Avalon 4.2: part 5 of 6, Caught

The travelers caught up with the thieves when the thieves stopped for a good, long lunch.  Lockhart, Decker, Avi, Devya, and four men of the city guard circled around to cut off the way to Merv.  Katie, Lincoln, Elder Stow and six more guards held the road to Sanctuary.  The groups kept in touch with the wrist-watch communicators, and Lockhart gave what he thought were some simple instructions.

“Patton sabers, everyone.  Last time, the guns failed to fire near the amulet.  I don’t know if the sabers will be any more effective, but I figure it does not interfere with Devya cutting her meat at the table.  Hopefully we won’t have to find out.  Keep back and let Devya and Avi negotiate.  Tell Elder Stow he might want to cover you with his screen, just in case.  Katie, disengage and return to Sanctuary if it gets hostile.  Avi says we can get help in Merv.”

“Archamenis!” Devya called out to the man as her group approached and stopped with plenty of distance between them.  “You have taken my property.  Return the amulet and I will let you go in peace.”Nuwa a1

Lockhart did a double take as Nuwa walked up beside him.  He looked at Devya and back at Nuwa as she spoke.

“I am a greater spirit.  I can take any form I wish.”

Lockhart nodded.  “This one is not so frightening, though I would imagine the little ones might not think so.”

“You mean like these?” Nuwa said with a smile and a wave of her hand.  Lockhart caught a glimpse of a dozen gnomes in the grass, prepared with bows, arrows and long knives to do battle.  He had no doubt there were another dozen on the other side, and who all knew what else.

“You mean this?” Archamenis grinned an awful grin and held up a necklace with a bright, red ruby on the end.  The ruby looked as big as Lockhart’s fist, or at least the size of Boston’s fist.  “But with this I can defeat all my enemies and my people will always prosper.”

“If you were a good Magi your people would prosper because you would not have any enemies,” Avi shouted back.

Archamenis’ grin turned to a frown as a man came up and whispered to him.  He looked around and saw Katie and the others behind him.  When he turned back, he looked for Devya, but could not find her.  Vanu had slipped through time to stand in her place, and he clothed himself with the armor and weapons of the Kairos.

“That is my blood stone,” Vanu hollered and stuck out his hand.  The necklace nearly vacated Archamenis’ hand, but he grabbed it tight and the man beside him helped.

“No!  I will keep it for my people.” Archamenis yelled.

“As you future people say,” Nuwa smiled again for Lockhart.  “Showtime.”  She vanished, even as Vanu went away to be replace by Mikos.  Mikos stuck his hand out and the ground rumbled.  He Mikos 2was a demigod, after all, the son of Ares, god of war.

Water pressed up from beneath and burst through the surface in a number of places, shooting toward the sky like an oil gusher.  Nuwa, the dragon, let out a roar and burst of flame over everyones head at the same time.  The earth shook like an earthquake, and Archamenis and his men shouted and screamed, and fell to their knees and faces.  Archamenis dropped the amulet.

Lockhart just stood there, staring.  He wondered where the gnomes went.  Decker and Avi said nothing.  Neither one looked surprised, until Decker pointed.  Katie came riding out from the other side.  The big black horse she called Beauty could not be mistaken, even if their view of her was clouded by the water and the steam.  No one attempted to stop her as she rode up to Archamenis, got down, grabbed the amulet, and let Beauty finish the trip to the other side.

“Katie!” Mikos yelled at her one second before Lockhart yelled.

Katie handed the amulet to Avi as Lockhart grabbed her and pulled her aside for a real yelling.  Meanwhile, the water settled down, Nuwa settled down, and Devya came back to receive the necklace from her husband and put it around her neck.

“Archamenis.  You and your men need to go.  Now.” Devya yelled.  Some of the men began to peal themselves off the ground and collect their things.  “I did not say get your things and go.  I just said, go.”dragon 1

“But—” Archamenis did not know what to say, as dozens of gnomes and others appeared suddenly and urged the men to move off.  Some ran and some screamed, but most walked with their heads down.

“Archamenis.  you can have your horses and things back when you come to Sanctuary and ask my forgiveness and promise not to steal again.” Devya said, and turned to say something to Nuwa, but the dragon was focused on the distance.

###

Boston had chills in the night, but she slept.  Alexis stopped crying around midnight, but she refused to speak to either of the others before she also slept.  Father Mingus kept his mouth closed all night, and kept to himself.  No one could say that he slept.  And the rain continued all night long.

