Avalon 2.11: Deeper Underground

            It seems the sorceress had more than one trick up her sleeve, but she had no way of knowing that Wadjt and the Kairos were dear friends from long ago.  Once it was clear that the sorceress was effectively disarmed, ten-year-old Emotep acted like a real grownup.  He got Wadjt, defender of the north and young Sakhmet, defender of the south to make friends.  The future depended on it.  After all of that Serket, the scorpion goddess showed up and everyone vanished, together.

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            Emotep found himself in a great room, cathedral sized, with columns regularly spaced to make a labyrinth of sorts indoors.  The stars could be seen in the spaces overhead.  The sun was to their left and cast great black shadows off to their right.  But the moon was to their right and full, and it cast its own shadows off to the left.

            “Where are we?” Katie asked the operative question. 

            “Home?” Sakhmet breathed the word.

            “Last time I was here, I thought I was in outer space and beyond that, I was a girl.”

            “Yes, about that,” Sakhmet turned on him.  “Would that make you my older-younger sister, or what?”

            “Sorry,” Emotep grinned at his memory of what mother Vrya of the Aesgard always called him.  He paraphrased.  “I am your brother even when I am your sister.”

            “That’s my Kairos,” Lockhart grinned, and all the more when Katie moved in close and took hold of him.  She was frightened.  They all were, and Neferet scooted around to where she could hold both Emotep’s and Sakhmet’s hands, and walk, if she wanted, with her eyes closed.

            Quite apart from the hot brightness of the sun and the glittering, silvery brightness of the moon, there was a greater brightness ahead of them.  Serket was gone, but in her place there came another woman, one who reminded Katie and Lockhart a little of Innan, the goddess of desire they met in the Middle East.  At first they imagined this might be the Egyptian version, but the woman looked at them and spoke.

            “Innan my mother,” she said.  She was dressed in armor, not unlike Emotep’s and looked hard, like for all her beauty she could kill in a heartbeat.  She grabbed Emotep’s chin and stared hard into his eyes for the longest time.  It was impossible for Emotep to bear until the woman made a pronouncement.  “Not my son.”  This triggered something to come up into Emotep’s eyes that blunted the stare of the goddess, and the words helped.

            “Not my mother,” he said.  She almost smiled and patted Neferet on the head before she turned to Sakhmet and grabbed her roughly by the upper arm. 

            Sakhmet protested.  “Mother!” but it did no good.

            “Daughter take too long to be here.”  She dragged Sakhmet off with one more word.  “Come.”

            They all followed until they came to an alter at the far end of the room.  Osiris was there shining brighter than the sun, standing on the pedestal that put him above everyone in the hall.  He was a ghost of sorts, but certainly not dead yet.

            Isis was also present with all four of her children.  Bast was in cat form and came to stand, or rather sit beside Neferet.  She allowed the little girl to let out her nervousness by petting her fur.  Anubis stood quiet, stately, and totally threatening in his jackal-headed presence which would frighten a minotaur. 

            Horus and Hathor were also there and stood beside their mother, Isis.  Hathor, who looked to be about twenty-one and no longer a teenager, had the true look of Innan about her, even more than Ishtar.  She was the Egyptian version of Innan.  Horus turned around last of all, and he had on glasses, and not the wire rimmed ones the Kairos made for Enki.  Horus had on black rimmed, square, purely geek glasses. 

            “I don’t know if I can,” he said to Emotep.

            “Just do your best,” Emotep responded.  “That is all I can ever do, but I have found when you do your best it is often better than you thought you could do.”

            “Very wise,” Osiris said from the podium.  His voice boomed through the great hall and gave all the mortals chills.  The voice was not dead, but not exactly alive either.  “But that is not why you are here.”

            Isis stepped up to Emotep and a few tears fell.  “Thank you,” she said, which was unheard of.  The gods never showed gratitude to anyone, especially a mortal.  “As long as his heart continues to beat now and then he remains partly in this world.”

