Avalon 3.7: The Sulk Road, part 1 of 5

After 2797 BC on the Silk Road. Kairos lifetime 40: Nuwa, Sage (with a little thyme)

Recording …

Lockhart stared through the binoculars and frowned at his thoughts. “I see them,” he said. “I just don’t know if we are allowed to interfere.” He handed the binoculars back to Katie.

Katie took them and objected. “Those people are not going willingly, wherever they are going. We have to do something.”

“No we don’t,” Decker said, and he put his binoculars away.

“There are eleven men on ponies, as you call them, and twenty-seven males, females and young ones that appear to be prisoners,” Elder Stow said, without looking up from his equipment.

“Lead to the slaughter,” Decker nodded, which was perhaps a poor choice of words for someone who did not want to get involved. It was hard to tell at times what Major Decker thought about things apart from his focus on his mission of getting everyone back to the twenty-first century alive. Clearly, he saw most situations through military eyes, and sometime he said thing that made it appear like he had no heart, but everyone suspected that was not true.Nuwa trees

“Here’s the thing,” Lockhart tried to sound decisive. “We are not being threatened. We do not have to defend ourselves. We have been told that as long as we have to work our way through time to get back to our own century, we should try to minimize our impact on history. No matter how terrible it is, we don’t interfere unless we have to.”

“Those are slave traders, or worse,” Katie said. “How can we just turn our backs on them?”

“Indeed,” Elder Stow said in an unexpected voice of support. Then again, he may have been thinking of his crew members killed by the group all those time zones ago. That certainly seemed a case of intervening, unnecessarily. Even if the elder was the one trying to change history, a decision he now regretted, these travelers at the time had no way of knowing that fact.

Elder Stow turned his lips down in a sign of unhappiness. The frown was apparently a universal sign among genus-homo, in this case, homo-Neanderthal. Katie also frowned. She understood the thinking, and even agreed with it to a point, but it did not make her happy. Lockhart frowned, and for the first time he almost felt mad at the Kairos for putting him in this position. Decker was the only one who appeared satisfied with the decision, until there was movement down below.

Arrows came from the rocks and two pony men went down. A moment later, Lincoln, Alexis, Roland, and Boston came riding out from the trees, whooping and yelling, guns blasting and wands shooting off fireworks. The pony men did not stick around, and in a moment, they were riding for their lives. The people who were their prisoners mostly went to their knees and faces, and looked more afraid of this new threat than they were of the slavers.

“Damn,” Lockhart said. They went down the back of the hill and found their horses neatly tied off, waiting patiently.

###

campfire“Do they eat?” Lockhart asked as he picked up a stick and stirred the fire. He finished yelling as loud as he could at Lincoln, Alexis, Roland, and Boston, and as sometimes happens, he felt guilty afterwards. Pointing at the little ones was changing the subject. He stared where the little ones had their own fire, sat around it in a circle, and did not seem to move or talk or anything. Roland shrugged.

“The people call them goblins, but that isn’t right,” Roland said with a look to the other side of the camp where the humans had a fire of their own and seemed very animated, now that they knew these newcomers were not going to eat them.

“They were out in the daytime, but hobgoblin doesn’t seem right either,” Alexis said.

“They have some elf in them,” Roland agreed. But they have more of a goblin look than elf—I should say, dark elf.”

“But at their height, wouldn’t they have to be gnomes, or dwarfs?” Boston asked.

“Imps maybe,” Roland answered. “They don’t have the domestic instincts of the gnomes.”

“Or the hair of the dwarves,” Alexis added. “And four to five feet tall is honestly too tall, even for imps.”

“I call them hoopers,” A woman’s voice spoke up from the bushes and the startled travelers all turned their heads to look. She was about five-three, had velvety black hair and average brown eyes, which meant she looked indistinguishable from the women in the group they saved, but the travelers all knew there was something different about this one. “I was going to call them dufflepuds, but they have two feet.” A young man stepped out of the dark and took a seat on a log by the fire that the others had not noticed was there. The woman stepped up to the fire and put her finger to the half eaten deer still roasting away. She took a taste and made a face that said it might not be bad to eat.Nuwa 3

Lincoln had to ask. “Nuwa?” The woman nodded as Boston interrupted.

“Lockhart already yelled at us.”

“We couldn’t let them just be carted off into slavery,” Alexis added softly, almost apologetic.

Nuwa looked at Katie, and Katie spoke as honestly as she could. “They were wrong, and they know why, and we are going to have to watch them because they might do it again in other circumstances.” Nuwa nodded again, like she was satisfied. She pulled a knife and cut some deer for herself and her young man. Then she spoke.

“I was hoping for the first time ever the hoopers might actually do what they were told. I told them to follow the people and stay hidden to find out where they were being taken.”

