Avalon 7.2 Ides of March, part 1 of 6

After 104 B.C. Rome, Italy

Kairos 87: Bodanagus, the King

Recording …

“We are somewhere just north of the toe of the boot of Italy, I would guess an easy fifty miles below Capua,” Lincoln said.  He stared at the database and never looked up.  “Via Popilia-something.  We should pick up the Appian Way in Capua.”

“That is interesting,” Evan said to the group.  “When we traveled into the past two years ago, the time gate was in Capua.  That was where Minerva gave us the chestnuts that we used to find the time gates.  Two years later, you are telling me the gate has moved a hundred miles south.  Maybe King Bodanagus is not in Rome.”

“No,” Boston said, as she pulled out her amulet.  It showed a significant map of the two time gates and the major towns and obstacles that lay between them.  “We went over this carefully.  As near as I can tell, the Kairos is in Rome, probably with Caesar.”

Katie glanced at her own prototype amulet.  “The next time gate appears to be around Genoa, well beyond Pisa.”  She thought to explain.  “If you recall, in Diana’s day, last time we were in Rome, the time gates were in Pisa and around Capua.”

“So, the gates are getting farther apart, as you guessed,” Lockhart concluded.

“Well,” Katie said.  “People are moving more and longer distances in this age.  Maybe just Bodanagus is moving more than the Kairos moved in the past.  He is Gallic, right?”

“From up around Belgium, maybe Holland,” Lincoln answered.

“He came to Rome.  That is a long way.  And then where?” Katie asked.

“He went to Spain,” Millie remembered.

“Let’s see,” Lincoln scanned the database.  “Spain, Illyria, Greece, Egypt, Tarsus, North Africa; and lots of trips to Italy in between.”

“So, you see?” Katie concluded.  “We are lucky the time gates are not in Arabia and Great Britain.”

Lockhart added it up in his head.  “But that leaves us ten days to two weeks to Rome, then ten days to two weeks to the next time gate.  If we rest five days or a week in Rome, that adds up to a whole month in this time zone.”

“How many more time zones do we have to travel to get home?” Decker wondered.

“Thirty-four,” Lincoln was quick on the answer.  He kept track.

“Just shy of three years counting a month per zone,” Lockhart said.

“Cuts it kind of close, Princess-wise,” Decker said.  “2007 to 2010 is three years.”

“Three years before the Storyteller gets lost in the Second Heavens and everything goes haywire,” Lincoln said, half to himself.

“See?”  Alexis said.  “Lincoln is worrying for me already.  Food is ready, and I am changing the subject.  I am calling my horse, Chestnut.  How about you?”

Boston frowned.  “Your horse is sorrel colored, not chestnut.”

“I always called that color chestnut,” Katie said.  “Mine is a bay.  I think I’ll call him… Bay.”

“As in, somebody bet on him?” Lockhart asked.  Katie nudged him.

“Mine is Strawberry,” Boston said.

“Well, yours is roan,” Alexis said.  “Not strawberry, exactly.”

“Are we going for colors?” Sukki asked.  “Mine and Elder Stow’s horses are brown, but that is not a good name, and he already picked the name Mudd.”

“Mud?” Katie and Alexis frowned, but Lockhart and Decker smiled.

“I can spell it with a double D,” Elder Stow said.  “His name is Mudd.”

“Works for me.”  Lockhart grinned.

“Well, I’m thinking of naming my horse Dumbo,” Lincoln said.

“Can’t,” Decker protested.  “The ears aren’t big enough.”

Boston also protested.  “Your horse’s color is dun, not dumb.”

“That is a matter of opinion,” Lincoln said.

Katie ignored them and turned to Lockhart.  “You got the gray one this time.  What are you thinking?”

“He is gray like the sea,” he said.  “I think Sea would work.”

“The letter C?  See as in vision?”  Katie thought a moment.  “Seahorse?”

Lockhart shrugged.  Decker chuckled.

“Maybe Dumbo is a good name,” Alexis said.

“Chestnut is a good name,” Lincoln said.  “But it is taken.”

Alexis shoved him a little.

“I haven’t decided,” Decker admitted.

“I didn’t know we were naming our horses,” Millie confessed.

“I’m going to have to think hard now,” Sukki said.  “There aren’t any good brown names.”

“How about Chocolate?” Alexis suggested, and everyone stopped to stare at her with their meanest stares.

“That was cruel,” Boston verbalized.

“What is Chocolate?” Sukki asked.

“A future delicacy of infinite delight,” Elder Stow answered. “I will be happy to introduce you to it when we get there.”

That ended the horse naming time.  After that, people spent the rest of the night reminiscing about the best deserts they ever had.


The travelers reached Capua in three days and figured they had another five, or more likely six to reach Rome.  It did not seem too bad, as long as they had good roads.  The trip would be longer if they had to travel through the rough.  In Capua, they shelled out a couple of their coins for rooms and to stable Ghost the mule and their horses.  Lincoln had his doubts about letting the horses out of their sight, but Lockhart convinced him that they had to get used to it.  They would be staying at more and more inns as they moved forward in time.  Of course, they took their guns to their rooms, and Decker had no intention of going anywhere without his rife.

In the morning, they got supplies for the trip, including plenty of vegetables and fruit.  Alexis, Sukki, and Elder Stow were happy about that, not being big meat eaters.  “I wouldn’t mind picking up fish on our way, from one of the villages on the coast,” Alexis suggested.

“I don’t know what to say about that.”  Boston scrunched up her face and looked conflicted.  “I like fruit and veggies well enough, but I grew up on meat and potatoes.”

“You’re young,” Alexis told her.  “Your metabolism is still racing.  But when you get older, keep in mind, too much meat will just make you fat.  No one wants a fat, old elf.”

“Santa,” Boston said, and grinned, but she would have to think about it.

On the way out of town, they filed past a group of soldiers sitting by the side of the road, waiting for something.  Lincoln noticed that two of the soldiers hid their faces when Boston rode by.  He looked closely.  He had a gift for facial recognition, and these two men looked familiar, even if he could not place them.  He paused.  Naturally, he could not place them, not having been in this time zone before.  He supposed if he looked hard enough, he could find plenty of familiar faces, similar to people he met or saw in the past.  Of course, they could not be the same people.  He shrugged it off.

For four days up the Appian Way, Katie felt anxious.  She said they were being followed by soldiers.  Boston felt it too but wondered how Katie could tell.  Elect senses were made to sniff out enemies on the horizon—whatever might pose a danger to family and home.  Boston also felt they were being followed, but she could not pinpoint the feelings to soldiers, necessarily.  She said the road was full of soldiers and groups of soldiers traveling; mostly headed to Rome as they were.

“No,” Katie said a few times.  “It feels like one group is following us, specifically.”

Boston did not disagree, but since neither had any reason to feel the way they did, and since no one else felt the discomfort, they let it go.  It came up on the last night before Rome.

Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 1 of 6


I do try to keep my reading posts advertising and spam free, but we are coming to the end of FREE book days.  Now, through May 31, Avalon, the Prequel and Seasons One Two and Three are all FREE, and, of course, the Pilot Episode is free everyday.  This is something Smashwords set up during the stay-at-home time, so help yourself.  You can get all of these books for absolutely zero money, hopefully read and enjoy them, (and maybe leave a good review).  Thanks.  Happy Reading.



After 323 BC, Sicily. Kairos lifetime 83: Umma of Carthage.

Recording …

Despite their best hopes, the time gate appeared to be in Thermaic gulf, directly out from Mount Olympus. Harpalus found them a ship with some of the coins that Phillip paid them for saving his life.  He got them a crew as well, but they told him the crew could not go where they were going.  It would be a death sentence.  The crew, however, could teach them well enough so they might actually make it to the time gate without sinking.  They stayed a week to learn all they could.

