Avalon 6.3 Stubborn, part 6 of 6

The chariots could not move as fast as the horses alone, even on open and relatively flat ground, but there seemed no doubt who they were after.  Lincoln figured they could track the horses, even in the woods, so their only hope was to keep their distance, or find back-up.  Alexis looked back when they came to the edge of the woods on the other side of the open field.  The chariots had fallen behind, and the men were well off, but jogging dutifully along.

“They will have to slow way down when they reach the forest,” Evan said, with a look back.

“So will we,” Alexis said, as they started in among the trees.

“What happened?” Lincoln asked.

“They must have had the chariots already hitched up and the soldiers ready to move out for some reason.”

Lincoln grunted, as an arrow whizzed past him and stuck in a tree.  “Damn,” he said.  As Alexis pushed out front, Lincoln pulled his handgun and fired twice in the direction of the archer.

“Help,” Evan yelled.  “We are not far now,” he told Lincoln.  “Help!” He pointed for Lincoln. “It is more over to the right, I believe.  Help!”

Alexis and Lincoln angled in the way he pointed, and probably hurried the horses more than they should.  Evan tried one more “Help”, before Lincoln hushed him.

“Trees are a great way to get hidden. quickly.  But it loses the point if you keep giving away our position.”

“Yes, of course,” Evan said, but he did not look too embarrassed.

They very quickly came to a clearing filled with horses. On closer examination, they realized half the horses were centaurs.  On a grassy ledge beside a cave and some rocks, a wolf with black hair filled with red streaks growled, not at them, but at something else.  When they got up to the others, they turned and saw a path through the woods that Evan either did not know about or forgot about.  The three chariots were coming up the path in single file.

“There are a couple of dozen soldiers coming along behind the chariots,” Lincoln reported.  Poor Evan stared at the centaurs, like they were something he never imagined before.

The chariot in front stopped and a man shouted.  “I see you have friends.  Cecil.” He pointed.  “I suppose these people have also come from the future.”

“Yes,” Lincoln shouted back.  “And Cecil is going with us.”  Lincoln took courage being back among the travelers.

The man scoffed.  “You are welcome to him.  He has proved useless, and in some cases, dangerous.  Good luck.”

“Lord Tarquin.  I told you that you needed horse riders, not just chariots,” Evan responded, as he got down from behind Lincoln.  He went up toward the ledge to be protected by the wolf.

Tarquin paid no attention, as he already moved on to the centaurs.  “Colon,” he said.  “Don’t tell me she has forgiven you.”

“I forgave you,” the wolf seemed to say.

“We are working it out,” Colon answered at the same time, as the wolf changed into Valencia.  She took a moment to brush back her long red hair before she rose up about ten feet where she could hover and look down on everyone.

“Tarquin,” she said, a sharpness in her voice.  “You have no business here.”

Tarquin got mad.  “People come onto my land.  It is my business to know who they are and what they want.”  The foot soldiers came up to stand alongside the chariots.  Some had spears, but some had bows and arrows ready.  “The seven hills are filling up.  There are new homes, hamlets, even growing villages crowding one another. Soon, a man will not be able to walk and know where one village ends and the next begins.”

“There is time before that happens, but the King in Alba Longa got old, and he stopped paying attention.  Latium is falling apart, the tribes are fighting one another, and the brothers quarreled.  The usurper has the rightful king locked away, but he does not care about Latium.  People are coming to the seven hills by the hundreds to escape the fighting and find peace.  Maybe you need to talk to all the people, to make the seven hills like one big city, for mutual protection, if nothing else.”

Tarquin shook his head.  “I will not share the crown with what you call representatives from the other hills and villages.  Why do you not understand?  That would only lead to chaos.”

“Tarquin.  Some things are beyond your understanding, but some things you already know.  Have you made a decision about your daughter and my boys?”

“I heard they got adopted by the chief shepherd and his wife.”

“I suckled and weaned them.  I still claim them.”

“Wolf’s milk,” the driver of Tarquin’s chariot mumbled plenty loud.

“My daughter is only six,” Tarquin protested.

“And the boys are twelve.  What’s your point?”

“Maybe I will have a son to follow after me.”  Tarquin grinned, but it looked like the grin of a man who had little hope.

“Make up your mind soon, before Acca Longia begins looking for potential mates.”

“Faustulus can be bought.”

Valencia appeared to roll her eyes, but they got interrupted by a voice on the wristwatches worn by the travelers. They heard Elder Stow’s voice.

“Things are wrapped up here.  The humanoids are locked away, and the Gott-Druk Father…er, Captain has agreed they do not belong here.  They only came here as a last resort.  I only have one last thing to do, and then we will be ready to ride.”

“Roger,” Lockhart responded and looked up at Valencia.  Valencia appeared to be talking to someone that no one else could see.

“Yes, lover.  Everyone, please.”

