Avalon 8.1 Rain and Fire, part 6 of 6

“The city finally got abandoned when some dry years killed the crops and the constant wars made continuing impossible.  Some got carted off by enemy armies to populate other cities.  Gluga and I found a few people here.  More have come.  Mostly artists and workers tired of all the fighting and killing.  We have tried to keep the settlement small, so the armies won’t bother us. We have a small group of Shemsu here.  Imagine, after all these centuries, some Shemsu have remained apart and not entirely blended into the larger population.  We hide them, mostly.  You know, they are in big demand to build and maintain things in the cities.”

“I can imagine,” Katie said as they stood and watched the people bring a whole deer to the open porch in front of a very large building.  The men bowed and backed away, quickly. Gluga stuck her head out and grabbed the deer.  They saw the light of the flames as Gluga ate.

“The building has no roof on it, so Gluga does not feel confined,” Yamaya explained what she already explained.  “She can come and go as she pleases.  I think it was a funeral building.  There are dead bones, broken shields and weapons, and lots of shards of old pottery.  There are even some gold, silver, and jade things there.  I would think it would be very uncomfortable to sleep in, but Gluga loves it.  She has marked it all as her nest.”

“And woe to anyone who imagines stealing something from the nest,” Lockhart said.

“No one is that stupid,” Yamaya said.

After three days of rest, the travelers with Yamaya and Gluga headed off toward the northern lowlands.  Boston complained, but Alexis explained to her that Yamaya would bring them to the place where the time gate showed.  It was for their own safety.

“But the gate will just move further away, the closer Yamaya gets,”

“Yes, but then Yamaya and Gluga will fly back to Mirador.  It should take a couple of days, and the gate will come back to the place it is now.”

“Oh,” Boston understood.  “That should work.”

On the road, Yamaya said little outside of lovely, pleasant conversation.  She admitted early on that she was honestly not very smart in this life.  “I don’t know.  I think all the brains got saved for other lifetimes.  I got no education.  Gluga probably has as much brains as I do.  Maybe that is why we get along so well.”

“Yes,” Katie said.  “Gluga seems to have a very big vocabulary.”

Yamaya paused and looked serious for a minute, a look which did not fit on her face at all.  “Gluga is still an animal, not a person, I think.  After being in a cage for five hundred years and hearing all the talk around her, she learned an amazing number of words.  She has a much bigger vocabulary than a dog or a chimp.  She understands complete sentences and can even respond in sentences when her tongue and lips cooperate.  But my lifetimes say she is still an animal, and not a person.  I don’t get how that works.  Anyway, she adopted me.  Much better than a watchdog.  She is the mother, and I am the baby.  I don’t mind.”

Later in the evening, Boston, who in the end bonded a bit with the dragon, at least more than any of the others, went to talk to the beast.  She scratched a little behind the dragon’s ears and then leaned on the snout.

“So, you adopted Yamaya,” Boston said.  She had to wait for the answer.

“Yamaya is baby.  I protect baby.”

Boston nodded but had a more serious question.  “You love her?”

“Yes,” the dragon responded rather quickly.  “Saved me.  Fly again.  Love.”

Boston nodded.  “I love her too,” she admitted.

“I know,” the dragon said, snorted, and appeared to smile, just a little.

Boston returned the smile and in a moment of madness leaned over and kissed the dragon’s nose.  The dragon rumbled a minute, which someone might have thought of as the dragon’s way of preparing to let out some fire, but Boston understood it was something more like the purr of a cat.

On another occasion, Tony asked how Yamaya came to be in Tikal and slated to be sacrificed.  Nanette shook her head, as if to say that might not be a good subject to bring up, but Yamaya did not mind, and Tony explained.  “Nanette and I are both students of history, though mostly Greek and Roman history.  What is more, we are from 1905, when not much was known about the Mayan world.  Katie, from 2010 knows more than I know.  Professor Fleming never said much if anything about the Maya.  I am curious.”

“I don’t mind,” Yamaya said and smiled for Tony.  She sat for a long time and people stayed patient and quiet.  Finally, she spoke.

“My father was a great man.  Lincoln said our city was…”  She could not remember.

“Palenque,” Lincoln prompted.

Yamaya nodded.  “My father was a great man in the city.  Jonab Pakal.  Maybe you heard of him?  No, I guess not.”  Yamaya sighed.  “He got killed when the army of Calakmul came.  I was very young.  I hid.  King Chan of Calakmul found me anyway.  His brother, the evil K’ahk wanted to sacrifice me to the gods, but Chan had another idea.  He betrothed me to his eldest son, Cauac.  Cauac was about fourteen.  I was about half that age, maybe six or seven.  Cauac was not the greatest thinker.  He was showing no interest in girls, or in the idea of marriage.  But we got thrown together, and we became best friends.”  Yamaya paused to sniffle a bit.  “His younger brother Chan, now King Chan II, was mean and ambitious.  You know what I mean ambitious?”  They all did.  Sukki had to interrupt.

“You did not get married at age seven, did you?”

Yamaya shook her head, said, “No,” and laughed at the thought.  “I was fifteen.  Cauac was twenty-three.  But we were happy.  We loved each other.”  Yamaya kept trying to smile.  “Well, when old King Chan died, Cauac got named king.  I got to be queen.  I did not expect that.  It was different.  People who did not care for me at all, suddenly became nice to me.  I was happy for a minute, but then Uncle K’ahk took over.  He ran things and made all the decisions in Cauac’s name, and had his name written in the city.  I don’t know that.  I can’t read.  But Cauac and I were kept like prisoners for almost eight years.”

“That must have been hard,” Alexis said.

“I did not mind so much,” Yamaya said.  “I was not sure about this queen business, anyway.  And I stayed with my best friend.  We had a son.  But he died.” Yamaya sniffled again.  “I had a sister when I was young, an older sister, but my sister died when King Chan came.  That was a sad time, but I was very young.  Well, the city that just got taken by Caracol…” she could not remember the name.

“Naranjo,” Lincoln said.  Yamaya wrinkled her brows to question the name, but Lincoln gave her an answer.  “That is what the city is called in the database.”  Yamaya shrugged.

“We, I mean Calakmul took Naranjo away from Tikal, but they rebelled, and Uncle K’ahk died trying to get it back.  Cauac got to be king, for real.  He listened to his brother, Chan, and they took back Naran… that city.  I got to be queen for six whole years.  After being in prison for eight years, like Gluga.  I understand being in prison and understand how it hurts.  So Cauac and I were happy, but the kings in this world have to fight.  They fight to protect the trade, and to make new trade and trade places, and to keep some cities small and make their city big.  Kill, killing, fighting, sacrifices for the gods, and more killing.  The kings do not know what peace is.”  Yamaya almost looked mad, though Boston said later she was not sure if Yamaya knew what anger was.

“You were queen for six years?” Katie prompted in case Yamaya lost her place in the story.

“Oh, yes.  Then Cauac got killed fighting in another city.  The evil Chan became king, and I got driven into the wilderness of Tikal.”

“They did not try to sacrifice you?” Lockhart asked.

Yamaya shook her head.  “Chan was afraid,” Yamaya said.  “He doesn’t seem afraid of anything, but he seemed afraid.”  She paused and looked down at her hands.  “I have little ones who follow me around.  I told them I was not Huyana.  I did not need to see them.  I said I would call them if I needed them, but they are very protective.  I know they are there.”  She lowered her voice to a whisper.  “I think they threatened Chan.”

“All right,” Boston shouted into the wilderness.  When the others looked at her, she admitted.  “I know they are there, and I agree with them.  If anyone wanted to hurt Yamaya, I would threaten them, too.  How about you, Gluga.”

“Yes,” everyone heard, and some were startled.  They did not realize the dragon was sitting there the whole time, in the dark beyond the firelight, listening.

“But I don’t want anyone to be hurt,” Yamaya said.

“Why didn’t you tell us there were others around?” Nanette asked Boston.

“You could have told me,” Sukki said.

Boston shrugged as Alexis spoke up.  “No reason to tell.  You must assume they are somewhere around wherever we go.”

“Okay, but what happened?”

Yamaya tried to pick up the story.  “I escaped… I mean, I got caught… Cadmael and men from Tikal caught me in the woods.  The king of Tikal was going to cut my heart out.  He said cutting out the heart of the Queen of Calakmul was like cutting out the heart of the enemy city.  But the little ones helped me escape, and I helped Gluga escape.  We went to the wilderness of Uaxactun for a while.  Poor Gluga was so skinny, and her wings were all but dead.  She is better now.  Of course, the people of Tikal and Calakmul have not bothered us.  I did see Cadmael and told him he would not be bothered if he moved south.  I guess he did.  He seemed like a nice man.  Anyway, after a while we moved to the old city, and we are happy there.”

Everyone smiled for her, and she said, “I think I will go to sleep now.”

