Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 6 of 6

After Diana explained to Justitia the phrase, “hurry up and wait,” for the third time, Katie came over to go over the plan.  “Elder Stow is going to set up a one-sided screen wall.  We can shoot them, but if the witch has taught her minions to use the guns, they won’t be able to shoot us.  Boston has agreed to send some explosive arrows in any openings they make in the way of windows or doors.  Alexis, Boston would appreciate your help with that.”

“Won’t that endanger Evan and Millie?” Alexis protested.

Katie shook her head.  Elder Stow scanned the building, and Boston confirmed by her senses that Evan and Millie are being held in a back room, well away from any up-front action.  She also confessed that her little grenades would not be like the sticks of dynamite Father Mingus made.  Hopefully, it will keep the witch off balance and discourage any sharpshooters.

“Hopefully,” Lincoln said.

“Elder Stow will walk the screen closer and closer to the building.  When he is close enough, he has it set to push rapidly forward to a few feet inside the building.  That should bring the front of the building down.  Then with these short swords and our sabers, we should be able to take her minions and get our weapons back.  Boston and I will run to get Evan and Millie, since we are the fastest.”

“And what about the witch?” Diana asked, bluntly.

“It is a calculated risk.  Thus far, the witch has shown no great signs of courage, but she has shown a great sense of self-preservation.  We are hoping when she sees the weapons doing her no good, she may find the back door and revise her plans.  Maybe get Millie and Evan to steal all of our things next time, but anyway, get out while the getting is good.”

“Bolo!”  Diana raised her voice.  A man came to see her, and the others paid attention.  Bolo had thirty ragged-looking men with him.  “Bolo is with the city guard,” Diana quickly explained, and she told about the fine young couple being kidnapped, and avoided the word, witch.  She said the enemy had very dangerous weapons that can kill from a distance, but her people here have a means of countering that.  Bolo and his men must stay behind her people until the front of the warehouse collapses.  Then they can charge, fast as they can, and capture whatever kidnappers survive the collapse of the building.

Bolo looked at Katie, who stood as tall as him, and glanced at Lockhart and Decker who stood much taller than him, and nodded.  “I have no doubt what you say is true,” he said.

“Hello Bolo,” Justitia said, and smiled for the man.

Bolo tipped his hat, like he forgot Justitia could not see him do that.  “Look at you,” he said, through a smile of his own.  “You are looking more grown up every time I see you.”

“Save it for later,” Diana interrupted.

“Lady,” Bolo nodded and got serious as he turned to shout at his men.  “We are dealing with kidnappers, but they have some special and terrible magical weapons.  So we stay behind these good people until it is time to charge, and I’ll tell you when to charge.”

“Go,” Lockhart said, and Elder Stow started inching forward.

As expected, the door and windows opened and gunfire came from the openings.  Boston and Alexis were ready, with a dozen arrows each.  Every time a head popped up or out, an arrow got sent in return, and the arrow exploded.  Also, as expected, the bullets petered out until they stopped coming altogether. Even enchanted, or perhaps hypnotized, men were not willing to risk being skewered by an arrow, and especially if that arrow exploded.  No doubt several of the men were among the dead and wounded.

When Elder Stow got close enough, the front of the building collapsed as expected; but so did most of the building. Only the back wall and a bit on each side still stood, and they looked shaky.  The travelers charged before the dust cleared.  The city guard came right on their heels.  Then Diana, unexpectedly, ran out in her excitement and worry. Justitia and Lincoln had all they could do to keep up with her.

Diana ignored the city guard who gathered the survivors from the exploding arrows and collapsing lumber. She clambered over the rubble and ignored the travelers who were searching for their weapons.  She got to the back and stopped beside Katie and Boston, who looked stymied.  The witch had Millie by the neck and a knife at Millie’s throat.  Two of her minions had Evan pinned by his arms.

“Let us go,” Nanette screeched. “Or I swear, I will slit her throat. And you know, I will be happy to do it.”

Justitia came up and hardly breathed before she shouted, “No.”  It was a word heard all around the neighborhood.

“No, Nanette,” Charles Wallace Dodd ran up, flanked by Felix and Bolo.