Everyone in the conversation, travelers, chariots, soldiers, and centaurs all vanished and reappeared on the island in front of the Gott-Druk freighter.  Most of the men and centaurs shouted in fear and surprise.  The travelers hardly blink, having traveled that way on plenty of occasions.

Valencia arrived, still in the air, but she came down to earth and hustled to the boys, Romulus and Remus, who arrived with a dozen sheep. A big man stood there as well, his back to everyone, shaking his finger at the boys.

“Tell your father these are the sheep I claim for the blessing of his flock.  It is spring, and he will more than make up for these with new lambs.”

“You brought these for me?” Valencia asked.  “The Gott-Druk don’t eat much meat.”

“No,” the man said.  “But those others do.  You said it is still a long way to the new Gott-Druk world.”

Valencia nodded and stood on her toes to kiss the man’s cheek.  He turned, wrapped her up in his arms, and planted his kiss right on her lips.  Then he vanished.  Valencia turned to the nearest Gott-Druk, still smiling, a silly smile, but serious in her tone of voice.

“Fresh water and sweet grass to keep them alive until you feed them to the humanoid prisoners.”  She turned on the boys.  “Drive the sheep to the cargo hold where this man tells you, then come right back, and don’t you dare touch anything, do you understand?”

The boys nodded, and one of them said, “Yes, Mama.”

Valencia returned the nod and turned to Tarquin and Colon, who somehow managed to end up next to each other. Tarquin spoke.  “That was?”

“Saturn,” Valencia said, plainly. She did not give it another thought, but several of Tarquin’s soldiers and a couple of centaurs backed up a bit.

Finally, Valencia turned to the travelers, and specifically the two on foot, Elder Stow and Sukki.  “So?” she asked without spelling anything out.

“She is being stubborn,” Elder Stow said. “Here, she has a chance of joining a crew of nine on a ship that needs twenty.  She has a free ride back to the new world where she can live a happy and safe life, away from all the dangers of the road.  She refuses.”

“Father!”  Sukki got unexpectedly verbal.  “You agreed to be my father and I agreed to be your daughter.”

“Exactly,” Elder Stow raised his voice a bit.  “A daughter should obey her father.  You are grown, and not a child, but now it is a father’s job to make sure his daughter will be cared for and safe.”

“But I have a whole family.”  By which she meant tribe, in the Neanderthal sense.  “I have Katie and Lockhart, who are the best Mother and Father.  And Lincoln and Alexis take good care of us all.  And Major Decker makes me laugh, sometimes. Laughing feels good.  Our people don’t laugh enough.  And Boston is my best friend, ever.  I don’t want to leave.”

“But it is dangerous,” Elder Stow tried once more.  “There is no telling what we will run into on the road.  I would never forgive myself if you got hurt.”

“Or if you got hurt,” Sukki responded.

They stared at each other.  They hugged.  They turned to their waiting horses and got right up.  Sukki went to ride beside Boston, and just to make the point, she put her glamour back on so she looked human, albeit, a big, strong looking girl.

Elder Stow turned to Lockhart with a word.  “Ready to ride.”

They had to cross the river the hard way. Tarquin had to abandon his chariots. He said he would have to fetch them when he sent men with rafts.  Evan crossed, holding on to Lincoln, and that prompted Lincoln to ask.

“Do you know how to ride?”

“Of course,” Evan said.  “I ride horses like this all the time, when I am not driving the wagon.  My family cannot exactly afford one of those automobiles.  They are a rich man’s toys.”

Lincoln and Alexis got busy figuring out the horse business, but Katie overheard and asked.  “When, exactly, did you leave the future and find yourself stuck in the past?”

“October twenty-first, 1905. Why?  Isn’t that where you are from?”

“Figure that out later,” Valencia said. “You are going to want to watch this.” She stood between the boys who were already almost as tall as herself.  She put one hand on each of the boy’s shoulders, soaking wet as the boys were, and she nodded across the river.  The big Gott-Druk freighter rose slowly in the sky, and when it got high enough, it rapidly increased speed until it disappeared in the clouds.

“Tarquin,” Valencia said.  “As I said, some things are beyond your understanding. But your daughter needs a husband.”

Tarquin turned quickly from awe at the Gott-Druk ship to sneering at Valencia.  “We shall see about that.”  He turned, and his people turned with him and marched back toward the village.

Colon bowed to Valencia and whispered, “Forgive me,” like he just figured something out, and it frightened him.  He rode off with his company and made a point of shoving one centaur.  No telling what that was about.

“Evan will ride Misty Gray,” Alexis announced.  “He is a good horse and will give no trouble.”

“Alexis will double with me on Cortez,” Lincoln said, and helped her up.

Lockhart looked around.  “We are all here.  Soaking wet, but all here.”  He noticed Valencia and the boys walked off, but he guessed the boys were already bugging her on wanting their own horses to ride.