            “It will be alright,” Emotep said, and added the word, “Grandma.”  Isis looked at him and started to shed some tears in earnest.  She reached out and kissed his forehead so he felt her tears run down his own cheeks.  She turned to walk back to the altar and her children as Mother Bast leaned over and licked Emotep’s hand.

            “Now, as for the worshipers of my brother dancing on my tomb –“ Osiris paused.  Something went out from Emotep, something he did not know, but even the gods paused to listen.

            “In a hundred years, Horus will find a way and Sakhmet will be taken by fury.  I will be there to help light the fire and douse the fire.  In a second hundred years, I will watch from the palace window while the two lands are united.  A child at last will rule in peace over the two lands and the sun will rejoice and the moon will be happy.”  Emotep shook his head.  “That is all I  know.  He looked up.  Toth was there.

            “Kairos.”  Toth nodded his head briefly as a sign of friendship to Emotep before he went to a knee before Osiris.  “Lord,” he said.  “These three come before you for judgment.  Their hearts were heavy until this last day when they sacrificed their own lives for the sake of the children.”

            Katie Harper drew in her breath.  She recognized one of the men, though they did not appear to notice her presence at all.  They were spirits only, ghosts not given to recognizing flesh and blood.  To be sure, they all noticed and seemed to recognize Emotep well enough, and without the least bit of surprise that he would be present among the gods; but they did not see Lockhart, Katie or Neferet at all.

            The ghosts fell to their knees before Osiris and then they fell to their faces.  Osiris spoke once more.  “I, too am grateful for seeing that one’s personal feelings must not interfere with the performance of one’s duty,”    There was a flash of light, Osiris bright, and Emotep, Neferet, Katie and Lockhart found themselves on the edge of Abydos, Lincoln and Decker having just emerged from the underground.

            “Sudden dismissal.” Lockhart took note.

            Emotep pointed behind them at the field of the dead.  “I imagine he has to judge a bunch there and doesn’t need our two cents.”  Emptep felt the tug on his sleeve.  He looked down at Neferet and then got down on one knee to be face to face with her.

            “Sakhmet?”  She was asking.

            “We will see her again, as soon as she learns to sneak away.” 

            Neferet looked satisfied with that answer.  They hugged and Neferet skipped off into the crowd of children and adults to find her father. 

            “Thank you,” Emotep said, sounding suddenly like the ten-year-old boy he was.

            Lockhart and Katie both glanced at the dead on the field and then the living parents and their children.  Lockhart spoke.  “You’re the boss.  I’m just the assistant director,” he turned to Katie.  “Which makes me the number two paper shuffler.”

            Katie said “Faugh,” but she did not quite get the accent right.

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            The travelers are optimistic, filled with the hope that the Danna in the next time zone might send them home without a need to continue through the time gates.  They know she is a full blooded goddess, not one made like Zoe.  The only trouble may be reaching her as they travel through a world like Tetamon’s world.  Men, spirits, gods and aliens are poised on the verge of what Lincoln calls the ancient version of World War II.  Reaching Danna may be doubly hard given all the creatures still on their trail, and especially the ones that seem to be catching up.

Avalon 2.12:  Celtic Dreams … Next Time

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Avalon 2.11: Deep Underground

            There are children underground, frightened children buried deep, with only ghouls to guard them and keep them company.  Outside there are fathers and travelers determined to set them free.  It would be a fool’s errand to enter that dark warren of underground passages and caverns blindly, but even underground the travelers have power and resources to help.

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            When the company of men arrived in the city of Abydos, they found most of the houses closed up and the people afraid to come out.  There were only a few priests who had the courage to face the group.  They stepped up to Decker because he was out front with Elder Stow, leading the way.  They bowed deeply to the Gott-Druk and called him “Elder” before they turned to speak to Captain Decker.

            “Nubian,” The priest called him.  “Now that you have driven out the army of Lord Seth, we are constrained to ask how we may serve you.”  Several of the priests looked to the dock on the river where three boats were headed out into the current.

