Avalon 4.9 part 4 of 6 Picnic in the Rain

In the morning, Katie and Boston shared the watch while everyone else slept.  As was their tradition, they found a place where they could watch the sun rise.  Of course, all they could see was a general lightening of the horizon behind the clouds.

“Darn,” Boston complained.  “I was looking forward to a good sunrise, full of pinks and golds against all those clouds.”

“Too many clouds, I guess,” Katie responded, before she added, “Look out.”po fish 1

A big fish was flying right at them.  It did not occur to them that Elder Stow’s screen should have stopped it in mid-air.  Indeed, it came right through the screen and appeared to land gently at their feet.  They watched as the blue, green and yellow fish turned golden.  It wiggled a bit so they knew it could not be fresher, but it very quickly turned from golden to a yellow color and finally became a kind of muted yellow-gray as it stopped moving.

“I think you just got all the colors of the sunrise,” Katie said.  “I even saw a dot or two of red in there.”

“But what is it?”

“I think it is called a dolphin fish.”

“A dolphin?” Boston felt like objecting.  “Father Mingus.”  She woke him to clean the thing for cooking and smoking.  Mingus assured her it was a fish, not a mammal like a real dolphin, and actually it was called a mahi-mahi.

“Good eating,” he added as he worked.

Boston had another thought and shouted.  “Thank you Shamoak or Caroline or whoever.  Thank you for thinking of us.”

“Yes, thanks,” Katie said at human volume as she got out the frying pan and built up the fire for breakfast.  Boston set about waking everyone up.

pohnpei 8The rain had temporarily stopped, though the day remained overcast.  The travelers gave the horses some extra time off while they smoked as much fish as they could.  They would get all day and maybe tomorrow’s breakfast out of the mahi-mahi if they stretched it with locally grown plants.

When they finally moved out of the camp, they found the high country was once again pushing down into the mangrove swamps, so they had to climb a bit and cut through in a few places.  There was one spot where the modern road showed a real climb, and a pass of sorts between peaks.  Going that way cut off another big peninsula, but the rainforest that covered the slopes had dangers.  They needed to move carefully.

Lincoln and Boston kept their eyes and ears open for any sign of blobs.  Katie kept her senses flared, and Decker kept his rifle handy.  Elder Stow was not much help in blazing the trail, but no one complained because he kept his eyes glued to his scanner.  The scanner was the best early warning system they had.

Just before noon, they found a village on a hillside by the sea.  Lincoln took the name Kitialap off the modern map.  These were different people.  They were not Tadek.  They dressed different and they looked wary, but not necessarily hostile.  Lockhart thought he might ask when a group of elders approached the travelers.

“Feilo?” he said, and the elders spoke among themselves for a minute.

One younger one finally turned to the travelers and said, “Wait here.”  They watched him hustle to several huts before he returned with a stone tipped spear and a side pack that looked to be woven from vines and covered in rat skins.po mangrove man 1

“You wish to find Feilo?  I can take you to him,” the man said, and without another word, he started walking.

Decker paused to comment.  “Looks more like a camp than a village.  Probably to keep an eye on their head-hunting neighbors.”

Alexis paused to thank the elders.  At least one of them returned her smile.

The travelers got down to follow, walking their horses as they had mostly done since reaching the island.  The sky that had been overcast all morning began to drizzle, a light, annoying rain.

After a short way, they crossed one of the hundreds of rivers that tumbled down from the high country and emptied into the swamps and sea.  After another short while, or about one o’clock, they came to a second village which was more of a village.  It had a beach and plenty of fishing boats that the people were busy tying to the trees, with strong vines.

“Storm coming,” their guide said, as he escorted them to a place where they could lunch, or as Boston said, picnic overlooking the sea.  The guide was called Kinitap.  He was maybe thirty-something in modern eyes, and more likely twenty-something in actual Neolithic, islander years.  He stared at Boston as she lit the fire despite the drizzling rain, before he went to the people and gathered some roots to cook.  He stared again at Alexis as she got a pot to boil the taro roots.  The pot looked to him like a magical device.  He let out a small peep when Mingus broke open three coconuts with his bare hands.  He knew then that magic had to be involved, because otherwise the man had to have the strength of a giant.

“Do not be afraid,” Alexis said, being sensitive to the man’s reactions.  “Boston and Father Mingus are not the simple man and woman they appear.”

“I already figure that out,” Kinitap confessed.  “I think none of you are the ordinary people you pretend.”