Decker already knew something about sailing.  No one asked where he picked up the skill, but being a marine, no one felt surprised.

Lincoln and Alexis knew the basics. They had a small sailboat, a twenty-five-footer that they used to take out on the Potomac and sometimes along the shores of Chesapeake Bay.  Of course, it had a small engine, but they sailed enough to know some.  Lincoln paid close attention to the instructions offered by the sailors.  Alexis spent the week trying to get in touch with Fair Wind.

“I know we are not Ibelam, but it would save me a great deal of effort if you might be willing to help.”

Evan traveled on the PS Cumberland Gap when his family moved from Boston to Baltimore as a child.  That was about 1888.  He called it the most exciting and wonderful trip in his life.  Evan confessed they moved mostly by the paddles, but at one point he watched them set the sails, and he asked lots of questions.

Millie said the big steamship they took to Rome didn’t even have any sails as an option.  She worried if the engine broke down, they would be dead in the water.

Katie said, despite being a marine, she had little chance to go sailing behind her desk at the Pentagon.

Lockhart, who knew nothing about sailing, asked what the sailors did in bad weather.

“Well,” an old sailor said.  “If it rains, we get wet.  If there is thunder and lighting, we ask Zeus to please not strike the boat.  I once saw a lightning strike that split the mast right down the middle.  It took us a week to limp into the nearest port, half-starved and severely dehydrated because our water stores all got contaminated…”

Another sailor interrupted the story. “When the waves get big, we use the rope to tie ourselves to the boat so we don’t fall overboard.  The steersman lashes himself to the paddle.  Then we pray, mostly to Poseidon.  Personally, I ask his wife, Amphitrite, to calm her husband, if you don’t mind.”

“She could do that,” Lockhart said, like he knew.

“Unless he is upset because she is mad at him for some reason,” Katie countered.

Lockhart nodded.  “They have been known to fight.  But, usually she is off somewhere else and very busy.”

“Usually,” Katie agreed

“Diogenes,” Harpalus mumbled, before he looked up and waved off the questions.  “Don’t ask.  It is a long story.”

By the time they got the horses and wagon loaded, and felt ready, though scared to risk the wind and waves, Katie and Lockhart went to say thank you and good-bye to Harpalus.  They found him talking to a middle-aged man who limped, just like Harpalus.  The man said hello, and seemed to know them.  It only took a second.  Lockhart figure it was one of the gods, even if he did not know which one.  Katie knew.

“Vulcan,” she said as she shook his hand. She used his Roman name, thinking Harpalus would not know.

“Good name choice,” Vulcan affirmed, and he proceeded to say what he wanted, but also used the Roman names instead of the Greek ones for the various gods.  “I talked to Salacia.  I am sorry to say, Fair Wind remains in the Indian Ocean, but Salacia talked to Neptune, and he has promised to provide clear sailing out of this time zone.  No guarantees on what you might run into on the other side.  I have taken the liberty of giving your ship a hundred-year stain, so it will age a bit, but still be a solid, sea-worthy craft on the other side of the time gate.”

“You talked to Salacia?” Lockhart grabbed at the one thing he understood.  He knew Salacia was the Roman name for Amphitrite, the queen goddess of the sea. He met the Kairos, Amphitrite.  He grasped that the god talked to the Kairos, Diogenes.

“Concerning my ex-wife, Venus,” Vulcan continued.  “You know, we were married a long, long… Long time.  I was not happy with her on and off affair with Mars, but then I had a rather prolonged relationship with Bastet, the Egyptian, and even had a daughter and a son.  I really don’t mind the young man.  She can even marry Diogenes if she wants, since after all, she will be marrying my daughter, Danna.”

Lockhart looked confused again.  Katie said she would explain it later.

Poor Harpalus also looked confused that whole time, until the end when Vulcan said his ex-wife might marry Diogenes. His eyes got big when he realized his fellow cripple was the god Hephaestus.

“By the way,” Vulcan said, and held out a coin filled saddlebag.  “Here are the remains of the coins Phillip gave you.  Young Harpalus has what you folks call sticky fingers.  They may get him in trouble one day.  I might have let it pass, but the bag doesn’t belong here. It belongs in the future.”

“Thank you,” Katie said, as she accepted the bag.

Vulcan gave Harpalus a hard, but kind look before he spoke again.  “If you ever get to Mount Etna, look me up,” he said, and vanished.

Harpalus grinned, sheepishly, as he handed over Elder Stow’s sonic device.  The travelers laughed about it as they boarded the ship and headed out to the sea, Alexis only magically helping at first with the wind.


The day proved wonderful, as promised, with a perfect wind and a calm sea.  Lockhart and Decker took turns on the tiller, and Katie stood with them in the stern, checking her prototype amulet to make sure they stayed on course for the time gate.  Boston stayed in the bow where she could feel a bit of the sea spray as they plied through the water.  She only checked her amulet once in a while.

Sukki did not feel comfortable getting that close to the edge.  She stayed amid ship with Elder Stow, who spent most of the day double-checking his equipment and grousing about how his sonic device got stolen without him knowing it. Lincoln and Alexis were there most of the day, seeing to the horses, and they laughed at some of the thoughts Elder Stow expressed.  They assured Sukki, at least, that Harpalus was not an irredeemable son of perdition.

Evan and Millie stayed with Wallace, to comfort him in his distress.  Wallace was still upset that Nanette did not wait for him to find her and save her. He said, when he caught up with that cowboy, he would kill him.  He would take a gun and shoot that cowboy.  Nanette was innocent, like a sweet child, and clearly that cowboy turned her head.  She needed Wallace to save her and protect her.  No amount of sense or reason could get through to Wallace, so mostly Evan and Millie just sat with him, and listened.  Millie hugged the man now and then.

Late that afternoon, everyone gathered by the tiller so Lincoln could share his insights from the database. Only Boston stayed in the bow.  She said she could hear well enough without having to vacate her spot.

“We need to do this while we can,” Lincoln said.  “Last time we waited until we found Diogenes, and after that, there was never a convenient time when others were not around, listening in.”

“So, Umma?”

“Yes,” Lincoln said, and he paused to get his bearings.  “She has a bunch of names, and a very big family.  A merchant family that owns a bunch of ships in Carthage.  She is Carthaginian; Phoenician rooted.  A different jurisdiction of gods from the Greco-Roman jurisdiction.”

“Does that matter?” Millie asked.

Lincoln shook his head.

“Persia tried to invade Greece a few times,” Katie tried to piece it together, and maybe explain.  “I got the feeling the gods sort of backed off by then.”

“The Persians were Zoroastrians. They did not really worship the gods, per se, or they had a very different take on the gods,” Evan inserted.

“The Persian Empire held land in several jurisdictions,” Lincoln said, and looked at the database.  “Anatolia, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and central Asia.  In the old days, that would not have been permitted.”

“Right,” Katie continued.  “The Phoenicians settled North Africa, at Carthage. Trojans from Anatolia settled among the Etruscans.  The Gauls, that is, the Celtic people invaded and sacked Rome.  Maybe the gods figured the human race started growing up, or at least advanced to the point where hard and fast jurisdictional lines were no longer realistic.”

“It says here…” Lincoln spoke, and took back the conversation.  “Alexander received a special dispensation, of a sort.  The geis of Alexander said whatever territory he could take, he could keep.  We know he took the near east, the middle east, a big chunk of central Asia, and Egypt. The Persians also took that, more or less, but none of that counted the Greco-Roman land of Alexander.  He also invaded and took a chunk of India, so he captured land in several jurisdictions, and the gods did not prevent him.”