“Who were those men?” Lockhart asked.

“There are only nine of them left whoever they are,” Decker interjected.

“Wrong. The Qinjong are as numerous as the stars. This small raiding party is just a sampling of what we are dealing with. What is more, the pillars have been removed so the sky has fallen, and my people are suffering.”

“Chicken little,” Lockhart said. “What do you mean the sky has fallen?”

Nuwa smiled for him. He used to be a police man and did not miss much. “Contrary to the contract of all the gods, the Shang-Di has allowed the Pendratti to come to the edge of his land and experiment on the human race. They are hidden, by divine decree, but I have the backing to send them away if I can find them and face them down. My hoopers were going to find them for me.” She paused to glare at the other campfire where the hoopers were sitting in a circle being as absolutely good as they could be. Now it made sense.

“We really screwed up,” Boston admitted.

“Are you going to introduce us?” Alexis asked, to change the subject.

Nuwa pointed to the young man who had yet to say a word. “This is my son, Tien.”

Nuwa bonfire“Son?” Lincoln interjected. “I wouldn’t have thought you were old enough to have a grown son.”

Nuwa smiled. “Compliments won’t help you.”

“I thought maybe he was your husband,” Alexis finished.

Nuwa and Tien both laughed at that thought, and Tien looked a little uncomfortable. “Actually, he is Nameless’ son.” People looked and it took time for them to remember that Nameless was one of the godly lives of the Kairos.

“And who might your mother be?” Alexis asked, innocently enough.

“Eir, healer of Aesgard,” the young man said politely, and then everyone knew that Tien was a god and they all sat up a little straighter.

“My husband and stepbrother, Fuxi the Moron is home fishing. It is one thing he is good at,” Nuwa said.

Avalon 3.6: part 5 of 5, Escape Before Supper

“For an operation like this, we go with our strengths. I’m a police man, not a thief. A bit of a klutz, and you are right, you are not trained. Besides, Roland, can you make yourself invisible?”

“What? Yes. Not for long. About a day. It is very draining.”

“Elder Stow?”

“Yes, but it is draining, in my case on the battery.”

“Okay Decker—“

“I don’t do invisible, but I try.”

“Just keep in mind. You are not Rambo. Your mission is to free the hostages, not blow up the enemy in ever more cinematic ways.”

Decker almost smiled as he went, seemingly by himself to the cave entrance.cave marine

Katie put her arms around Lockhart’s middle and hugged him, and he hugged her. “I don’t want to lose you,” she said.

“And I don’t want to lose you,” he responded. “But I can’t make decisions based on that. Sometimes you or I will be in danger and the other will just have to suck it up.”

“I would not expect it to be otherwise,” Katie said, and thought about how comfortable she felt. Lockhart thought about how hard that might be for him in the future.

###

Alexis and Boston came out first and took a good look around. There were no guards, and more than likely the snake people never considered a jail break. Boston stepped out front while Alexis directed the crowd to hug the wall and move slowly. They were in the shadows, and Alexis meant to keep them in the shadows.

“Why are we moving so slow?” a young woman asked in her normal voice. Alexis threw something at the girl and all they heard after was “Mmmph, mmph.”

About twenty yards from the door, and not yet near the entrance, Alexis got everyone to kneel down. She risked moving and threw her hands toward the other side of the cavern. Everyone heard the sound of clattering rocks. Three men rounded the corner from the entranceway, and they immediately went to investigate what might be making that noise.

BostonBoston kept up with the group and kept her wand at the ready, but she was still so new at this magic business, she did not think of any of the things Alexis did. When three more men came from the entrance way, carrying their spears, Alexis tired herself out trying to make their attention focus on where they were walking and on each other.

“Hey!” There were two more behind them. Alexis stood.

“Run,” she yelled, and the people ran toward the entrance as everything erupted into chaos.

Boston laid down a line of fire that was enough to make the men back up, but not enough to stop them.

The eyes of the statue fired lasers at her, but Boston felt herself grabbed from behind and hauled out of the way just in time.

The five men on the stairs shouted. Lincoln was there, followed by seven bird-men who also let out sounds of distress and anger.

There was the sound of gunfire from the entrance, and Alexis knew the cavalry had arrived.Alexis 1

Elder Stow had his sonic device out and the stairs began to tremble, but Alexis was still there, waving the others on, and she yelled. “No. Benjamin is on the stairs. Get Benjamin first.” Elder Stow was invisible, but it was not too hard to figure what was happening. The sonic vibrations stopped, and Lincoln shoved his way toward the entrance before the men could recover.

The bird-men came to the bottom of the stairs, and afterwards, the people could not say if they flew or just exited the stairs quickly. They certainly knew the bird-men were armed when streaks of power began to fire at the fleeing people.