“Boston and Sukki, keep up.  No straggling,” Katie said.

“Yes, Mother,” Sukki responded. Boston had to go one better.

“Yes Mom.”

Lincoln, who rode beside Evan asked, “So, you came from the future back here to the past.  Any idea what we will find in the next time zone?”

“Oh,” Evan said.  “That will be very dangerous.”

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

MONDAY

The travelers enter a war zone…Episode 6.4, Stories, will post in only 4 parts, so there will be a post next THURSDAY and it will post in a single week… Don’t miss it.

So, until MONDAY, Happy Reading

*

 

Avalon 6.3 Stubborn, part 5 of 6

“Valencia?” Lockhart asked. Valencia nodded, and Lockhart felt the need to defend himself.  “Well, Lincoln wasn’t here to ask.”

Katie didn’t smile.  “We got trouble,” she said as she got down from her horse.

“Right here in River City,” Lockhart said, as he and the others got down to join her.

“Good one,” Decker told him, quietly.

“I know,” Valencia agreed, but she had other duties.  She turned to the boys and shooed them off.  The boys groused, but picked up staffs that leaned against the rocks and ran off like in a race.  “They are supposed to be helping their father with the sheep.”  Valencia invited the travelers to join her on the ledge, and maybe in the cave.  “The dwarfs dug it out for me. It is quite comfortable,” she said, about the cave.

“Seriously,” Katie said, with a hard look at both Lockhart and Decker, to be sure they kept their mouths shut.  “We were not sure what to do in this situation. It never came up before.  But now, apparently, Lincoln and Alexis have managed to get Professor Emerson, though we have no idea where they are.”

Lockhart cleared his throat. “Elder Stow and Sukki have gone invisible to check on the Gott-Druk merchant ship on the island.”

Valencia nodded, but it looked hard to tell if she thought that had been a good idea or not.  “Cecil lost his chestnut.  I told him he had to wait until you came so you could take him back into the future.  I said he had to try to fit himself in while he waited, and warned him against saying things about the future.  I know he said some things, but none of it history shattering.”

“But, how did you know we were coming?” Boston asked.

Valencia smiled.  “I always know you are coming, I just never know when. I said Cecil might have to wait six months or six years.  I had no way of knowing.”

“How long has it been?” Katie asked.

“They have been stuck in the past for almost seven years, as far as I know.  Six months or six years was only a suggestion.  Lucky for him, it turned out he has only been stuck in this time zone for about three months.  But then the Gott-Druk ship landed, and they are a pickle.”

“What do you mean?” Lockhart asked.

“Three humanoid warships caught them outside of a planetary system when they were making some minor repairs.  They could not run, but being only a merchant ship, with a minimum of second-hand weapons, they destroyed all three warships, but not before a humanoid shuttle crashed into the cargo bay. To be fair, the Gott-Druk were merchants, not warriors, and were outnumbered three to one.”

“Not made to fight against trained soldiers,” Decker understood.

Valencia said, “Yes, well, the humanoids captured the ship, and the Gott-Druk faked engine trouble and came here. I am sure they are stalling, figuring that I will show up eventually, but I honestly don’t know what I can do to help them. Neither Salacia, nor any of the other gods will help.  They all say it is a flesh and blood problem and needs a flesh and blood answer.  I am afraid my intervention might make less flesh and more blood.”

Katie got ready to call Elder Stow and get an update, but Colon, who nobody realized was still there, interrupted as everyone heard a Bang! Bang!

“I hear sounds of distress.  It sounds like humans.”  Colon waved, and a half-dozen centaurs came out of the woods to stand beside him.  They carried clubs, and two had bags of stones and slings.

The travelers went back to their horses and mounted up.  They pulled their weapons to be ready.

“I hear it too,” Boston shouted. “I think it is Lincoln and Alexis. I think the shouting is Evan, or Cecil…Whatever.”

###

After stunning, or maybe killing the humanoid, Elder Stow spoke to Alexis over his communication device so the two Gott-Druk engineers could hear.  He did that on purpose so they would not go into shock when he made himself visible. He kept Sukki invisible for the time being.  “What seems to be the trouble?” he asked.  The engineers stared at him, so he thought to explain a little. “Never mind how I got here, or where I came from.  Let’s just start at the beginning.  How many humanoids are on board?”

“Eighteen,” one said.

“There are usually two here at all times,” the other said, almost as quickly.  Elder Stow touched a spot on his belt just before the other humanoid came into the engine room, gun drawn.

“What are you doing here?” he yelled, giving his fallen comrade a long look.  He did not wait for the translation device to work before he spoke again.  “You do not belong here.”  He pulled the trigger on his gun, but the power did not penetrate Elder Stow’s personal screen.  Elder Stow responded by pointing what hardly looked like a small stick at the humanoid. The humanoid either became stunned, or died and fell next to his companion.