“So, how is that important to Umma?” Lockhart asked, to get back to the subject at hand.

“Pyrrhus of Epirus invaded southern Italy… Okay, Greco-Roman and Greco-Roman, but by 277, he was facing the Carthaginians in Sicily.  Carthage is North African, or Phoenician.  Anyway, Pyrrhus opens the door for the Punic wars, a cross-jurisdictional struggle, and Umma gets in the middle of the whole thing, both with Pyrrhus and with Rome.”

People stared at Lincoln for a minute, before Elder Stow said, “So?”

Lincoln waved his hand, like they should all understand.  “So…,” he said.  “Wherever we land, there is likely fighting going on, so we will have to be careful going forward not to get caught up in it.”

People nodded a little, until Decker turned the conversation with a question. “So how old is Umma?”

Lincoln did some quick math in his head based on the time Millie and Evan were there.  “She should be forty-seven, or maybe forty-eight.”

“Forty-eight is like sixty in twenty-first century terms,” Decker said.  “I doubt she is swinging a sword.”

“We should be able to avoid the Greeks, or the Romans and Carthaginians well enough, between Boston’s natural elf radar and Elder Stow’s scanner device,” Katie said.  “Whatever is going on, we should be able to skirt around it.”

“Better to keep our eyes open for the witch,” Lockhart said.

People nodded at that when Boston shouted back from the front.  “Here we go.” She had her amulet in her hand. They snuck up on the time gate without realizing it.  The whole ship began to creak and moan.  The ship shook like the wood might splinter and fall apart any minute as the ship aged more than sixty years in a Nano-second.

Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 1 of 6

After 404 BC, Latium. Kairos lifetime 81: Diana: Marcia Furi Camilla Diana

Recording …

The travelers entered the time zone above the Arnus River, near the village that would one day be Pisa.  They found a ferry, but they had to let the horses swim across, a job the horses had long since mastered.  The ferryman smiled at the gold, Persian though it might be. The travelers saved their Spartan and Athenian silver for Rome, when they arrived.

Lockhart kept up the night watch as they traveled south through Etruscan territory.  As Evan and Millie said, the people in the countryside seemed nice, but the cities were not friendly.  They looked for a place that did not appear frequented by anyone in particular, and settled in.  That is not to say they hid from people, but they felt it best not to get entangled.

“They are defensive,” Katie pointed out about the city people.  “They don’t trust anyone, including each other.  I would say the Etruscan League is already broken.  It shouldn’t be hard for Rome to swallow the whole area.”

“Thus, we keep watch in the night,” Lockhart responded, and nodded to his own wisdom.

Evan and Millie also nodded to each other, but said nothing.  The post-hypnotic suggestion of the witch did not yet feel acute.

“According to the database,” Lincoln spoke up on that first evening.  “This is the crucial time for Rome.  Diana turned eight and traveled with her father when he took the Etruscan city of Veii.  Apparently, they dug under the walls and got into the city via the sewer system.

“Clearly something the Kairos would come up with,” Decker said, without betraying how he felt about that.

“The loss of that city is probably what broke the back of the Etruscan League,” Katie said.

Lincoln nodded.  “He subdued several cities in the south of Etruscan territory, and the Etruscans never really recovered.  But also, shortly after, the Etruscans got invaded by the Gauls. That may have been the actual last nail in the Etruscan coffin.  The Gauls also invaded Rome, and caused some real trouble, but Diana’s father raised an army and drove them out.  The Etruscans just got squished.”

“Gauls?” Lockhart asked.

“Gaelic people from up by the alps,” Katie told him.

“Of all the gall,” Decker said.  No one even smiled.

“So, twice the Kairos got involved through her father,” Boston said.

Lincoln nodded.  “She was fourteen when the Gauls came.  Her father was dictator and consul during her fifteenth year, and rebuilt Rome after the Gauls left.  Then she turned sixteen and got married.”

Alexis shook her head.  “I know it is the times, and typical through most of history, but I still say sixteen is too young.”

“How old was her husband?” Katie asked.

“Um…” Lincoln looked.  “I think, thirty-one.”

“See?” Alexis said.  “That’s not right.  He is fifteen years older than her.”

“Women mature faster,” Lockhart said, and added, “Ouch,” when Katie slapped him in the shoulder.

“Publius Claudius Crassus is his name. He is a diplomat and holds some religious office. He is a second son.  Apparently, the Claudia father and Diana’s father did not always see eye to eye. The marriage calmed things a bit.”

“And a political marriage besides,” Alexis groused.

“Poor girl,” Boston agreed.

“They have three children,” Lincoln said, to mollify things a bit.  “Publia, named after her father, and Justitia are the girls.  Justitia got adopted when Diana suffered a miscarriage. Technically, the elder is Publia Prima, and Justitia’s adopted name is Publia Secunda, but Diana insists on calling her Justitia, so everyone else calls her that.  Then, Publius Gaius Claudius Crassus, the youngest, is the son. He goes by Gaius Claudius, like his grandfather.  Of course, we don’t know exactly when we arrived.  They might not be born yet.”

“Justitia was eleven, near twelve when we came through,” Millie said.  “She is blind, but a sweet girl.  Publia turned fourteen, and whenever she got in trouble, Diana would say her own name, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, three times in a row, just like that.  I don’t understand why.”

A few of the travelers laughed at that one.

“Gaius was ready to turn eight when we left,” Evan finished.

“Good to know,” Lockhart said, with a glance at Katie to see if he was still in trouble.

“Family,” Elder Stow interrupted. “It is important, you know.”

“So, why is this a crucial time?” Decker asked, to get back on the topic.

“Yes,” Lincoln said.  “Once Rome broke the Etruscans, who otherwise sat there breathing down their Roman necks, Rome had to overcome her immediate neighbors starting with the Latin League, but also the Aequi, the Volsci, and the Hernici.  That was where Rome learned to use diplomacy effectively, and how to deal with a defeated enemy.  Rome learned how to build and equip a real army, and discipline soldiers to win. The Samnite wars, and then the Punic wars that followed refined and expanded the scale of things, but all of the basics that eventually created the Roman Empire were learned in this time period.”

“Fair enough,” Lockhart said, as he got up. It turned ten, time for Lincoln and Alexis to watch.  Lockhart and Katie would get a two-hour nap before their midnight to two in the morning shift.

Millie and Evan went to bed, thinking, there might not be a time when the others were all asleep.  Then, what should they do?


While moving several days through the hills of Etruscan territory, the only comment of note came from Alexis. “Somehow, this isn’t how I imagined traveling through Tuscany.”

On the fourth day, they came to Veii, where they were only a day out, about ten miles from Rome.  The people there appeared happier than any city people they had seen.

Lincoln reported.  “When Veii fell, the Romans killed every adult male in the city.  Then later, when the Gauls came, the defeated Roman army hid behind the walls of Veii. They held out when the Gauls went on to attack Rome, but you can imagine, all those young soldiers and widows. People moved in from the countryside, especially when the Gauls were rampaging.  Also, some plebeians moved here out of the poorer sections of Rome, and some patrician families are looking to build villas in the neighborhood. Though it does not have nearly the population it had as an Etruscan city, it is now full of Roman citizens and basically a Roman city.  Besides, now that Camillus, that is, Diana’s father, drove the Gauls out and conquered all the surrounding, local tribes, the people of New Veii, so to speak, are probably happy not being in the direct line of anyone’s fire.”

“Well,” Alexis said.  “At least the people surrounding the city seem happy and at peace, as opposed to the Etruscans, where everyone felt on edge about one thing or another.”

Sukki turned her head back into the conversation.  “I know. The people in this time zone keep giving me indigestion.”

