Avalon 8.2 Trouble Big and Small, part 4 of 6

Alexis, Katie, and Lockhart got left alone, but Lincoln got shoved into the room.  Lincoln was not as intimidating.  Alexis immediately went to the man already in that room.  He looked like he had been beaten raw.  Her healing power might not work on diseases, but she could fix most injuries.  She laid her hands near the man, and they began to glow as she closed her eyes and concentrated.  Bruises and swelling went down, raw spots healed over.  Cuts pulled together and gashes stopped bleeding.  What is more, her work had an anesthetic quality to it.  The pain all but vanished wherever she touched.  As the healing glow worked down inside the man, several cracked and one broken finger bone knitted together, the lungs cleared so he could breathe, and the muscles that were strained all relaxed.  Very soon, the man began to talk.

“God’s blessing on you and your kindness.  Why would the cruel monster, Bozarius allow you to practice your healing ministry on me?  Does he want to abuse me again?  I will not tell him the secret.  I don’t care how badly he tortures me.”

“I don’t think he knows my wife is a healer,” Lincoln said.

“And a most lovely wife you have,” the man sounded utterly grateful.

Lockhart lifted his arm to talk through the wristwatch communicator that he, and honestly everyone, regularly forgot they had.  “Hope they are in range,” he said.

“Wait.”  Katie caused him to pause.  She turned to the man.  “I’m Katie, and my husband is Robert.  Alexis is your healer, and Benjamin is her husband.  Do you have a name?”

“Kallinikos, from Heliopolis.” he said.

“Heliopolis?” Lockhart asked, still paused with his wrist beside his mouth.

“In Syria,” Kallinikos answered.

“But wait,” Katie looked puzzled.  “Why do I know your name?”

“I am a simple artificer,” the man said.  “I can think of no reason you should know me.  Perhaps another Kallinikos?”   He smiled for Lockhart.  “Your wife is pretty, too.  I am sure she has other skills that you prize.  I had a wife, and a daughter, once.  They were slaughtered by the Arabs, and no one in our city resisted them.  We peacefully surrendered, and they came in and slaughtered so many.  I have seen many such places since.  Burning, looting, and killing.”

“It is what armies do,” Lockhart suggested.

Kallinikos sighed before he growled.  “But I, too, can burn.  I know the secret to set the sea itself on fire…”

“Greek Fire,” Katie’s face lit up.  “I knew that I knew your name.”

“What is Greek Fire?” Kallinikos asked.

“That is what it gets called—what it will be called.  But you should be giving your formula to the emperor, what’s his name…”

“Constantine IV,” Lincoln said, without having to look it up.

“My intention,” Kallinikos said.  “I intend to see the Arabs burned and killed, but the monster Bozarius found me.  He wants the formula, but I will not tell him. Strange, though.  I do not know how he knew I had a formula.”

“Why doesn’t he already know the formula?” Lockhart asked Katie, their expert in all things ancient and medieval in the technology department.

“Because it is kept a secret for centuries,” Katie answered.  “Most think it is tar or bitumen based, but the actual formula and what made it so effective is lost to history.”

“The Arabs should not have this.  I escaped the Arabs to give it to the Greek emperor.  I am sure Bozarius plans to give it or maybe sell it to the Arabs, but I will not let them have it.”

“We need to set him free.” Katie insisted.  “We need to see he gets safely to Constantinople.”

“So people can be burned or killed?” Alexis said, though she did not really protest.

Lincoln answered his wife.  “So history stays on track and isn’t changed.”

Lockhart agreed and got on his communicator, thinking hard about what he would say.  “Decker.  Elder Stow.  Are you there?  Can you hear me?  Over.”

“I hear you,” Elder Stow responded.  “We are waiting your return to the inn.  Tony, Nanette, Decker, and Boston have taken the horses and wagon to find a ship.  We had three men try to take our things from the wagon and we all agreed it was not safe to stay here.  Sukki and I are here at the inn…”

“Lockhart,” Decker interrupted.  “We have a ship.  The tide is in.  The wagon is on board, and we are ready to load the horses, but your horse is being a pain…”

“Breaker,” Lockhart said.

“Come in,” Decker Responded.

“The priest led us into a trap.  Our old friend, Lord Bobo is here, and we are his prisoners, again.  You know the man, the one Boston called Lord Bozo.”

