Avalon 5.10 Family Feud, part 4 of 4

Alexis and Lincoln took the first watch, though people stayed up and talked until about nine, and there was not much need to watch with Elder Stows screens running.  Decker said they were better to keep to the pattern, regardless, and Katie reminded everyone about the djin.

“Though I don’t suppose he would dare show his face to the Olympian gods after he set that volcano off in the last zone.”

“I don’t know,” Diomedes hedged.  “What we have here is a family squabble among the gods.  The Greeks and Trojans are just playing out the reflection of that, not like mindless pawns on a chessboard, but with willing hearts, shall we say.”

“So, Helen?” Katie did not know what to say in front of Nestor, even if he appeared to be already sleeping.

“The last straw,” Diomedes explained.  “You see the Dorians, for want of a better name, came down into Greece from the north and conquered the cities and the land, all the Aetolians. Achaeans, Mycenaeans, Corinthians, Eubouians, Boeotians, and so on.  The Dorians became like a ruling class over the rest of the people.  I was involved in the final work, when we overran Thebes, so it was that recent.  Well, plenty of people did not like being ruled and having their independence taken away.  They rebelled, mostly by escaping to Asia, that is the coast of Turkey in your day.  Troy opened her gates to the rebels and became like the central city of the rebellion.  Helen, one of the original Achaeans, got forced into marriage to Menelaus, brother of the high king, Agamemnon.

“High king?” Katie asked.

“Yes.  Right now, under Dorian rule, Greece is as close to being a united nation as it gets up until the twentieth century.  Even under occupation by the Macedonians, the Romans, and the Turks, the various cities hold on to as much independent power as they can.  The idea of a Greek nation has to be ground into them over a couple of thousand years.”

“Sounds painful,” Lockhart said.

“Yes.  But when Paris convinced Helen to join the rebellion, and she ran away with him to Troy, that became the last straw.  I’m not discounting Aphrodite’s work in the mess, but this war is really a political thing, mostly.  It is like most wars, I guess.  It is trying to decide who is going to rule and be in charge here, if you know what I mean.”

“I get it,” Katie said.  “There is more at stake for the Hellenes than meets the eye, or the history books.”

“No, actually…”  Diomedes had to pause to think what he could say.  “The Hellene are another people group altogether; one that is more of a loose confederation of tribes, like brigands, like the Huns, or Mongols.  They kill with abandon.  Shortly, after the Dorian Lords get home, for those who get home, the Hellene invade the land, and they have something that the Greeks don’t have.”

“What is that?” Lockhart asked, while Lincoln pulled out the database.

“Iron,” Diomedes said with a sour look.  “And a thirst for blood.  You see, after we took Thebes, I was fifteen, and got married off to the princess of Argo.  I ruled for only a couple of years before raising the army again to come on this adventure.  Who would have guessed ten years of war?  I just turned twenty-eight.  I look older, I know.  It’s the stress.  But I don’t know.  My wife—even having a wife at fifteen was weird.  We kind of bonded, but not really, since she was older and way more mature.  I don’t know.  With the Hellene coming, I may go to Italy.”

“The iron age begins?” Katie was surprised at the early date.

“Not exactly,” Diomedes said.  “With the arrival of the Hellene, the country eventually takes the name of Hellas, as a general idea or description, but otherwise, they plunge into two or three hundred years of dark ages, and don’t emerge until Homer writes about this mess we are in right now—and really not until Socrates in the five-hundreds.”  Diomedes lay down, and said, “Good-night.  I wonder if Italy gets snowy cold in winter.  Maybe the southern coast.”  He went to sleep.

Alexis and Lincoln got up and went into their tent.  They were like newlyweds, now that Alexis turned human again.  Katie and Lockhart were actual newlyweds and did not do much watching between nine and midnight.  The others were glad that Elder Stow had his screens up.

Elder Stow and Decker had the wee hours, and Boston and Sukki agree to take sunrise.  When Elder Stow woke Sukki for her turn, she surprised him with a question.  “You don’t want to marry me?”

Elder Stow’s eyes got big.  I have three wives and plenty of children.  I already have a big family group.  And I am old, I’m thinking too old to be a father again, he thought, but he said.  “You don’t want to be my daughter?”