The engineers spoke fast.  “We had a crew of twenty, but lost five in the battle and the crash in the cargo bay.”

“Two got killed defending the ship before the surrender.”

“Three got eaten.”

Elder Stow held up his hands for quiet. “Get weapons and watch these two in case they are only stunned.”

“But, there are eighteen,” one said. He looked rather young, about Sukki’s age.

“Not now, son,” Elder Stow said, kindly. “Only sixteen.”  He pulled out his scanner.  “You two stay here and repair what may or may not need repairing.  I will be back.”  He became invisible again, and said, “Come along, Sukki.”

“Yes, Father,” the engineers heard Sukki respond and looked at each other before they scrambled to arm themselves.

Elder Stow and Sukki followed the signs on Elder Stow’s scanner.  They found nine sleeping in two rooms in the crew quarters.  Elder Stow carefully shot all nine of them, to stun them, so if they did not die, they would stay asleep for a while.  He checked each room to make sure they had no other way of escape while Sukki took all of their weapons to the hall.  He noted that even the vents were too small to crawl through. Once he helped Sukki remove anything in the room that might be used as a weapon, he shut and locked the doors. Then he turned up the power of his weapon and melted the metal doors to the metal frames.  Any humanoid who woke would not escape those rooms without cutting equipment.

Elder Stow and Sukki found two guarding the communications room.  The humanoids did not want any of the Gott-Druk calling for help.  Clearly, they had no idea how long a range the Gott-Druk device might reach.  Also, clearly, the Gott-Druk had reached a level of technology beyond anything the humanoids knew.  Elder Stow recalled the histories.  His people far surpassed Anazi technology, and that happened a thousand years ago.  Now, they absolutely surpassed any humanoid technology, since the humanoids, at first, merely built off the scraps of what the Anazi left them.

“The gap between the elder and younger races is widening,” Elder Stow told Sukki as he shot the two guards.  He and Sukki dragged them to a closet where they locked them in.

“Father,” Sukki said.  “These creatures have invaded and killed our own people.  They do not deserve to live.”

Elder Stow stopped to look at her, kindly.  “Yes,” he said.  “I must remember you are from the before time.  Your distrust of the Elenar, and your disrespect for humans is strong.  There seems to be something in nature which is innately xenophobic.  All creatures naturally hate and fear anything that is intelligent and different. Call it the fear of the unknown. But I have learned some things in this journey.  All life is precious.  Mercy is not a bad thing.  And sometimes half measures are enough.  Most of all, good and bad are not determined by outward appearance, and people come in many shapes and sizes.  Some will be good and some will be evil, but we cannot judge by appearance alone.  It is not our place to determine who should live and who should die.  We are not God.  And even the worst offenders deserve a chance to repent.”

Sukki nodded and kept quiet.  She might not have understood exactly what he said, but she willingly trusted her adopted father.

They came to the flight deck. Sukki shrieked, and alerted the three humanoids there, even if they could see nothing to account for the noise. Sukki could not help it.  The Gott-Druk pilot sat in the command chair, half-eaten.  Elder Stow did not mind killing those three so much.  He turned up the power on his weapon and left three small piles of ash where there had been humanoids.  Apparently, knowing the lesson about mercy in his head did not prevent him from reacting out of anger and upset.

“Father?” Sukki wondered.

Elder Stow turned his weapon back down and sighed.  “As Alexis sometimes says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.”

When they returned to the engine room, they found the humanoids had only been stunned after all.  The Gott-Druk engineers had them well tied, and in fact, Elder Stow had to cut the ties around their legs so he could get them to walk. The humanoids were astounded that he could understand them and speak to them in their own tongue without the need for the translation device.  They were appalled that he had the technology of invisibility.

Elder Stow went invisible in front of them all and spoke.  “Come along.” Anyone watching would have seen two tied humanoids followed and guarded by two Gott-Druk coming down the runway, and that is it.

###

Alexis and Lincoln, with Evan behind him, started across the open fields by the river with some trepidation on the part of the travelers.  They walked their horses well within sight of the village walls.  Lincoln feared the villagers would come out and get after them in no time, but Evan-Cecil assured them.

“By the time Lord Tarquin hitches up his chariots and gathers his men, we should be well out of range and hidden again in the forest on the other side.”

Lincoln thought to distract himself from his worry.  “So, is it Evan or Cecil?”

“Evan,” the man said.  “But apparently, it is too Gaelic for the locals. Cecil fits better on the Latin tongue and memory.”

“Where are we going?” Alexis asked. She and Lincoln had agreed to meet the others back at the campsite on the other side of the river.

Evan understood.  “We need to go around the hill to the cave of the she-wolf.” He paused to think before he quickly added.  “It isn’t what you think.  She is not a werewolf, exactly.  I mean, she is a werewolf after a fashion.  But she is a very nice lady.  And brilliant, in a way.  Yes, I think she is brilliant.  And she can fly.  I don’t know how she does that, but it is true.”  He looked at Alexis to see if he put her mind at ease.  He felt some surprise that she did not appear to be surprised or distressed at all.