“The Masters,” Elder Stow interrupted.

“Exactly.  He is building cannon for the expected Arab attack on Constantinople.  He is also working with a Doctor Theopholus, another agent of the Masters, who is tailoring the plague to set it off in Constantinople so he can reduce the population and the military in the city by half.”

“Germ warfare,” Decker interrupted.

“We also have a guy named Kallinikos here that Katie says is important to history.  Apparently, he invented something called Greek Fire.  Katie says it is imperative we get him safely to the Byzantines.  Do you copy all that?”

“Roger,” Decker said.

“Okay.  Here is what I am thinking.  You finish loading the ship.  Threaten the captain or do whatever you have to do to make sure he does not sail off without you.  Elder Stow.  Can you get our location on your scanner?”

“Yes, I’m just getting it up just as you said prisoners.” Elder Stow said.

“Okay. Then maybe Elder Stow can share some of his discs and you can come over here, invisible.  There are cannon to blow up and men with muskets to put out of commission.  But listen to this carefully.  If Bozarius—Lord Bobo is not here, you are not to go looking for him. We are not here to find the gun factory and put it out of commission.  For all we know, the factory could be in the city where we came into this time zone, ten days ago.  The Kairos has told us over and over it is his job.  We do what we can, and I am sure he is grateful, but our job is to get back to the twenty-first century, or twentieth century as the case may be.  Got it?”

“Roger that.”

“Okay.  We are scheduled to go with the doctor to Constantinople.  We might not be here when you get here.  But for one, we need to stick with the doctor to stop him. We need to make sure he does not release his disease in the city.  And two, save Kallinikos and bring him safely to Constantinople.”

“Three, be careful,” Katie added

“If we are not here when you arrive, we will meet you in Constantinople on the docks.  Over and out.”  Lockhart stared at his wrist before he put his arm down.  “There.  Did I leave anything out?”

Alexis looked up.  “Only that Kallinikos has been tortured.”

“Servants of the Masters,” Lincoln said.  “That should be a given.”

“You didn’t mention our gun belts,” Katie said.  “They were still on the table when we came in here.”

“Oh, shoot,” Lockhart said, and he called Decker again.


It took less than an hour for the Doctor to arrive and escort his prisoners to the ship.  The straight was only a couple miles wide, and they would only travel a few miles to the port at Constantinople, but it was way too far to swim, and like so many such trips, it took longer to get out of the port and dock on the other side than the trip across the Bosporus actually took.

This ship was a single masted merchant ship with a capacity of maybe one hundred tons.  They carried no cargo for this trip if the travelers were not considered cargo.  The ship was used to transport prisoners or unruly slaves.  It had a dozen wall mounted shackles down in the hold beneath the deck.   Katie got a good look at the nails in the ship’s wall before they locked her in.  The shackles had enough chain to let the prisoners sit, but not enough to let them lie down.

As soon as the prisoners were secured, their guards went up on deck to get some fresh air and to relax.  Katie began to pull on the chain held in by the rustiest nail.  Lockhart pulled on his own chains and one of the nails had some wiggle in it.  He looked at Alexis and Lincoln.  Lincoln shook his head.

“I’ll wait until one of you to gets the keys.”  Lincoln pointed to the wood beam where the keys hung on a nail.

“We can try yours together,” Katie suggested, and she grabbed Lockhart’s chain with him and said one—two—three.  They pulled the nail out of the wall easier than they imagined.  Lockhart immediately reached for the keys, but he could not quite reach them.

“Wait,” Katie said.  “Come on.  We can try the other side.”  Lockhart agreed.  He had to stand beside Katie so she could help, but it felt like an odd angle.  Katie had to stretch as far as her chains allowed so they could yank on the chain together.  This second nail did not come out nearly as easily as the first, but when it did, they heard a loud Crack! and a piece of the planking broke.  Everyone got still to listen in case the sound attracted someone’s attention.

Avalon 8.2 Trouble Big and Small, part 3 of 6

The doctor stopped his work and put on a pair of thin leather gloves.  He grabbed something like a magnifying glass and stepped over to examine the travelers.  He paused to look up at Lockhart, who stood quite tall.  Lockhart wanted to make a face, maybe a Decker face to intimidate the little man, but it was hard to get his face to cooperate when he had a gun poking him in the back.