A few days later they arrived at Chichen Itza.  They found Shemsu there who were wary of strangers, but nice once the travelers got to know them.  Thus far, they only had the ground floor of the famous pyramid built, but it would not take too long to finish once they got to it.

In the meanwhile, everyone got distracted as a giant globe of an alien ship moved slowly overhead.  The travelers all recognized the ship, and Yamaya borrowed Elder Stow’s communication device, tuning it quickly to the right frequency.

“Agdaline.  You are welcome here, but you must follow me and my andasmagoria to a place where you can safely set down.  Send word to your fleet.  I am the one in this place designated by the gods to help you.  Please cooperate.”

Yamaya shrugged as she handed Elder Stow his equipment.  “The Agdaline think too highly of themselves.  I can never tell what they will do.”

“Will you be all right?” Katie asked.

Yamaya nodded.  “Not your problem.  Martok and the others are already volunteering to help.”  She smiled a great big smile, and Katie could not resist hugging her.

Everyone said good-bye to Yamaya and Gluga.  Yamaya explained that it would take them two days to get home because Gluga’s wings were not one hundred percent, and probably never would be.  The dragon could not fly all day and all night.  They would have to stop about half-way and rest.

Everyone said that would be fine, and they all smiled for her.  After she left, Lincoln got sulky quiet.

“What?” Alexis finally asked around the campfire

Lincoln opened up.  “Yamaya only lives another three or four years.”

“What?”

Decker asked.  “What does she die of?”

“Monkey Brain Fever.  A different strain.  Highly contagious but not as deadly.”

“Still,” Alexis said with a shake of her head.

“No, Boston,” Lockhart spoke right up.  “You cannot go back and warn her.”

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

MONDAY

The Byzantines are barely able to hold the line in Anatolia against the arabs, but the Masters have plans to help bring the Byzantines down.  The travelers fall into the middle of it all in Trouble Big and Small.  Monday.  Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 8.1 Rain and Fire, part 5 of 6

Katie whistled for her horse, and he came right away.  The other horses followed, except Lockhart’s horse, Seahorse, and Boston’s Strawberry.  They were not finished munching on flowers for breakfast, and Seahorse even stamped his hooves like the unruly child he was.

“Strawberry,” Boston called, and the horse came.  Seahorse still resisted but did not want to be the only one left standing in the field.

While the horses got saddled, Sukki asked what the opposing army was doing.  “They are just standing there being quiet.  It feels creepy.”

“Spooky,” Nanette agreed.

Decker lifted Tony’s hands.  Tony held his handgun at the ready, but he pointed the gun too low, anticipating the recoil.  “No recoil until after you fire,” Decker said.

“I can’t think of anything we can do to send them away.  This looks like a stalemate,” Lockhart said.

Lincoln walked up, having just put Ghost in the harness.  “Don’t look at me,” he said.

Cadmael offered a thought.  “It looks like the whole army from Caracol.”

“Maybe we could talk to them and see what they want?” Gabor suggested.

“Major, ever do any sharpshooting?” Decker asked.  “Six hundred meters is not that far.”

“Yes Colonel,” Katie answered.  “But I don’t think we are starting with sharpshooting.”

“We see if we can talk,” Lockhart agreed.  He started forward.  Katie, Cadmael, and Gabor went with him.  They got about a hundred yards toward the forest when they heard someone in the army line shout a command.  Lockhart could not tell what was said, but at once, the whole enemy line rushed forward.  More than five hundred, and maybe a thousand Caracol warriors hit Elder Stow’s screens at once.  They bounced off, but he heard Elder Stow shout, “No, no.  No.”

Lockhart quickly turned and brought everyone back while the Caracol warriors tried again and again.

“No,” Elder shouted once more, and the screen disappeared.  Three thousand Caracol warriors crossed the line, screaming murder.  Decker and Katie opened fire with the rifles set to automatic.  Lincoln, Lockhart, and Tony added their handguns to the mix.  At that distance, given the way they were all bunched up, they would hit something.

Boston gave her handgun to Nanette who bravely walked up beside Decker and pulled the trigger.  Boston did not have time to make explosive arrows, but she had her wand.  Alexis was already calling up a wind strong enough to blow dozens off their feet.  Boston made her flamethrower which at least slowed the charge.

Sukki rose up, seeing that Elder Stow was busy with the screen device.  At twenty feet in the air, Sukki could see the whole Caracol army.  She looked at her own hands.  She could not control her power well enough yet.  She did not practice.  She still scared herself.  She could not just stun them to put the whole Caracol army unconscious. She could fry many of them and leave charcoal bits on the ground that used to be human beings, but she could not bring herself to do that.  She made up her mind that she had to do that when something intruded through the air.

A dragon flew between the travelers and the army of Caracol, spewing fire on the army the whole way.  That fire, far more powerful than Boston’s little flame thrower, turned the whole front of that line into a burning, screaming mass of humanity.  The ones behind, or who were not disabled by the fire, turned and ran for their lives.  Decker, and after a minute Katie mercifully shot the men who were burning and screaming in pain.  After another moment, Tony joined them.  Then Lockhart pulled his shotgun and finished some of the last.  It felt like a horrible thing to have to do, but no one talked about it, ever.

Cadmael stood like a stoic and watched flanked by young Xipetec and old man Kaax.  Gabor and most of his escort crew were on their knees, and a few were crying.  A few more screamed and shrieked when the dragon turned in the sky and came in for a landing.  Lockhart stood out front and yelled at the top of his lungs.

“No fire.  Do no harm.  Friends.  Friends.”  He repeated the phrase in the Agdaline tongue that all dragons were bred to obey.  “No fire.  Friends.”  Of course, whether they obeyed when they got big and went wild was always a question, but there was nothing else they could do.  They stood in an open field without so much as a rock or tree to hide behind.  “Friends.”

The travelers gathered behind Lockhart.  The Mayan kept their distance, and many stayed on their knees.  The horses kept their distance as well, but they did not run off, being magically tied to their riders.  They shuffled away from the beast but stayed within reach.

The dragon landed and raised its head high in the sky.  It burped a small burst of flame into the sky and repeated Lockhart’s words in the Mayan tongue.  “No fire.”  People looked up and saw someone on the neck of the dragon, riding the dragon, like they once saw Ixchel, daughter of Maya, the corn woman goddess, who rode a different dragon a long time ago.

Lincoln whispered to Alexis.  “This is a different breed.  It still has all its feathers, like a baby.”

Alexis nodded and answered.  “And it looks more like an actual worm than most, with hardly any claws front and back.”  She pointed.  “The folded wings are hardly noticeable, the way they blend into the body.  It is a wonder it doesn’t set itself on fire with those feathers.”

Lincoln clarified.  “I read about that.  They are leathery and fireproof, a strong protection that is more flexible, though not as strong as scales.  Most dragons, especially the more dinosaur-looking type, shed their feathers at a certain age when their scales begin to harden. But a few of the more obvious worm-like breeds, the kind that slither but don’t really walk, wear their feathers their whole life.”

Alexis nodded, as the dragon said another word.  “Friends,” and Lockhart noticed the dragon spoke in the Mayan language, not the Agdaline.  He was about to say something when they heard the person overhead riding on the Dragon’s neck.

“Boston,” the woman said.

Boston shouted back.  “No way.  I’m not climbing on a dragon back to get my hug.”

The woman, obviously Yamaya, laughed.  They heard it as the dragon lowered its head to the ground and let a little puff of smoke out from its nostrils.  Yamaya slipped down and opened her arms.  She grinned, but Boston remained wary, being so close to the big dragon’s head.  At last, though, she could not help herself and ran into the hug.  Everyone smiled, though most looked at the dragon to see if it reacted.  It watched but stayed quiet.

Yamaya went around to hug all of the travelers.  It felt a bit like she was sending the dragon a message that these people were okay, and the dragon should not hurt them.  Then she introduced her dragon and stepped over to scratch behind the dragon’s ear.

“This is my friend, Gluga,” she said.  “She is my protector, though she says she is more like my mother, and I am like her baby.  She never had any babies.”  Gluga snorted and shot out her tongue, briefly, like a snake might taste the air.

“Glugh?” Lockhart said as he tried to grasp the Agdaline word.  “Injury?”

“Hurting,” Yamaya said.  “Gluga was a prisoner in a stone-built cage in Tikal for five hundred years.  She cried and told me how much being a prisoner hurt her.  We figured out how to set her free and we escaped to the wilderness around Uaxactun, but that is a long story.”  Yamaya looked up and saw a face she recognized.  “Cadmael,” she said.  “How dare you return here.”

Cadmael fell to one knee and lowered his head.  “These people appeared to belong to you.  They said as much.  I do not understand most of what they say or how they can do what they can do, but if they are not of the gods, as they claim, then they certainly must belong to you.  I felt it only fair to guide them and give them as safe a passage as I could.  I still owe you my life.”