“Valencia,” Lincoln said.

“Might as well,” Alexis responded. “It is where the others are, except Elder Stow and Sukki.  I wonder how they are making out.”  She reached to turn on her wrist communicator, but stopped when they heard and saw movement at the village gate.  Three chariots came out and headed straight for them.  Twenty men, all armed, jogged after the chariots.

“Damn,” Lincoln shouted, and they began to gallop.  Evan just had to hold on.

Avalon 6.3 Stubborn, part 4 of 6

Lincoln and Alexis tied off their horses. They were both soaking wet from the river crossing, and so were the horses, but none seemed any worse for the wear.  Lincoln thought to try out his wristwatch radio.  “Lockhart, can you hear me?”  He had to wait a minute, figuring Lockhart had to remember how it worked.  He heard Katie’s voice in response.

“We hear you,” she said.  “Keep in mind, every peep on the radio reaches everyone. Meanwhile, Robert is not getting the best cooperation from Elder Stow’s horse.”

“That is a very good horse,” they heard Elder Stow respond.  “You just have to coax it, gently.”  Elder Stow did not have a watch-radio, but he could easily pick up the frequency on his communications device.

“We will try not to get out of range. How does it look, Lincoln?”

“Like we figured.  The people came out to work on the spring planting. There are not many near our location, but even if no one comes close enough, we have a good view of the city wall, mostly a wooden wall, and the city gates.”

“Elder Stow?”

“A merchant ship as I surmised.  We are about to go invisible for a closer look. There appear to be some crew members sitting around a fire. We will let you know what we find out.”

“Roger.  Out.”  Katie nudged her horse into the water and bit her tongue rather than complain about how cold it was.

###

“Are you ready?” Elder Stow asked. Sukki nodded, so he flipped the switch and checked to be sure she went fully invisible.  Then he made himself invisible, so they could still see each other, but no one else could see them.  “Let us see what the people are talking about.”

As they walked up, they saw seven Gott-Druk sitting around the fire, and two men that were definitely not Gott-Druk, standing, with guns in their hands.

“Humanoids,” Sukki whispered. Elder Stow nodded and hushed her.

“So, you say the ship will not fly?” It sounded like a question, but Sukki and Elder Stow had to wait for the translation device to translate the words into Gott-Druk.  Of course, to Elder Stow and Sukki, the translation still sounded like “So, you say the ship won’t fly?”  They had been gifted by the Kairos with the gift of the little ones.  No matter language got spoken, they heard it in their native tongues.  Likewise, they could respond if necessary, and the person they spoke to would hear the words in their own native tongue.  A few alien languages they had come across had been difficult, but Humanoid and Gott-Druk were easy.

“Too much battle damage,” one of the Gott-Druk responded.  “You attacked us with three warships, and we would have gotten away if you had not crashed your shuttle into our cargo bay.”  They had to wait for the translation again.

“I got hungry,” the humanoid said, and appeared to laugh.  After the translation, he added, “So, why did you come here?  This world is marked in green.  No one is supposed to come here.”

“We did not exactly have a choice.”

“But this world is no good for repairing your ship.  It is only good for food.”  It sounded like yelling, humanoid style.

“We did not exactly have a choice,” the Gott-Druk repeated.

“Come,” Elder Stow whispered.  He led Sukki up the ramp and into the ship where he thought to add, “Don’t touch anything.”

They arrived in the engine room where a humanoid held the two Gott-Druk engineers at gun point.  They heard the humanoid yell into his communication device. “I can’t get it to work.  I don’t even understand it.  They call it ion energy and say it powers the photon drive, but they call it dark energy and anti-photons.  I don’t even know what they are talking about.”

They heard the roar from the other end. “Keep them at it.  The longer we stay here, the greater chance we have of being discovered by whatever reason this world is marked in green.”

Elder Stow heard enough.  He pulled his weapon and set it with just enough power to stun a Gott-Druk.  He imagined it might kill the humanoid, but that could not be helped.  He fired.

###

Out in the fields, a middle-aged woman came to rest in the shade of the trees.  Alexis took the chance.  She shaped her fairy-weave clothes to imitate the local styles, and made some small noise in the woods so the woman would not be startled by her sudden presence.  The woman looked back and saw her.  Lincoln stayed out of sight, but he held on to his Patton saber and had his handgun at his side, just in case.

“Your pardon,” Alexis said.  “I am looking for someone and perhaps you could help me.”

The woman did not bother to rise, but shaded her eyes as she looked up.  “You must live some distance from here, like on some outlying farm,” the woman said.  “I know a lot of people, but I don’t recall your face.”

“I do not live near here,” Alexis admitted.  “I do not know the face of the one I am looking for, but I know his name.  It is Evan Cecil Emerson.  Do you know him?”