“Yes, these will do quite nicely,” the doctor squeaked in a timid little voice.

“Aren’t you going to listen to our heart and lungs,” Alexis objected.  “Don’t you want to check our blood pressure, or maybe take a blood sample for analysis?”

The doctor stopped and stared at Alexis for a minute.  He seemed to need the words, and finally he came out with, “No.  None of that is necessary.  You are relatively healthy specimens who show no signs of infection.  That will do.”

“Are you ready to go?” Bozarius asked.

“The tide is not up yet,” one of the men said.

“About an hour,” the doctor said at about the same time.

Bozarius nodded.  “Stygria, you and your men keep the prisoners locked up until the doctor is ready to leave.  You need to escort the prisoners to the ship and see them fastened in.  Then you have your orders.”

“Sir.” the man, Stygria came to attention and acknowledged his leader like a military officer, only lacking the salute.

Bozarius thought to say something more to the travelers before he left.  “Doctor Theopholus has kept the plague alive since the death of the Prophet, and in a controlled way that has kept it away from the armies of Arabia.  That has been for more than thirty years.  How old are you now?”

“Sixty,” the doctor said.  He went back to work but half-listened.

“There is one more job before he can rest.  He will cut the population, including the military strength of Constantinople in half.  This plague outbreak will be the pneumonic kind?”  The doctor nodded but said nothing.  “He will infect you when you reach the city.  You will infect everyone else.  I believe that is what you call killing two fish with one stone.

“Birds,” Lockhart mumbled.

“But what happens when the Arabs get here?  Won’t they risk catching the infection?” Lincoln asked.

“It will burn out by the time the Arabs get here.  That is two years hence.  I have many more cannon to make in those two years.  Then we blast the vaunted walls to gravel and that will be that.”

The travelers got brought to the room where they heard the moaning and groaning, and they got locked in.


Elder Stow stopped working on his screen device long enough to eat.  He actually joined in the conversation around the table for a while.  People were talking about how similar they all were, black and white, men and women, from 1905 or 2010, and even between Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthals.

“Much of it, like touch, parental concern, and children exploring their environment is plain animal stuff, at least for mammals,” Elder Stow said.  “Though I have witnessed birds and others who show a remarkable concern to keep contact and stay close to their young.”

“Crocodile mothers,” Decker nodded.

“Most of the rest, as far as I can tell, and I never really thought of it before, seems to be based on social, cultural, and more than we realize on technological conditions.  Without automobiles, and I might say, trains and planes, people connect with people, mostly neighbors and in the community.  The limiting factor appears to be the ability to travel.  With cars, trains, and planes, people can travel, even to distant and interesting places, and I mean ordinary people, not just the rich.  Real friendships can develop between people who may live thousands of miles away when you have a telephone.”

“Then,” Boston interrupted.  “With the invention of the internet, people do not have to go anywhere.  You can travel the world from your own living room, and no one has to talk to anyone, if you don’t want to.  We are all isolated all over again, and this time, people don’t even know their neighbors.”

“Yes,” Elder Stow frowned.  “Not all advances are especially good ones.  And believe me, there are some advances on the human horizon that make bad matters worse.  You don’t want to know, but I will say, I have learned much in our journey, and one is that relationships, or what I imagine as real contact between real people, is something we should never lose sight of.  Hugs matter.  All hugs matter.”

Sukki smiled and gave Elder Stow a hug.

“Travel broadens the mind,” Decker said, and with a little grin for Nanette added, “Or so I have heard.”

Nanette returned his grin and patted his hand.  “In that case, 5000 years has not quite done the job.  You have a little more traveling to do.”

Decker picked up Nanette’s hand and kissed it right in front of everyone.  Boston dropped her jaw.  Sukki looked away and turned as red as Boston’s hair.  Elder Stow smiled and said, simply, “Family.”

Tony looked at his food and thought to change the subject.  “Once the world was full of Greeks and barbarians, but then the Romans came, and the world got bigger.  Some Greeks realized that some of the people outside the borders of Greece were maybe not so barbaric.”

“The Persians first.  Then the Romans.”  Nanette said.  “Alexander the Great really expanded the Greek world.”