“Hold him,” Diana said, and Bolo and Felix each grabbed one of Wallace’s arms so he could not run to the witch. He also did not seem to have anything else to say.

Justitia pushed in front and raised her hand.  “You go too far.”  Diana felt the sword slip from the sheath at her back and saw it fly to Justitia’s hand. She decided to close her eyes. She desperately wanted to interfere, but she did not.  “I will dispense justice by my own hand if I must.”  Justitia waved the sword.  “And my justice will be swift and final.”

“The blind girl?” Nanette couldn’t believe it.  “You have no power here.”

“But your heart betrays you,” Justitia said, and held up her other hand.  The scales from the kitchen appeared in her hand.  “The good you have done is a thimble, and mostly it was done by accident.”  One side of the scales weighed down a little.  “But your crimes, since Mother made you, have been countless.”  She began when this second Nanette got made and through all the time zones, declared every wicked and evil thing the witch did.  The witch just stood there, like one unable to move.  The other side of the scale bent so low, the scale looked in danger of breaking.  “You have been found guilty.  Your sentence will be swift.”

“No,” Nanette screamed, an ear-piercing sound.  She dropped Millie and caused a whirlwind to surround her and lift her from the ground. She flew through the hole in the roof and disappeared in the distance.

Justitia turned with a smile as the two men holding Evan collapsed into unconsciousness.  The scales had vanished, but Justitia still held the sword, and Diana stepped up, and yelled.  “Justitia.” It was not a pleasant sound. “That is not your job.  You may be judge.  You may be jury.  God willing, you will never have to executioner.  But you are not allowed to be all three.  I’ll have no vigilante daughter.”  Poor Justitia wilted under the scolding.  But with each word, Diana took a step closer, until she wrapped Justitia in a great hug and added, “I was so scared for you.”

“Oh, Mama.”  Justitia found some tears.  “I was scared, too.”

###

They found two men waiting when they arrived at Diana’s home.  Her husband, Publius, wrapped Diana in a hug and included Justitia.  “Where were you?  I got no answer from the servants, and we were getting worried.”

Diana’s father, seated, old man that he was, had a different opinion.  “I came to visit and found my grandson tied to the gate.  No servant will confess to the deed, and Gaius believes it would be shameful to tell.  Then I found Publia and her friends tearing up the house with a wild party.  I know she is not yet sixteen, but I had to threaten to find her a husband to get her to stop.”

“I had an errand—”

“What kind of errand could take you from your duties as a wife and mother?  Marcia, you are my good child…”  The old man sighed.

“This fine young couple got kidnapped by a witch…”

The old man waved his hand.  He heard one thing.  “You got kidnapped?”

“That’s right,” Bolo said.  Both he and Felix were there to confirm everything.

“Oh my dear,” the old man said to Millie. He got up.  “Please come sit here.  Both of you.  That must have been a terrible ordeal.”

“The kidnapper had a knife to her throat and threatened to kill the woman,” Felix said.  The travelers kept back, knowing it would generally best in such circumstances to let the Kairos explain whatever the Kairos was willing to explain.  In this case, the old man gave Felix such a stare, he straightened up and said, “Lucius Falerna Felix,” and he added, “Sir,” just to be safe.

The old man took Millie’s hand and patted it gently, just like you would expect from a doting grandfather, but his words remained sharp.  “And why would you take sweet Justitia on such an errand?”

“She followed.  The servants were instructed to not let Gaius follow. Publia was not here when we had to run,” Diana said, quickly.

“Good thing Justitia was there,” Bolo said, getting set to praise her.

“The witch got frightened by so many of us,” Diana interrupted.  “She flew away, as witches do.  I am sure we will not be bothered by her again.”

“I see,” the old man said.  “And who are all these others?”

“They are friends,” Diana said.  “They may be a bit harder to explain.  Their home is in the far future.”

At least her husband laughed.

“They are from the future?” the old man said.  “Really? So, tell me something about the future.”

“That would not be wise,” Lockhart said.