“Me too,” Millie agreed with the girl.

“Hold up,” Lockhart said. “Dismount.”  They neared the city gate.  Boston came back and got right down.  Decker and Elder Stow came in from the sides.  Several soldiers rode out to meet them.

“What do you think they want?” Elder Stow whispered to Katie and Lockhart.

“I smell trouble,” Decker said.

“So do I,” Lockhart, the once-upon-a-time police man agreed.  Katie nodded as well, but Boston spoke up.

“So do I, and it feels like trouble that is not entirely of this world.”

That sounded disturbing.

The soldiers seemed nice.  They got especially nice when they found out the travelers were friends with Furius Camillus, or at least his daughter, wife of Claudius Crassus.  They were helpful when the travelers asked about accommodations for the night.

“Good thing you are only planning one night here,” the officer said, but did not explain, so Lincoln asked.

“Why is that a good thing?”  The officer said nothing, but one of his men did not hesitate to speak up, even if his officer gave him a mean look.

“Because, for a week now, the city has been haunted with ghosts.  Strange and unnatural things have been happening in all sorts of places.  People have become afraid to go out after dark.”

“Like what sorts of things?” Alexis asked.

A different soldier spoke.  “One man’s pigs turned on him.  He and his family had to hide in their house until men could come and put the beasts down.”

“I heard a chicken got born with two heads,” another spoke.

“I heard it was a snake,” a third contradicted.

“That isn’t it,” the officer finally spoke.  “People are seeing lights in the night where no light should be.  Some have seen figures, like people floating along. Like ghosts.  And there are sounds, like strange, unnatural noises, like swords crossing and chains rattling…”

“And screams,” one of the soldiers interrupted.

The officer nodded.  “The night watch says they can’t tell if someone needs help or if it is just the ghosts.”

“How do you account for this?” Lockhart asked.

“Well, some say it is the ghosts of the old men of Veii that Rome slaughtered when the city fell.  That has not been taken well by some of the people, as you may imagine.  But others claim the Rasenna, that is, the Tusci in the city were wealthy and had many slaves, whom they treated horribly.  They were a decadent, self-serving people who deserved to be overthrown by the more upright Romans.  Some say it is the Rasenna weeping over their sins that led to their destruction.  Some say it is the slaves who finally have a voice in death that they never had in life.”

“What do you say?” Katie asked.

The officer shrugged.  “I say it is frightening the children.  There is already talk of abandoning the city.” The officer shrugged again.

Avalon 6.3 Stubborn, part 4 of 6

Lincoln and Alexis tied off their horses. They were both soaking wet from the river crossing, and so were the horses, but none seemed any worse for the wear.  Lincoln thought to try out his wristwatch radio.  “Lockhart, can you hear me?”  He had to wait a minute, figuring Lockhart had to remember how it worked.  He heard Katie’s voice in response.

“We hear you,” she said.  “Keep in mind, every peep on the radio reaches everyone. Meanwhile, Robert is not getting the best cooperation from Elder Stow’s horse.”

“That is a very good horse,” they heard Elder Stow respond.  “You just have to coax it, gently.”  Elder Stow did not have a watch-radio, but he could easily pick up the frequency on his communications device.

“We will try not to get out of range. How does it look, Lincoln?”

“Like we figured.  The people came out to work on the spring planting. There are not many near our location, but even if no one comes close enough, we have a good view of the city wall, mostly a wooden wall, and the city gates.”

“Elder Stow?”

“A merchant ship as I surmised.  We are about to go invisible for a closer look. There appear to be some crew members sitting around a fire. We will let you know what we find out.”

“Roger.  Out.”  Katie nudged her horse into the water and bit her tongue rather than complain about how cold it was.


“Are you ready?” Elder Stow asked. Sukki nodded, so he flipped the switch and checked to be sure she went fully invisible.  Then he made himself invisible, so they could still see each other, but no one else could see them.  “Let us see what the people are talking about.”

As they walked up, they saw seven Gott-Druk sitting around the fire, and two men that were definitely not Gott-Druk, standing, with guns in their hands.

“Humanoids,” Sukki whispered. Elder Stow nodded and hushed her.

“So, you say the ship will not fly?” It sounded like a question, but Sukki and Elder Stow had to wait for the translation device to translate the words into Gott-Druk.  Of course, to Elder Stow and Sukki, the translation still sounded like “So, you say the ship won’t fly?”  They had been gifted by the Kairos with the gift of the little ones.  No matter language got spoken, they heard it in their native tongues.  Likewise, they could respond if necessary, and the person they spoke to would hear the words in their own native tongue.  A few alien languages they had come across had been difficult, but Humanoid and Gott-Druk were easy.

“Too much battle damage,” one of the Gott-Druk responded.  “You attacked us with three warships, and we would have gotten away if you had not crashed your shuttle into our cargo bay.”  They had to wait for the translation again.

“I got hungry,” the humanoid said, and appeared to laugh.  After the translation, he added, “So, why did you come here?  This world is marked in green.  No one is supposed to come here.”

“We did not exactly have a choice.”

“But this world is no good for repairing your ship.  It is only good for food.”  It sounded like yelling, humanoid style.

“We did not exactly have a choice,” the Gott-Druk repeated.

“Come,” Elder Stow whispered.  He led Sukki up the ramp and into the ship where he thought to add, “Don’t touch anything.”

They arrived in the engine room where a humanoid held the two Gott-Druk engineers at gun point.  They heard the humanoid yell into his communication device. “I can’t get it to work.  I don’t even understand it.  They call it ion energy and say it powers the photon drive, but they call it dark energy and anti-photons.  I don’t even know what they are talking about.”

They heard the roar from the other end. “Keep them at it.  The longer we stay here, the greater chance we have of being discovered by whatever reason this world is marked in green.”

Elder Stow heard enough.  He pulled his weapon and set it with just enough power to stun a Gott-Druk.  He imagined it might kill the humanoid, but that could not be helped.  He fired.


Out in the fields, a middle-aged woman came to rest in the shade of the trees.  Alexis took the chance.  She shaped her fairy-weave clothes to imitate the local styles, and made some small noise in the woods so the woman would not be startled by her sudden presence.  The woman looked back and saw her.  Lincoln stayed out of sight, but he held on to his Patton saber and had his handgun at his side, just in case.

“Your pardon,” Alexis said.  “I am looking for someone and perhaps you could help me.”

The woman did not bother to rise, but shaded her eyes as she looked up.  “You must live some distance from here, like on some outlying farm,” the woman said.  “I know a lot of people, but I don’t recall your face.”

“I do not live near here,” Alexis admitted.  “I do not know the face of the one I am looking for, but I know his name.  It is Evan Cecil Emerson.  Do you know him?”

“Cecil? What do you want him for? He is pretty useless.  He can’t hardly dress himself.  He doesn’t know anything about work or tools.  He can’t hitch up the oxen, and couldn’t plow a straight line if he got threatened with the whip.  He is an idiot.  I got a six-year-old who knows more than him.  What do you want him for?”

“He doesn’t belong here,” Alexis said, plainly.

The woman laughed.  “You may be right about that.  He’s been saying the same thing since he showed up some time ago, hungry and helpless.  I would bet the Etruscans threw him out, but we take in all the strays here.  We got some Etruscans, Latins, Sabines, Albans, Greeks.  We even got some that claim they came from as far away as Asia, from a place they called Troy.  I don’t know where that is, either.  I don’t know where Greece is either, except I heard about it all my life. So, who told you about Cecil, and where does he belong?  He sure doesn’t fit in here.”

Alexis took a deep breath before she decided on honesty.  “A faun from Vatican Hill asked me to fetch him.  Cecil is from the future, and I intend to take him there—to take him home.”

