Avalon 7.2 Ides of March, part 6 of 6

“The inland road is better maintained,” Bodanagus said, and surprisingly, everyone could hear him.  “But the coastal road is a bit shorter.  I recommend the coast.  I don’t know how long you will have, but at the very least, if I die before you get there, you may find the time gates shifted to some god-forsaken wilderness, and it may take you a year or more to get there.  So, please hurry.”

“Why are you so convinced you are going to die?” Lockhart asked.

“My age.  A feeling.  I have been through this before, you know.  And yes, it is the worst.  Dying is not something I recommend.”

“Any idea who you will be in your next life?” Boston asked.  Bodanagus stared at her and it made her feel uncomfortable.  Fortunately, it only lasted a second.

“I know Lincoln looked it up, despite my prohibition,” Bodanagus said.  “Bad as an elf.”

“I married one,” Lincoln said, and Alexis took his arm to snuggle.

“So I recall,” Bodanagus said.  “But honestly, Boston.  I never seem to know who I will be next life, but I think I may be born a woman.  That much may be true, strange as it seems to me in my present condition.  As a man, I cannot imagine what it might be like to be a woman.”  Bodanagus shrugged.  “I only hope I make a good woman.”

“No complaints so far,” Lockhart said, with a smile.

“The professor?” Nanette interrupted.  She had been softly crying.

“Bed ridden today,” Bodanagus said.  “He should have stayed in bed a week ago and not strained himself.  Alexis,” Bodanagus spoke to the nurse. “He should be in hospice already.”  Alexis nodded.  “He may be the first to go.  He might not last a week.  I am sorry, Nanette.  I understand the loss of a loved one.  Grief takes time.”

“Millie and Evan?” Sukki asked, and then turned a bit red when everyone looked at her.  She remained the same shy and unassuming girl she had been and becoming human did not change that.  All that changed was now they saw her red face, where before, the glamour hid that fact.

“Millie and Evan will be just fine.  You need not worry about them.  But you need to get going.  I have to walk across the whole city to get home now, and I would like to get there before dark.  Come to think of it, you might reach the time gate before I get home.  This long walk might be what kills me, old man that I am…” Bodanagus disappeared and the Princess came to take his place, his armor adjusting automatically to her.  “…Poor baby,” she said, with a Greek accent.  “I can do some walking and let Bodanagus practice being a woman.”

“Hey,” Boston shouted.  “You’re not pregnant.”

The Princess nodded.  “Back home, I may be giving birth right now.  Who knows?  But I never travel through time pregnant, or wounded, or whatever.  There’s a mystery for you.  Well, I should not say never.  But no, my abs are properly ripped, and I am ready for action, even if that consists of simply walking where old men do not want to tread.”

“Best abs in the business,” Lockhart said with a mighty grin.  Katie almost slapped his arm, but Lockhart thought to add, “After my wife, of course.”

“One question,” Katie spoke like a person getting used to people disappearing on her.  “Who was that man you were with back in the gate?”

“Gaius Julius Caesar,” the Princess said.  “I assumed you guessed.”

Katie nodded her head, like she did guess.  The Princess thought to use that knowledge to say something important.

“Well. at the risk of sounding like Bodanagus, a grumpy old king, listen up.”  She put command in her voice.  “Julius Caesar, someone that important to history, is exactly the kind of person you need to avoid at all costs.  Sometimes, that may not be possible.  Granted.  But at least, please don’t tell them anything about the future, or even hint that you know how things may turn out.  Even if the person is facing imminent death.  Please don’t say anything.  Am I getting through to you?”  People nodded in silence, and Boston had elf-wide eyes, and her jaw hanging, like the words hit her more in the gut than the head.

But Katie had something more to say.  “At least I don’t think Caesar’s political enemies will recognize you like that.”

The princess smiled again and almost said thanks, before she looked down at herself.  “My armor is too distinctive, unless Bodanagus and I have the same tailor, which we do.  Now, be off with you.”  She raised her beautiful smile to smile at them all.  “I got boots, and they were made for walking.”  She came down the steps and waved.  “See you later.”  She walked off without looking back.

“Go,” Lockhart said, and the travelers left Rome behind.

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It took seven days to reach Pisa, and another three to the time gate in Genoa, but they encountered a problem in Genoa.  The time gate stood in the middle of a busy street.

“I don’t understand,” Tony admitted.

Lincoln explained.  “When we go through the time gate, the gate activates and stays active for a minute or so after the last of us goes through.  We have inadvertently had people follow us, and it is terrible watching them age forty or fifty years all at once, and we have not tested it to see if they return through the gate, whether or not they will get young again.”