Yamaya looked like she could not stay mad.  The smile came back with force.  “Thank you, but you and your friends can go back south if you do not want the Lords of Tikal to find you.”

“Yes, please.  Thank you,” Cadmael looked relieved that he was not going to be eaten.

“And these men from Tayasal?” Yamaya asked, not sure what to ask, exactly.

Somehow, Gabor found the courage to answer.  “My Lords said to take these people to Tikal and offer them for the sacrifice, to prove that Tayasal is still loyal to the great city and not willing to submit to the advances of King K’an of Caracol.  I see now that was a wrong-headed and foolish idea.  My few men could not take these people anywhere they did not want to go.  Please, mighty Queen of the Serpent.  May we live?”

Yamaya shook her head and sighed.  “Go ahead.  Take your men and leave.  Be content to live beside the lake of plenty and do not come here again.”

Gabor bowed his head and did not have to yell to get his men to hurry back the way they came.  Cadmael, Xipetec, and old man Kaax also bowed, and with more reverence and less desperation.  Then they turned and followed the men of Tayasal.

“They planned to give us to Tikal to have our hearts cut out?” Tony said, and people looked at Yamaya.

“It is what we do,” she said.  “But honestly, I don’t understand all the politics involved.  All I know is the people are divided, like polar opposites mostly on stupid little stuff that should not matter.  It is like the hundred year’s war with Catholics and Protestants killing each other over stupid stuff.  It isn’t like your Civil War where a couple of big issues divided the people and needed to be decided.  It is more like your twenty-first century where progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans can’t even talk to each other.  Only here, the cities fight each other all the time, and have for years.  And why?  Mostly over stupid stuff.  They just can’t agree.  I don’t understand politics.  Why can’t people just be nice to each other and live in peace?”

Gluga lifted her head a little and nudged Yamaya gently.  Yamaya’s smile returned, and she nodded.  “Come on,” she said.  Gluga will lead the way.  We cross a few fallow farm fields and get to an old causeway that will take us to the old city where we are living.  Come.  Get your horses and come on.”

Yamaya started walking, and Gluga slithered out front, making a nice indent in the field.  It took a bit to gather the horses.  Ghost, for some reason, did not appear bothered by the dragon.  So soon they headed out across the field, following the woman and the serpent.

The travelers stayed one night in the Wilderness of Uaxactun before they went on to Yamaya’s old city which Lincoln identified as Mirador.

Avalon 8.1 Rain and Fire, part 4 of 6

It took them three days to reach Seibal and another day to reach Tayasal.  Cadmael told them this was the most dangerous area and showed them all the roads that went to Caracol.  “Lord Kan II of Caracol turned his army many times against Naranjo, a city in league with the Great Tikal.  Finally, in the last year, he has taken Naranjo away from Tikal and all the cities fear he will now turn on them.”

“The people in Seibal and Tayasal seemed nice, but nervous,” Katie said.  But the smaller towns and villages we came through seemed unafraid.”

Cadmael agreed, and Kaax spoke.  “When the king goes hunting, the monkey laughs but the deer scatter.”

Decker gave it a guess.  “When a city goes on the warpath, they don’t bother with the small towns and villages. They go after the cities that own and control those towns.  But for the bigger cities it is like every man for himself.”

“Every city for itself,” Lincoln corrected.

“Land a Goshen,” Decker said.

Lincoln looked at Lockhart’s face and kept his mouth closed.

###

The following morning, the travelers left Tayasal under escort.  A man named Gabor led twenty men who pledged to take them safely to Tikal.  He and Cadmael did not know each other, but they soon got on friendly, speaking terms.

“And you believe these are messengers of the gods?” Gabor asked.

“If not, they should be,” Cadmael answered.  “I have seen thing and they know things, even future things that should not be spoken.  They told us about the hurricane the day before it arrived.”

Gabor closed his mouth and shook his head.  “It was a bad storm,” he admitted.

When they stopped for lunch, Elder Stow took a long look ahead on his scanner.  He saw a village about an hour away, but something did not look right.  He could not decide what bothered him, so he asked Decker to spy with his eagle totem.  Decker slipped out of the group where he could meditate in relative quiet.  His eagle totem took him almost to the clouds, and when he dove down to the village to give his eagle eyes a good look and he understood what bothered Elder Stow.

Decker opened his eyes and returned to the group with a word.  “The village ahead is full of soldiers—warriors.  They have the residents rounded up and surrounded in an open area, and they appear to be ransacking the village.  I think gathering foodstuffs.”

“How far away?” Lockhart asked.

“About an hour, if I judge correctly,” Elder Stow said.

“Any way to spy out the village and not be seen?” Lockhart asked.

“A few trees left along the causeway,” Decker answered.  “But mostly flat, open farm fields.”

“Yeah,” Lincoln interrupted.  “I expected this whole area to be deep dark jungle.”

“I agree,” Tony said.

Katie shook her head.  “Most of the jungle has been cut down for slash and burn agriculture.  And they probably have cut two or three times what they plant in a year.  They rotate fields because jungle soil plays out fairly quickly and needs time to renew.”

“Okay,” Lockhart raised his voice to regain everyone’s attention.  “We will get as close as we can and let Elder Stow pull up that hologram thing so we can look before we leap.”

An hour later, Elder Stow brought up an image from his scanner.  It showed Gabor, Cadmael, and the Mayan warriors in red, the travelers and their horses in blue, the residents in the village ahead in green, all bunched up in an open area, and the invading warriors in yellow.  For once, Elder Stow did not say yellow is for danger.

Cadmael pointed to the image and spoke.  “Tikal would not send armed men to a village.  They depend on grain from the village to feed their people.”

Gabor swallowed and said, “Caracol.”  He blinked at the image and explained himself.  “This place belongs to Yaxha, not Tikal.  The army of Caracol may be after Yaxha after Naranjo.”

Or they may be attacking Tikal itself and wanting to secure the land behind them and gather food to feed their army,” Decker suggested.

“Maybe Tikal is attacking Yaxha as a counter to Caracol taking Naranjo,” Katie said.

“Tikal owns Yaxha,” Gabor said.  “But Yaxha may be tempted to switch to Caracol after the taking of their sister city, and that might be enough to bring out Tikal’s men.”

“I would say that is least likely,” Decker countered.

“Sir,” Katie acknowledged her superior officer.

“Most likely, Caracol,” Cadmael said, and they planned what to do.

The travelers mounted up and rode their horses into the village.  Their Mayan guides and escort bunched up behind them.  Nanette and Alexis walked in the rear and led Ghost and the wagon.  Elder Stow payed close attention to his screen device and fiddled with the controls.

The warriors, and they were about three dozen from Caracol, made a line between the travelers and the village residents.  The line of armed men said stop where you are and go no further without anyone having to say anything.

Lockhart waited until Elder Stow said, “Done.  Ready.”  Then he got down and stepped up in front of his horse.  This time, Katie stayed mounted.  She had her rifle out and ready.

“You have a leader?”  Lockhart, looking like a giant to these men, had to wait while the men of Caracol whispered among themselves.  Finally, one stepped forward and Boston yelled.

“That is not the leader.  That is the one the leader designated to face the giant.”  Of course, her good elf ears heard exactly what the men had been whispering.

The man looked back, and a different man stepped out.  He looked determined and walked up to Lockhart.  Lockhart held his hand up as if to signal that was close enough, but the man kept walking until he bumped his toe and then his face and hands into Elder Stow’s screen and fell back on his rump.  The man rubbed his toe as Lockhart shrugged.

“I am giving you thirty seconds to collect your things and leave this place and leave these people alone.  After that time, I cannot guarantee you will survive.”

A Caracol warrior stepped up from behind the line and threw his spear at Lockhart while Lockhart said slowly, “One—two—three.”  The spear did not fare any better than the Caracol leader.  It bounced off Elder Stow’s screen and they all heard it crack.  Lockhart simply said, “Four—five—six.”

The leader jumped up and started to yell at his people to grab everything they could and go.  Several started toward the villagers, and Lockhart shot off his shotgun.  The thunderous roar and spray of buckshot, mostly that tore up the ground, got everyone’s attention.  A couple of Caracol warriors got pinprick holes in their legs that started bleeding. Several warriors screamed.  Many of the people screamed.  Lockhart was not sure if maybe some of the escort warriors from Tayasal screamed.  But then all went silent, and eyes turned to Lockhart.  He spoke into the silence.

“The people and their food are not your things.  I said collect your things and leave.  “Eleven—twelve—thirteen.”

The warriors from Caracol went off down the road and disappeared by the time Lockhart got to twenty-five.  Elder Stow turned off his screens.  Everyone came up into the village.  Nanette and Alexis went straight to the people to see if any were hurt.  Katie shouldered her rifle and got down to give Lockhart a kiss on the cheek.