“Cecil? What do you want him for? He is pretty useless.  He can’t hardly dress himself.  He doesn’t know anything about work or tools.  He can’t hitch up the oxen, and couldn’t plow a straight line if he got threatened with the whip.  He is an idiot.  I got a six-year-old who knows more than him.  What do you want him for?”

“He doesn’t belong here,” Alexis said, plainly.

The woman laughed.  “You may be right about that.  He’s been saying the same thing since he showed up some time ago, hungry and helpless.  I would bet the Etruscans threw him out, but we take in all the strays here.  We got some Etruscans, Latins, Sabines, Albans, Greeks.  We even got some that claim they came from as far away as Asia, from a place they called Troy.  I don’t know where that is, either.  I don’t know where Greece is either, except I heard about it all my life. So, who told you about Cecil, and where does he belong?  He sure doesn’t fit in here.”

Alexis took a deep breath before she decided on honesty.  “A faun from Vatican Hill asked me to fetch him.  Cecil is from the future, and I intend to take him there—to take him home.”

The old woman stared. Then she laughed. “You a believer in the wee people? You go for all that magic foolishness?” She paused in her laugh.  “To be sure, Cecil says he is from the future. He says he got separated from his wife there, and does not know how to reach her.  Funny you should say that.”  The old woman’s eyes got big for a second, before she squinted and pointed.  “Cecil is there, with my husband, probably messing up the planting, again.”

“Tyrus.”  The woman stood, shouted and waved.  “Tyrus.  Bring Cecil.” The man scowled and handed the reigns for the plow to the young boy beside him.  Cecil did not move until Tyrus waved for him to follow.

“What?” Tyrus shouted back.  “We’ll never get the field done if we leave off work.” His voice lowered as he drew near. “Cecil is doing his best, poor as that may be.  What?”

“This young woman says she is looking for Cecil; says she wants to take him back to the future.”

Alexis had to concentrate, but managed a sentence in English.  “Do you want to return to the future?”

Cecil fell to his knees and began to weep.

Tyrus looked flummoxed.  “I can’t allow that.  Lord Tarquin himself told me I could have him if I didn’t lose him. If he goes missing, what is going to happen to me?”

“On the other hand,” Alexis said, reading the couple.  “If I take him off your hands, you will get much more work done and have one less mouth to feed.”

Tyrus rubbed his jaw.  “There is that.”

“Ah-ha,” the woman nodded and smiled, like she liked that idea.

“No, but it cost me to have him.”

“Benjamin,” Alexis called.  Lincoln stepped into sight and made a show of sheathing his saber.  “Do you have those coins you picked up from Ibelam?”  She turned to the couple and explained, even if they would not understand. “Ibelam helped a friend, Artie, and she paid him in gold coins such as the Androids minted for their economy, and mostly for trade.  Ibelam was kind enough to share a few, despite him being a notorious pirate.”

“Here,” Lincoln handed them over and Alexis gave them to Tyrus.

“Ibelam?” Tyrus asked.

“Yes.  I imagine he sailed by here at some point, though that would have been when you were a child.  He captained the ship, Sinbad’s Folly.”

“Sinbad?” Tyrus appeared to know something.  Some light went off in his memory.  “Notorious,” he agreed, and looked at the coins.

“Cecil,” Alexis waved for him to join them.

“Evan?” Lincoln asked.

“Either,” the man said, and he hurried. He almost started to cry again when he saw the horses, but they mounted, Evan behind Lincoln, and they rushed to the river.  “No, that way,” Evan said, turning them away from the water

“We have to get out from under the eyes of the town,” Lincoln insisted.

“We will.  Trust me.  That way,”

They turned downriver and soon came out of the trees where they could be plainly seen by anyone up on the village wall.

“By the time they bring out the chariots, we will be back under cover and out of range, believe me.”

Alexis spoke into her watch. “Katie. Elder Stow.  We got Evan Cecil.  How are you doing?”

“We have a dilemma to resolve, but it should not take long,” Elder Stow responded first.

“Just coming to the cave where Valencia should be located,” Katie answered.  “I’ll let you know.”

Evan appeared startled by the voices that came from the little bracelets the people wore.  He did not say anything, but he looked more closely at his saviors.

###

The riders and their centaur guide came out of the trees on to a small clearing.  The spring flowers grew up to a grass covered ledge, at the back of which sat a clear cave among the rocks.  Colon stopped, so the others stopped with him, and wondered what he would do.

“Lady,” he called.  “My lady.  Gracious lady, I have brought friends of yours.  The faun of the gray hair sent me.  Lady…” Colon stopped speaking, and looked worried.

A wolf slowly emerged from the cave, growling and snarling.  It looked hungry.  The travelers noticed some red hair that grew out of the wolf’s back.  Colon took a step back, but he tried to smile.  Two identical boys, no older than twelve, came from the cave to stand beside the wolf, and both complained.