The old woman stared. Then she laughed. “You a believer in the wee people? You go for all that magic foolishness?” She paused in her laugh.  “To be sure, Cecil says he is from the future. He says he got separated from his wife there, and does not know how to reach her.  Funny you should say that.”  The old woman’s eyes got big for a second, before she squinted and pointed.  “Cecil is there, with my husband, probably messing up the planting, again.”

“Tyrus.”  The woman stood, shouted and waved.  “Tyrus.  Bring Cecil.” The man scowled and handed the reigns for the plow to the young boy beside him.  Cecil did not move until Tyrus waved for him to follow.

“What?” Tyrus shouted back.  “We’ll never get the field done if we leave off work.” His voice lowered as he drew near. “Cecil is doing his best, poor as that may be.  What?”

“This young woman says she is looking for Cecil; says she wants to take him back to the future.”

Alexis had to concentrate, but managed a sentence in English.  “Do you want to return to the future?”

Cecil fell to his knees and began to weep.

Tyrus looked flummoxed.  “I can’t allow that.  Lord Tarquin himself told me I could have him if I didn’t lose him. If he goes missing, what is going to happen to me?”

“On the other hand,” Alexis said, reading the couple.  “If I take him off your hands, you will get much more work done and have one less mouth to feed.”

Tyrus rubbed his jaw.  “There is that.”

“Ah-ha,” the woman nodded and smiled, like she liked that idea.

“No, but it cost me to have him.”

“Benjamin,” Alexis called.  Lincoln stepped into sight and made a show of sheathing his saber.  “Do you have those coins you picked up from Ibelam?”  She turned to the couple and explained, even if they would not understand. “Ibelam helped a friend, Artie, and she paid him in gold coins such as the Androids minted for their economy, and mostly for trade.  Ibelam was kind enough to share a few, despite him being a notorious pirate.”

“Here,” Lincoln handed them over and Alexis gave them to Tyrus.

“Ibelam?” Tyrus asked.

“Yes.  I imagine he sailed by here at some point, though that would have been when you were a child.  He captained the ship, Sinbad’s Folly.”

“Sinbad?” Tyrus appeared to know something.  Some light went off in his memory.  “Notorious,” he agreed, and looked at the coins.

“Cecil,” Alexis waved for him to join them.

“Evan?” Lincoln asked.

“Either,” the man said, and he hurried. He almost started to cry again when he saw the horses, but they mounted, Evan behind Lincoln, and they rushed to the river.  “No, that way,” Evan said, turning them away from the water

“We have to get out from under the eyes of the town,” Lincoln insisted.

“We will.  Trust me.  That way,”

They turned downriver and soon came out of the trees where they could be plainly seen by anyone up on the village wall.

“By the time they bring out the chariots, we will be back under cover and out of range, believe me.”

Alexis spoke into her watch. “Katie. Elder Stow.  We got Evan Cecil.  How are you doing?”

“We have a dilemma to resolve, but it should not take long,” Elder Stow responded first.

“Just coming to the cave where Valencia should be located,” Katie answered.  “I’ll let you know.”

Evan appeared startled by the voices that came from the little bracelets the people wore.  He did not say anything, but he looked more closely at his saviors.


The riders and their centaur guide came out of the trees on to a small clearing.  The spring flowers grew up to a grass covered ledge, at the back of which sat a clear cave among the rocks.  Colon stopped, so the others stopped with him, and wondered what he would do.

“Lady,” he called.  “My lady.  Gracious lady, I have brought friends of yours.  The faun of the gray hair sent me.  Lady…” Colon stopped speaking, and looked worried.

A wolf slowly emerged from the cave, growling and snarling.  It looked hungry.  The travelers noticed some red hair that grew out of the wolf’s back.  Colon took a step back, but he tried to smile.  Two identical boys, no older than twelve, came from the cave to stand beside the wolf, and both complained.

“Mama.  We have company.”

The wolf let out a little grin before it changed into a woman, about five and a half feet tall, with long red hair down her back, and eyes as dark a charcoal.  “Thank you Colan,” she said.  “It doesn’t fix things, but it helps.”  She turned to the travelers.  “Lockhart, bad timing as usual.”  She opened her arms.  “Boston.” She had to wait.  Boston hesitated because of the wolf, but only hesitated for a moment.

One of the twelve-year-olds put his arms out for a hug, but Boston snubbed him, and the woman slapped his hand. “Romulus,” the woman scolded.

“And Remus?” Katie asked, and got that groupie look on her face.

Avalon 6.3 Stubborn, part 3 of 6

The travelers found a place among the trees and behind a rise in the landscape where they felt they could build a fire without attracting too much human attention.  Boston and Katie bagged a deer, and Alexis found some greens that were better, not bitter, and some tubers that boiled up real nice.  Decker, Lockhart, Lincoln, and Elder Stow climbed to a place on the rise and in the trees where they could watch the village and the Gott-Druk spaceship.  Decker brought his binoculars and night goggles.  Lockhart got the same equipment from Katie, which Lincoln kept borrowing. Elder Stow contented himself with what his scanner could show him.

“They have shrines near the middle-top of the hill,” Lincoln said.  “I would guess Greek gods with Roman names, like Jupiter instead of Zeus and Pluto instead of Hades.”

“I wonder if Saturn is still around,” Lockhart said.  “I recall the Kairos mentioning that he got confined to Italy to keep him off Mount Olympus.  The Kairos said in his passive-aggressive way, Saturn insisted on different names for the gods in his jurisdiction.”

“Not really a different jurisdiction,” Lincoln said.  “Still part of the Greco-Roman jurisdiction in southern Europe.  Zeus threw his father, Cronos into the deepest pit of Hades. He spared his grandfather, Saturn, but confined him to Italy, sort of like a big prison cell.”

“I see three main gates on the wall,” Decker said, interrupting the conversation that neither man knew honestly what they were talking about.  Lincoln had the database and could read about it, but that was not what they were there for.

“I have scanned for Gott-Druk life-signs,” Elder Stow interrupted.  “They seem to be confined to the island.”

“I see several fires,” Lockhart agreed, and Lincoln reached for the binoculars.

“No indication they have seen us, or even that they are looking in our direction.”

“Atypical behavior for the Gott-Druk,” Decker said.  “I would have expected them in the village, making the humans cower and bow down to them.”

Elder Stow frowned.  “You have a very low opinion of my people.”

“Nothing personal,” Lockhart said. “But it is the behavior we have seen and what has been reported about your people.”

Elder Stow took a deep breath and nodded. “But here, the ship parked on the island has some armament and weapons, probably a necessity for space travel, but it does not appear to be a warship.  I would guess it is more like a merchant ship, a freighter of some sort.”

“There’s a twist,” Decker said.

Lockhart lowered the night goggles. It was hardly dark enough yet to make them worthwhile.  “I would say giving these early Romans access to heat rays would be even more dangerous to history than the old Gott-Druk way of taking over and trying to make slaves of the human race.”

“I don’t know how we can get into the village and get Evan without causing an uproar,” Lincoln said.

“The presence of my people does complicate things,” Elder Stow agreed.

Lockhart also agreed.  “Especially if they are on a peaceful trade mission.”

“So, we find the Kairos first?” Decker made it a question, but it seemed the only solution to him.  Throughout their journey, he had learned that the Kairos inevitably knew what was happening, and had some idea how to deal with otherwise impossible situations.

No one objected as they scooted off the rise and returned to the camp.  They found the horses cared for and set for the night, and food cooking, but they all imagined they would be up for a time of debate.  Everyone needed a chance to put in their two cents, and then Lockhart needed to keep them together long enough to do whatever the consensus decided.