Sukki considered it, and nodded.  “I can, but I won’t always be a good girl,” she said.

“Expected,” he agreed and gave her a small kiss on the cheek to seal the agreement.

Sukki sat happily with Boston, and opened-up about many things.  She found it hard to talk to the humans, but the crazy elf seemed easy to talk to.  She was just explaining how children spoke to their parents, when Boston told her to be quiet.  She got quiet for a second before she started again.

“Hush.  Listen.”

“I don’t hear anything.”

“Listen real close,” Boston stood and walked to the edge of the campsite.  They waited a long time before Sukki finally spoke.

“A baby?”  It sounded so far away, she could not be sure.

“I have to wake the others.”  She started with Diomedes.  “I hear a baby crying.”  She woke everyone, Nestor last, and he commented.

“Many babies are crying in the night now that their fathers have been lost to them.”

“It isn’t that kind of baby,” Boston said, and Diomedes understood. Fortunately, Athena showed up before he could swear.

“It is the djin that has been following you,” Athena said, quickly.  “He is not in this time zone, but I believe he contracted with one of the gods to bring the night creatures here.  There appear to be nine of them.”

Diomedes stepped close and gave her a soft kiss.  “Clever girl to slip through Elder Stow’s screens like that.”  On seeing the others did not understand, he briefly explained.  “Particle, energy, and radiation screens function in the realm of matter and energy, the same that the gods manipulate by divine fiat.  Flesh and blood, even godly flesh and blood, have limits that have to be figured out to get around.  I’m not explaining it well.”  He turned to Athena.  “No, no.  Some things mortals just have to take on faith.  I am sure Athena could explain it, but that is not why she is here.”

“Quite right,” Athena said.  “Someone is protecting them, so I can’t just wipe them out of existence.  I don’t know if they can follow you through the time gate, though, so I figure if I send you to the next gate, you can at least have a three to five-day head start.”

“No, no.” Diomedes made Boston put her amulet away.  “Athena keeps track of where the time gates are.  She is the most-clever person, ever.”

“See?” Athena said, without explaining what they were supposed to see, and she returned Diomedes’ kiss.

“Traveler.” Aphrodite and Artemis appeared.  “You have company coming for dinner.”

“They know,” Athena said, and the icy stares that shot between the girls nearly put the fire out.  Diomedes bravely stepped between them.

“Girls, girls.  You are sisters.  Sibling rivalry is fine, but please remember deep down you care about each other.  We have guests right now who need our help.  You can fight later.”

“You cut me,” Aphrodite yelled at Athena.

“You made me fall in love with the most annoying person in… in… history,” Athena shout back.

“And I love you, too,” Diomedes said to Athena, who backed off a little.  “And I am sorry I cut you.  I was just trying to do my job.”  He changed to Diogenes, Alexander the Great’s cousin, and focused on Aphrodite.  “Show me,” he said.

Aphrodite looked up at him and pouted, but lowered her sleeve to show a small scar in her shoulder.  The other men nearly lost it to see just her shoulder, not to mention her pouty face, but Diogenes leaned over and kissed it.

“There,” he said.  “Now it will get all better.”

Aphrodite huffed a little, but tried not to smile.  Diogenes smiled for her and changed back to Diomedes and he slipped his arm around Athena’s waist.  Athena responded by grabbing on to him like a possessive woman saying, this one is mine, you get your own.

Aphrodite smiled then and turned to point at Decker.  “And don’t think I’ve forgotten you.”

Artemis removed the grin from her face and spoke.  “I got my Amazons.”

“I’ll take the Greeks back to their ships,” Athena said.

“That leaves me with the travelers,” Aphrodite said.

“Thrace.  Across the Dardanelles,” Athena told her.

“Ah.”  Aphrodite’s face lit up.  “I know just the place.”

And everyone vanished.

###

Diomedes and Nestor appeared beside Odysseus and a dozen other men who had evidently spent the night mapping out the extent of Elder Stow’s screens, as Diomedes guessed they would.  “So, did you leave me any beef?” Diomedes asked.

“No,” Odysseus said.  “We ate it all.”