“Then the medieval world went backwards for a bit.  Medieval people stayed pretty much in their villages and probably had no idea what the rest of the world was like.  Even the church focused on spiritual horizons, not worldly ones.”

“Or the mosque. Or the synagogue.” Nanette added, basically agreeing.

“But then the age of discovery arrived, and it was no longer me and my few and everyone else are strangers.  Now, the whole world seemed strange, but people got into exploring, learning, and getting to know everything that was new and different.”

“And where did that get us?” Boston asked.

“To world war or maybe world peace,” Decker said.  “If the human race can ever learn to live in peace.”

Elder Stow’s screen device alarm went off.  He turned it off quickly and checked his scanner.  “Someone has gotten into the wagon,” he said.

Decker jumped up and grabbed his rifle.  Elder Stow and Tony, with Katie’s rifle, followed.  The girls came behind because Sukki stopped to hug Nanette and encourage her with Decker, and Boston tried really hard not to tease the girl.

In the stable, they found three men that tried to rummage through their things.  They appeared to be trapped and unable to escape.  Elder Stow explained.  “I tuned a disc to the screen and gave it a twenty-foot radius around the wagon.  I set it carefully so it would not slice through any flesh and blood, or animals.  It was sort of a test, but I think it worked.  Walking around the wagon would not set it off, but as soon as the insides of the wagon or anything in it got touched, it automatically deployed.”

“Can I shoot them?” Decker asked as they stepped up to face the three men.

“No,” Elder Stow said.  “The screen is solid on both sides.  They can’t get out, and we can’t get in until I turn it off.”

“Hey,” one of the men shouted.  “We’re trapped in here and can’t get out.  Help.”

“What did you steal?” Decker asked as Tony and the girls caught up.

“Nothing.  I didn’t take nothing,” the man said.

“We were just looking,” Another man said.  “He was just showing us your stuff.  Honest.”

“I want you to lie face down, arms stretched out over your head while we take a look,” Decker said.  They did not move.  They looked at each other, uncertain.  “Now,” Decker shouted.  “Don’t make me kill you for just looking.”  All three men got slowly to the ground.  “Okay,” he said softly to Elder Stow and with more volume added, “Tony, do an inventory.”

“Hey, Decker,” Boston shouted from where she wandered into the back to check on the horses.  “Somebody let Ghost out of his stall.”

Decker turned on the men at his feet.  “Just looking?”

One man jumped up to run.  Decker kindly shot him in the leg.  He fell and grabbed his leg where the blood started to come out.  He shouted, stunned by the sound of the gun and in shock at seeing a bleeding hole in his leg.  It would start to hurt soon enough.

“Any other bright ideas?” Decker asked.

One man did not move at all.  The other shook his head, said, “No, no.” and tried not to cry from fear.

“A horseshoe and some nails,” Tony said.

“Do I have to search you?” Decker asked.

The man who said nothing that whole time pulled the horseshoe and small bag of nails from his shirt and placed it on the ground.  “Can we go?”

“Let’s see,” Decker said.  He shouted to the back.  “Horses okay?”

“A-okay,” Boston said.

“We need them saddled to take them to the dock,” Decker decided.

“All okay, blankets and everything.” Nanette shouted.  “Being saddled.”

“Your friend probably needs to see a physician,” Elder Stow said, and handed a few copper coins to the scared one thinking if he was scared enough, he might do the right thing.

“Get your stupid friend and go,” Decker said.  “And don’t come back.  I would rather not have to kill you.  It would spoil my supper.”

The two men helped their friend while he cried and tried to walk on one leg.

“Was that really necessary?” Elder Stow asked.

“The Kairos thinks so,” Decker answered.  “Bad as guns are, they cannot be easily duplicated.  Horseshoes, however, could change the course of history.”



The travelers need to escape to save the man who invents Greek Fire.  They need to get that invention to Constantinople and disrupt the plans of the Masters, in whatever way they can.  Until then, Happy Reading.


Avalon 8.2 Trouble Big and Small, part 2 of 6

It took six days to reach Nicomedia, having once again avoided Nicaea.  Soldiers met them some distance from Nicomedia to turn them away.

“There’s an outbreak of plague in the city.  Best not to go there.”

“Gee,” Boston complained.  “I wanted to see if that first mate, Pinto Beans was still hiding around the dock, hoping the authorities did not catch him.”

