even the gods paused to listen.

            “In a hundred years, Horus will find a way and Sakhmet will be taken by fury.  I will be there to help light the fire and douse the fire.  In a second hundred years, I will watch from the palace window while the two lands are united.  A child at last will rule in peace over the two lands and the sun will rejoice and the moon will be happy.”  Emotep shook his head.  “That is all I  know.  He looked up.  Toth was there.

            “Kairos.”  Toth nodded his head briefly as a sign of friendship to Emotep before he went to a knee before Osiris.  “Lord,” he said.  “These three come before you for judgment.  Their hearts were heavy until this last day when they sacrificed their own lives for the sake of the children.”

            Katie Harper drew in her breath.  She recognized one of the men, though they did not appear to notice her presence at all.  They were spirits only, ghosts not given to recognizing flesh and blood.  To be sure, they all noticed and seemed to recognize Emotep well enough, and without the least bit of surprise that he would be present among the gods; but they did not see Lockhart, Katie or Neferet at all.

            The ghosts fell to their knees before Osiris and then they fell to their faces.  Osiris spoke once more.  “I, too am grateful for seeing that one’s personal feelings must not interfere with the performance of one’s duty,”    There was a flash of light, Osiris bright, and Emotep, Neferet, Katie and Lockhart found themselves on the edge of Abydos, Lincoln and Decker having just emerged from the underground.

            “Sudden dismissal.” Lockhart took note.

            Emotep pointed behind them at the field of the dead.  “I imagine he has to judge a bunch there and doesn’t need our two cents.”  Emptep felt the tug on his sleeve.  He looked down at Neferet and then got down on one knee to be face to face with her.

            “Sakhmet?”  She was asking.

            “We will see her again, as soon as she learns to sneak away.” 

            Neferet looked satisfied with that answer.  They hugged and Neferet skipped off into the crowd of children and adults to find her father. 

            “Thank you,” Emotep said, sounding suddenly like the ten-year-old boy he was.

            Lockhart and Katie both glanced at the dead on the field and then the living parents and their children.  Lockhart spoke.  “You’re the boss.  I’m just the assistant director,” he turned to Katie.  “Which makes me the number two paper shuffler.”

            Katie said “Faugh,” but she did not quite get the accent right.

###     

            The travelers are optimistic, filled with the hope that the Danna in the next time zone might send them home without a need to continue through the time gates.  They know she is a full blooded goddess, not one made like Zoe.  The only trouble may be reaching her as they travel through a world like Tetamon’s world.  Men, spirits, gods and aliens are poised on the verge of what Lincoln calls the ancient version of World War II.  Reaching Danna may be doubly hard given all the creatures still on their trail, and especially the ones that seem to be catching up.

Avalon 2.12:  Celtic Dreams … Next Time

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