“I counted slowly,” he said.

“I’m glad we did not have to kill anyone,” she said.

“Me too,” Decker said, but then answered the surprise on the faces around him by adding, “Believe it or not.”  He reigned back to join Tony in securing the wagon.

Cadmael and the men from Tayasal all wanted to spend the night in the village.  It turned four o’clock which meant they only had a few of hour of daylight left, but the travelers insisted they push on, not that they had any expectation of making it to Tikal before dark, but, as Katie explained, “By morning, the men of Caracol might be able to set up an ambush and we might walk right into it.”

The Mayan dragged their feet, but the travelers did not stop, until around six.  They came to a field left fallow, and they thought it might be a good place to camp.  They had plenty of open space behind them and stopped about six hundred yards short of a jungle area, so they had plenty of space ahead of them as well.  They had no interest in being surprised.  After they all got settled, Elder Stow set his screens around the camp so their night would be undisturbed.  The horses got set free for the night since Elder Stow finally figured out how to set the screen so they could shoot through it if they had to, but the horses and people could not accidentally walk through it and find themselves on the outside.  Of course, nothing but air and most birds could penetrate from the outside.  Boston, Sukki, and Nanette complained that the insects could also penetrate the screens.

Elder Stow shook his head.  “The insects are already inside,” he insisted.

Come the morning, the travelers woke to a surprise.  On the edge of the trees, six hundred yards off, and totally blocking the causeway to Tikal, there stood hundreds, or more likely thousands of Caracol warriors, ready for a fight.

Lincoln complained.  “You try to be nice.  You count nice and slow and let the men go, and they come back with an army.”

Avalon 8.1 Rain and Fire, part 3 of 6

The Avenue ended in front of an adobe mountain beside what Katie called ball courts.

“Basketball?” Lockhart joked.  He knew better.

“Similar,” Katie said.  “Except the ring the ball needs to go through is twenty feet up and turned sideways, and no hands or feet allowed.”  To Lockhart’s curious look, she added, “Head shoulders, elbows, chest and knees only.”

At the end of the Avenue, roughly thirty men, looking like warriors but mostly older men, stood on a three-foot platform to stand above the crowd, a place where they could talk down to the people.  Aapo, Yochi, and Eme bowed deeply.  The people crowded around to hear what the rulers might say.  The soldiers waited, patiently, and kept the crowd from coming too close.  Katie and Lockhart stepped forward, followed by Lincoln and Alexis.  The horses, not having any grass to nibble, and wary of the crowd around them, also waited patiently for their riders.

“We are…” Lincoln started to speak but found Alexis’ hand over his mouth.  He meant to speak to Lockhart and Katie, but no doubt other ears would hear.

Aapo went into a long and fanciful tale about the travelers appearing out of nowhere, and coming from the west, which seemed important.  He told about the horses being poisonous, but how they were good servants to the gods.  He named Gukumatz, and the others that he knew.  He talked about how they flew over the narrow ledge on the mountain and embellished everything to make the tale almost unrecognizable.  He finished.  He waited like a man waiting for judgment.

Cadmael stepped up, bowed briefly, and added one word, militarily short and to the point.  “I see no trouble from these people.”

Silence followed as Elder Stow shuffled up from behind, his eyes glued to his scanner.

Katie and Lockhart took a step forward, and Katie spoke.  “We come in peace and pray that peace may extend to all of your people.”

“My father,” Elder Stow spoke to Lockhart as quietly as he could, but Gott-Druk are not good at whispering.  “I am picking up a storm over the water in the northwest.”  He stopped talking and stared at the group of elders.  Katie sensed what was coming.

One of the elders pushed to the front of the group.  He held a spear which he threw at Katie.  Katie stepped aside in time, but the spear struck Elder Stow, who fortunately had turned on his personal screen as soon as they got surrounded by the crowd.  The spear bounced off and Katie caught it.  She growled.

“That was not smart.” Lockhart spoke softly into the hush that followed.  Katie snapped the spear in two.  She threw the pieces to the ground.  Boston pulled her wand and shot a stream of fire which burned the weapon.

The elder who threw the spear screamed something unintelligible and reached for a second spear.  Decker fired his rifle.  The man spun around, fell to the ground, and died.  Two other men in the elders group quickly dropped their own spears.

“That was foolish,” Katie yelled, while Lockhart turned to Elder Stow.  Elder Stow pulled himself together enough to finish his thought.

“At its rate of travel, the hurricane should be here by tomorrow afternoon.  It will probably be a tropical storm by then, the way you folks judge things, but still destructive.”

Katie kept yelling.  “We came in peace.  We are not your prisoners.  We are not your sacrifices.  We are not your enemies, and you do not want to make us your enemies.”

“Cadmael,” Lockhart interrupted and looked at the man.  Cadmael had his hands up which somehow indicated to his warriors that they should not interfere.  “Is that the way to the main city?”  He could not remember the name.  He reached for Katie’s hand.

“Tikal,” Lincoln escaped Alexis’ hand and filled in the name.

Cadmael nodded, then shook his head.  “It is beyond the temple.”  He pointed to the pyramid.

“Take us,” Lockhart said before he turned to the elders.

“You should be kind to the strangers in your midst,” Katie finished yelling.  The elders looked unmoved.

Lockhart raised his voice.  “A hurricane is coming.  You will face the storm after mid-day tomorrow.  Consider this your warning.”  He waved Cadmael to move on, and the man did not argue, but Alexis spoke up.

“We need grain for the horses.”  Alexis reminded them all of what they talked about earlier, and she turned to give Aapo a hug.  She hugged Yochi and Eme and thanked them for their help.  Boston and Sukki joined in the hugs.  Lincoln suggested they go straight home and prepare their families for the coming storm, and they did, appearing anxious to get away from there.

“I would not expect any grain from these people,” Katie said, not quite out of steam.

“I can help with that,” Cadmael said.  He bowed to the unmoving and silent elders on the platform and waved to his warriors.  The warriors formed up and the crowd parted for them.  The travelers soon got behind the pyramid.

“This is the causeway to Tikal,” Cadmael explained.  “It is five days journey.  There are turns, crossways, places to stop and shelter, and places to avoid.  I will go with you.”  Before any of the travelers could object, Lincoln interrupted.  He had the database and talked with Boston, who checked her amulet.

“Six days if we stop and shelter from the storm,” he said.  “Yamaya should be another day beyond Tikal.”

Cadmael sent most of the men home to prepare for the storm.  He did not doubt the warning the travelers gave.  Some came back temporarily with bags and clay pots full of grain and food for the road.  Tony directed them to fill the wagon.  The causeway looked like a reasonable road, at least in the city.  No telling how bad it might get in the wilderness.  One good thing, though, was the land was not solid jungle, like it got in the future.  In fact, much of it was cleared for farm fields, so Tony figured if the road got too rough in a country not made for wheels, he might do better driving across the relatively flat farm fields.

Cadmael returned with two men to speak to Lockhart and Katie.  He introduced them.  “The young one is Xipetec.  He is not married and has brothers and sisters to take care of the home.  The old man is Kaax”

“Itzenkaax,” the man said.  “But they call me Kaax, and I’m not that old.”

Cadmael nodded.  “His wife died three years ago from the sickness, and his son left with the others to prepare his family for the storm.”

“The three of you will show us the way to Tikal?” Lockhart asked, wanting to be sure what the arrangement was.

“The magic number,” Kaax said, and pointed up.  “Like the three stars that stand side by side in the heavens.”

“Orion’s belt,” Katie said.  “I smell some Shemsu in that.  Boston,” she called.

“I only smell human beans,” Boston responded, and no one corrected her, though Alexis rolled her eyes and imagined she had been hanging out with too many imps and dwarfs.

“No, actually,” Cadmael shook his head.  “These are the only ones courageous enough to travel with you.”

“Good.”  Decker butted up to the front.  “Three wisemen.  Now, can we get moving before those elders think of some way to attack us.”

“Right,” Lockhart heard.  Boston and Sukki rode off a short way down the road.  The rest walked their horses and followed on foot.

The causeway proved good, about twenty feet wide and relatively flat, though mostly it wound around the hills.  “Good to not have to climb over the hills,” Decker remarked.

“But not good winding like a lazy river,” Tony responded.  “Give me Roman roads every time.  Straight as an arrow.”

“And the Romans built bridges,” Nanette added.  They arrived at a riverbank.  The river did not appear to be too wide or deep, but it guarded a small city on the other side, one that did not appear too friendly.  Thirty men stood on the opposite bank, and they were armed.

Cadmael stepped out front and shouted across the river.  One older man shouted back, but eventually the travelers would be allowed to cross.  Cadmael turned to explain to Lockhart.  Lincoln, Alexis, and Boston all listened in.  “They will let you pass, but you must go around and not come into the city.  I know a way where you can bring your wagon.”