“The danger is someone may follow us through,” Katie said, plainly.

“We might check with the magistrate and see if he can keep people back until the time gate deactivates again.”

“But, why don’t people… Why doesn’t everyone activate the time gates when they walk up to them?” Nanette asked.

Elder Stow and Boston shook their heads, and Boston explained this one.  “As near as we can figure, something needs to be out of time to activate the gate.  You came here from 1905.  You are out of sync with this time period.  You can activate a gate without effort, that is, without doing anything special.  It is like the gates are ready and waiting for you between here and where you belong.  Normal people are already where they belong in time, so the gate does not activate for them.”

“I see, sort of,” Nanette said.

“It makes sense,” Tony agreed.

“You have to get close to the gate, like right up to it to activate it, though,” Lincoln added.  “It isn’t going to open, generally, just because you are in the area.”

“Thank God,” Alexis said.  “I can only imagine leaving a trail of dead people through time.”

“My father and mother,” Elder Stow turned to Lockhart and Katie.  “I believe I can make a screen wall which will keep the people away from the gate while we go through, and if I go through last, I can bring the wall and set it flush against our side of the gate until the gate deactivates.”

“That might work,” Katie said, but she looked at Lockhart.

“The gate might not deactivate as long as your screen wall is up against it,” Lincoln offered the pessimistic point of view.

Lockhart slowly nodded all the same.  “We go with it, for now, and hope it works.  If not, we will need to consider other options.  Until now, the time gates have been mostly in wilderness areas, or at least mostly away from people.  We can’t count on that to continue.  I just pray we never find the time gate lodged in someone’s living room.”

The travelers went through in the morning, and Elder Stow’s screen device appeared to work.

###

Two days later, in Rome, Mark Anthony got delayed entering the Theater of Pompey.  Bodanagus, the Celtic outsider of no family, got waylaid the night before by a dozen men.  He killed six of them, including the centurion from the gate, before he fell.  By the time Evan and Millie confirmed the death of Bodanagus, and Millie cried, Caesar fell.

When Evan, the physician, and his nurse Millie arrived at the theater, the physicians Strabo and Pontus were already there.

“I count twenty-three stab wounds,” Strabo said.

“This one, do you think?” Millie pointed to Caesar’s chest.

“What?” Pontus asked.

“This second stab wound here in the chest is the one that killed him,” Evan said.

“How can you be certain?” Pontus asked.

“It pierced the heart,” Evan said.

“Once the heart stops pumping, that is pretty much it,” Millie explained.

Strabo nodded.  “You see?” he said to Pontus, and turned to Evan.  “I don’t know where you gained your medical knowledge, but I learn something from you every time.”

“Yes,” Pontus agreed, and looked closely at the stab to the heart.  “That is rather obvious, now to think of it.  I will be sure it is mentioned in the report.”

Mark Anthony came in leading Calpurnia, and the doctors quieted and took a step back.  Calpurnia went to Millie and cried on her.  “First your professor, a true soothsayer, who warned him to beware this evil time.  Now, my stubborn husband who would not even listen to me.  What are we going to do?”  Millie cried with her, and for many reasons.

“No,” Evan said at the same time.  “Even a whole fleet of Egyptians could not make him suitable for viewing.  I can only recommend cremation.”

“But one sight and the people will rise up and ruin the dogs who did this.”  Mark Anthony got hot.

Even with Bodanagus gone, Evan had learned enough not to tempt history.  He felt the indignity and anger and wanted to let the people see the work of the assassins.  He felt much like Anthony spoke, but he knew better, and said so.  “The sight of Caesar in this condition might cause people to despair.  Better he be taken up by the flames of righteousness, and better to let the memory of the people be shaped, not by sight, but by your words.”  He did not need to say anything else.  Anthony showed the light of understanding.  There would be a second Triumvirate.  There would be civil war.  Thousands would die, and Evan and Millie would weep as the Republic died.

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MONDAY

It is a race from Syria to Bethlehem to stop the gunmen, only Candace has already taken the child and they are headed Down to Egypt.  Monday.  Happy Reading

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M3 Margueritte: Backed into a Corner, part 3 of 3

The king spoke again.  “I know he is young, having only turned twelve on the day of his declaration, but he has been given to be page into the hands of our faithful Bedwin.”  Bedwin bowed to his king and prince.  Lady Brianna and Margueritte looked quickly at the knight.  Margueritte could not tell, but Lady Brianna became convinced in her heart that this man belonged to Owien, son of Bedwin.