Katie stepped up.  “Even Delphi couches their words in vague symbols and disconnected words, and for a reason.  Knowledge of the future is not to be trifled with.  But I will say this.  I have a feeling when the Gauls come again, you will defeat them handily, and may even find the Etruscans willing to bow to your victory, that is, if you arm and protect your soldiers with the equipment Diana has created.”

The old man smiled.  “Just what I wanted to hear.  I, too, believe I will defeat them the second time, and Marcia is my good luck charm, you know.”

Diana did not look happy, but in the end, she nodded.  “I’ll give you that one.”

###

After two weeks, the travelers said good-bye to Centurion Felix.  The old man said he could use good men.  They also said good-bye to chicken-head and snake-head, and the whole troop of Roman-looking soldiers.

The minute they stepped through the time gate, Lockhart pulled Katie aside and said, “Explain.  Justitia said her mother created Nanette.”

Katie nodded.  “Minerva, that is, Athena is her mother.  Diomedes is her father.  Apollo let it slip that if Athena ever had a child, the child would be wiser than her mother.  Athena Kept Justitia from being born for over seven hundred years, and then blinded her when she was born.  But Artemis and Apollo intervened and brought her to Diana to raise, which kind of makes sense, seeing as the Kairos Diomedes was her father.  Diana says there is no doubt Justitia is wiser than herself, so Athena should not have a problem with that.”  Katie shrugged.

Lockhart gave her a kiss.  “I cannot imagine our daughter will be wiser than her mother,” he said.  She smiled and looked down, shyly, thinking of having a child.  “Or stronger, or faster, oof.” Katie elbowed him in the stomach.

“Don’t push your luck,” Katie said.

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

MONDAY

Episode 10 of season 6 begins, where we meet an old friend who has shown up in several episodes, the Kairos, Diogenes of Pella, first cousin to Alexander the Great.  Of course, the witch, the outlaw cowboys and some gunpowder don’t make it easy.  Until then, Happy Reading.

*

 

Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 5 of 6

“It is true,” Alexis said.  “Boston was born human and became a spirit of the day to marry my brother.  I was born a spirit of the day, but became human to marry Benjamin.” she reached for Lincoln, but he was studiously staying out of the conversation.  “I still have some magic, though.  On my bad days, Benjamin calls me his witch.”

“Like the witch we are following?” Felix asked.

Alexis shook her head.  “She is a very powerful sorceress.  She can do things I cannot imagine doing.”  Alexis slid back beside her husband, and Katie took up the telling.

“Lincoln and Alexis are especially worried about Evan and Millie.  Evan and Millie also belong in the future, and Lincoln and Alexis found Evan about three hundred and fifty years ago in what was going to become Rome.  Romulus and Remus were young boys then.”

“We met the wolf, Valencia,” Lockhart interjected.

“She was a woman,” Katie said. “She could turn into a wolf to suckle the boys when they were babies.”

“It wasn’t Rome yet,” Lockhart insisted.

“But it was getting there,” Katie said. “Anyway, Millie, Evan’s wife, got lost in Babylon.”  Felix did not know what Babylon was.  “But Evan went back to the founding of Rome.  Lincoln and Alexis were the ones who found him and saved him, so they kind of feel responsible for him, and for Millie.”

Felix understood that feeling of responsibility, but he said nothing as Boston and Sukki came riding back from the front.  Boston looked like a superb rider.  Felix expected that from the spirits of the earth, but Lockhart said that was not it. Boston rode in rodeo competitions when she was young.  Felix nodded, though he did not know what Rodeos were.

“Rome,” Boston shouted and pointed behind her.  The group saw the trees, but the glimmer of the city could be seen through the branches.

Decker and Elder Stow, who rode out from the edges of the road, came in to join the group.  They fell in behind where they could protect the rear. Boston and Sukki continued out front. Lockhart asked a question.

“You can take us to Diana?”

“Furi Camilla Claudia, or Claudia Camilla, however the names work in this part of the world,” Katie added, with a look at Lockhart.

This was something Felix could do. “I am an officer among the Romans, and counted a patrician among the Romans, even if my family is Etruscan rooted.  I don’t know where she is in the city, but we can find Furi Claudia Diana.”

Katie confessed.  “Roman naming conventions are hard to follow, and I studied them.”