“We are not that scary,” Lockhart protested.

Cadmael shook his head.  “You are strange and different.  That is enough for some.  And these people are afraid of Caracol.  They are not bad people.  There is much jade here along the river.  They dig what Copan does not take, and they trade well, but now, they are afraid.”

“El Porton,” Lincoln named the place.  “That is what it is called on my map.”  He showed Alexis.

“My father,” Elder Stow walked up with Katie.  “I have set four discs on the wagon, front, back, and both sides.  Sukki and I can float it across without getting it wet.  Tony will bring the mule.  Decker will bring Mudd.  Nanette will bring Sukki’s horse, Cocoa.”

“Better let me take Cocoa,” Boston interrupted.  “Cocoa and Strawberry go together.”

“But, my father,” Elder Stow continued, and looked up at the drizzling rain that started again an hour ago.  Everyone glanced up, following Elder Stow’s lead.  “The storm has sped up.  It will arrive tonight.  I recommend high ground in case the river overflows.  We need somewhere the horses can graze.  I can set my screens around a large enough area to keep out the worst of it.”

“We need somewhere that won’t become a mud slide,” Katie said

Two hours later, as the sky darkened beneath the clouds, they arrived in a meadow just north and up the hill from El Porton.  “I told them the storm is coming,” Cadmael said.  “But I cannot say they will listen.”

“The telling is the important thing,” Katie said.  “You have no control over what they hear and believe.”

Elder Stow threw the switch and young Xipetec stood and let out a shout.  “What happened to the rain?”

“Magic,” Boston blurted out, the second time Boston tried that line.  Alexis gave her a hard, motherly stare.

“Come,” Alexis said.  “I will show you.”  She led the young man to the edge of the meadow and showed him where the screen stopped, and the rain began to pour.

Lincoln turned to the old man, Kaax.  “You’re not curious?”

Kaax shook his head.  “But I am looking forward to a piece of deer that isn’t drowned.”

Cadmael just laughed.

The storm had plenty of lightning and thunder, but Elder Stow tweaked his screens to shade them from the great flashes of light and deaden the sound of the rumbling thunder.  They stayed most of the next day.  Finally, Lockhart made them move two hours north where they found a new campsite.  He was not about to let them go back to El Porton and see what they could do to help the people and with whatever damage might have occurred.  That might have delayed them for a week, but he only told Katie that was what he was doing.

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

MONDAY

The travelers run into big problems on the way to find Yamaya.  A whole army blocks the path, and a dragon intervenes.  Until then, Happy Reading

*

Avalon 8.1 Rain and Fire, part 2 of 6

Aapo led the way with his son Yochi and his daughter-in-law Eme.  Eme stayed with the old man and helped him over some rough spots in the path.  Yochi kept a firm grip on his spear and kept his eyes open.  Lockhart looked around as well, wondering if there might be jaguars, puma, or other dangerous or wild animals in the area, but eventually Lockhart figured Yochi mostly kept an eye on them, like he did not entirely trust them.  No doubt Yochi questioned their being messengers of the gods and wondered if Lockhart was actually Gukumatz.  He did keep his distance from Decker, probably to be safe in case Decker turned out to be the god of darkness.

The path narrowed in spots, but nothing that ghost and the wagon could not handle.  Tony got down and led the mule from the front, and Ghost responded well to the gentle hand.  The path also got steep in a couple of places and Decker had to get out his rope.  He tied one end to a corner of the wagon and the other end to his saddle so Ghost and Decker’s horse could pull the wagon up the steep places together.

The sun felt hot that day, but the travelers imagined it was better than a rainstorm.  Mud would have made the journey unnecessarily hard.  Eventually, they came to the top of the mountain and a place the wagon could not cross.  The path became a narrow ledge, barely as wide as the wagon.  A rocky hill went up one side and a thirty or forty-foot cliff fell off on the other.  The travelers had to stop and think, so Aapo, Yochi, and Eme stopped to watch.  Yochi smiled a little wondering what these so-called messengers of the gods would do with their so-called wagon.  Yochi nearly choked when Elder Stow volunteered to fly over to the other side to see how far the ledge went.

“I better go with him,” Sukki said.  She knew her adopted father tended to focus on one thing at a time.  He might fly right into trouble and never see it until it was too late.  So, the two of them flew around the bend in the path while the rest of the travelers got out their blankets to cover their horse’s eyes.

“Better for the horses not to see the cliff and get nervous,” Katie explained to Aapo, even as Elder Stow and Sukki returned.

“About a hundred of your meters or yards and it turns into a meadow,” Elder Stow reported.  “The path looks improved and begins to go downhill.”

“Yes,” Aapo agreed.  “Downhill to the city and the road.”

“It’s all downhill from here,” Boston said, and giggled.

Elder Stow took a few minutes tuning his discs and handing two to half of the travelers.  “We will have to go in two shifts,” he said.  “One disc for the horse and one for the person.  You won’t be able to fly, but if you slip off the ledge, you should float long enough to be pulled back to the path.”

“Wait,” Alexis interrupted and took the disc back from Boston.  “She is an elf.  She can dance safely on the head of a pin” Alexis explained.  “You are just tempting her to deliberately step off the ledge just to see what floating feels like.”

Boston gave the disc back without arguing, but grinned a true elf grin, almost too big for her face, and nodded vigorously, while Decker explained quietly to Nanette.  “She might have done that if she was still human.  Becoming an elf did not change her much as far as I can tell.”

“Hard to believe,” Nanette said with a shake of her head, but she sounded like she believed it.

Sukki grinned with Boston as she helped Elder Stow attach two discs to the wagon, front and back.  Then she and Elder Stow lifted the wagon right off the ground and flew it to the meadow on the other side.  Lockhart, Katie, Lincoln, Alexis and eventually Sukki led their horses while Tony led Ghost across the ledge.  Lincoln was the only one who said anything.

“I wouldn’t mind a blanket over my eyes.”  He tried hard not to look down.

Yochi and Eme held two ends of Yochi’s spear so the old man would be trapped on the inside of the ledge while they walked.  When they reached the other side, Sukki flew back with the discs so Decker, Nanette, and Boston could cross.  Sukki brought Tony’s horse.

Once safely on the other side, they began the decent to the city.  This time, Decker had to use his rope and horse to slow the wagon on the steep parts.

“Don’t worry,” Katie explained.  From Kaminaljuyu north, the road will likely follow the rivers right out of the highlands.  Most of the Mayan homeland in the north is on the relative flatlands of the Yucatan.”

“Good thing,” Lockhart responded.  “Obviously these people did not build their roads with wheeled vehicles in mind.”

“No horses or oxen to speak of,” Katie answered.  “They invented the wheel, but without big domestic animals to carry the load, they never bothered with things like wagons.”

On the way down, the sky clouded over, and it started to drizzle.  Fortunately, they got to the valley area before the ground got too slippery with mud.  As they approached the city, they saw the path, now nearly a road, along a causeway that had been built up like a man-made ridge, three to five feet above the rest of the ground.  Most of that ground outside the road looked like swamp or marsh.

“Like a moat,” Katie suggested.  “Any enemy army would pretty much have to stick to the road to prevent snake-bite and who knows what.”

Lockhart nodded, but he had a question and turned to look back.  “Lincoln.  When was the last time we were in this place?”

“I remember Otapec and Maya, and their children,” Katie said, while Lincoln got out the database to look it up.

“She called him Opi,” Lockhart nodded that he remembered.  “Decker said, like the Andy Griffith Show.  And the children were Chac, Kuican and, I can’t ever remember the girl’s name.”

“Ixchel,” Katie reminded him.  We met her all grown up, not that long ago.”  She also looked at Lincoln.

“About a year and a half ago, travel time.  That was twenty-eight time zones back.  About fifteen hundred years, normal time,” Lincoln said, without ever lifting his eyes from the database.  “Ozma—Ozmatlan.  La Venta Island when the Olmec civilization fell apart due to Monkey Brain Fever.”  Lincoln paused to shiver at the memory.

“About fifteen hundred years ago?” Lockhart asked.

“Yes,” Lincoln confirmed.  “We left the time zone about where Yamaya is located in this zone, between Tikal and Calakmul if Boston is right and if I am reading my maps correctly.”

“Between Tikal and Calakmul, you mean between Athens and Sparta like in a war zone?”

Lincoln shook his head.  He read some, and everyone stayed quiet to listen.  “Tikal got beaten down about sixty years before Yamaya was born.  They pull it together enough just before Yamaya became queen of Calakmul to build a new trade city in the north, but that goes sour.  Tikal doesn’t really get it back together until about forty years after Yamaya dies.”

“Passes on to her next life,” Boston interrupted.  Lincoln nodded.

“So, maybe the war isn’t going on at the moment,” Lockhart concluded.