“Mama.  We have company.”

The wolf let out a little grin before it changed into a woman, about five and a half feet tall, with long red hair down her back, and eyes as dark a charcoal.  “Thank you Colan,” she said.  “It doesn’t fix things, but it helps.”  She turned to the travelers.  “Lockhart, bad timing as usual.”  She opened her arms.  “Boston.” She had to wait.  Boston hesitated because of the wolf, but only hesitated for a moment.

One of the twelve-year-olds put his arms out for a hug, but Boston snubbed him, and the woman slapped his hand. “Romulus,” the woman scolded.

“And Remus?” Katie asked, and got that groupie look on her face.

Avalon 6.3 Stubborn, part 3 of 6

The travelers found a place among the trees and behind a rise in the landscape where they felt they could build a fire without attracting too much human attention.  Boston and Katie bagged a deer, and Alexis found some greens that were better, not bitter, and some tubers that boiled up real nice.  Decker, Lockhart, Lincoln, and Elder Stow climbed to a place on the rise and in the trees where they could watch the village and the Gott-Druk spaceship.  Decker brought his binoculars and night goggles.  Lockhart got the same equipment from Katie, which Lincoln kept borrowing. Elder Stow contented himself with what his scanner could show him.

“They have shrines near the middle-top of the hill,” Lincoln said.  “I would guess Greek gods with Roman names, like Jupiter instead of Zeus and Pluto instead of Hades.”

“I wonder if Saturn is still around,” Lockhart said.  “I recall the Kairos mentioning that he got confined to Italy to keep him off Mount Olympus.  The Kairos said in his passive-aggressive way, Saturn insisted on different names for the gods in his jurisdiction.”

“Not really a different jurisdiction,” Lincoln said.  “Still part of the Greco-Roman jurisdiction in southern Europe.  Zeus threw his father, Cronos into the deepest pit of Hades. He spared his grandfather, Saturn, but confined him to Italy, sort of like a big prison cell.”

“I see three main gates on the wall,” Decker said, interrupting the conversation that neither man knew honestly what they were talking about.  Lincoln had the database and could read about it, but that was not what they were there for.

“I have scanned for Gott-Druk life-signs,” Elder Stow interrupted.  “They seem to be confined to the island.”

“I see several fires,” Lockhart agreed, and Lincoln reached for the binoculars.

“No indication they have seen us, or even that they are looking in our direction.”

“Atypical behavior for the Gott-Druk,” Decker said.  “I would have expected them in the village, making the humans cower and bow down to them.”

Elder Stow frowned.  “You have a very low opinion of my people.”

“Nothing personal,” Lockhart said. “But it is the behavior we have seen and what has been reported about your people.”

Elder Stow took a deep breath and nodded. “But here, the ship parked on the island has some armament and weapons, probably a necessity for space travel, but it does not appear to be a warship.  I would guess it is more like a merchant ship, a freighter of some sort.”

“There’s a twist,” Decker said.

Lockhart lowered the night goggles. It was hardly dark enough yet to make them worthwhile.  “I would say giving these early Romans access to heat rays would be even more dangerous to history than the old Gott-Druk way of taking over and trying to make slaves of the human race.”

“I don’t know how we can get into the village and get Evan without causing an uproar,” Lincoln said.

“The presence of my people does complicate things,” Elder Stow agreed.

Lockhart also agreed.  “Especially if they are on a peaceful trade mission.”

“So, we find the Kairos first?” Decker made it a question, but it seemed the only solution to him.  Throughout their journey, he had learned that the Kairos inevitably knew what was happening, and had some idea how to deal with otherwise impossible situations.

No one objected as they scooted off the rise and returned to the camp.  They found the horses cared for and set for the night, and food cooking, but they all imagined they would be up for a time of debate.  Everyone needed a chance to put in their two cents, and then Lockhart needed to keep them together long enough to do whatever the consensus decided.

###

In the morning, Lockhart felt unhappy, but nothing he could do about it.  Lincoln and Alexis insisted on edging up to the farm fields, where they figured most of the people would come out to participate in the spring planting.  When the workers came out, they imagined they might find Evan and whisk him to safety.  There was one place where the trees came right up to the edge of the fields. They would have a good view of the fields and the village from there, while they could stay hidden.  Lincoln insisted someone had to stay and keep an eye on the village.  Besides, they found a trail they could ride to the river if they needed to evade pursuit.

“We still have the wrist communicators to keep in touch,” Alexis reminded everyone.

Lincoln got to say it.  “I keep forgetting about these things.”

Lockhart could not argue, but he made Katie give Lincoln her binoculars and Alexis the prototype amulet, so Alexis and Lincoln could find the next time gate if they got separated from the rest of the group.  He made Lincoln give Katie the database in case Lincoln got captured.  He figured if the Gott-Druk could figure out how to read it, they might learn some things about the future that they should not know.