In the morning, Lockhart felt unhappy, but nothing he could do about it.  Lincoln and Alexis insisted on edging up to the farm fields, where they figured most of the people would come out to participate in the spring planting.  When the workers came out, they imagined they might find Evan and whisk him to safety.  There was one place where the trees came right up to the edge of the fields. They would have a good view of the fields and the village from there, while they could stay hidden.  Lincoln insisted someone had to stay and keep an eye on the village.  Besides, they found a trail they could ride to the river if they needed to evade pursuit.

“We still have the wrist communicators to keep in touch,” Alexis reminded everyone.

Lincoln got to say it.  “I keep forgetting about these things.”

Lockhart could not argue, but he made Katie give Lincoln her binoculars and Alexis the prototype amulet, so Alexis and Lincoln could find the next time gate if they got separated from the rest of the group.  He made Lincoln give Katie the database in case Lincoln got captured.  He figured if the Gott-Druk could figure out how to read it, they might learn some things about the future that they should not know.

Elder Stow, perhaps worse, insisted on checking out the Gott-Druk present on the island in the river.  Sukki would go with him.  He made her swallow a big pill which he said would pass in a couple of weeks.  Meanwhile, he could use his equipment to make her invisible when he went invisible.  He had a few invisibility disc relays, but insisted the pill was more certain and better for something like this.

“I will try to talk with them to see what their intentions may be,” Elder Stow said.  “I will try to suggest they need to not be here, but I don’t know how they may respond.  Invisibility is just a precaution.”  Lockhart did not object until Elder Stow added a note.  “It would probably be best if you keep the horses with you.  I can levitate us to the island, but visible, flying horses would not work well.”

“It is going to be hard enough trying to wend our way through farms and hamlets to get to the back of the hill where the Kairos is located without giving ourselves away.”  Lockhart complained, but they took the horses.


Decker and Katie rode out front, armed and ready for whatever might present itself.  Lockhart and Boston followed, each bringing an extra horse with them.  In this way, they approached the river, prepared to swim across where it got deep, but they found a surprise waiting for them on the riverbank.  A centaur.

“Welcome.  I am Colon, prince of the mountain pastures where my family makes its home.  I have come at the urging of the gray-haired faun, to guide you to the goddess of time.” He smiled.  It felt like a big speech for the brute.

“I don’t suppose Dionysus is around anywhere,” Decker said, a frown on his face.

“Silenus in this place,” Katie said.

“No.  I am quite sober,” Colon responded

“Eh?” Lockhart asked, and Katie explained.

“The centaurs in legend are well known for their wild, drunken orgies, and attempts to ride off with women, to molest them.”

Colon’s eyes grew big.  “You are an elect, as strong and capable as a demigod,” Colon objected, without denying anything.  “You must think me mad to wish to offend you.”

“Just so we understand each other,” Katie said.

“But to be sure, I have also come to see the red-haired girl, the wisest of the wise.  Clopsus the Great said you would be among the travelers, and I am deeply honored to meet the one told of in our legends down through all the centuries.”

“Um…Thanks,” Boston swallowed.

“And it is even as I have been told. You have become as an elf, even a high elf, and a princess among all the elves”

“Princess?”  Lockhart asked, and grinned.

“As in, Disney?” Decker smiled at her.

“Shut-up,” Boston said.  “Truscas had a big mouth.  Can we get going?”

“Of course,” Colon said.  “If you will follow, I will endeavor to lead you in a safe way for my distant cousins that you ride, and away from the human scum.”

“Shows you where we rate,” Decker said.

Lockhart had to tug on the reigns of Elder Stow’s horse to get his nose out of the grass at his feet.  “Come along, cousin,” he said.


Elder Stow and Sukki landed among the few trees on the island.  “It will not hurt to look and listen first,” he said.  “Caution is a good thing.”

“Yes, father.”  Sukki lowered her eyes.

Elder Stow smiled for the girl. “You are a good daughter, even if you are adopted.  I wish my daughters by the flesh were as cooperative.”

“Oh, children need to respect their parents,” Sukki said, in complete sincerity.

“My Abella argues all the time, about everything,” Elder Stow said, as he got out his scanner and adjusted several settings.

“Arguing shows a lack of respect. She should at least respect that you are her father.  How old is she?”

Elder Stow paused to think before he answered.  “She is thirty earth years.”

Sukki drew in her breath.

“I am fifty-two,” Elder Stow said.  “And no, I did not have a bite of the apple of youth as Lockhart, Lincoln and Alexis had. I am an honest fifty-two.”

“But…I never heard of many Gott-Druk who lived much after forty.  Forty-five is very old.  I heard one old woman lived to forty-eight, but fifty sounds unbelievable.”

“You come from the deep past.  I understand,” Elder Stow told her.  “But in the future, we have found ways to take better care of ourselves.  My father died at the ripe old age of eighty-six”

Sukki’s eyes got big s she calculated “He was still having children at thirty-six.  But that is so old.”

“Thirty-four, and not so old in the future. Now hush.”  Elder Stow looked at his results.  “It is an ancient Sky-Skimmer; a merchant vessel as I surmised.  Crew of twenty, though quite big.  Minimal weapons, but new-ion driven.  We have made it to the photon age. They might not have a photon bomb, but possibly a gravitron bomb.  Honestly, I am not as conversant with that age in history to say for sure.”

“I did not understand a word you said,” Sukki admitted.  “Why am I here?”

“So I have company.  It is important for families to do things together. Besides, if we have to reveal ourselves, you will not be out of place.”

“Yes, Father,” Sukki said, and with some joy at the idea of being family.



The travelers have split up.  Everyone has their assignment.  We shall see how things work out… or not.  Until Monday, Happy Reading.


Avalon 6.3 Stubborn, part 2 of 6

In the morning, the travelers found people on the beach, and some rough-looking fishing boats in the water, not far from the shore.  The travelers got up quietly and tried not to attract attention.  Boston woke everyone with a warning to keep quiet, while Sukki kept an eye on the people.  Lockhart opted not to build up the fire.  They chewed on what they had, packed what they could carry, and got ready to ride.

“No sign of Aneas,” Lincoln stated the obvious.

“I have a feeling he will show up.” Lockhart was not worried.  He recognized it took a great deal of courage for the fauns to contact them as they did. “Their distress must be real and serious, and I imagine they will not miss the chance to solve their problem.”

“I was thinking,” Katie said. “Maybe their dimension is more in line with the fourth dimension of time.  They may be in tune with the man’s distress because of his time displacement.”

“You mean because he is out of his own time,” Lockhart put it in his own words.  “And maybe that is how they found us and knew who we were.”

Katie nodded.

“An excellent suggestion,” Elder Stow said, as he mounted.  “The little bit of data I gathered might suggest something like that.”

As Elder Stow got up on his horse, Sukki and Boston scooted down from the ledge where they watched the humans on the beach.  Sukki got right up, being a much-improved horsewoman.  Boston grew up riding rodeo in Massachusetts.  She leapt up on Honey, her horse, and could ride rings around the rest of them.

“Are we ready to ride?” Decker asked.

Lockhart nodded and pushed forward. They had to come through the gap in the rocks single file.  They tried not to rush, but the women down the beach who saw them and screamed did not help.

Once they started up the shoreline, they quickly got out of range of the screamers.  Shortly, they turned inland and imagined they would not be followed. They had seen some horses used to pull the plow, and saw a chariot once, but they had not seen any horsemen in the villages, so they were not too worried.  Elder Stow’s scanner spotted a village up the shore, so they had to turn inland in any case.  But they figured they could outrun any men who followed them on foot.  They already had.