            “A couple of RPGs would finish the job,” Decker said.

            “Lincoln,’ Elder Stow called.

            “Me?”  Lincoln stepped up, pushed in part by his wife, Alexis.

            “You are in charge after Lockhart,” Captain Decker reminded him.

            “Oh, yeah.”  Lincoln stepped up to the priest.  “We are only here for the children.  These men you see are their fathers.”

            “And maybe kill a few Ghouls in the process,” Captain Decker added.

            “You are priests?” Alexis asked.

            “We serve Osiris in the land of the dead,” the priest responded with a bow of his head.

            “Very good,” Lincoln said.  “Allow us to collect the children and we will be on our way.”

            The Priest bowed again.  “This way,” he said, and he took them to what looked like a solid wall in the ridge beside the city. 

            “The entrance is here,” Elder stow said, “Though it does not appear that way.”

            Roland stepped up and examined the wall.  He slipped his hand through it.  “An illusion.”

            “And probably guarded,” Decker said.  He stepped in front of the illusion and fired a whole clip into the cave before he, Lincoln and Roland ran in.  They found two green smudges on the floor that had once been ghouls.  Outside, Alexis took Boston’s hand for the additional magic and waved her wand over the entrance.  The illusion dissipated and the Priests looked as impressed as the men who followed.

            “Slow and careful,” Lincoln said.  “No point in staying quiet.”  He stared at Decker who did not flinch.  As far as he was concerned, he was doing his job of delivering everyone back to the twenty-first century, alive.  Lincoln continued and raised his voice.  “No running ahead.  There are probably traps.  There are eight more ghouls as well.”  He looked at Elder Stow.  “I don’t suppose you can pinpoint their position.” 

            Elder Stow shook his head, but he projected a holograph showing the inside of the caves in all their twists and turns.  “The children are captive here,” he pointed to a large chamber not far from the surface.  The map lit up yellow in that place.  “The obvious route is this.”  He lit up the direct route in green.  “My counsel is to leave men here to hold the entrance and journey this way.”  An orange route lit up that was a bit longer, but went around two chambers where he and Decker agreed there would likely be the most resistance.

            “Dungeons and Dragons,” Boston quipped.

            “Labyrinth,” Alexis countered.

            “That is the plan,” Lincoln agreed, and he and Decker spent the next few minutes dividing the men and finding places where they could hide.  The rest of the men followed the group down Elder’s Stow’s route.  They tried to keep quiet, but that was not really possible.  They did well at first, but half-way there was a flash of white light and another green smudge, which meant the ghouls knew the way they were headed.

            “Divide,” Lincoln looked quickly at Elder Stow’s map.  “The main body continue on here and expect resistance.  Captain Decker, take Alexis, Boston and Roland through this narrow cut-off.  With luck, you should reach the children with no trouble.”

            “Except for the guards where the children are,” Decker registered his protest, but agreed.  He asked Roland if he wanted to lead.  Roland shook his head.

            “I could lead you perfectly through a labyrinth of trees, but underground.”  He shrugged.

            “Alright.  Women in the middle,” and they literally squeezed through the narrow places.  Once they were in a position to look down on the children, they found three ghouls hovering around the children where they could not be easily taken out simultaneously without risking injury to a child.  Roland and Captain Decker appeared stymied until Alexis made a suggestion.

            “Why don’t we pull a ghoul?’ she asked.  The others did not understand until she grabbed Boston’s hand and had Roland take Boston’s other hand to add their magic once more to hers.  Suddenly there were sounds down the far corridor.  It was gunshots and the sound of men screaming. 

            The ghouls were all attracted to the sound.  They got up and all went to the door where they looked to take up defensive positions, but of course their backs were wide open to the room.  Dekcer opened up his weapon and sprayed the walls.  The children screamed.  The Ghouls screamed at a much higher pitch.  It sounded like steam escaping from a small break in a pipe, but soon there were three more green smudges on the ground where the Ghouls used to be.  When they tumbled through that last opening into the chamber that held the children, they were mobbed by crying kids.  Maybe they did not know who these people were, but they were human.