“I would guess,” Lincoln agreed.  “But the database reports that Ch’en II, the Calakmul ruler after Yamaya’s husband dies is a warlord who always appears to be fighting someone, and he rules for about fifty years.”

“Enough,” Katie said.  “We have unauthorized ears listening.”  She nodded at Yochi, whose eyes looked really big, and Eme, who seemed to have a hard time blinking.  Aapo, walking between the two, kept smiling and looked like he might start whistling any moment.

People quieted just in time for some forty warriors to rise up out of the muck on either side of the causeway.  A dozen more came from the trees to block the path to the city.  One stepped forward.

“Aapo,” the warrior said, apparently knowing the old man.  “I see no baskets of grain for the Holy Lords of the city.  What do you bring as an offering?”

Aapo smiled.  “I bring messengers of the gods,” he said.  “Gukumatz and his consort, the yellow haired daughter of the sun.  I’ic’ ajaw, who you can plainly see, and his woman.  The girl who carries fire on her head, and the animals that serve them.  Does the king of Kaminaljuyu not wish to see them?”

“And these others?”

“I have feared to ask their names,” Aapo admitted.  “But they claim they have come to see the Serpent Queen.  I thought it right to bring them here first.”

“I saw the old man and his daughter fly through the air like the serpent itself,” Yochi shouted and Eme nodded.

“And these animals?”

Katie spoke up.  “They serve us and are filled with poison lest you be tempted to try and eat them.”

“And this box.  How does it move?”

“Magic,” Boston lied like an elf and let the fire come up into her hand.  She tossed the fireball into the swamp where it sizzled and steamed, and the men in the swamp all took a step back.

“We have a long way to travel,” Lockhart said.  “But we have been told to acknowledge the king of whatever cities we pass through.”

“Only right,” Alexis agreed.  “The Kairos has mentioned that often enough.”

“Yeah,” Lincoln agreed.  “When he has not been telling us to keep away from kings and things.”

The poor man looked stymied, before he sighed and waved for his soldiers to lower their weapons.  “At least you are not warriors from Caracol.”

“You were expecting soldiers from Caracol?” Katie asked.

The man nodded.  “They defeated Naranjo this last year, and the king fears they may seek to extend their territory.”

“Good thing to keep watch,” Decker said.  The soldier looked at him like he was surprised the Lord of Darkness would speak.

As the travelers walked slowly down the central avenue of Kaminaljuyu, Tony suggested that the city had seen better days.

“Adobe bricks.”  Katie pointed to a couple of structures that appeared to be crumbling.  The people did not seem to be concerned about fixing the structures.  “Further north, in the Mayan lowlands, the structures and pyramids are made mostly of limestone blocks, if I recall.”

“They must not have many Shemsu around to cut and lift the blocks, and keep things repaired,” Lincoln spoke up from behind.

Aapo led the procession like a conquering hero, though Yochi and Eme looked wary.  As soon as they reached the outskirts, the head warrior, Cadmael, sent runners ahead with the news.  He had his men line up on both sides of the travelers as soon as there was room.  Lincoln thought it made them look like prisoners.  Nanette, in the back with Tony, Elder Stow and Decker, called it an honor guard.  Alexis, in the middle, countered the two of them by saying that might be the same thing.  In fact, they discovered when they reached the broad central avenue, that the main function of the soldiers was to keep back the crowd.  People gathered to see, maybe a thousand on each side of the avenue.

Boston and Sukki walked up front, just behind Aapo and his family.  She turned to Sukki and grinned.  “And you’ll find all sort of toys at Macy’s.”  She giggled, though of course Sukki had no idea what Boston was talking about.

Avalon 8.1 Rain and Fire, part 1 of 6

After 606 A.D. Yucatan

Kairos 99: Yamaya, the Serpent Queen

Recording …

The old man and old woman stepped in front of the villagers and bowed to the strangers.  They looked uncertain, and some of the villagers behind them looked afraid.  Lockhart and Katie tried to smile, and Lockhart thought it was a good thing Decker stayed busy trying to get the wagon through the time gate.  Decker’s smile had something of a shark-look to it, or maybe like the way a crocodile smiled right before it ate you.

“We mean you no harm,” Katie said.

“We are just passing through and will go as soon as we are all gathered,” Lockhart tried.  He noticed Sukki sat calmly on her horse and the horse stayed still beneath her. Boston’s horse kept wiggling, like he wanted to get moving already.  Boston paid little attention as her eyes focused on the amulet that pointed to the next time gate.

Lockhart glanced in the other direction behind him.  Elder Stow had his scanner out, searching the farm fields that snaked up the mountainside, and the deep forest ahead of them, in case something ahead might present a danger to them.  Lincoln assured them that the Maya had no standing armies, and only raised men to fight when they went to war.  Several people said that was fine, but they did not want to walk into a war.

“What is the hold up?” Lincoln asked.  Alexis looked content to wait, but Lincoln, and sometimes Decker, could be as impatient as Boston’s horse.  Lockhart shrugged and turned his attention back to the older couple.  The old woman let out one very soft shriek and looked down at her feet while the old man took one more step forward and spoke.

“I am Aapo.”  He bowed.  “My wife is Akna.”  He bowed again.  “This village is our children, mostly, they are our children.” He bowed for a third time.  “The great city of Kaminaljuyu, is in that direction.”  He pointed off toward a mountain to the right and a little behind the travelers.  “How may we serve you?”

“No,” Boston spoke up, and when Lockhart and Katie looked, she pointed north, in the direction they faced.  Before Lockhart could respond, the man lifted his brows, almost smiled, and spoke again.

“That way is the great city of Tikal where the feathered dragon king rules over all the cities and the people.  Certainly, the messengers of the gods would be most welcome there.”

Decker pushed up from the rear to report. The old man shouted, “I’ic’ ajaw,” and fell to his knees.  The old woman let out a little shriek again, and joined him on his knees, though it looked like her old knees did not want to cooperate.

Decker ignored the couple and reported.  “We are ready to go, but Tony says the wagon probably won’t make it if we have to drag it through the jungle.”

“What?” Lockhart asked.  “Not you,” he said to Decker.  He wanted to know what the man said and wondered why his mind did not automatically translate the words into English.  That one gift of the Kairos made this journey possible: to understand and be understood no matter the language spoken.

Katie frowned.  “I think I’ic’ is the word for black and ajaw is lord, I think.  Like a name.  Some names don’t translate well.  Maybe black lord, or ruler of the blacks or blackness.  Maybe Lord of the darkness.  Then again, it may be a reference to Africa, like Lord of Africa or something.”

“We get the idea,” Lockhart said, and Decker nodded slowly as he thought about accepting that designation.  Katie’s blonde locks and Boston’s red head got plenty of notice from time to time, but mostly Decker, and now Nanette, stood out in some places as something different because of their dark skin.

“Tell him we are looking for Yamaya,” Lincoln shouted from behind.

The woman Akna let out her full shriek and fell to her face.  The people behind her also gasped and shrieked, fell to their knees to join their parents, and quite a few of them scanned the skies for something unnamed.

Aapo swallowed before he spoke.  “The Serpent Queen.  The enemy of Tikal.  The thief from Ox Te Tuun, who stole the feathered dragon for Chiik Naab, to burn the great cities of Tikal.  Even the Yaknoom, ruler of the enemy city Calakmul of the three stones fears her…” Old man Aapo’s words petered off as he fell silent and got down on his face beside the old woman.

Lockhart frowned and turned to Katie.  “Translate?”

Katie shook her head.  “My knowledge of Mayan and Mesoamerican languages in general is very limited, but my guess would be mostly names.  Ox Te Tuun is probably a city name.  Chiik Naab might be a region, or maybe the area that city controls.”  She shrugged.

“Lincoln?”  Lockhart raised his voice without turning around.

Lincoln got out the database to be sure, but he already read about it, so he related what he remembered.  “Tikal and Calakmul are two great cities in the classical Mayan period.  They are competitors.  Think Athens and Sparta.  And like Athens and Sparta, they have different cultures and worldviews.  Tikal may have been conquered by a pre-Aztec people in the pre-classical era.  That may be the source of the feathered serpent or feathered dragon image.  They have a king.  Women are merely wives and concubines.  Very patriarchal.  Calakmul is more classic Mayan, some think.  They are the city of the snake—the Kan is the snake symbol.  The nobles are even called the divine lords of the snake.  I know.  The snake versus the serpent can be confusing.  Anyway, kings and queens tend to joint rule in Calakmul, though sometimes they have just a king, but women are more equal, and some even fight on the battlefield.”

“Get to the point,” Decker said.

