Avalon 3.0: part 4 of 4 A New Beginning

Junior sat down to watch the newly created Niudim eat. He was trying to discern certain more subtle aspects of his making when Lockhart interrupted.

“So where did the imps go?”

Junior nodded and left off his examination to answer. “The Mojave on the other side of the world where the goddess will never find them. The plan might not work, but at least they will be safe.”

“That’s it? You just sent them off?” Lincoln wondered.

“No.” Junior shook his head. “I gave them a lovely thatched roofed house with roses of the desert in their garden and a big pen full of buffalo and big horn sheep and other animals native to that part of the world.”

‘Sounds lovely,” Katie said.

Junior smiled for the first time and it warmed the hearts of everyone present. “Truth is they will eat through that food in a couple of weeks and probably accidentally burn the house down. Then they will be right back to their same old tricks, make a golem out of buffalo hide, and send him into the nearest village to beg, borrow or steal whatever is edible.”

hole in the earth“And what will you and Mister Bacon be doing?” Decker asked.

“We will head down into the underworld this evening at sundown. It would be better if you were not around for that.”

Lincoln shivered. “I can’t imagine not being afraid.”

Junior shook his head. “The Kairos has access to all the underworlds. I have little ones who work down below. I can go down and back up by pledge of all the gods and Hades, Erishkegal and even Hellas have no right or power to prevent me. I also happen to be immune to the food of the dead. A precaution I think, but then I am also immune to ambrosia, the divine nectar, the apples of youth, and of course fairy food.” Junior sighed.

Lockhart looked at Junior for a moment as if trying to figure out something in his own head before he moved. He could not guess, whatever it was, so he spoke. “Okay people, lets pack it up and see how far we can get in daylight.”

Junior and Niudim waved until the travelers were out of sight. The Travelers returned the sentiment, but it was not long before they were beyond of the only source of love in that world. The group moved mostly in silence. When they spoke, it was cordial. They were all trying hard to remember their true feelings, even if they were not feeling that way at the moment.

The sun seemed to take forever to set over that flat land of grass and sand. It was Lincoln who finally came to name the land the desert of Arabia. They were in the Middle East, but a long way from the Tigris and Euphrates. Fortunately, Junior made sure their water skins and canteens were full before they left.

Roland did not have to go far to find a gazelle that appeared to want to be taken for supper. There was also wood in the area for the fire, though no one could imagine where it came from. The animal was cut and cooked, and people ate their fill and drank sparingly from their water. When each person laid down to sleep, Katie started it all.

“Lockhart,” she said. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” he responded, and they both turned on their sides, away from each other and not near enough to touch,

“Roland,” Boston spoke up. “I do love you.”

“I know, and I love you too,” Roland responded.

“I know,” Boston said and she took a minute to fluff her makeshift pillow.

Alexis turned to Lincoln and risked touching him. Lincoln faced her and spoke. “I love you too. I followed you to the end of the world, or the beginning of the world as the case may be because I did not want to live without you.”

“I know,” Alexis echoed Boston’s word. “I’m glad, and I love you too.” She turned over and tried to get comfortable on that hot and sweaty night.

The whole group was up in the early light before dawn. “We better move before the day gets too hot horses in the nightagain,” Lockhart said. No one said they agreed. They just went about saddling up and preparing to go.

All that long day was spent in silence, especially when the blazing sun forced them to walk and walk their horses. There was only one brief conversation between Elder Stow and Decker, the two who were unencumbered with immediate concerns about love.

“I do not understand these people,” Elder Stow said. “My people were made to live in just these sorts of small groups. Relationships are encouraged, but so often these appear reluctant, especially among the mother and father of the group.”

“In our tradition relationships are discouraged because they can so easily distract from readiness and from the mission. The brass wouldn’t like this, and people know office romances are generally not a good idea. But in this case, I would like to see these relationships strengthened. It means they will be watching out for each other double hard, and it sets me free to watch the perimeter and deal with whatever may be following us..”

“Exactly, and indeed,” Elder Stow said, and he floated overhead to his place where he could watch the perimeter on the other side of the column.

The travelers walked long into the cool of the night. Though the landscape remained unchanged, full of scrub grass and sand, the night got cold in the wee hours just like a real desert. The travelers had to thicken their fairy weave clothes and bundle up. It was two in the morning when they found the time gate.