            “Nidjau?” Alexis called out and a boy, maybe four came toddling up.  “Your brother Emotep?”  The boy nodded and Alexis waded through the children to hug him.  “We came with him to save you,” she said, and he cried on her shoulder as she hugged him.

            Captain Decker backed away from one opening as Lincoln and Elder Stow came in.  They had heard the gunfire echoing through the corridors, but it was distant and they had no idea what was happening.  Alexis was worried, but when Lincoln came in he reached around Nidjau to hug his wife.

            Roland kept watch on the other opening, the one that lead deeper into the caves while Boston corralled the children.  She clapped her hands in good teacher fashion and yelled, “Children.  Follow your fathers.  You can hug when we get back to the surface.”  They began to move.  Of course, fathers and children sought each other out all the way back to the surface, but that was to be expected.  As long as their feet kept moving.

            “How many did you get?” Lincoln asked Decker once they were free of the cave.

            “Three,” Decker admitted.

            “And we got three with only three casualties.”  The men who were carrying the bodies back to the surface passed by.  The priests of Osiris who were still standing there, watching and waiting, took the dead for the proper rituals.  Lincoln finished his thought.  “That means there is still one more down there.”

            “Or out there,” Decker nodded. 

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Avalon 2.11:  Deeper Underground … Next Time

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Avalon 2.11: Plans and Places

            The problem when a god steps out of his natural place and goes after things that are not his to have, it is impossible to tell on whose side the other gods will come down.  Emotep realized he needed to solve the children dilemma himself.  Sakhmet was an easier dilemma to solve.  “Out of the mouths of babes,” Neferet is right that Sakhmet and Emotep are loving each other, but not like grownups, like true brother and sister even if Emotep only vaguely knows it and Sakhmet does not really know it at all.

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            By mid-afternoon, the whole gang was back in the clubhouse, avoiding the work in the village.  Aha spent his time showing off for Sakhmet and almost fell out of the trees, twice.  Usersi mostly just grinned, quietly.  Ankara sat beside his sister Neferet which only put the five-year-old between him and Sakhmet.  He was content.  Ka sat beside Emotep and kept nudging him to tell another story.

            “So much for a little time alone to think.” Emotep said that several times. 

            Aha showed Sakhmet the view of the village and the view of the Nile, twice.  She played along and said the river looked lovely, though Emotep knew she could see it all perfectly and in total detail even without having to look.  In the late afternoon, they all began to smell the first wisps of cooking and stomachs began to grumble.  They missed lunch.  Sakhmet moved to a seat beside Emotep and for a moment it looked like she might take his arm.  She appeared to be his age by then, no more than ten, though no one noticed the adjustment in her looks except Emotep and maybe Neferet.

            A bell rang out from the village.  It was Mother Beset banging her copper spoon against her big copper pot.  Aha, Emotep and Ka knew it was time for supper and Emotep stood.  He bit his tongue to avoid saying, “Saved by the bell.”  Instead, he said.  “Supper,” before he turned to Sakhmet and said, “Brother and sister.  Remember?”

            “But Horus and Hathor, and Isis and Osiris,” she responded.

            “And Nephthys and Set once upon a time,” Emotep responded.  “But we need to think Anu-Bast and Anubis.”

            “Are you a warrior?” Sakhment asked.

            “No, but you are.”

            Sakhmet looked thrilled that he knew.  Of course she was a bit of a love goddess through Ishtar, but she was also a serious goddess of war through Ishtar and Ptah in his own way, and thanks to Ptah she was no slouch in the intellectual department either.

            “I’ll be good,” she said.  Emotep did not respond directly.  He just let out a small laugh.

            After supper and a good, long scolding by Father Meni, Emotep found Lockhart and Katie watching the festivities.  They were sitting side by side, but not touching, each pretending to be friends and nothing more.