Decker snickered.  He remembered giving the man that name.

“A criminal?” the soldier looked up.

“Never mind,” Alexis told him.

“Last time we traveled by sea and skipped Chalcedon.  This time, Katie wants to see the city,” Lockhart said, and Katie nodded.

“No plague in Chalcedon, is there?” Nanette asked.

“Not that I know of,” the soldier answered.

It took a day to get to the coast road and most of another day to reach Chalcedon.  They stopped short of the city and stayed at a country inn.  The food was good, and even if the beds were not bug free, at least they were soft.

The following day, they spent finding a place to stay near the docks.  It was a busy port and they found plenty of places by the sea, but they filled up quickly.  They settled into one place, not the best, about three o’clock and had an early supper, or a very late lunch around four.  They found plenty of sailors in the room already washing away their sorrows with alcohol, but they managed a table for four and another one that sat eight where six of them could relax.  Lockhart, Katie, Lincoln, and Alexis took the table for four.

“This time zone has been very quiet, considering all that has been going on around us,” Alexis started the conversation.

Lincoln frowned.  “Now, don’t jinx us.”

Katie and Lockhart smiled, and Lockhart responded.  “We paid for the rooms, such as they are, and the horses are settled in, but only if we can’t find a ship to leave this evening.”

“We might find a ship where we can spend the night and leave on the morning tide,” Katie said.

“That is the idea.”  Lockhart nodded as their food arrived.  The innkeeper paid special attention.  These people had money.

“You know,” Lincoln said.  “I’m getting used to sleeping with the bugs.”

Alexis smiled.  “Like the fleas from the rats that spread the plague.”

Lincoln looked temporarily horrified.  “Thanks a lot.  Now I won’t sleep a wink.”

“Keep it down,” Lockhart said.  “You’ll scare Nanette.” He pointed at the other table.

Katie grinned for Alexis.

Nanette sat at the other table between Decker and Tony, across from Elder Stow, Sukki, and Boston.  Katie pointed once or twice as Decker touched Nanette’s hand, and once her shoulder.  Decker seemed happy, which was a rare thing.  Nanette seemed shy, which was the opposite of her evil twin, the one made, and in the end, unmade by Athena.  Alexis grinned a sly grin, and Lockhart had to ask.

“What are you two plotting?”

“Nothing,” Alexis said and broadened her grin.

“I’ll tell you later,” Katie said, and rubbed Lockhart’s shoulder.

“Probably Cupid,” Lincoln said in a very flat voice.  “It is a game that wives play to get other men trapped in the bonds of holy matrimony.”

Alexis hit him in the shoulder rather hard.


“You sound like Decker,” Lockhart quipped, but then looked at the other table and saw Decker and Nanette talking and touching hands.  He looked at Katie, his wife, but she just smiled.  He raised his brows, shrugged a little, and went back to his supper.

A priest came into the inn.  No one paid attention because there were priests and monks all over the city, but this one pushed through the drunken sailors and stepped up to the table where Katie sat and said, “Excuse me.  You are the traveler from Avalon with the yellow hair?”

Lockhart stopped eating and stared at the man, but Katie’s elect intuition did not sense any danger from this man.  She smiled and said, “How can I help you?”

“The doctor has asked to see you.  He needs your help.  That is all I know, but I can take you to him.”

“Doctor?” Alexis looked up.  The priest stood at her back.  Lincoln put down his spoon and looked as well.  “Maybe I can help,” Alexis said.

“Please.  The Kairos told him you know things and may help.”

Lockhart got suspicious, even if Katie did not.  “I thought you said that was all you knew.”

The priest smiled a friendly smile, or a nervous one, and nodded.  “Indeed.  But that was all I was told.  If you are having your supper, I can convey a message.”

“Doctor Mishka?” Lincoln spoke to the other table.  He saw Boston who was eavesdropping already had her amulet out.

“No,” Boston said.  “The Kairos is still on the other side of the water in Constantinople.”

“Is it an emergency?” Katie asked.

“I don’t do diseases, except nursing,” Alexis said, thinking about the plague.

The priest did not know.

Katie stood, so Lockhart stood.  “Is the doctor far from here?” she asked, and the priest shook his head.


