On horseback, the travelers moved faster than on foot and made it back to Valmiki’s ashram in a single day. Rama seemed happy. He said he missed his wife.
When they came in, Sita came running out to him and threw her arms around him for plenty of kisses. The only reason she reached him first was because he had to be careful getting down off the horse.
“You don’t run to me,” Lockhart mentioned with a pouty face.
“I walk fast,” Katie said. “You are not allowed to be that far away.” Lockhart smiled.
“Children,” Lincoln said. Alexis also smiled, and leaned over to kiss Lincoln.
After a time, Sita pulled back, excited about something.
“Come. Lakshme. Bring your friends. I have to tell you all about it,” she said
The travelers found places to tie off their horses for the moment, and the women took the seats that remained there from the other night, while the men stood around. They met Rama’s brother, Lakshmana, and then got quiet to listen.
“The very day you left, I stood for a long time by the path to the forest, awaiting your return. Silly, I know. I knew you would be gone for more than a few hours. But there, I saw the most glorious sight I have ever seen, ever. I saw a deer, all golden. It looked made of gold, and I thought, if I could just touch it. It looked so beautiful. Glorious. I wanted to have it and hold it. I walked very slowly and carefully so as not to frighten it, but when I went near, it became shy and ran away.”
“Golden? A trick of the light,” Rama said.
“It was no trick,” Sita said. “Lakshmana saw it just today. I thought it was lost to me, but it came back, not an hour ago. Isn’t that right?” Sita looked at Lakshmana, and he agreed.
“Golden, like made of gold,” he said. “But alive, nibbling on the plants.”
“I thought Zeus killed all the golden hind,” Lincoln remarked, out of turn. That set off Lakshme.
“Shut-up,” Lakshme insisted, and pointed specifically at Katie. “You especially shut-up. I don’t want to hear one word out of any of you.”
Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, and Libra all looked at Lakshme with surprise, but after only a second, Sita began to plead with Rama to capture her golden deer.
“I am not hearing this,” Lakshme said. “I am not here.” She got up to walk out into the compound.
“Where are you going?” Libra asked.
“I have to take my friends to the next place in their journey.”
Lockhart, not understanding what all the fuss was about, said, “Isn’t it getting kind of late?”
“Devi,” Lakshme called, nice and loud. “Devi, my friend. Please, I need you.” Lakshme saw Valmiki coming up from the houses down the path. “Devi.”
“I am here, my friend,” Devi appeared to Lakshme, but she did not appear to any of the others. “Why are you so distressed?”
“I have a request. Would you take me and my friends from the future with their horses and all of their things… and, and Libra to the next time gate? Please, history is happening very fast right now, and we need to not be here, please.”
“But what is it?” Devi sounded concerned.
“Please, if you love me, my friend.” Lakshme put on her most pleading face.
“You know I love you. I owe you everything,” Devi said, as Valmiki stopped and gave Lakshme a look.
“So, it has gotten to talking to yourself and your imaginary friend Devi in public, I see,” Valmiki said.
Lakshme poked Valmiki in the chest. “I am not here,” she enunciated, slowly, even as she vanished, and the travelers and Libra vanished with her.
The travelers ended up somewhere near the Ganges delta. Devi materialized so all could see her and hear her. Libra, at least, bowed her head to the goddess, but Devi looked focused on Lakshme. Devi tried the hands-on-hips routine, and the stern voice.
“Now, what is this all about?”
Lakshme sat down and began to weep. She shook her head, and Libra came to sit and weep with her. Devi softened. Katie opened her mouth, but Lakshme shouted.
“Shut-up. Shut-up.” Devi felt the surprise the others felt earlier. “Three days,” Lakshme said more softly. “Find me in three days. Libra and I should be on the road somewhere. I will tell you in three days.”
“All right,” Devi said slowly. “Three days,” and she vanished.
“Why couldn’t we speak?” Lincoln wondered.
“Because it hasn’t happened yet,” Katie said. She honestly understood.
“What?” Boston asked for everyone.
“Rama goes in search of the deer,” Katie said. “It is a demon trick—an Asura trick. Lakshmana gets tricked out of his duty to protect Sita…”
“Not the sharpest yo-yo on the string,” Lakshme mumbled.
“Sita gets kidnapped,” Katie finished and turned to Lakshme. “But it turns out all right.”
“Mostly,” Lakshme nods. “But you don’t know how hard it is. Most of the time I have no idea what is going to happen. Usually, the next hundred years or so are a blur, at best. But every once in a while, something comes to me crystal clear, and you have no idea how hard it is not to say anything. Maybe you, of all people, will understand soon enough, especially when you know something bad is going to happen, and you could prevent it with a word, but you dare not say anything.”
“I think we can all imagine,” Katie said.
“And you better not say anything,” Lakshme raised her voice. “You can’t say anything. Don’t you dare say anything, no matter what… No matter what.” Lakshme cried some more, and Libra dutifully cried with her.
Lockhart looked around. The sun started getting ready to set. “Make camp,” he said.
“The time gate is right here,” Boston interrupted. “Hey! I thought you couldn’t get near the time gates,” she told Lakshme. “I thought the one where we entered and the one we exited the time zone stayed equally far apart, with you at the center.”
“Special dispensation,” Lakshme said. “Devi is a brilliant woman, and the right choice to represent all the women on the high council of the gods. The gates should readjust as Libra and I move south. Tomorrow.”
The travelers nodded, but no one said anything as they looked around at the trees and the sky.
“Standard watch,” Lockhart continued, having already said to make camp. “We go through in the morning.”
Avalon 6.2 Sudden Encounter. The travelers meet the necromancer without realizing it, and find space aliens at war… oh, and face some skeletons. Mustn’t forget the skeleton-zombies.
Until MONDAY, Happy Reading