“As long as we find her,” Lockhart said. “The Kairos will know what to do if there is any hope of saving Evan and Millie.”

“Yeah,” Boston spoke up, having heard with her good elf ears.  “It wasn’t me that got kidnapped, or shot, or anything for a change.  I even escaped the spiders, unscathed.”

“No,” Sukki said.  “I got stung instead.”

“I must be rubbing off,” Boston said, with a true elf grin.  Sukki did not look sure if that was a good idea or not.  “Anyway,” Boston continued.  “At least we got Alexis.  The best healer in the business.”

That much was true.  Sukki looked back and smiled at Alexis, whom she thought of as an aunt, even if Alexis did not see the smile.  She looked again at Boston, her best sister, and wondered. Who would have ever thought she would be sisters with an elf?

###

When they arrived at the house, Boston got right down and raced up to the gate.  She saw a girl through the gate, one becoming a young woman, but one with a cloth tied around her eyes.  An elder elf, with some gray in her hair, an unusual sight in an elf, stood next to the girl, whispering in the girl’s ear.  The girl looked uncertain, but smiled well enough.

By the time a servant came to the gate, the others joined Boston.  When the gate opened, Boston did not know what to do.  Katie and Alexis came to the front and smiled for the girl and the one they thought of as an old woman, though Alexis suspected.  Decker, Lockhart, and Lincoln kept back while Felix spoke.

“I am Lucius Falerna Felix.  Is Lady Diana home?”

Elder Stow and Sukki came in last. Elder Stow explained to Sukki that her familial feelings for the travelers was perfectly acceptable.  He said, “For now, they are the only family we have. And all things considered, they are a rather good family.  We just need to find your cousins, Evan and Millie.  That’s all.”

Suki smiled, as they heard a woman’s voice from inside the house.  “Lockhart. What’s wrong?”

“Diana?” Boston asked before Lincoln could mouth the words, but the woman came into the gate area with her arms open. The woman had red hair and light brown eyes, and Boston said, “You’re red, like me,” as she ran into the hug.  She added, “You hug like a mom.”

“We are evaluating the hugs now, are we?” Diana said.

Boston grimaced.  “You even sound like a mom.”

Diana laughed and held on to Boston with one hand while she opened her other arm and hand.  The blind girl smiled and slipped under Diana’s wing, though some wondered how she knew, not being able to see and all.

“My daughter, Justitia,” Diana said.

“Lucky girl,” Boston whispered, and Justitia nodded.

“The best mom.”

Diana turned to Justitia.  “These are the travelers I told you about.  The ones from the future.”

“Oh,” Justitia exclaimed.  “That makes sense.  They are hedged around by the gods.”

“Yes, sweet,” Diana hugged Justitia into her side.  “But that does not solve everything.”  Diana looked and Katie, and Lockhart who walked up beside her.

“We lost Evan and Millie,” Katie said.

“Oh!” Justitia exclaimed again as Decker spoke from behind.

“And all of the guns.”

“It was the witch,” Alexis explained. “She hypnotized Evan and Millie and had them steal our weapons when we slept.  Now she has them as prisoners, maybe hostages.”

“And the weapons,” Lockhart added. “Which we have needed far too often in our journey.”

“Nanette?”  A young man came from the house.  He heard something, and every eye turned toward him as he came into the light.  “Nanette is holding Evan and Millie hostage?”

“Charles Wallace Dodd,” Diana introduced the young man.  “Yes, Wallace.  The evil Nanette has taken Evan and Millie prisoner.”

Wallace shook his head, like he did not like the term, evil Nanette; but Justitia tapped her mom’s side and whispered. “He knows something.”

“Wallace?” Diana said, with some command in her voice.

Wallace reached up to scratch his beard before he nodded.  “I think I saw her, this morning.  She was surrounded by men, and with a wagon.  I don’t know the cargo.  It was covered with a blanket, but it looked heavy.  The other woman could have been Mildred, but I couldn’t be sure.  It was far away.”

“Where was that?”  Lincoln asked the intel question, not doubting the veracity of the report.