Sthenelus came running up.  “Diomedes.  come on.  We saved you some of the cut-up rump.”

Odysseus shrugged.  “You have loyal men.  After ten years of following your orders, it is a wonder.”

“You missed Althea and Diogenes,” Nestor tattled.

“You didn’t let Diogenes do your fighting for you again?”

“One time.  I borrowed him one time,” Diomedes shouted.  “They never let you forget.”

###

“Time gate dead ahead,” Boston reported.

“Come eat your breakfast first,” Alexis and Sukki insisted.  Aphrodite transported everyone and everything as is, including the campfire, still cooking away.

Aphrodite spoke once more before she left them.  “This is the land of the Hellene.  I suggest you go through this morning and not wait until tomorrow.  They are a bloody lot.  Ares likes them.  Better they don’t find you here.”  She disappeared.

“Thank you,” Katie said.  Everyone said, “Thank you,” to the air, assuming Aphrodite would hear.

“Eat first,” Alexis added.

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

MONDAY

The travelers find themselves in China just before the end of the Shang dynasty, and the rise of the Zhou.  But they hardly have time to examine the evidence.  They need to reach the Kairos as fast as possible, because the night creatures of the djin follow them through the time gate…

Happy Reading

*

 

Avalon 5.10 Family Feud, part 3 of 4

When the women got back to the camp, they came loaded down with a full quarter of the beast, including some ribs and half of the prime rump portion.  Three Amazons came with them, and brought baskets filled with fruit, vegetables and greens.  Antandre and Bremusa acknowledged the men politely, but bowed their heads to the women, especially Katie and Little Fire who they knew perfectly well from their legends.

“I never thought I would live to see you,” Bremusa said, and Antandre’s hands shook a little from the awe she felt.

The third Amazon, Hippothoe, carried a big double-headed axe that looked well sharpened.  She preferred to give the men hard stares and the cold shoulder, as if men in general were contemptible.  She did not mind the women, though she was not overly impressed by them, either.  After pleasantries, she insisted the others return with her.  They had a duty to guard what remained of the herd.  “And we had better do a better job of it,” she said.  “Or we will have nothing to bring to the relief of Troy.”

When the Amazons left, Nestor spoke up.  “Remarkable.”  He said the one word and stared at Sukki and Boston, like a man unable to decide which woman fascinated him more.

Alexis immediately got to cooking some of the meat and vegetables, with a comment.  “We should have enough to carry us to the next time gate, if we don’t dawdle.”  She added the last for Katie, and Lincoln, who would likely want to see the array of Trojan and Greek armies on the battlefield, dangerous as that might be.

“Let me help,” Sukki volunteered for the first time, and Alexis smiled for her and gave her something to do.

“Since we are going naked…” Elder Stow said, and removed his own glamour of humanity.  He gave Nestor a start, but he clearly shared characteristics with Sukki, whom he had already seen.

“Remarkable,” Nestor repeated.  “I apologize, but I do not know who your people may be.”

Elder Stow smiled as a thousand options, no doubt, passed through his mind.  He clearly decided to tell a very short version of the truth.  “We are of an elder race who began to grow grain and domesticate some of these animals while you homo sapiens were just starting to use bone and stone.”  The travelers understood, even if Nestor did not.  “Our present home is out there.”  Elder Stow pointed to the night sky.  “We have a home among the stars, and how Sukki and I came to travel with these people are long stories.”

Nestor shook his head.  He honestly did not understand, but he had another question.  “Are you two married?”

Sukki’s eyes shot to Elder Stow, and if the women read the look correctly, not always guaranteed for Gott-Druk, she seemed to say she would not mind.  But Elder Stow shook his head again.

“We are different generations,” he said.

“I have taken a young wife in my age,” Nestor said.  “She is very good to me.”

Elder Stow still shook his head.  “More important, we are separated by some twelve-thousand years, and that is a chasm hard to breach.”

“Build a bridge,” Boston interrupted.

“We are,” Elder Stow admitted.  “But I believe Sukki may be like a daughter to me, if she is willing.”

“You are all family, in the way the Gott-Druk understand family,” Althea also interrupted.  “I ask only that you love and care for one another.”