At the same time, a great roar came up from the crack in the ground.

fire drakeThe bird-men looked stymied. Somehow, Elder Stow had the people, including Lincoln, covered with a screen against the energy weapons. Whatever power was being projected by the eyes of the idol could also not break through.

Roland and Boston came at the back of the line, and Elder Stow last of all. Decker was behind a rock. Four men by the entrance were dead, and the people all ran out into the fresh air. When Eder Stow became visible again, Decker exited, and Alexis yelled for the elder.

“Be prepared to raise your shield again. We don’t know if the Balok will follow us.”

“Or the Sevarese,” Lincoln added, before he paused to kiss his wife.

“Fire drake,” Roland explained to Boston, and whoever was listening, and then he thought to include Lockhart. “It came up from the crack in the earth. It is a creature of fire.”

“It chased the birds and the men back into the cell room where they were holding the people prisoners,” Boston added. “The bird men, whatever they are, and their energy weapons don’t have any effect on it.”UFO Birdman 2

“Sevarese,” Lincoln said.

“Bird men?” Katie asked.

“Later,” Lockhart insisted even as he decided there was no way they were going to fit everyone on the horses. They would have to go on foot, the hard way, and hope no one tried to stop them.

###

The people all gathered around a big bonfire in the night. They were not far from Kish, but it was too dark to continue, and they imagined they would make it by mid-afternoon on the following day.

“At least there are too many of us to be taken again by the men,” Lothar said while Alexis checked his wound once more and saw that it was healing properly this time.

“Men are not what we are worried about,” Lincoln said and Lothar nodded as more than three dozen men came out of the dark, armed with copper headed spears and copper knives.

bonfire“My apologies,” Elder Stow said. “I was only looking behind.”

“And I was only watching the skies,” Decker said.

“And Roland?” Lockhart asked, but Roland and Boston were busy kissing.

“Hey Lockhart!” Lockhart heard the voice before he saw the man.

“Etana?” Lincoln had to ask, and Etana nodded while he shouted something else.

“Boston!” She stopped and she and Roland both looked at him, but they looked like their minds were not able to focus on what they were seeing. “You two need to set a date,” Etana said. “Or we need to throw a bucket of water on them,” he said generally to everyone, and waved so his men relaxed.

“Speaking of buckets of water,” Alexis interrupted and patted the seat between herself and Lincoln. “Do you have any idea what we have been through?

“You are going to need a bucket of water to put out the fire drake,” Lincoln said.

“Yeah, all that and you weren’t even there yet,” Lockhart joked, but Katie touched his sleeve as the sound of a Sevarese fighter went overhead.

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

Next week, beginning on Monday:Nuwa 6

The travelers discover the sky has fallen and Nuwa, the Kairos, has to resurrect the pillars in the pledge of the gods to hold back the storm of war beginning to rage across the star systems.  Meanwhile, things heat up between Boston and Roland.  Something must be decided as they travel down “The Sulk Road.”

Avalon 3.6: part 4 of 5, The Sevarese

“Come.” The man in the doorway was insistent. The four men with spears handy pressed the issue.

“Why?” Lincoln asked. Boston had her wand out. Alexis was sitting down, checking Lothar’s wound. The man lifted his eyebrows. No one ever asked him that question before, and Lincoln took advantage of that. “Because if it is to talk to whoever is in charge, I will go willingly, without trouble.”

“To talk, maybe,” the man said. “Maybe the eagles eat you.”

“Stay here until I get back,” Lincoln said, and walked out without having to be dragged out, which made the man raise his eyebrows again.

As soon as the door was closed and latched, Alexis stood up. “I’m not staying here,” she said.

“Me neither,” Boston agreed.

“Can you walk?” Alexis asked Lothar.prisoners in cave

“Nothing wrong with my legs,” he nodded.

“Listen up,” Boston turned to the crowd. “We go slow and quiet. Do you know how to be sneaky?” she asked, and several heads nodded. “Good, because if one of you screams and panics and runs, you will get us all killed, and the gods will not smile kindly on you.”

“Ready?” Alexis said. Boston nodded, so Alexis raised her hand and they heard the latch on the other side of the door slide open. Boston stood with her wand ready. It was not her trusted Beretta, but then she had been practicing her flamethrower, so it might be better given the circumstances.

###

Lincoln got escorted beyond the serpent statue and altar to a stairway cut from the stone along the back wall. It was narrow, one person wide, and it had no railing. It also hovered over the crack in the ground where maybe a mile down, something appeared to be moving. Lincoln tried not to look down, but he thought he better watch his steps. The men that escorted him hardly seemed more comfortable as they climbed up and up.