“A warehouse by the docks, down by the river,” He paused and glanced at Diana, who betrayed nothing on her face, but from the look on Wallace face, maybe he went somewhere he was not supposed to go.  “I didn’t see Publia and her friends,” he confessed.  Alexis, at least, imagined there was a story behind that.

“How did you know it was Nanette?” Lockhart asked the police question, not willing to run off on a rumor.

Wallace acted like it was obvious. “She was a darkie, like your friend there.”  Decker rolled his eyes as Wallace continued.  “There are not many negroes in Rome, if any.”  Alexis and Lincoln looked miffed, and about to speak. Boston opened her mouth in surprise, but waited to see what happened.  Lockhart covered his chuckle as Katie elbowed him in the stomach. Diana raised her hand for quiet.

“1905,” she said.  “Don’t forget Wallace came here from 1905.  Be gracious.”  She stared at the group and saw no objections, except Wallace who looked confused and wondered what he said wrong.  Diana continued.  “Alexis.  Justitia is learning to cook.  I would appreciate you sharing some thoughts on that with her.  The rest of you need to come with me.  Before you go running off, you need to be properly armed.  She led them to a big, open room where she had metal Roman helmets and breastplates, pikes, sears, and boxes of Roman short swords.  She also had several famous, big rectangular Roman shields that she was edging with metal. She explained.

“The Gauls are getting restless. Next time my father takes out the army, I am going to make sure the army is properly equipped to fend off those Celtic broadsword hammer blows.”

Katie told Lockhart.  “History imagines her father came up with all these innovations and outfitted his army overnight…”  Lockhart nodded that he knew better.

Meanwhile, Alexis asked about the scales in the kitchen.

“Oh, I have to weigh everything,” Justitia said.  “I even take the scale and weights with me when I shop.  Of course, no merchant in their right mind would dare cheat me at this point.”

“Your mother?” Alexis asked.

Justitia grinned.  “Mom lays down the law.”

“And your sister?”

Justitia’s smile turned to a frown. “Publia delights in breaking the law.”

Alexis took and patted Justitia’s hand gently.  “She is a teenager.  You will understand better in a year or two.”

###

The travelers still had their binoculars, along with the rest of their equipment.  They examined the warehouse from a distance and saw signs that the witch had indeed taken up residence.  Lockhart, Katie, Decker, and Elder Stow formulated a plan.  Boston listened in and explained it to Sukki.

Diana put in her two cents and then stepped back to let them argue.  She wore her armor, where she had a sword at her back and a long knife across the small of her back, but she looked more formidable than she felt, especially since Justitia insisted on tagging along.  She knew she need not worry about the girl, but she felt a mother’s worry all the same. Gaius, her son, was absolutely forbidden to be there.  She charged his nurse, Livia, with tying him to the front gate if she needed to. Then, who knew where Publia was? No doubt gallivanting with her friends in the market, and getting into trouble.

Diana looked at Justitia.  She had removed her blindfold.  She was not utterly blind, and could make out shadows and light well enough, but people expressed feeling awkward and uncomfortable looking at her eyes.  She got better reception when she wore the cloth around her eyes.  Diana once imagined making sunglasses for the girl, but obviously, she was there to keep history on track, not change history. The only reason she got to upgrade the Roman arms and armor is because that was going to happen anyway, and while she might have been the reason it happened, the point was, it happened.

Diana shook her head.  Her lives were much too complicated.

Diana kept the girl between herself and Lincoln.  Justitia ignored him, but showed great anticipation, wondering how events would unfold.  Of course, Lincoln would no doubt keep himself in reserve.  He would hopefully grab Justitia if she ran out in her excitement. She would have asked Alexis to take that position, but thought Alexis might be needed for her magic.  Lincoln seemed the right choice.  Diana knew Lincoln would not run out in excitement.

Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 1 of 6

After 404 BC, Latium. Kairos lifetime 81: Diana: Marcia Furi Camilla Diana

Recording …

The travelers entered the time zone above the Arnus River, near the village that would one day be Pisa.  They found a ferry, but they had to let the horses swim across, a job the horses had long since mastered.  The ferryman smiled at the gold, Persian though it might be. The travelers saved their Spartan and Athenian silver for Rome, when they arrived.