            Sakhmet slipped up and whispered in Emotep’s ear.  “But they would already die without each other.”

            Emotep turned his head to look at her.  “You reading my mind now?”

            Sakhmet shook her head.  “But like you thought earlier about me.  You are young.  You leak.”  She smiled, looked at her feet for a second and then pointed at Roland.  “They have a little spirit with them.”  Of course, she was not fooled by the glamour of humanity that Roland wore.

            “I know,” Emotep responded.  “He is an elf.  One of mine.”

            “One of yours?”

            “You didn’t think the gods left me with no responsibilities, did you?”  Emotep said “responsibilities” with a very teenage voice.  “They dumped the whole lot of them on my head.  I got elves, dwarfs, fairies, goblins, ogres and trolls.”

            Sakhmet made a face.  “I don’t like ogres and trolls, they’re scary.  Hey!  Can I have a fairy?”

            Emotep frowned at her.  “First of all, you don’t have fairies any more than you have people.  They have themselves.”

            “You sound like Papi Amun.”

            “And second of all, what is it about girls and fairies?  And no, I don’t have any say over unicorns.”

            Sakhmet let out a sly grin.  “Now you are reading my mind.”

            “Can we help you?”  Lockhart and Katie startled them.  They were staring at them.

            “Budding romance?” Katie asked with a kind but motherly smile.

            Emotep and Sakhmet shook their heads and pointed to each other.

            “My sister.”

            “My brother.”

            “Think Luke and Leah, same mother except we are not twins.”  Katie looked up.  “No, not Mother Beset.  I mean a bunch of years from now.”

            “Hey,” Sakhmet slapped his shoulder, lightly but it still hurt.  “I was keeping that secret.”

            “Right.  Good idea.”  Thus far she had told no one she was a goddess, but Emotep was not fooled.  He looked up again as he rubbed his shoulder.  Lockhart was still staring at him.

            “Oh.”  Katie shook her head like she really did not understand, but she turned to stare at him with the same expression on her face Lockhart had.  It made Sakhmet giggle and cover her mouth.

            “Alright.”  Emotep decided to just come out with it.  “Your job is to get home alive.  I understand.  But I need to go south – same direction.  I need to get to Abydos and get our children back.  I haven’t figured out how, yet, but since you are going that way.”

            “Won’t the gate move further south as you move south?” Lockhart asked.

            “Well, yeah.  But it will move north again after we free the children and I come home.”

            “Yes,” Katie interrupted.  “Why the children?”

            Emotep nodded to her before he spoke.  “I figure some kind of brainwashing or indoctrination like in your twenty-first century where the schools and media got tons of people to actually vote against their own best interests.  Make a bunch of Set worshipers and let them go home and in a generation they will be building a shrine to Set in my own village.  That kind of conquest takes time, but hey, Set isn’t going anywhere.”

            Elder Stow came over at that moment and Sakhmet stepped around to hide behind her brother, her eyes got big as she stared at the Gott-Druk.

            “The boats have stopped for the night between villages.  I estimate two days to reach the big village on the river.”

            “Abydos,” Emotep said.  Elder Stow shrugged.  Katie turned to Lockhart and set her hand gently on his arm.

            “I really can’t wait to get to Abydos where all the first kings were buried.”

            “And will be buried.  Not happened yet, but Osiris is there.”

            “Oh, Robert.”

            Lockhart looked like he already made up his mind.  “Elder Stow.  Tell the others we spend one more day here helping these people rebuild and then we are taking Emotep to Abydos.”

            “And me.”  Neferet jumped out from behind the bushes.

            Emotep shrugged.  “Only don’t tell our parents.”

            Lockhart did not look as pleased with the idea of sneaking off with minors in tow, especially such a little one as Neferet, but Sakhmet got down and hugged Neferet and Katie smiled so he assumed he had no choice.

            Elder Stow saw and let out a bit of his overly wide grin before he went off to tell the others. 

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Avalon 2.11: Followers … Next Time

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