“It might not hurt to take a look,” Alexis said and stood, so Lincoln stood.  Katie felt Lockhart’s suspicion.  Lockhart left his shotgun in the wagon, in the stables with the horses, but Katie started carrying her military rifle with her, like Decker.  She dropped her rifle with Tony. She wore her belt with her handgun and knife.  They all started wearing their belts and their handheld weapons since the Khyber Pass, except Alexis who still had an elf-slip where she kept her wand and otherwise carried her small first aid pack like a purse.  The pack held their vitamins and whatever first aid supplies they had plus a few elf bread crackers and a few coins in case Alexis got separated from the group.

Decker spoke before Lockhart could say anything.  “Tony and I can secure a ship to take us to the capitol, and we can get the horses and wagon loaded.”

“This port probably has regular ferries that cross over to the capitol,” Tony said.

“Getting a ship should not be hard if you spend a little money,” Nanette added.

“I may be able to help,” Elder Stow said, and he meant help with whatever this doctor wanted them for.  They all understood what he meant.  He had plenty of gadgets, as Lockhart called them.  He could be a remarkable help with injuries at times, and identifying various diseases, but Lockhart waved for him to stay seated.

“We don’t know what the trouble is.  You stay and work on your screen device.”

“Should we come?” Sukki asked, but Boston held her hand down.

“No,” Boston said emphatically.  “The adults are going off to do grown up things and leaving us children to have fun and tear the house up while they are gone.”  Boston grinned.  Nanette laughed.

Once outside, the priest led the couples toward the water and the docks.  They came to a warehouse, and the priest invited them in first.  Katie jumped as her elect radar went off, but she reacted too late.  A dozen men stepped from the shadows.  The travelers might have been able to fend off swords and spears, but there was nothing they could do about the rifles and primitive handguns the men carried.

“Damn.”  Lincoln said, as the men made them hand over their gun belts.  “Double damn,” he added when they saw the man who came out from the back of the big room.  “Lord Bozo.”

“Bobo,” the man said.  “And in this life, it is Bozarius.  But this time, you won’t catch me unaware.  The invisible ones are still at the inn with no idea anything is amiss.  By the time they figure that out, you will be on your way.”  He handed a small bag to the priest who bowed and smiled.

“Thirty pieces of silver?” Alexis asked.  The priest looked temporarily horrified before he pursed his lips, lowered his shaking head, and scurried away like a rat.

“So, what is it this time?” Katie asked, boldly.  Bozarius paused at the question but appeared to have no qualms about answering.  Like before, he did not mind talking when he felt he had the upper hand.  He led them toward the back of the warehouse where they saw several large cannons.  They looked of a size to break down city walls.

“I am still interested in your guns that never seem to run out of bullets.  Too bad you did not come with one of those rifles.  I would like another look at that.  But, you see, this time I am not interested in small arms.  I have made some for my crew, but I am focused on the big guns.  I have smaller, ship sized cannon to mount on the Muslim ships.”

Katie drew in her breath.  “You plan to beat down the Theodosian walls.  You want the Arabs to take Constantinople.”

Bozarius smiled.  “You found me out.  Yes, the Masters have decided that an Islamic Europe will be more conducive to the future.  But come, let me introduce you to Doctor Theopholus.  He will be taking you to Constantinople where I believe he will have a surprise for you.”

They found three doors at the back of the warehouse and figured the one on the end probably led to the outside, maybe a back alley.  They heard terrible moaning behind one door.  They went through the middle one and found a chemistry lab set up, not in the most sterile condition, and an old man in a kind of makeshift lab coat.  “Doctor,” Bozarius said.  “I have your subjects here.”

M3 Gerraint: Captives, part 2 of 3

Greta stepped into the dark and faced the overwhelming smell of mold, too much mold in the rotting wood.  She immediately heard the coughing and wheezing in the corner.  Dayclimber found a candle to light, and Greta found an old woman in bed who looked worn, but who otherwise showed no outward sign of disease.  There were no red splotches, no pox, and no breakouts of any kind apart from a wart on one knuckle.