“I am,” Lincoln said as he sat beside the fire and turned up his collar against the rain, though Elder Stow had set his screen up when Kinitap returned with his roots.  He kept it small, so it did not even enclose the horses, but he was able to keep the rain off the cooking.

po rain 4“I see the rain falling all around,” Kinitap said.  “But it is not falling in this place.  I think I should not ask.  You have black and white giants.  You have red and yellow hair.  I think your elders are older than anyone I have ever heard of.  I am not asking, but I think I understand why Feilo tell his woman, Reef not to show herself.  I dare not ask who Reef is to hide herself, since I have met her and seen her and she is a very fine woman.  So I figure what she is hiding must be something extraordinary… I am talking too much.”

“Not at all,” Boston said.

“You know he is right,” Lincoln spoke up. “Out of this whole group, I am the only ordinary person here.”

“I have no gifts or power of any kind,” Lockhart said.

“No,” Decker interrupted. “You and I are the black and white giants, though I liked it better in that other time zone when they thought I was the god of war.”

“No.  I am the only ordinary one,” Lincoln said.

“Not true,” Mingus interrupted.  “You have the skills that have helped us survive, almost more than anyone else.”

Alexis dropped her jaw and had to sit down.  It sounded like her father gave her husband a compliment.mingus 1

“Look,” Mingus continued.  “I was the head of the Avalon history department for three hundred years.  If anyone could squeeze information out of the database, you would think it would be me.  But there is a reason I haven’t asked for it.  I would get lost in pages and pages of reading through the historical record and might never get to the critical information.  You, somehow, cut through all that, and time and again you have found what we need to survive.”

“I take good notes,” Lincoln said, with his own jaw hanging a bit.

“There.  You see?”

“Not to diminish what Father Mingus has said.”  Katie spoke to Kinitap.  “But part of what he is saying is everyone has skills and talents of one kind or another.  Some gifts are flashy and some are harder to see, but everyone has something.”

Kinitap nodded.  “All the same, you people are special.  I can sense it, though maybe that is my gift.”

Alexis pulled her shock together long enough to mash up the taro root.  She dumped the water and added the coconut milk, a few other ingredients and heated the whole thing together.  They got bowls of something between fish soup and fish stew, and everyone said it was good.  Kinitap said he never tasted anything so good, but after cleaning up, they had to hit the road.

pohnpei 6The rain strengthened a little in the afternoon, but the lunch warmed and sustained them the whole time.  After a couple of hours of moving downhill, they came out on to a rainforest covered, broad flatland.  They were moving inland as they moved south, and the modern map with the road showed that same sort of movement.  There was a large bay cut into the island.  It had a relatively narrow sort of opening between the mainland and the island the modern map called Temwen.  Temwen was close enough to the mainland in the south to almost be a peninsula.  But in the north, at the gap between the bay and the Pacific, it was much too far to cross.

Kinitap admitted that there was a place where men could take a boat across the gap to the island.  “But we would need several boats and I don’t think there is any boat big enough for the horses.  Besides, it would take almost as long as going around on foot, so I don’t think it would save us any time.”

By the time they came to the village the modern map called Kitamw, the rain started to pound them.  Kinitap had to yell.  “Some of the people have already moved up into the hills.  There are caves up there where we can hide and dry off.”

po rain 5Lockhart did not have to nod.  They just followed their guide along a path that paralleled a river.  It turned from the river at one point and they really began to climb.  At last they came to a cave, or rather a series of caves that cut deep into the mountain.  The caves were nature made, but had obviously been worked by human hands.  Someone had started a fire at the entrance to the main cavern, and Mingus thought maybe they could do better than that.

The thunder and lightning started, and the horses got as jittery as the people.  They led the horses to the back of the cavern and spent a little time tending them before they decided they had to do something, whether the people objected or not.  All that the people were doing was staring at them anyway.

Avalon 4.9: Tropical Paradise, part 1 of 6

After 1937 BC, The South Seas, Kairos 55: Feilo Broken.

Recording …

They should have guessed when the time gate was in the middle of the river.  They had to tie everything down, wrap up all their equipment in fairy weave to make it waterproof, and then they had to nudge their horses to swim out while they hung on as well as they could.

dragon 4Nuwa dragon said good-bye and good luck, which was far less noise than Pluckman and his crowd, even when Nuwa was in her dragon form.  To be honest, the dragon kind of hurried them along.  They finished the three-day journey in two-and-a-half days, and Nuwa begged them to not wait until morning. No one complained.  They knew Nuwa was anxious to get back to Thalia so Thalia did not have to face the sorcerer alone.