Lockhart kept up the night watch as they traveled south through Etruscan territory.  As Evan and Millie said, the people in the countryside seemed nice, but the cities were not friendly.  They looked for a place that did not appear frequented by anyone in particular, and settled in.  That is not to say they hid from people, but they felt it best not to get entangled.

“They are defensive,” Katie pointed out about the city people.  “They don’t trust anyone, including each other.  I would say the Etruscan League is already broken.  It shouldn’t be hard for Rome to swallow the whole area.”

“Thus, we keep watch in the night,” Lockhart responded, and nodded to his own wisdom.

Evan and Millie also nodded to each other, but said nothing.  The post-hypnotic suggestion of the witch did not yet feel acute.

“According to the database,” Lincoln spoke up on that first evening.  “This is the crucial time for Rome.  Diana turned eight and traveled with her father when he took the Etruscan city of Veii.  Apparently, they dug under the walls and got into the city via the sewer system.

“Clearly something the Kairos would come up with,” Decker said, without betraying how he felt about that.

“The loss of that city is probably what broke the back of the Etruscan League,” Katie said.

Lincoln nodded.  “He subdued several cities in the south of Etruscan territory, and the Etruscans never really recovered.  But also, shortly after, the Etruscans got invaded by the Gauls. That may have been the actual last nail in the Etruscan coffin.  The Gauls also invaded Rome, and caused some real trouble, but Diana’s father raised an army and drove them out.  The Etruscans just got squished.”

“Gauls?” Lockhart asked.

“Gaelic people from up by the alps,” Katie told him.

“Of all the gall,” Decker said.  No one even smiled.

“So, twice the Kairos got involved through her father,” Boston said.

Lincoln nodded.  “She was fourteen when the Gauls came.  Her father was dictator and consul during her fifteenth year, and rebuilt Rome after the Gauls left.  Then she turned sixteen and got married.”

Alexis shook her head.  “I know it is the times, and typical through most of history, but I still say sixteen is too young.”

“How old was her husband?” Katie asked.

“Um…” Lincoln looked.  “I think, thirty-one.”

“See?” Alexis said.  “That’s not right.  He is fifteen years older than her.”

“Women mature faster,” Lockhart said, and added, “Ouch,” when Katie slapped him in the shoulder.

“Publius Claudius Crassus is his name. He is a diplomat and holds some religious office. He is a second son.  Apparently, the Claudia father and Diana’s father did not always see eye to eye. The marriage calmed things a bit.”

“And a political marriage besides,” Alexis groused.

“Poor girl,” Boston agreed.

“They have three children,” Lincoln said, to mollify things a bit.  “Publia, named after her father, and Justitia are the girls.  Justitia got adopted when Diana suffered a miscarriage. Technically, the elder is Publia Prima, and Justitia’s adopted name is Publia Secunda, but Diana insists on calling her Justitia, so everyone else calls her that.  Then, Publius Gaius Claudius Crassus, the youngest, is the son. He goes by Gaius Claudius, like his grandfather.  Of course, we don’t know exactly when we arrived.  They might not be born yet.”

“Justitia was eleven, near twelve when we came through,” Millie said.  “She is blind, but a sweet girl.  Publia turned fourteen, and whenever she got in trouble, Diana would say her own name, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, three times in a row, just like that.  I don’t understand why.”

A few of the travelers laughed at that one.

“Gaius was ready to turn eight when we left,” Evan finished.

“Good to know,” Lockhart said, with a glance at Katie to see if he was still in trouble.

“Family,” Elder Stow interrupted. “It is important, you know.”

“So, why is this a crucial time?” Decker asked, to get back on the topic.

“Yes,” Lincoln said.  “Once Rome broke the Etruscans, who otherwise sat there breathing down their Roman necks, Rome had to overcome her immediate neighbors starting with the Latin League, but also the Aequi, the Volsci, and the Hernici.  That was where Rome learned to use diplomacy effectively, and how to deal with a defeated enemy.  Rome learned how to build and equip a real army, and discipline soldiers to win. The Samnite wars, and then the Punic wars that followed refined and expanded the scale of things, but all of the basics that eventually created the Roman Empire were learned in this time period.”