“More light.”  Greta demanded.  Dayclimber lit two more candles and then Greta made him wait outside.  She helped the woman sit on the edge of the bed and helped her disrobe.  She checked the woman’s glands.  They were swollen, but not badly.  The woman had a fever, but low grade at the moment.  Greta helped the woman dress.  About the only certain thing was the woman’s wheezing and coughing which sounded deep in the old woman’s lungs and rattled in her breathing, even when the woman was at rest.  Probably pneumonia.  Greta brought Dayclimber back in.

“How long since this came upon her?” she asked, while she found some water and a not-too-dirty cup.

“A week.  Less.  Some have just started.  Some have died.”

“And when did the first one start?” she asked while she sprinkled a sleep mixture into the water.

“A month.  A bit more.  It started when the fall rains came and it has not gotten better, though it has not gotten worse.”

“And was it wet this summer?”  She asked as she gently helped the old woman drink the mixture.

“The contrary,” Dayclimber said.  “It is always wet here, at least for many years, but this summer was unusually hot and dry.  Then the fall rains came.”

“Let her rest,” Greta said, and she stepped outside to get out of the moldy smell.  Dayclimber came out after he extinguished the candles.

“Do you know what it is?” he asked.  “Can you do anything about it?”

“Not yet,” Greta answered, though she had some good ideas.  A half-dozen more huts needed to be visited.  The sick consisted of the very young and the elderly.  And in each hut, the mold was ripe.  She concluded pneumonia, brought on by constitutions weakened by all the mold and filth.  By the time they returned to the roundhouse, her men were gone and only the chief and a few other Pictish men were present.  Greta did not ask or let them ask anything.  She just started telling.

“Clear this building.  I want beds in here and all the sick brought together in this place.  Burn the houses where people have gotten sick.  You will have to build new houses, but use clean wood.  No mold or fungus allowed.  Their belongings and furniture can be saved as long as they are not rotting with mold.  Once you have them here, I will do what I can.”  Greta marched right past the men and toward the cooking fires out back.  It turned mid-morning, nearly noon by the time she finished her last examination, and she was hungry.

The women out back treated her like royalty.  Most would not even look up into her face.  Most also wanted to touch her thick, blond hair, however, and she let them.  Real blond hair was rare if not unknown among the Picts.  Greta noticed that there were one or two of the women who seemed a little less afraid of her.  This was good, because she would need some helpers.

“Dayclimber!”  Greta shouted even as the man came out the back of the roundhouse.

“They have discussed it,” he said.

“And?”  She asked impatiently.

“They will do as you ask,” he said.  “But your friends will be expected to help in the new building.”

“To be expected.”

“And they had better do their fair share,” he added.  He did not exactly threaten them, but near enough.  Greta nodded.

“Where are they?” she asked.  He took her to them.  They were in a fish house by the sea.  They were not exactly prisoners, but there were Picts outside, watching.  It took Greta about twenty minutes to explain her plan, what with all the interruptions.  Curiously, they did not ask who she was, where Gerraint went, or anything that she expected.  She looked at Uwaine.

“We talked,” he said, sheepishly.  Long ago he had been told to keep his mouth closed tight.  The lives of the Kairos were not meant to be public knowledge.  “I figured in this case, some explanation was in order.”

“Quite right,” she responded to him with a smile.  Her hand went to his arm and she leaned up on her toes to kiss his cheek.  It felt like a perfectly natural response for her, even if Urien had to spoil it.

“If Gerraint ever kissed me like that, I would have to hurt him,” he said.

Greta lowered her eyes at the man.  “No fear of that ever happening,” she said.  Then she let go of Uwaine’s upper arm.  She felt self-conscious about still holding on to it.  “Got to go,” she announced.  “And you boys better get your axe hands ready.  As Arthur’s men, I expect you to do twice the work in half the time of these barbaric Picts.”  She really could not help sounding like Gerraint.  This was his life after all.

It did not take long for smoke to begin to rise into the night sky.  Greta gathered her women and set them to fetch clean water and clean cloths.  Some, she set to scrubbing the insides of the roundhouse.  Some did laundry and boiled the sheets.  She felt she could not say the word clean often enough.  She set some women to cooking broth and other high nutrient, easy to swallow and digest foods.  And the two helpers she had singled out earlier, she took with her, to teach.  They were going to be her nurses.