“Thomas.”  The king called quickly for the bard, mindful of his son’s discomfort, though not looking very happy about it.  “Tell us a tale of kings of old.”  And Thomas did in story and song.

He told the story of mighty King Bodanagus and his great love, young Esoulde the fair.  In her day, she was said to be the fairest of women, but she loved her king, and he loved her as men and women rarely do.  All this happened ages and ages ago, when the kings and great Lords of Gaul fought forever amongst themselves like dogs fighting over a bone.  They never had peace in those days, and the people suffered in grief for their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons taken by war, and great was the poverty and oppression that ruled over them.  Still the great lords and kings fought in Gaul and king Bodanagus among the mighty.  He won great honor and glory in battle, but never did he see the agony of the people.

Finally, in Bodanagus’ day, the people could fight no longer.  Their spirits had fallen to the lowest, and there was no more strength in their bones.  It was then, by the three fingers of fate, that a man came from the south like an all-consuming fire, like the whirlwind.  It was the man named Julius Caesar.  None could withstand him and the power of Rome.  Those who took up arms against him were quickly put to the sword, and in almost no time all the Lords and kings of Gaul bowed knee to Caesar.  All, that is, but the Lord of the Nervii, King Bodanagus, the mighty.  He had never bowed knee to man nor beast, and he vowed himself to fight this Caesar and win great glory in battle.

When the two worthies met, they fought for three days and three nights without stop, first one giving way, and then the other.  At last, exhausted, they agreed to a truce of one month to rest and tend their wounds.  Never before had Caesar faced such a mighty foe as the king of the Nervii.  The outcome of it all remained uncertain.  But even as the truce began, fate intervened once again, for fate had decreed the victory for Caesar and became angry at the valor and might of the king.  Under the dark cover of the new moon, the arrow of fate struck and Esoulde the young and fair fell, declaring her love for her king with her last breath.  All at once, mighty King Bodanagus, warrior without equal, saw the world as if for the first time.  He wandered from the battlefield, saw the misery of the people, and his heart went out to them in his grief.  He took all the treasure, both his and his forefathers and placed it around Esoulde, that she might forever be covered in gold. And he built a mound around her and so cleverly disguised it, that to this day, though it contains treasure more than a thousand kings could bear, no one has ever found the place.  They say, though, it lays somewhere near the place where I was born, which is why this tale is so near to my heart.

It was in the darkest part of the night, right before dawn, when mighty King Bodanagus came to the tent of Caesar.  They say he asked only for peace, that his people be secure in their homes and have a chance to prosper without fear of threat from Rome or their neighbors, and in return he granted to Caesar all of Gaul, Albion to the Firth of Fourth and the coast of Iberia, even inland to a certain degree.  Caesar agreed, and Bodanagus released his army and turned the crown to his beloved brother.  Then he wandered through the world.

That he went to Rome we know for certain.  It is well known that it was Bodanagus who tutored the young Octavian in the ways of men and kings.  Octavian was the one who followed after Caesar and was called Augustus.  Some say King Bodanagus wandered all the way to Egypt where he refused to place the crown on Cleopatra’s head and prophesied only doom for Egypt and the Egyptians under the queen.  Much is uncertain, but in his day, it is known that he did many mighty deeds and saw many wonders.  It is also known that under the new moon, he never failed to shed some tears for Esoulde, the fair and young.

Margueritte fell to tears.  The story made her ever so uneasy, but the tears she could not help.  Her father’s words did not help, either.

“Cheeky man,” Lord Bartholomew said.  “Giving away Gaul and Albion and Iberia as well, as if they were his to give.”

“Oh hush,” Lady Brianna said.  “That was always one of my favorite stories.”

“For the young Lady.”  A servant came and held out a cup to Margueritte.  “Soft cider.”  The servant assured Lady Brianna, and Margueritte decided she was indeed thirsty after her cry.  She drained the cup, and then turned her attention to the festivities because Thomas had finished, and the torches were being extinguished.  The great double doors at the side of the courtroom were flung open and the king’s great fire could be seen ready to burn.  The king lit it by his own hand, and then Duredain began the interminable ceremony which included several sacrifices like two young rabbits thrown into the open flames.

Margueritte put her head down.  She could not watch.  Besides, her head felt a little like it was spinning.  She did not feel quite right.  Suddenly, she felt a strong hand guiding her away from the light and she thought it was Roland.  She felt grateful because she felt like she might get sick.  They went outside, and she got lifted into a cart.  Then she did get sick.  Then she passed out.

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MONDAY

A bit of the story of Bodanagus before Margueritte wakes up in a tower not even knowing her own name.  Until Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday, as always) Happy Reading.

 

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