“We don’t leave our people behind,” Decker said, and inched up to see what Alexis might be putting in the bar-b-que sauce, since she got her hands on some spices.

“Elder Stow,” Althea took the floor.  “I need to see your equipment.  All of it, please, including your weapon.”  Elder Stow did not hesitate.  Sukki watched and began to underatand.

Sukki remembered Althea from the last time zone, and it came as a shock when she realized they were actually traveling through time.  She saw Diomedes when he arrived, and almost shrieked when she saw him disappear and become this woman from the past that ought to be long dead.  Althea even talked about her own death like it already happened, though she was clearly not a ghost.  Sukki realized then that the Kairos was a special and complicated person, and maybe a very special person.  She recognized the goddess when she arrived.  She wanted to worship this goddess, and she felt the holy terror that only the gods could create.  At the same time, she watched as Althea and the goddess fussed and hugged like two best friends with a long history between them.  Maybe the Kairos was a goddess herself, or a god in this life, as the others spoke of it.

“There,” Althea said.  “Your equipment is fully charged until the next time.  Normally, I would say use it wisely, but in this case, I recommend a screen against intrusion.  You don’t want Trojans or Greeks, or even the Amazons to come stumbling into the camp.”  Althea yawned.  “That took a lot out of me.  I think it is time for Diomedes to come back to his own time and place.”  She waved, and went back into the past so Diomedes could sit on the log in her place.  Diomedes also yawned, and then checked the bar-b-que sauce himself, with a comment.  “Cattle rustling always makes me hungry.”

“Remarkable,” Nestor repeated himself, and Sukki nodded in agreement.

“Welcome back,” Lincoln said.  “It is Diomedes, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Diomedes smiled.  Lincoln always had to ask.

“Are you a god?”  Sukki could not contain her question.

“Only for me,” Boston said, and she scooted over to give Diomedes another hug.

“And the fairies,” Nestor said.  “I recall Alder and his wife, Perdy were a great help in building the Argo.”

“All the sprites of the earth, air, water and fire,” Boston said with a smile.

“I did not even know there were fire sprites until the last time zone,” Sukki said, and looked at Alexis, Katie and Elder Stow to see if she said it correctly.  Elder Stow got busy with his equipment, but Alexis and Katie assured her with their smiles and nods.  “There are air and water sprites too?”

“Way too many for one person to handle,” Diomedes admitted.  “It gives me a headache, thinking about it.”

“And what are you thinking about?” Lockhart asked Katie, who seemed to be deep in thought.

Katie shook herself free to respond.  “It appears that I know all sorts of things about the Amazons and Amazon law that I never learned.  It feels instinctive, like down in my gut, like about what I can and cannot do being an elect.”

“I was wondering how you knew about the Amazon right to her kill,” Alexis said, as she licked her finger to test the sauce.

“I don’t know.  It feels strange.  I just know things, and I don’t know how or why I know them.”

“A gift from Artemis, I would bet,” Lincoln suggested.

“I have that feeling sometimes,” Diomedes said, and paused before he amended his statement.  “Who am I kidding.  I get that all the time.  Normally, the past and future slowly open-up in my mind, around puberty, and usually the influx of knowledge comes gently, but sometimes it comes, wham! bang!  Usually it is an emergency, and I have to scramble to keep from being overwhelmed with all the things I suddenly know.”

“I can only imagine,” Katie said.

“It gives me a headache thinking about it.”

“Maybe you are getting an illness,” Nestor suggested.

Diomedes smiled.  “If only life were that easy and straight forward.”

Alexis licked her finger again and announced.  “Food.”

“So, what are you now, a dwarf?” Boston asked, before she shouted.  “I miss Pluckman.”

“And his eighty-three stooges,” Decker mumbled and got his plate ready.

After supper, Alexis and Lincoln set the rest of the meat up to smoke in the night.  They had a bag of salt and salted much of it.  Nestor helped, knowing a thing or two about preserving meat in the world before refrigerators.  Diomedes sat and put on his most serious face; the one that always got Agamemnon’s attention.  He spoke when they were ready.