As the sick came in, she showed them how to wipe and cool them with the water and cloths, how to keep them warm and covered against the fever chills, how to take a pulse and judge a spiking fever, and sit them up and help them cough up whatever they needed without choking.  Greta knew the formula for a very good expectorant.  She only hoped that some of them did not start coughing up blood.

“Dayclimber!”  She called after a turn scrubbing and cleaning.

“He has gone to be with the men.”  One of the older women who cleaned the floor with a brush and hot water spoke in near perfect British.  “I can talk for you if you like.”

“I need to go hunting for medicines before nightfall,” Greta said.  “Please tell these women I will be back as soon as I find what I need.”

“Mughrib, that is, Heather Woman wants to know if you can describe what you need.”  Greta did, as well as she could.  Gerraint did not know some of the things and thus he did not have the British word to put on her tongue.  Then also, even with the proper British word, the woman did not know what it was to translate, so it still had to be described.  In the end, though, it turned out one or more of the women had what she was looking for, or they knew where she could find it.  This saved much time, and by the time Greta stepped outside, the woman who came with her to translate knew just where to go.

“Lucan.”  The woman said her name.  “It means “Southern Girl,” but my given name was Mesiwig, and yes, I grew up, sixteen years, not far from Hadrian’s Wall before I came to be taken captive.”

“Mughrib and Lucan.”  Greta said.

“Oh, please.  Not Mughrib.  I never should have used her real name.  Please, just Heather Woman.”  Lucan said.

“But why, if it is her name?”

“Because knowing a person’s name gives power over that person.  Spells, charms, curses can be brought against a person if you know their name.  Please.”

“All right.”  Greta would not argue.  “Heather Woman it is, but what is his name?”  She pointed behind them.  They were being followed by a young man with a large grin and a sword by his side, just in case.

“Son of the Cow,” Lucan said.  “I think he has been given to guard you.”

Greta laughed.  “He is so young.”

“Twenty, I think.” In turn, Greta guessed Lucan was around forty-five.  “About your age,” Lucan finished.

Greta laughed again.  “I know I look twenty-something, but believe me, I’m more like fifty-five or so, maybe sixty.  I’ve been through a regeneration process, not that you would know what that is.  And anyway, in another sense you might say I’m five thousand years old.”  Greta stopped and picked a few plants.  It started getting chilly.  She considered her Dacian outfit and decided a change was in order.  She adjusted her fairy clothing with a thought and a few small words to mirror the clothes Lucan wore, much like what all of the women wore.  Lucan quickly hid her eyes.  Son of the Cow’s jaw dropped.  Then Greta had another thought and she added a red cloak and hood as she was wont to wear in the winter back home.  It felt like the appropriate dress for the Woman of the Ways after all.

“It’s all right.”  Greta said, smiled at Lucan, and turned her eyes up to look on her.  “You see; it is still just me.”

“But such great magic,” Lucan said.  “I have never seen the like before.”

Greta’s smile faded as she decided to be honest.  “Actually, it is in the clothes themselves.  They are fairy made, plain and simple.  They will change their shape and even their color as you like, and they will always fit just right.  It is a marvelous gift, yes, but not magic in me.”

Lucan looked like she was not quite sure.

“All the same,” Greta went on to whisper.  “I would appreciate it if you kept this between us.  I feel a little healthy respect on the part of Son of the Cow would not be a bad thing.”  She pointed.  Lucan looked back and understood that well enough.

“Yes, I believe you may be right about that,” she said.

Once they had all that Greta needed, Greta faced the real dilemma.  Expectorant and pain killer might relieve a good deal of discomfort, but it would not cure anything.  For that she needed an antibiotic.  Greta knew she would live as a medical doctor at some point in the first half of the twentieth century.  She knew, because of that, she had some medical knowledge that no ordinary Dacian from the milieu of Marcus Aurelius would dream of having.  Unfortunately, though, she had no direct contact with that medical doctor at the moment, and no real knowledge other than scraps of information.  She had no way to access that life, though she would have preferred to trade places in time and let the good doctor decide the matter.

“Damn,” Greta said and put her hands to her head.

“Are you all right?”  Lucan was right with her.

“Yes, I just need a minute.”  Greta stepped away and thought.  Was it too risky to make an antibiotic more than thirteen hundred years before antibiotics were discovered?  Then again, this was not the first time this issue, or one just like it, came up.  Each time was unique and required independent judgment.