Elder Stow, perhaps worse, insisted on checking out the Gott-Druk present on the island in the river.  Sukki would go with him.  He made her swallow a big pill which he said would pass in a couple of weeks.  Meanwhile, he could use his equipment to make her invisible when he went invisible.  He had a few invisibility disc relays, but insisted the pill was more certain and better for something like this.

“I will try to talk with them to see what their intentions may be,” Elder Stow said.  “I will try to suggest they need to not be here, but I don’t know how they may respond.  Invisibility is just a precaution.”  Lockhart did not object until Elder Stow added a note.  “It would probably be best if you keep the horses with you.  I can levitate us to the island, but visible, flying horses would not work well.”

“It is going to be hard enough trying to wend our way through farms and hamlets to get to the back of the hill where the Kairos is located without giving ourselves away.”  Lockhart complained, but they took the horses.

###

Decker and Katie rode out front, armed and ready for whatever might present itself.  Lockhart and Boston followed, each bringing an extra horse with them.  In this way, they approached the river, prepared to swim across where it got deep, but they found a surprise waiting for them on the riverbank.  A centaur.

“Welcome.  I am Colon, prince of the mountain pastures where my family makes its home.  I have come at the urging of the gray-haired faun, to guide you to the goddess of time.” He smiled.  It felt like a big speech for the brute.

“I don’t suppose Dionysus is around anywhere,” Decker said, a frown on his face.

“Silenus in this place,” Katie said.

“No.  I am quite sober,” Colon responded

“Eh?” Lockhart asked, and Katie explained.

“The centaurs in legend are well known for their wild, drunken orgies, and attempts to ride off with women, to molest them.”

Colon’s eyes grew big.  “You are an elect, as strong and capable as a demigod,” Colon objected, without denying anything.  “You must think me mad to wish to offend you.”

“Just so we understand each other,” Katie said.

“But to be sure, I have also come to see the red-haired girl, the wisest of the wise.  Clopsus the Great said you would be among the travelers, and I am deeply honored to meet the one told of in our legends down through all the centuries.”

“Um…Thanks,” Boston swallowed.

“And it is even as I have been told. You have become as an elf, even a high elf, and a princess among all the elves”

“Princess?”  Lockhart asked, and grinned.

“As in, Disney?” Decker smiled at her.

“Shut-up,” Boston said.  “Truscas had a big mouth.  Can we get going?”

“Of course,” Colon said.  “If you will follow, I will endeavor to lead you in a safe way for my distant cousins that you ride, and away from the human scum.”

“Shows you where we rate,” Decker said.

Lockhart had to tug on the reigns of Elder Stow’s horse to get his nose out of the grass at his feet.  “Come along, cousin,” he said.

###

Elder Stow and Sukki landed among the few trees on the island.  “It will not hurt to look and listen first,” he said.  “Caution is a good thing.”

“Yes, father.”  Sukki lowered her eyes.

Elder Stow smiled for the girl. “You are a good daughter, even if you are adopted.  I wish my daughters by the flesh were as cooperative.”

“Oh, children need to respect their parents,” Sukki said, in complete sincerity.

“My Abella argues all the time, about everything,” Elder Stow said, as he got out his scanner and adjusted several settings.

“Arguing shows a lack of respect. She should at least respect that you are her father.  How old is she?”

Elder Stow paused to think before he answered.  “She is thirty earth years.”

Sukki drew in her breath.

“I am fifty-two,” Elder Stow said.  “And no, I did not have a bite of the apple of youth as Lockhart, Lincoln and Alexis had. I am an honest fifty-two.”

“But…I never heard of many Gott-Druk who lived much after forty.  Forty-five is very old.  I heard one old woman lived to forty-eight, but fifty sounds unbelievable.”

“You come from the deep past.  I understand,” Elder Stow told her.  “But in the future, we have found ways to take better care of ourselves.  My father died at the ripe old age of eighty-six”

Sukki’s eyes got big s she calculated “He was still having children at thirty-six.  But that is so old.”

“Thirty-four, and not so old in the future. Now hush.”  Elder Stow looked at his results.  “It is an ancient Sky-Skimmer; a merchant vessel as I surmised.  Crew of twenty, though quite big.  Minimal weapons, but new-ion driven.  We have made it to the photon age. They might not have a photon bomb, but possibly a gravitron bomb.  Honestly, I am not as conversant with that age in history to say for sure.”

“I did not understand a word you said,” Sukki admitted.  “Why am I here?”

“So I have company.  It is important for families to do things together. Besides, if we have to reveal ourselves, you will not be out of place.”

“Yes, Father,” Sukki said, and with some joy at the idea of being family.

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

MONDAY

The travelers have split up.  Everyone has their assignment.  We shall see how things work out… or not.  Until Monday, Happy Reading.

*