At the top, Lincoln found a ledge with an archway that lead out onto a cave that appeared to be at the top of a cliff. This cave had a wide opening and a view for miles into the wilderness. Lincoln imagined he could see the river from there, but he honestly did not want to get too close to the edge. No matter. His eyes were drawn to the three small ships and one four to six man shuttle parked in the cave.

“Wait here,” the head man said, and Lincoln waited and groused at not having the database. “Come,” the man said, and lead him to a non-human bird-like person of some kind who was sitting at a table, looking over something like a tablet and scrolling through pages, reading.

“Interesting reading?” Lincoln spoke. The man looked like he was about to punch Lincoln and tell him to wait until spoken to, but the bird-man looked up.

UFO Birdman 7“Wait.”

The man waited.

“What do you know of reading?” The bird-man’s eyes got big. He stood, about four feet tall, and stepped free of the table. He appeared human enough, or a human shaped reptile but he had feathers instead of hair.

“You don’t look Marzalotipan to me,” Lincoln said, and saw recognition in the bird-man’s eyes. “Your species?”

“Sevarese. I am Glory Priuta, what you would call Commander Priuta. And you are human?” Lincoln nodded, and Commander Priuta understood the body language which said he had been there for some time. “And you are not from Kish, or from these primitive people that surround us. Your clothing and artifacts betray you. May I ask, where are you from?”

Lincoln paused, but decided it did not matter. “I did not get a good look at the database before your men kidnapped us, but at a guess I would say five thousand years in the future.”

The Bird-man’s eye got big and he made a sound for which there was no translation. He looked at the tablet which was still in his hand and announced. “You speak the truth.”

“I’ve been known to be honest now and then,” Lincoln said, and he considered the whole circumstances of his capture. The questions were building up inside him, but he was trying to be polite.

“But not always honest with your species, as we have observed.” Priuta said. He touched several places on the tablet and Lincoln could not hold back.

“You know you have Balok in the cavern,” Lincoln said. “I thought you people wiped out the Balok.”

“The Captain and others who heard of the Balok thought the same,” Commander Priuta said, with his eyes big again, which Lincoln decided was an expression of surprise and curiosity, or near enough. “We did not expect to find a ship still running through this system. We do not normally come here. Our navigation array marks this system as off limits.”

“And it is,” Lincoln said. “I am surprised the Kairos is not here.”

“I have heard of this Kairos,” The commander said. “The power that is the sun said he would be telling the Kairos, and he insisted in the meanwhile we share our food with the Balok. It irks, but as long as the Pendratti are denied this world, we will suffer to share. In truth, there are only a few old specimens of Balok alive, and they will die soon enough for us.”

“So why haven’t you left?” Lincoln asked the primary question.

Commander Priuta appeared to smile, and while he showed no teeth, he showed two or three tongues in his open mouth. “Our ship was heavily damaged in the battle. The Balok ship crashed here and sank into the earth in this spot. We managed a softer landing, but do not have the means to repair our craft. We are searching this world for artifacts we can adapt for our purposes.”eagle and serpent

Lincoln said something he had not originally intended. “Maybe Boston and Alexis can help you repair your ship. Katie Harper, too, if we can find her. Boston is the one with the red hair.”

Commander Priuta opened his mouth again and showed a couple of tongues. “Another reason you people were suspect,” he said.

Lincoln smiled until something else occurred to him. “What exactly is this food you are sharing with the Balok?”

“Just some of the primitive humans. I understand the Balok prefer to cook them, but personally I find the raw flesh very tasty. Some of my crew have been spoiled with our time here. They can hardly look at a human without feeling the hunger in their middle.”

###

“This is where the signal ended,” Elder Stow reported. “I am sorry this little portable unit has such limited range and battery strength is not the best.”

“Don’t apologize,” Lockhart said. “Obviously the Sevarese have set up a field around this cavern, and it might not be that good, but just enough to keep out your portable scan.” They all took a look at the opening to the cave. It faced the east and it looked dark and foreboding in the afternoon when the sun could not reach it.

“Typical rock formation,” Katie said. “Probably hollowed out by water at one point.” Lockhart nodded and lead them all back to where they hid the horses by some boulders. There was little room and little grass, but a few trees at least gave the illusion of being hidden.

“Roland—“ Lockhart started to speak, but Katie interrupted.

“I’m not staying back to watch the horses by myself. I could, but—“ Lockhart interrupted.

horses 2“What makes you think I want you to stay here and watch the horses?”

“Because you are the boss and self-designated responsible. Decker is a navy seal. For all my gifts, he is trained to sneak around an enemy base without being caught. I am not. I am surprised Roland has not already raced into the cavern, and with the non-human Sevarese around, you will probably need Elder Stow and his gadgets. I’m not staying alone here and missing out.”

Lockhart smiled as he dismounted. “I’m staying with you.”

“What?” everyone asked.