“Mayan cities are independent city-states more or less like the Greeks used to be.  Tikal and Calakmul have a network of allied cities that they minimally control, for trade and military purposes.  Sometimes, cities switch sides.  It’s complicated.  But Calakmul and Tikal are the Athens and Sparta—the big players.  Yamaya was born in Palenque.  Her city got conquered by Calakmul when she was six.  She got forced married to the son of the king of Calakmul.  She actually became queen of Calakmul for about six years before her husband Cauak died in battle trying to take another city.  The younger brother, Chen took the crown, and drove Yamaya into the wilderness of Tikal.  The king of Tikal planned to cut her heart out—they all practice human sacrifice here—but she somehow set the feathered serpent of Tikal free from its cage, and they escaped back to the wilderness between the cities, ending up in a smaller city called Uaxactun, if I said that right.  Now, both the Athens and Sparta cities are afraid of her because she has some control over the serpent, that is, the dragon.”

Lockhart shook his head.  “This isn’t helping,” he said, and looked again at Katie who smiled.

“Quetzalcoatl,” she said, calling him by that name.  “Looks like the Kairos found a dragon, and she has both main cities scared of her.”  Katie smiled and noticed Aapo looked up and looked curious at the name.  Katie tried another name and pointed at Lockhart.  “Kukulkan.”

“Gukumatz,” Aapo said, nice and loud, and he almost smiled.  Most of the village looked up, and looked pleased, though the old woman shook her head, kept her face pointed toward the dirt, and continued to look scared.

Lockhart still frowned as Decker whispered, “I’m content with Lord of Africa.”  He went back to check on the wagon crew.

Lockhart sighed.  “Stand up, Aapo.  No one is going to eat you.”  Even as he spoke, the early morning sun broke free of the hills to bathe the travelers in the light.

Aapo stood slowly.  He watched, as Elder Stow pushed up on one side, and Boston, who finally got her horse to settle down, pushed up next to Katie.  Boston and Katie pulled out their amulets to compare.  They looked like pieces of driftwood, or maybe seashells, shaped like miniature conch shells of some sort.  Elder Stow spoke.

“My father.  I checked when our friend here mentioned a city on the other side of that mountain.  There appears to be a narrow path between here and the city, and from the city, something like a road appears to head north, the way we are headed.”  He looked over at Katie, and she nodded and pointed north.

“The highway,” Aapo pointed to the mountain.  It is the safe way between Kaminaljuyu and Tikal.”  Lockhart nodded as Sukki got down.  She found Alexis already headed toward the people.  They both ended up beside a nervous Aapo and reached down for the wife.

“Stand up, Akna,” Alexis said.  She and Sukki each took one arm of the old woman and lifted her to her feet.  The woman still would not look up, and backed up, bowing, until she got surrounded by her children, most of whom were standing again and watching.

“You can take us to Kaminaljuyu?” Katie asked.

“Show us the way?” Lockhart clarified.

“As the gods command,” Aapo said and bowed deeply.  Lockhart frowned again, but Lincoln spoke up from behind.

“Good.  We can start moving.”

Avalon 2.8 Visitors

            The travelers get Captain Decker back, even if they are still chasing Lincoln’s wife, Alexis, and her father Mingus.  What is more they appeared to have landed in a friendly group of natives.  Ordinary travelers might expect to relax and rest, but they know this is a lifetime of the Kairos where trouble and danger are the norm.  Besides, there are walking and talking reptiles out there, somewhere.

###

            After the awakening, Katie kept one eye on Decker.  The others seemed unconcerned.  They stepped over to Otapec’s fire and told stories and laughed, but Lieutenant Harper felt she needed one eye on her Captain.  He had been out of it for a long time. 

            The man said little after he awoke, but then Decker was a person of few words so that was no surprise.  He saw to his horse, the one that was tied to him by the Kairos – the one he named after Colonel Weber.  Decker was all business with the horse, but Katie imagined if the horse had been a dog it would have licked his face.  After that, Decker hardly paid any attention to Elder Stow, as if having the Gott-Druk around was no big deal.  He also did not appear surprised to hear that Alexis and her father Mingus were missing again.

            “The more things change,” he spoke in clichés and sat by the fire to meditate.  That was the oddest thing of all.  Katie had no idea the hard boiled Navy Seal even knew what meditation was.

            “People.”  Otapec got everyone’s attention.  The elders of the natives and the Shemsu were approaching and it was time for introductions.  To no one’s surprise, the elders all bowed to Maya first of all though she blushed and turned her eyes to her Opi.  Otapec just smiled for her and opened his mouth when Decker finally had something to say.

            “Incoming,” and he added, “The more things change.”  Fortunately, he did not finish that cliché.  He could not as the sound of retro rockets echoed across the field.  A shuttle was coming in for a landing.

            Everyone grabbed their weapons while Maya strictly charged Chac and Ixchel to keep Kuican in the circle of the elders.  When they were ready, Otapec lead the troop down the hill to see the visitors, and he whispered in Maya’s ear as they went.

            “No!”  Maya spoke as if she was shocked to hear what Otapec suggested, but she said no more.

            They had to stand and wait for a while. 

            “System shut down,” Lincoln suggested.

            “Scanning the area for hostiles,” Lockhart offered.

            “Only us,” Decker quipped and gave his rifle the quick once over to be sure it had not been damaged in his five hundred year absence. 

            Finally the hatch of the shuttle came down and six Pendratti came out from the inside.  The four that looked military escorted the two the travelers had met in the jungle.  They young one was still juggling some sort of equipment.  The older gray one was smiling again.

            “And see?”  The gray one spoke.  “Here are exactly the ones we are looking for.  This matter should be resolved easily enough.  Bring them inside.”

            The young one smiled this time and showed all of his sharp teeth while he fiddled with some controls on his equipment.  Lockhart, Lincoln, Katie and Boston all stiffened.  They began to move toward the ramp and Maya reacted.

            “No!”  She shouted and gave a curious look to her husband who stood quietly, arms folded, watching.  The connection with whatever had the travelers in its grasp broke instantly, and the people stopped moving.  Boston and Lincoln backed up a step.

            Elder Stow and Decker had something else in mind, but Decker was quicker.  He put several bullets in that piece of equipment, and fortunately he was a good enough shot not to harm the Pendratti holding it.  The startled Pendratti dropped it and it shattered against the shuttle ramp.  The gray one frowned, but the guards all drew their weapons.  One overreacted or panicked and pulled the trigger.  A blast of some kind struck a screen a few feet in front of the travelers where it was completely stopped.  Maya looked at Opi, again.

            “My husband is so smart,” she said softly before all words were silenced by the roar of a second, smaller shuttle that rocketed to a landing less than a hundred feet from the Pendratti shuttle.  No one was surprised when three Gott-Druk emerged holding tight to weapons of their own.

            Elder Stow stepped forward before the guns started firing and he shouted as loud as he could.  “I said these people are under my protection.”  He looked at the elder Pendratti.  “And the reason I repeat myself is because you seem to have trouble with your hearing.”  That appeared to make the Pendratti elder angry, but the Gott-Druk who saw him and heard him relaxed a little.

            All this while, Otapec stood still and said nothing.  Maya looked at him again and started to ask a question.  “Should I –“

            “Yes.”  Otapec interrupted.  “Keep it right where it is.” Otapec heard something and he knew what kind of creature made such a sound.  Even as Elder Stow threw his hands up and the Pendratti and Gott-Druk sounded ready to get into a great argument, a five foot wide head stuck out from the trees right between the two ships and two arguing parties.  A roar was followed by a burst of flame.

            Both Pendratti and Gott-Druk darted for the safety of their ships.  The fire headed straight for the travelers but was stopped by Maya’s screen which she kept in place as instructed. Still, the travelers all stepped back except for Lockhart who curiously stepped forward.

            “Do no harm!  No Fire!”  Lockhart yelled in the Agdaline language which he dredged up from some back corner of his mind.  “No harm.  No fire.”

            The worm inched out from the trees and Katie remarked, “Why it is still full of feathers like a baby.”

            “Baby,” Lockhart said the word in the Agdaline language and repeated himself once more.  “No fire, baby.  No harm.”  The dragon dropped its chin to the ground and then slowly slithered forward as Otapec finally spoke.

            “This kind doesn’t have much in the way of legs or arms.  It truly is more worm-like.”

            “But aren’t feathers dangerous for fire breathers?”  Katie asked.

            “Not real feathers despite the look and feel.  They are more like asbestos, fire-proof and toxic if taken in large doses, by the way.”

            “But I thought the Agdaline ejected the adults in space before landing.”  Boston looked at Otapec who crossed his arms again as he spoke to her. 

            “They trap one or two in the airlock to release when they set down just in case their reception is not so friendly.”  He stepped up to his wife and kissed the back of her neck.  She wiggled, but was occupied with something.

            The worm reached Lockhart who repeated the word, “Baby.”  He reached out his hand and Maya’s shield gave way at the hand so Lockhart could stroke the dragon’s nose.  The dragon purred, a deep, throbbing sound.  It was not the lyrical song of the babies, but only because this one was larger and more mature.   