“From here on out, it would be best to avoid the obvious historical events.  You can find me at the center of the time zone, if you are careful about it, but you have to make the effort not to interfere with events without permission.  For most things, it would be best to fade into the background and not go there.  The chance of an innocent question or comment spoken in the wrong ear at the wrong time…the risk is just too great.  I really want you to get back to the twenty-first century.  I really do.  But I want it to be recognizable, not one that you have inadvertently changed beyond all recognition.”

“So, no questions about the Greeks or Trojans,” Katie said.  “Or about the war, even general questions?”

“It is safer that way,” Diomedes nodded.

Nestor interjected.  “And I understand you are originally from three thousand years in the future?”

“Yes,” Lincoln said.  “But I suppose we have to be careful at this point talking about that, too.”

“Even if it is something like computers, like the database you hold in your hand,” Diomedes said.  “It might give a sharp mind like Nestor some ideas and to pursue a line of thinking that might eventually mess everything up.  Sorry.”

“We will be careful,” Alexis said.

“We have to be,” Katie showed that she understood.

“Fine.”  Diomedes looked at everyone around the circle.  “Now it is a warm night.  Do you mind if Nestor and I stay and lay down by your fire?  I ate too much to walk all the way back to the beach.”  People said that would be fine, but Nestor had a thought.

“They will be looking for us,” he said.  “Odysseus will certainly come hunting.”

Diomedes just looked at Elder Stow, and the man spoke.  “He won’t find us, I think.  I have finally got the screens connected to the invisibility disc, I think.  Unless he has a sky ship, he should not see us at all.”

“He might bump his nose into the screen,” Lockhart said.

Diomedes agreed.  “And he might spend the whole night tracing the outline of the screened in area, but he won’t understand what it is, I hope.  He is clever.”

“Worry about that tomorrow,” Nestor said.  “We have had enough worries for one day.”

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

TOMORROW

Episode 5.10 ends with a special post tomorrow, Thursday.

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Avalon 5.10 Family Feud, part 1 of 4

After 1116 BC Troy.  Kairos 69: Diomedes, the King

Recording…

Diomedes rolled in aurochs dung, and made the others apply it as well.  When he saw the Amazons ride in, driving a herd of some thirty wild cattle, he imagined cowgirls with whips and spears driving cattle along the trail.  He shouted, “Yee-haw,” and then had to explain to Odysseus what yee-haw meant.  Now, he figured if the women were cowgirls, the least he could do is be the Indian when he went to steal some of those beasts.

“You are disgusting,” Odysseus said as he scooted up and whispered.  “Old man Nestor says he will have to bathe the entire day tomorrow to get rid of the smell.

“Is that a threat or a promise?” Diomedes asked, as he pulled his cow hide further up on his shoulders.  “Thersites could use a bath.”

“Wash his mouth, maybe,” Odysseus whispered.

Nestor scooted up with Sthenelus’ help.  He giggled like a schoolgirl.

“Diomedes,” Thersites called out in his loudest whisper, before he saw them.

“Hush,” Diomedes hushed him.  “No scare-um buffalo.”  He turned back to Odysseus and Nestor.  “Aurochs have a bad temperament.  Spook them, and they will run, but startle them, and they will just get angry and charge.”

###

Two sets of eyes tried to pierce the darkness.  One looked back and spoke softly.  “Where is that girl.”  She turned to the one still beside her.  “Now that the sun has set, we need all eyes on the herd.”

“Lady.  I don’t see anything but mud and cattle.  Not much for the cattle to eat.  We best get them in to the city in the morning and to the butchers before they become too skinny to bother cutting up.”

“Quiet Bremusa.  Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth closed.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Alcibie.”  The call came from behind, and it sounded nice and loud.  “What is the problem?”

The girl ran up, followed by the queen.  Alcibe spoke softly after she removed the palm from her face, an affectation the Amazons learned from a young woman who visited them in the days of the queen’s grandmother.  “Antandre.  You move that way.  Bremusa, move slowly the opposite way.  Keep quiet, and keep your eyes and ears open.”  Alcibie turned to the queen and deliberately whispered.  “Penthesileia.”  She nodded her head.  “I sense something in the cattle.  Something is not right.  Maybe, for all our precautions, the Achaeans have come up into our midst.”