Lockhart would have stopped the group by midnight, but Boston kept saying it was just up ahead. No one argued about wanting to stop, and Lockhart thought long about their journey so far. They had been subject to wars, pestilence and diseases unheard of in the twenty-first century. They had been chased by ghouls and demons, trapped and attacked by locals including soldiers, fought aliens, night creatures and a little green man. They twice had their minds and wills taken over by powers in the earth. They once went into a world where the sun never came up, but the group was never so anxious to leave a time zone. A world without love was unbearable.

They broke their informal rule and went through the time gate in the dark. They found themselves in some region of the Alps, as Lincoln reported. There was snow on the fir trees and in windblown piles on the ground, and they appeared to be on a kind of road that wound through the high country. There was a small clearing in that place where they could set a camp.

horse night snowThe travelers dismounted and Roland went straight to Boston. He wrapped her up in his arms and she was eager for his kiss. Lincoln and Alexis hugged first, like old married couples do, but soon they joined the kissing party. Lockhart dismounted and Katie looked at him, but said and did nothing. It was up to him to walk to her and slip his arms around her.

“I’m slow,” he said. “But I will get there.” Katie just nodded as he touched his lips tenderly to hers. She kissed him back, and it wasn’t so tender.

Elder Stow went to hover beside Decker who had yet to dismount when Decker heard a voice.

“Ooo, that is something you don’t see every day.”

Decker looked up. It was a ghost floating just above his and Elder Stows heads. Decker made no sign of surprise. He slipped off his horse and shouted, “Make camp,” though it technically wasn’t his place to say that.

Avalon 3.0: The End of Love, part 1 of 4

After 3206 BC south of Mesopotamia. Kairos lifetime 33: (Amun) Junior

Recording …

“A woman wants to hear the word love now and then, you know.” Katie gave Lockhart a hard stare and ignored her horse’s footsteps. There was not anything to see except sand, sparse vegetation and the blazing sun overhead.

“Yeah, well, for a man that is not so easy.” Lockhart wiped the sweat from his brow. “I can tell you I admire and respect you. I think you are the nicest, kindest, most thoughtful and intelligent woman I have ever known. I can tell you that you are beautiful and I would not be lying. In fact, you are the only woman in the whole world—in the whole of history I have ever found who I felt I could be happy with. But I can’t say that other word because I am not feeling it right now, and that’s for sure.”

Katie looked away for a minute before she answered. “Everything you just said, ditto to you, but now that I think of it I don’t feel that word either.” She nudged her horse to move out on the flank with Captain Decker and Lockhart threw the sweat from his hand to the ground.

Lincoln leaned over to whisper in Alexis’ ear. “Children,” he said. “Wait until they really start having an argument.”

Alexis pulled her head away and wiped her ear like she was afraid he got something on it. “You mean like—“

“Now don’t you start.”

“Start what? You have no idea what I was going to say.”

“Start anything. I don’t want to hear it.”

Alexis gave Lincoln a Katie kind of hard look. She spoke between her teeth. “Fine.”

“Fine,” Lincoln answered and ignored her look

“Don’t touch me.” Boston’s voice was loud enough for all to hear.

“Who said I wanted to touch you, Princess Little Fire.” The sarcasm in Roland’s words were evident.

“It’s just, I can’t get any peace.” Boston turned her head and shouted at the group. “There is no escaping you people.” She spoke more softly. “I can’t get any rest.”

Roland said nothing more.

When Katie rode to the flank, Elder Stow hovered over to pace Lockhart. He had something to say, and he spit as he talked.

“My Father.” He turned up his nose. “It is only right to give you fair warning.”

Lockhart looked at the Neanderthal.. He did not entirely trust the Gott-Druk, and thought he might never entirely trust him, but he listened.

“I am not happy traveling in your company and I do not care what happens to your people, all of you homo sapiens who stole our homeland and drove us out into the darkness among the stars. It was difficult, but I was finding my way back home to the future just fine without you. I am thinking I could take the amulet and find my way easily and leave you all here to rot.”

Alexis whipped around from in front. “The gods would break the amulet rather than let you have it, and they would break your equipment, too, so you would be left here to rot with us.”

“We have faced things where your super advanced equipment was no protection. You don’t have to love us. You don’t even have to like us, but there is safety in numbers. We watch out for each other and travel together.”