“Good-bye,” Boston yelled from the back of the group where she straggled with Mingus.

“I smell salt,” Mingus said, and that was it.

They went through the gate and found themselves swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

“Hera’s butt.  Mitra’s fires in the hole,” Boston practiced her hob-goblin swearing and Mingus scolded her.  “Criminy,” Boston held her tongue.  The horse was swimming for its life and she had to hang on.

“I see an island.  The others are already moving in that direction,” Mingus encouraged her.  He gave his horse the reigns and bent forward, both to hold on and to speak soothing words to keep his horse from panic.

“That’s a long way,” Boston complained, and turned her head to see if she could glimpse the time gate.  She wondered if they could go back and build rafts.  She saw something else and swore.  “Crap.”

Mingus turned his head.  “Young lady,” he said before he agreed.  “Crap.”

tsunamiThe oncoming wave was at least two stories tall.  The sky was cloudless.  It was not wind driven.  All they could imagine was an earthquake or volcanic eruption somewhere far away.  Then they were in it.

It caught up Boston and Mingus, scooped up Lincoln and Alexis.  Decker and Elder Stow were next, and Lockhart and Katie were the last to be picked up by the rushing wave.  People grabbed on to their saddles, gripped with their legs, and prayed, but it turned out to not be so bad.  They got to the island shore in almost no time.  The water did not churn at all, so they had no trouble holding on.  The wave slowly died as it came to shallower water, and it deposited their horses on their feet and them in the saddle like nothing happened.

Lockhart and Katie quickly rode to the back of the beach and turned.  The others followed.  There was a woman, fifteen feet tall, made of water, staring at them, hard.  She did not appear to be scowling, but it was near enough.

“This is one of the only clear beaches on the island.  Most are mangrove beaches.”  The woman spoke in a voice that hinted of the roar of the sea.  “You are protected by a hedge of the gods.  I would rather you had not come here, but I suppose it was inevitable.  I was not going to let you die on my watch, but what you do on land is your business.  Perhaps the creatures from the stars will eat you.  If by chance you see my daughter, you might mention she could visit her mother once in a while.”  The woman threw her arms out and the water that made up her body broke apart and fell to the sand to blend back into the surf.  The travelers stared in silence for a moment.

“What creatures from the stars?” Lincoln asked, though there was no one to answer.  He got out the database to see if he could find some information on the subject.  Boston and Katie got out their amulets to check direction.  Lockhart called for them to set up camp.

“We better not move inland until we explore a bit.  The jungle looks dangerous,” he said.  Elder Stow and Alexis agreed.pohnpei 1

“We appear to be in a lagoon,” Alexis said, with a good look back the way they came.  “No telling, though, how much it might protect us from the tides and weather.”  Elder Stow engaged his anti-gravity device and floated up to take a good look.

Decker spoke up.  “Normally, I would recommend avoiding the interior rainforest filled with who knows what.  I would say travel around the shoreline, but if most of the shore is filled with mangrove swamps, we don’t want to go there.  The horses probably can’t go there.”

“Can you…” Lockhart did not spell it out.

Decker nodded and found a place to sit and meditate.  He would rise up in his spirit, carried by his eagle totem, and he would try to map out the area, not that he could see much under the rainforest canopy.

Katie found a fresh water stream that came out of the jungle and soaked into the sand on its way to the sea.  She and Lockhart explored up the water for a short way, and found a ten-foot waterfall where a small pool formed.  The immediate area there was full of boulders, like the rocky hill collapsed when the waterfall was made.  A large grassy area, appeared like a small meadow around the water with only a few trees, surrounded the pool.

pohnpei 3“Couldn’t have found a nicer hideaway,” Katie remarked.

“If the water is drinkable,” Lockhart crushed the moment as Elder Stow floated down from overhead.  He had his scanner in his hand but kept shaking his head.

“There is too much biodiversity on the island.  I cannot make out what our creatures from the stars may be, or where they might be.”  He spoke as he landed.  “Lots of birds, but not much else.  Not many mammals.  Some lizards, but I am not sure about snakes.  Mostly insects.”  He looked up.

Lockhart nodded.  “We have to check the water and move everyone to this place.  Your shield is stronger the less you stretch it?” he asked.