The queen put her own hand over her own mouth.  She should have known better than to shout ahead.  She looked intently, but saw no movement but among the cattle.  Alcibie had her bow out and strung.  She fingered her arrows.  The Amazons were hard to see in the dark of night, but they were not the only ones who mastered that skill.

###

Diomedes and his crew stood together and wailed like banshees.  They waved their cow hide cloaks like they were the dead cows, returned from the dead.  The wild cattle were certainly startled, but they were not spooked to run until everyone heard a loud crack in the distance, and one of the cows fell to the ground, mysteriously dead.  Everyone imagined Zeus and a thunderbolt, except Diomedes, who knew the sound all too well.

Ten of the herd, the group Diomedes and Odysseus agreed would likely split off the easiest, ran in the expected direction.  The Greeks saw the torches lit, which formed a nice tunnel to the sea.  Diomedes and his crew did not wait around to be caught, but they kept yelling, giving their position away at every step.  One of Diomedes’ men got an arrow in the thigh.  It was a good and lucky shot, and Diomedes almost turned back to confront the shooter, but Odysseus turned him to pick up the man and help get him to safety.

Antandre and Bremusa realized too late that they could do nothing with their spears.  Alcibie shot three arrows, but two missed and the third only wounded one who still got away.  Antandre and Bremusa had to quickly turn to keep the rest of the herd from running, and other Amazons came up to help.  The women were well trained and disciplined, so they succeeded without anyone getting hurt, but Alcibie yelled, “I knew it,” and Penthesileia growled and felt like kicking herself.

As soon as Diomedes got the wounded man to where he could hand him off to Sthenelus and his men, he grabbed old Nestor, who was still giggling, and pulled him aside.  He practically dragged poor Nestor to the edge of a stream and together, they got in to wash.  All that while, Diomedes did his best to think to Boston.  Don’t let Decker go out on that field.  Stop him.  Tell Katie to get ready to join me.  I’ll be there quick as I can.

Boston had to run to stop Decker and Lincoln, though the two had stopped.  With the night goggles, they saw what was happening better than any Greeks, Amazons or Trojans could hope to see, and while they might not have understood the full dynamics of what they saw, they decided not to interfere.

“I only looked at the beef,” Decker admitted.  “I assumed these were wild cattle.”

“They are,” Lincoln said.  “Aurochs are a wild breed.”  He wilted a little under Decker’s stare.  “It is too far to tell, even with the goggles, but I am guessing we are closer to Troy than we thought.  I was trying to make out the city and missed the people completely.”

Decker nodded as Boston ran up at super elf speed.  “I guess we both need to be more careful from here on out.”

“That, or we need to stop before dark, no matter how much someone wants to see the fabled walls of Troy.”

“Can’t see the walls in the dark, anyway,” Boston said, as she caught her breath.  “Amazons,” she added.  “We’re supposed to wait for Diomedes, and then Katie is going to fetch the beef.”

Decker and Lincoln said nothing as they turned to head back to the camp they had set up in the woods.

###

Diomedes crawled out of the water and saw the love of his life standing on the shore, waiting patiently.  How unlike her, he thought, and he stepped up to her and kissed her passionately.  She responded with her whole heart, but when they parted, she stepped back and spouted.

“Now I’m soaking wet.  Thanks a lot.”  she waved her arms, and all the water that covered her vacated her clothes and went back into the river.

“I just wanted to give you something from my heart and ask you to remember later where we left off.  Sadly, I have work to do that just came up.”

“I know.  I’ve been watching them for the last couple of days.  This is not a good time for them to show up.”

“I understand.  And there is a crisis here, already.  I was thinking I may have to trade places with Althea and let her handle it.”

The woman turned up her nose at the thought.  “And you drag the sweet old man with you?”

“Ah, yes.  They met Nestor on the Argo, if you recall.  Volcano day.”

The woman nodded.  “Well, you can start out as yourself.  Who you become is your business.  You have your own work as we have our work, even as you said.”

The woman waved her hand again and Diomedes and Nestor disappeared from that place and reappeared beside a nice, cozy campfire.  Diomedes thought, don’t forget where we were.  He heard the answer, Never.

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

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4 posts in this episode.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and THURSDAY.

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