            Otapec whispered in Maya’s ear and she spoke.  “Find deer.  Eat deer.” Maya said, and Lincoln looked back toward the horses.

            “I hope it knows what deer is.”

            “Go.”  Lockhart said.  “Fly.”  He looked at Otapec who nodded.  They might not have much in the way of legs and arms, but there was nothing wrong with their wings.  The dragon rose up in a bit of a whirlwind and flew off without looking back.  After that, the Pendratti were the first to leave.  The Gott-Druk followed.

            “Well!”  Captain Decker said as he shouldered his rifle.  “I guess you will all have to tell me what I missed after all.”  He stared for a moment at Elder Stow before he stared more deliberately at Lieutenant Harper.

###

Avalon 2.8 Flight … Next Time

.

Avalon 2.8: Revivals

            The walking and talking reptiles don’t appear to respect any species but their own, but at least the Kairos and his wife are glad to see the travelers.  Otapec claims to have treats and surprises for them as well, whatever they may be.

###

            There was a big bonfire built and ready to light, which suggested the travelers were expected.  Otapec, Maya and their children were separated from the others in the camp by some distance.  Lockhart imagined that was to give the travelers room to set their own tents, but he suspected there was also more to it.

            “We had a strange encounter coming in,” Lincoln spoke as he unsaddled his horse.

            “Pendratti.”  Elder Stow spoke up.  “I have only seen them in paintings and pictures which is why I was slow to recognize them.”  He turned to Katie.  “My apologies, Mother.  I would have claimed to be your protector sooner if I knew.”

            “Pendratti,” Otapec interrupted and laid his hand gently on Decker’s horse.  “And there are Gott-Druk somewhere around here as well, but we will speak of that later.”

            “Opi!”  Maya called.  She stopped to scoop up a four-year-old in a tent door, but otherwise she was bouncing up and down in excitement and anticipation and heading slowly to the big tent set back against some trees.

            “Yes, my love,” Otapec responded as he watched his ten-year old son and seven-year-old daughter run up with a trail of children behind them.  Otapec introduced them.  “Chac, my eldest.   He is the good rain that feeds the crops.  Ixchel, my beautiful daughter is the rainbow that follows the rain.  She takes after her mother.  And the little one struggling in his mother’s arms is Kuican.”

            “What is Kuican?” Boston asked.

            “The wind, I think.  I don’t think he slept until he was three.”

            “Opi,”  Maya called from the big tent.  She was grinning but impatient.

             “Bring the horses.  Maya has invented a special treat.”   Otapec waved to the group and stepped over to join his wife.

            The travelers did not know what to think and more than one member of the group eyed Lockhart who continued to shrug as he brought his horse to the big tent.

            Maya grinned like a school girl when she handed Kuican to Otapec and threw the front flap of the tent straight up.  If she did not exactly say, “Ta Da!” it was near enough.  The odd tent was much bigger on the inside than the outside suggested, and it was absolutely filled with corn.

            “Corn!”  Lincoln and Boston both said the word out loud.

            “Maize,” Maya said with a slight frown at Otapec.  Apparently they discussed it.

            “Just invented?” Katie asked Maya who said nothing but nodded her head, vigorously.

            “Hey, now we can make tortillas,” Lockhart grinned.

            Otapec matched the grin.  “Now we can make whisky.  I remember that one.”

            “What one?” Boston asked as she began to shuck some corn to feed her horse.

            Otapec forced Chac and Ixchel to each take a four-year-old hand and he began to help.

            Maya apologized and waved her hand.  A whole bushel was immediately cleaned and Boston reacted.

            “Wow, that was some magic.”

            Otapec shook his head and Maya just smiled a sparkling smile.  Otapec slipped his arm around his wife’s shoulder and squeezed her from the side.  She giggled before he spoke.  “You do know the horses will still mostly graze.”  He explained to his wife.  “Like human beings, they do best with a varied diet.”

            “Oh,” she nodded and waved for the children to follow their father as she broke free of his embrace and stepped up to Katie.

            “So what is this other surprise?”  Lockhart asked out loud, now that the horses were settled for the moment.  Two horses had in fact already found the nearby stream where they were contentedly slaking their thirst.  Otapec said nothing, but waved for them all to follow, which they did at a leisurely pace.

            “You are an elect,” Maya said first thing when she reached Katie.  Katie wondered how the woman knew.  “I have never met an elect before, except Zoe,” Maya said.  “But she had already been made a goddess by then so that did not count.”

            “You met Zoe?”

            “Oh yes, years ago.  She came by to ask if I would join the Amazon council if needed.  Of course I said I would.”  She glanced at Opi and smiled, and Otapec smiled in return, though he did not see her.  It was like there was an invisible thread connecting the two, so when Maya was happy, Otapec was happy.  Katie glanced back at Lockhart and smiled for him.  He saw and gave her a funky, foolish grin in return, and Maya spoke again.

            “You will have to work on that.”  Katie just nodded, and then was a bit surprised when Maya grabbed her hand and placed it on her belly.  “I would not mind if my daughter was one of the elect.”

            “You’re pregnant?  Number four?”  Maya just nodded.  “You and Opi?  But wait, how many years ago did Zoe visit you?”  Katie stopped walking so Maya stopped to face her

            “Oh, many, many years.”

            “You and Opi?”

            “Yes.  As a fertility goddess it is hard for me to not be pregnant.”

            Katie pulled her hand away slowly.  Then she had a thought.  “But won’t he grow old?”

            Maya shook her head.  “He is old enough to be a respected elder, but young enough to be a wonderful lover.  I will keep him as he is.”

            “For as long as you can,” Katie said.  She knew that even the gods could not prevent the Kairos from dying when it was time for him, or her to be reborn.

            “For as long as I can,” Maya agreed and a few tears came up into her eyes.  When they dropped to the ground, the grass grew a little taller and flowers came up. 

            Katie had a change of heart and gave Maya a big hug and a sisterly kiss.  “Let’s go see what all the commotion is about.”  Maya wiped her eyes, brought her smile back out as well as she could and followed.

            The others were all standing around the sarcophagus, waiting.  Lincoln turned to Katie and shouted.  “Lieutenant Harper, it’s Captain Decker.”

            Otapec was also waiting, but for Maya who stepped right up and took his hands where the sarcophagus was between them.  Otapec smiled for her, and she returned a genuine smile as Otapec went away and Kartesh of the Shemsu came to take his place.  Kartesh squeezed Maya’s hands before she let go.

            “Hello, old friend.”

            “Dear old friend,” Maya responded.

            Lockhart noticed that many of the dark-skinned natives came up and fell to their knees in the face of Kartesh.  “These Shemsu are mine by default,” Kartesh admitted, but her hands were manipulating the Agdaline controls and shutting down the sleep chamber so Decker could be awakened.  The lid popped open and Decker stirred.

            “Damn,” the man said, and “Ouch.”  He had been terribly wounded all those time zones in the past, and cryogenic sleep did nothing to heal him.  Kartesh made him lay as straight as he could in that little Agdaline box and Maya stepped over to stand beside her. 

            “I am not a healer by trade,” Kartesh admitted.

            “Nor am I,” Maya said, but the two goddesses placed their flat hands about eight inches above Decker.  The inside of the sleep chamber began to glow, and then Decker began to glow.

            “No,” Kartesh opened the conversation over Decker’s glowing body.  “You are Opi’s little woman.”

            “And proud of it,” Maya responded with her best grin.  “And that is little fertility woman if you don’t mind.”

            “Not any longer.  It is little Corn Woman now.”

            It did not take long, whatever the women did, and Decker wanted to sit up.  Kartesh gave Maya a kiss on the cheek much as Katie had and vanished to be replaced by Doctor Mishka.  She came complete with her little black doctor’s bag and would not let Decker do more than sit while she examined him.

            “But Doc., I feel fine now.”

            “Sit.  Stay.”  Mishka spoke to him like a dog.  “And that is Colonel Kolchenkov to you, Captain, not Doc.”

            Decker stayed until she finished and put her stethoscope back in her little black bag.  She turned to Maya with a word.  “So when were you going to tell me you were pregnant, and then  she and her little black bag vanished and Otapec finally came back to help Decker stand.  The man was wobbly after his five hundred year sleep, but some food and real rest would do wonders.  Then Otapec stepped up to Maya with a stern look on his face.  Maya looked down at her feet, like the goddess was afraid to look into his mortal, human eyes.  But he just caught her up in an embrace and kissed her like tomorrow might never come. 

            Some “Oooed,” some “Ahhed.”  Some couples looked at each other with unasked questions in their eyes.  Chac turned his head to protest.  “Mom!  Dad!”  Ixchel stared and did not know what to think.  Kuican pulled his hands free of his siblings and reached out with the words, “Me too.”

###

Avalon 2.8  Visitors … Next Time

.