It did not take long before they found Aneas and his two companions waiting for them.  Lockhart pushed out front and called to the gray-haired faun. He had instructions.  He got down, thinking Aneas might fear the horse, but the horse did not appear to be the faun’s problem.  Clearly, Lockhart himself made the faun wary, then Lockhart remembered the faun mentioned the centaurs who still lived in the mountains and figured the horse might be no big deal   He got ready to speak, but Aneas spoke first.

“We will stay out front, and you may follow.”

‘Fine and well.  We will keep our distance as long as you don’t lose us. Keep in mind, the path you choose must be acceptable for the horses.”

“I understand.  We will go the way of the centaurs so you will have no hardship.”

Lockhart nodded.  “Also, it would probably be better if we stayed away from other people.”

“We are so inclined.”

Lockhart nodded again.  “Also, it would be best if we had some warning when we come near the village where the man is kept prisoner.  It would be better to see it secretly from a distance and decide on the best approach.”

Aneas paused to think, and finally shrugged.  “I do not understand humans.  You do not care for each other, and even hurt each other and hurt everything else.  I do not understand why you should not ride in and say, “Hello neighbor”.  But your ways are not our ways.  I will do as you ask.”

Lockhart did not nod that time. “All the same,” he said.  “One more question. Does the man have a name?”

To Lockhart’s surprise, the faun smiled a little at the question.  “One of our kind has made a song of the name.  It is Evan Cecil Emerson, Assistant Professor of Antiquities in Latin and Greek.  It seems a ponderous, long name, even for a human.”

“Thank you.  We will do our best to help.”  Lockhart turned and got ready to ride.  He realized he forgot to ask about lunch, but he imagined it was too late. The fauns stood ready, but looked uncertain about the humans.  “Burn that bridge when we come to it,” Lockhart mumbled.

“What bridge? Katie asked.

Lockhart waved her off.

The fauns led them all day by a path that in some places almost appeared to be a dirt road.  Katie imagined the future Appian way, and said so.  They never saw any people, and sometimes wondered if any people lived in the area, though they felt certain some did.  One time, they climbed a hill and saw what looked like smoke in the distance.  They could not be sure.  The fluffy-white clouds, gray on the bottom, sat low in the sky and melted into the horizon. It might have been a piece of a cloud, or something smoldering from the thunderstorm two days earlier.  It might have been a fire built by some of those centaurs Aneas talked about.

Lunch did not take long.  The fauns disappeared.  The travelers did not build a fire, so they only had smoked leftovers to chew on, a breakfast repeat.  Alexis and Sukki found some grapes and greens.  The grapes were not quite ripe, and the greens tasted bitter, but it would sustain them.

Elder Stow pulled out his scanner to read what might be on the horizon.  Decker meditated to let his eagle totem lift him into the sky for a similar look around.  Both reported the mix of woods and fields covering seven hills on the other side of a river.

“Every hill appears to have collections of buildings,” Elder Stow said.  “I would only call three villages.  The rest would be hamlets, or family farms and homes; though it seems to me they are all relatively close to each other, and building closer.  Soon enough, the fields and pastures will begin to disappear under buildings.”

“Farmers and shepherds, for the most part,” Decker agreed.  “But I hope they are all good neighbors.  If they keep building, it won’t take long until the whole area looks like urban sprawl.”

“The main village, at least the biggest one, appears on the center hill, and built on the side where the people can overlook the river.  They probably watch for river traffic and whatever trade might go up and down the river. They probably also watch for enemies.”

“Enemies, for sure,” Lockhart said. “All of the different tribes around here do seem to hate each other.”  Decker agreed, but then he reported on something different.

“The fauns appear to be angling us up above a bend in the river, north of the town-hill, to a place where the river and a large field of a sort stand between where we are headed and the villages and people on the hills.”

“Rome,” Katie named the seven hills.

“Agreed,” Lincoln checked the database. The villages and people on the seven hills would one day be Rome.

“I imagine the fauns intend to give the people a wide berth,” Lockhart suggested.

“Boss,” Boston spoke up.  She had her amulet out to check what she could see, though the map on the amulet remained skimpy on most details.  “I can see where the Kairos is located, like near a village, but a little north.”

“Likely in his own place on the back side of the hill,” Elder Stow said.

“Her place,” Lincoln corrected the Gott-Druk.  “Valencia, the Kairos in this life is a her.”

“Of course,” Elder Stow said, graciously. “It is hard to keep up with the him and her changes.”

“You got that right,” Decker mumbled.

“Let’s see where the fauns lead us,” Lockhart concluded.  “We may be going around the seven hills to some other town further away.  After we get Cecil, we may have to backtrack to see Valencia.”

“Evan,” Boston blurted out.  “Not Cecil.”

“Evan,” Alexis agreed.

“Evan,” Lincoln supported his wife.

Lockhart looked at Katie who shrugged. “Professor Emerson?”

It did not take long after lunch to reach the river.  They stayed in the shadow of the woods, but saw the distant village on the hill. They also found an island in the river, and everyone reacted, though they did not stop for a good look.

“I remember that island,” Boston told Sukki. “Truscas the Centaur carried me across the river there.  Saturn’s house sat at the top of the hill, there.”

“Palatine Hill has had some occupation since back before the flood,” Katie told Lockhart and the girls. “Early Neolithic, that is stone age.”

“My people are familiar with the area,” Elder Stow said.  “It was one of our gathering places in the before times.”

Decker got Elder Stow’s attention and pointed.  He saw something shine on the island.  He got out his binoculars.  Elder Stow got out his scanner.

“Gott-Druk,” Elder Stow reported. “They are powered down and well camouflaged, like they were when we found them on Malta.”

“I did not see them from the sky,” Decker admitted.

Katie looked and handed her binoculars to Lockhart, who also caught a glimpse before the trail took them more deeply into the woods.

“Well,” Lockhart said, as he returned Katie’s binoculars.  “Looks like we will have to backtrack and find the Kairos for sure.”

“The Gott-Druk do not belong there,” Lincoln said.  He had started getting good at stating the obvious.

After that, they quickly came to another small hill beside the river, but on the near side.  The fauns stopped, and Aneas approached the humans, carefully. Lockhart and Katie dismounted and walked out to meet him.  They tried not to scare him.

“Our home is in this place,” Aneas said.

“Vatican hill,” Katie called it.

“There is nowhere on this planet where the sickness of violence does not intrude.  But mostly, in this place, there is peace.”  Katie and Lockhart looked around.  They felt the calm in the air, and the sense of peace that pervaded the area.  No doubt, they sensed the faith and quiet contemplation that would fill the area in the centuries to come, but they never would have understood it if they were not time travelers who knew where they were.

Aneas spoke again.  “The man from the future is captive in the village you saw across the river.  The goddess of time lives in a cave near there.  If you are willing to take him into the future with you, you will have our gratitude, forever.”  He stepped behind a tree and was not present anymore.

Katie and Lockhart held hands as they walked back to Lincoln and Alexis who held their horses.  Alexis had a suggestion.

“We could camp here tonight.”  It sounded like a question.  “We might be far enough away from people where we can build a fire and honestly get a night’s rest.”

Katie shook her head.  “We should not violate this place with our humanity.”

“No,” Lockhart answered Alexis directly. “We have to backtrack to a place where we can keep an eye on the village, and on the island.  Then we will need to decide what to do in the morning.”

“I got some good data,” Elder Stow told Boston.  “But it will take some serious study to understand it.”