Elder Stow nodded to common sense, even if he did not like it. “The thing is, right now I do not care about my children whom you killed. I do not care about my own people. As you homo sapiens say, they can all rot in hell.” With that thought on his mind, he floated back out to the perimeter.

“Decker,” Katie started to speak sharply but amended her word and softened her voice to offer more respect. “Captain, is there any way you can look up ahead and see if we are getting anywhere?”

Captain Decker looked at her to judge how upset she might be before he spoke. “I loved my wife once,” he said, like he was drawing on a thought from nowhere. “Right now I cannot imagine it, but it must be true or I would not have married her.”

“Where did that comment come from?”

Captain Decker took a moment to adjust his seat in the saddle. He let his hand slip down to finger the stock on his rifle. “It’s just that after a while we found that it really wasn’t love, it was lust. There was no love, and we both knew it even if she would never admit it. Still, I stayed with her for a number of years, even when she got hot and cranky, and believe me, she was an expert at getting hot and cranky, but some of those days were good.”

Katie glanced at Lockhart. “How did you manage that?”

“Do you love him?”

“I thought I did. I don’t hate him, but right now I don’t feel any love at all.”

“Me neither. But I haven’t felt love for years.” Decker unsnapped the strap on his rifle. “I stayed with my wife as long as I did because I made a promise. I did my duty.” Decker pulled his rifle and startled Katie back to task with the words, “We got company.”

Katie rode back over beside Lockhart and pulled her own rifle even as Roland said, “Visitors.” The procession stopped where they were. “They appear to be imps,” he added.

Three dirty, gray skinned imps came over the scrub grass. They were short legged but had arms nearly long enough to drag their knuckles. The women knew at once, but it took the men a moment to realize the one out front was a female.   They all had the same look about them with big mouths with a few sharp teeth showing, big saucer-like eyes and nostril holes that did not quite support an actual nose. They were clearly not human, and in another time and place they might have claimed to be from the planet Zorton and nobody would have questioned it. They stopped when they were a few feet away.

“Elf.” The female said.

“My name is Roland, and these are my companions.”

“Fancy that,” the female cut him off before he got into the introductions. “An elf forced to drag a bunch of short livers around. Must be a curse of some kind.” The female out front spoke to the younger males that hovered over her shoulders.

“You have a name?” Roland was trying to keep things civil.

“Magpie, and these are my boys, Snot and Puss.” Magpie leaned forward, secretive, but she had no ability to whisper. “I tried to ditch them back a ways, but I cook and they eat, so.” Magpie shrugged. “So now we will be taking one of your horses and be on our way.”.

“The horses are a gift of the Kairos. You dare not so much as touch one.”

Magpie paused for a minute to consider her options. “Kairos is that way.” She pointed back the way she came. “He wanted us to do a job for him, but I don’t care about him. I don’t love him no more than I do my own sons, and I don’t care about them, none at all. Besides, I’ve been dreaming about horse bacon.”

“Now hold it,” Lockhart had dismounted and stepped forward. “No one needs to get hurt.”

Decker put a bullet between Magpie’s feet. Her eyes got very big at the sound of thunder and puff of dust as Decker spoke. “I don’t understand. What is everyone’s problem? So you don’t love the Kairos. So you don’t love her. So you don’t love him.” Decker did not specifically point to a person. “I haven’t felt love in years. But I made a bunch of pledges when I joined the service, and I made promises to this group, and I intend to keep them all. Love doesn’t matter. It doesn’t keep me from being loyal and faithful. Hell, I’m a Marine. I take my orders and I do my duty to the best of my ability, period.” He turned to face the imps. “I understand you are pledged to the Kairos, so if he asked you something, you need to do it to fulfill your pledge, to do your duty. Maybe you don’t love him, but love’s got nothing to do with it.”

Everyone quieted to think. The travelers understood very well what Decker was saying. The imps understood, but they were not really persuaded by it. Loyalty, faithfulness and duty were not strong in the imp character, and keeping promises was laughable. Roland understood this of the imps, so he felt it was important to add one thing.

“Then again, if you cause harm to one of us or one of these horses, the Kairos will know, and he has the power to cast you into the land of eternal torment.”

Magpie rubbed her chin as she admitted, “There is that.”

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

To be continued.  Look for Tomorrows post, Avalon 3.0, part 2 of 4 Love by the Fire

Until then … Happy Reaing

MGK