“It is a personal shield, designed to surround my person, but I can make it cover an area.  It can keep the horses in and the creatures out, but I will have to work it to not interrupt the flow of water if we include the stream and waterfall.  I also need to check the charging equipment I got back in Yadinel’s day.  It is now a hundred years old and probably wet, hopefully not ruined from our swim.”

They waited while Elder Stow took a water sample and ran it through his equipment.  He pronounced it clean, so they returned to collect the others.

Alexis met them on the beach.  “We have fish,” Alexis announced with glee.  “No need to hunt for deer, thank god.  The sea goddess brought the fish and said she didn’t want us to starve on her account.  Wasn’t that nice?”

“Very nice,” Lockhart agreed, but as he pulled his knife he added, “I’m not very good at butchering fish, much less such a big… tuna?… what is this?”

“Tuna.  Yellow fin,” Mingus interrupted.  “I tried to get in touch with whatever spirits might inhabit po tunathis island.  I thought we could use a guide.  There are plenty of spirits around.  You can tell by the lush vegetation.  But they appear to be in hiding and not interested.”  Mingus shrugged.

“I don’t know,” Boston said.  “I never cut up anything bigger than a rainbow trout.”

“Let me,” Mingus stepped up to the tuna.  He looked at the others and confessed.  “Where do you think Roland learned?”  The others appreciated him taking the job.

It took a couple of hours to get inland, and a couple more to smoke as much of the fish as they could.  They would have fresh tuna steaks that evening, but after that, they had no way of catching any more.  Elder Stow finally concluded that the island had rats and bats, so there was nothing to hunt, even if they wanted to.

“Of course, some of the lizards might be tasty,” he said.  “Or maybe the birds.”

“Maybe birds,” Lockhart agreed.  He did not want to think about eating lizard.

“Pohnpei,” Lincoln announced as he and Boston came back to the fire after seeing the horses settled.  Alexis and Katie were just coming in from scouring the area for anything that might suffice for fruits and vegetables.  “Ponape,” Lincoln repeated.  He read a bit to himself, and everyone waited patiently for his report.

lincoln readingKatie sat beside Lockhart as Alexis sat by Lincoln.  Boston went to sit beside Mingus. Decker ignored everyone while Elder Stow fiddled with his scanner, checking on the shield he placed around the camp and looking for signs of life, particularly star creatures that might eat them.

“Okay,” Lincoln started.  “The Kairos is named Feilo, a male.  Blah, blah blah…a south pacific love story, romance novel kind of thing.  Her name was Lelani, heavenly flower or something.  She died in a typhoon.  She got swept out to sea, and he spent the rest of his life building her a memorial, the first structure at Nan Madol, two thousand years before the Shemsu showed up to build a bunch more.   Blah, blah, blah…some of the Shemsu escape when the war-like Deleur arrived about 1100 AD.  They went on to colonize Easter island…well; we know what happened there.”

“All those statues of the Agdaline,” Katie nodded.

“Mass insanity,” Mingus added.  “Too much in-breeding.”

“What about the aliens?” Decker asked.

“What?”  Lincoln looked up before he returned to the database.  “Oh, crap.”

“Benjamin,” Alexis scolded him, but Mingus interjected.Alexis 7

“Quite all right.  That appears to be the word for this time zone.”

“Jell-O blobs,” Lincoln said.  “At least three.”

“Crap,” Alexis agreed.

“But what happened to Felio?” Boston wanted to know.

“Feilo,” Lincoln corrected her.  “It says he took up with Soun Nan-Leng, the reef of heaven, the naiad daughter of Caroline, the sea goddess.”

“My guess would be our savior on the beach was Caroline,” Katie said, and looked at Lockhart to see what he thought.

“More than likely,” Mingus responded.

“Soun Nan-Leng?”  Boston spoke carefully. She wanted to get it right.

Lincoln nodded.  “There is a note.  It says see The Little Mermaid.”

“I liked that movie.” Boston perked up.

“I don’t know,” Alexis said.  “Hans Christian Anderson’s original story did not have a happy ending.”

Stow 2“Elder Stow?” Lockhart did not spell out his question.

Elder Stow shook his head.  “I scanned the blob in Rebecca’s time zone, but did not get a good reading.  It was all too brief.  Here, it is impossible to pick out one life in the midst of so many.  I can only guess that they are some distance away so I am not picking up their signature.  But it is only a guess.”

Lockhart nodded.  “Standard watch, even with Elder Stow’s force field activated.  We don’t wat to be surprised in the middle of the night.”