R5 Festuscato: Wild and Dangerous, part 1 of 3

She appeared much too beautiful to be human.  Her black hair fell full but straight, and no doubt long beneath her red cloak and hood. Her features looked sharp, but her tears suggested a softness in her heart.  Behind those tears, she had the hint of eyes as blue and bright as the sky on a sunny day.  Her dress looked like silk, a soft pink held fast by a clasp of gold that sparkled with flashes of red in the sun, a splash of jewels to match the ruby on her ring. Mostly, she looked young, perhaps twenty-one, but that made the picture altogether curious and somehow wrong. There was no way such a rich and beautiful young woman should be walking, much less walking alone on the Appian Way.

Festuscato, all of seven, covered in mud and presently sitting in an orange tree by the side of the road, pondered this vision as well as a seven-year-old can ponder such things.  This girl should have had a dozen guards, and several servants and handmaids besides. And they should have been on horseback, if she was not in a carriage.  After all, it was just thirteen years gone since Alaric and his Visigoths sacked Rome.  And worse, father said Emperor Honorius recently died and he got angry because Castinus, the bad guy, was going to cause riots in the streets.  Festuscato did not follow all of that, but he believed his father.

Festuscato held his breath.  The young woman came over to the side of the road and sat quietly on the grass, in the shade, right beneath his tree.  Festuscato thought it was too perfect.  He quietly plucked a ripe orange, stretched his arm out and aimed as well as he could. Then he thought he ought to give fair warning.

“Bombs away,” he yelled and let the orange drop.  He missed by a good foot to the girl’s left, but the girl reached out with super speed and snatched the orange before it touched the ground.

“Thank you,” the girl said.  “I was a bit hungry.”

“Hey!” Festuscato wanted to protest, but he hardly knew what to say.  He scrambled down the tree and she stood to face him.  “How did you do that?” he asked.

“Magic,” the girl said with a grin, which suggested she might be having fun with him. She had the orange peeled in no time and offered one piece to him.  Festuscato shook his head.

“I am sick of oranges,” he said honestly enough, as a thought occurred to him and came bounding out of his mouth.  “Are you running away from home?”

The girl smiled. “I am a long way from home.  My name is Mirowen.  Do you have a name or should I just call you grubby?”

“I’m Festus. I’m an orphan and I’ve run away from home, too.  Like Greta, I’m going to have an adventure and save the world.”  Festuscato returned the girl’s smile, but on his face, it did not appear nearly as convincing.

Mirowen paused in her orange eating to look serious for a moment.  “How can you run away from home if you are an orphan who has no home?  I think you are going to have to work on your lying, not that I am recommending it.”

“Hey, Festus.” A boy down the street called and waved. There were three boys, all about the same age as Festuscato, and all just about as dirty.

“Hey!” Festuscato waved back.  “Come and meet my friends.”  He reached for Mirowen’s hand and she did not hesitate to give it to him, even if it meant being dragged down the street.  “Hey guys.  I want you to meet my girlfriend, Mirowen.”

Three boys stopped still and looked stunned.

“This is Felix, Gaius and Dibs.  Say hello, fellas.”

“Awe,” Felix mouthed and threw his hands out.   “How can you have a girlfriend?  You’re only seven.  I thought maybe it was your new nurse.”

“Nurse?  I don’t need a nurse.”  Festuscato protested.

“He’s had three so far,” Gaius said.  “He ran one off, got one to beg to be released from the duty, and one died, mysteriously.”

“I ate her,” Festuscato said, with a straight face.

“Awe,” Felix repeated the word and the gesture.  “Don’t listen to him.  He just likes to give Dibs nightmares.”

“I see,” Mirowen said with a glance at Festuscato.  She let go of the boy’s hand and smiled her warmest smile.  “Maybe you can help me.  I am looking for the home of Senator Lucius Agitus.  Do you know where that might be?”

“Why that’s – ow!” Festuscato stomped on Felix’s foot.

“I know where it is.  I can take you there,” Festuscato spoke quickly.  “But I have to warn you, the lady of the house is a witch in disguise, and the Senator likes to yell all the time, and loud.”

“I’ll be extra careful,” Mirowen said, and this time she took his hand.  “You boys coming?”  The three fell in behind, though they did not appear happy about it.

The house, truly a Roman mansion, was not far.  It sat up on top of a small rise and overlooked the Appian way for a good distance in both directions, though it was far enough in the countryside to be out of sight from the city.  Some of the tenant houses could be seen in the distance, out by the fields, and the house had one great meadow nearby where horses grazed lazily in the sun. Everything about the place said money, lots of money.

“Wait.” Festuscato stopped them outside the main gate.  “Let me check your ears.”

“My ears?” Mirowen sounded curious, but bent down a little toward the boy.  He pushed her luxurious hair back just far enough to touch the tips of her ears before he spoke.

“Just want to be sure your glamour is good.  Can’t have an undisguised elf about the place.”  Mirowen said nothing.  Her eyes got big and then very narrow as she stared at Festuscato.  “Oh, I know an elf when I see one,” he said.  “You are much too beautiful for a human.”  Mirowen heard the compliment, but it felt confusing. She turned to look at the boys following, but they merely shrugged, like this was not even close to the first time Festuscato said something strange.

Mister March came to the door and took one look at Festuscato, mud and all, before he remarked. “You are a brave fellow.”

“Most of the staff is Celtic,” Festuscato ignored the man and talked to Mirowen.  “Mostly from Britain.”

Mirowen looked up and spoke in some strange language.  Mister March answered, and they began a spirited conversation. Festuscato stayed quiet, but he tried to follow what he could by the words he knew and the hand gestures.  It did him no good, but they were shortly interrupted in any case by a woman’s voice.

“March, what is it?”  At the sound of that voice, Festuscato inched over to hide behind Mirowen.

“A young lady come all the way from Britain to speak to Lord Lucius,” March said.  As the woman came to the door, she took one look at Festuscato and shouted.

“Festuscato Cassius Agitus!”  That was enough to scold the boy.  “Take your sandals off and try not to touch anything.”

“I found him hiding up an orange tree and thought you might like to have him back,” Mirowen smiled.

The woman gave Mirowen the once over and apparently approved of her dress and deportment, sure signs of wealth and good breeding.  Then she spoke over Mirowen’s head, it being two steps up to the door. “You boys better go home.  I am sure your mothers will not be pleased.”

“Yes, mum. Thank you.  Mum.”  The boys spouted and ran off as quick as they could toward the tenant houses.

“You are from Britain?” The woman asked.

“Mirowen,” Mirowen gave her name and a slight curtsey which seemed the most graceful thing Festuscato had ever seen.  “My father, King Macreedy sent me with a troop for my protection, but we were set upon by Goths just outside of Rome.  I alone escaped.  What you see is all that is left of my small fortune, that and a word for Senator Agitus, though my letters are stolen and I cannot say what my father may have written.”

Festuscato closed his mouth.  The lie was masterful, and the woman, Festuscato’s mother, responded perfectly. “Oh my poor dear, do come in.”

“I found her all alone, crying.”  Festuscato said the truth, but Mirowen’s look urged him to be quiet and his mother snapped at him.

“You need to strip and get in the bath this instant,” she said, before she added in a very soft voice.  “Come and tell my husband all about it.  He spent many years in Britain in service to Rome.  I am sure we can arrange to help you out.”

Festuscato barely got clean and out to dry himself when Mirowen came in and announced she was his new governess.  “I told them my father sent me away for my safety and it might mean my life to return home.  On the other hand, I have a younger brother I have watched, my own mother being gone, and I would not mind watching you.”  She came to dry his hair and whispered.  “I am a house elf, you know.”

Festuscato nodded, but he would have to think about it.  He would never be able to sneak off again.  She would hear his every move.  Then again, there might be some advantages to having a house elf as a governess, not the least in the way she might be able to teach him to lie expertly.