“Fair enough,” Lockhart said, as he got up. It turned ten, time for Lincoln and Alexis to watch.  Lockhart and Katie would get a two-hour nap before their midnight to two in the morning shift.

Millie and Evan went to bed, thinking, there might not be a time when the others were all asleep.  Then, what should they do?

###

While moving several days through the hills of Etruscan territory, the only comment of note came from Alexis. “Somehow, this isn’t how I imagined traveling through Tuscany.”

On the fourth day, they came to Veii, where they were only a day out, about ten miles from Rome.  The people there appeared happier than any city people they had seen.

Lincoln reported.  “When Veii fell, the Romans killed every adult male in the city.  Then later, when the Gauls came, the defeated Roman army hid behind the walls of Veii. They held out when the Gauls went on to attack Rome, but you can imagine, all those young soldiers and widows. People moved in from the countryside, especially when the Gauls were rampaging.  Also, some plebeians moved here out of the poorer sections of Rome, and some patrician families are looking to build villas in the neighborhood. Though it does not have nearly the population it had as an Etruscan city, it is now full of Roman citizens and basically a Roman city.  Besides, now that Camillus, that is, Diana’s father, drove the Gauls out and conquered all the surrounding, local tribes, the people of New Veii, so to speak, are probably happy not being in the direct line of anyone’s fire.”

“Well,” Alexis said.  “At least the people surrounding the city seem happy and at peace, as opposed to the Etruscans, where everyone felt on edge about one thing or another.”

Sukki turned her head back into the conversation.  “I know. The people in this time zone keep giving me indigestion.”

“Me too,” Millie agreed with the girl.

“Hold up,” Lockhart said. “Dismount.”  They neared the city gate.  Boston came back and got right down.  Decker and Elder Stow came in from the sides.  Several soldiers rode out to meet them.

“What do you think they want?” Elder Stow whispered to Katie and Lockhart.

“I smell trouble,” Decker said.

“So do I,” Lockhart, the once-upon-a-time police man agreed.  Katie nodded as well, but Boston spoke up.

“So do I, and it feels like trouble that is not entirely of this world.”

That sounded disturbing.

The soldiers seemed nice.  They got especially nice when they found out the travelers were friends with Furius Camillus, or at least his daughter, wife of Claudius Crassus.  They were helpful when the travelers asked about accommodations for the night.

“Good thing you are only planning one night here,” the officer said, but did not explain, so Lincoln asked.

“Why is that a good thing?”  The officer said nothing, but one of his men did not hesitate to speak up, even if his officer gave him a mean look.

“Because, for a week now, the city has been haunted with ghosts.  Strange and unnatural things have been happening in all sorts of places.  People have become afraid to go out after dark.”

“Like what sorts of things?” Alexis asked.

A different soldier spoke.  “One man’s pigs turned on him.  He and his family had to hide in their house until men could come and put the beasts down.”

“I heard a chicken got born with two heads,” another spoke.

“I heard it was a snake,” a third contradicted.

“That isn’t it,” the officer finally spoke.  “People are seeing lights in the night where no light should be.  Some have seen figures, like people floating along. Like ghosts.  And there are sounds, like strange, unnatural noises, like swords crossing and chains rattling…”

“And screams,” one of the soldiers interrupted.

The officer nodded.  “The night watch says they can’t tell if someone needs help or if it is just the ghosts.”

“How do you account for this?” Lockhart asked.

“Well, some say it is the ghosts of the old men of Veii that Rome slaughtered when the city fell.  That has not been taken well by some of the people, as you may imagine.  But others claim the Rasenna, that is, the Tusci in the city were wealthy and had many slaves, whom they treated horribly.  They were a decadent, self-serving people who deserved to be overthrown by the more upright Romans.  Some say it is the Rasenna weeping over their sins that led to their destruction.  Some say it is the slaves who finally have a voice in death that they never had in life.”

“What do you say?” Katie asked.

The officer shrugged.  “I say it is frightening the children.  There is already talk of abandoning the city.” The officer shrugged again.