It was still raining in the morning when the servants brought as warm a meal as they could prepare.  At least it was not waterlogged.  Alexis and Mingus ate in silence, while Boston wept softly and looked back and forth between the two.  Alexis had let it all out, and no doubt regretted it.  Mingus had nothing to say, because however slanted he might call her words, they were essentially true.  After the meal, Alexis and Mingus went their separate ways.  Boston put her head down on the table and moped.

dev temple 2Lunch was much of the same, and the tableau might have continued into the afternoon if a city guard, one of the few left in the city, had not come running up, yelling.  “The Afridi have broken into the city.  They have come in the south gate and they have weapons and plan to take the city.”

The servants screamed as one older man grabbed the city guard.  “You know this?”

“Why else would they come with weapons?”

Mingus interrupted.  “Obviously they do not mean good.”

The old man began to shout orders to the servants and guardsmen who were coming up the palace steps.  Men and women started pushing furniture to the terrace to hide behind, and the old man turned to their guests.

“You have horses.  You should ride out while you can.”

Mingus looked up and for the first time caught the whiff of something familiar.  “All the same, I think we stay.  Boston.  Alexis.”  He began to give some order of his own.

By the time the first Afridi came rushing up the street, Boston had her bow out and never ending arrows.  Mingus had treated a number of the arrows, as he had before, and she began to shoot them at the oncoming horde.  They exploded.  Some in front of the crowd, but some within the crowd.  A couple exploded on the stone and wood was of the nearby houses and showered the enemy with stone shards and deadly splinters.  The Afridi backed off, even as Boston shot another arrow and it did nothing.

“I don’t get it.  Why didn’t it explode?” Boston asked.

Mingus pointed up, and they all heard a laugh and saw the face of the djin in the cloud.

“Devya!” Boston yelled.dev rain 1

Mingus had a different idea.  “Nuwa.  Fuxi.  We need you to defend Sanctuary.”  Being an elder elf, he knew his words would carry, that is, if the djin did not catch them and cut them off.

Alexis had a third idea.  Even as the Nuwa dragon and Devya were looking up, and Lincoln and elder Stow were joining the group, a word came across the wrist-watch communicators.  It was faint and crackling with interference, but they heard Alexis.

“Benjamin.  Help.  It is the djin.”  Then the sound cut off.

Avalon 4.2: part 3 of 6, Sanctuary

Devya paced.  She was angry and upset.  She felt like screaming.

“Mother,” the young man in the room spoke up to calm her.  “They will be back soon.  Father will have the amulet and everything will be all right, you will see.”

Devya paused.  She placed a gentle hand against her son’s cheek and smiled for him.  Then she turned and screamed.  “What is wrong with me?  I trusted people.”

“Trusting is not a bad thing,” The short man by the window said.  “You trusted me to be mayor of pep ind dravid 3your little city, and I have tried to live up to your trust.”

Devya stopped pacing again and assured the man.  “You have done a good job, Megul the Short.  In fact, you may be mayor for a third term if you keep it up.”  She smiled again, but Megul the Short sighed and nodded.  Being Mayor was not an easy job.  Already hundreds of light skinned people from the steppes had moved down to the green and fertile land round the  city.  Keeping the peace among the tribes was not hard as long as the amulet of peace and prosperity was in place, but there was no telling what might happen once that magical help was removed.

Devya started pacing again.  It was a very big room, so she had plenty of room to move, and the big table in the center, where Chuchi had taken a seat to watch his mother, allowed her to pace around it in a wide circle, rather than just pacing back and forth.  She paused at the table where a crude map was laid out.

“There is no way to avoid it,” she breathed, though loud enough for everyone to hear.  “The City of Sanctuary is not enough.  We will have to build a little kingdom and exert more control over our connections to the silk road.  I would say from the Khyber pass, up to Bukhara.  From Samarkand to Merv in the other direction.”

Megul the short left his friend by the window and came to where Devya was leaning over the map, and Chuchi was looking over her shoulder.  “That is a lot of territory to control,” Megul the Short Devya 3protested.  “That may be more than any of the Holy Cities of the Indus control.”

“We don’t have to control it.  We just want to oversee it in a sense, to encourage the ideals of Sanctuary.  To support the peace and prosperity of all the people, especially when people begin to move in here by the thousands and tens of thousands.  We need to have a reasonable structure already in place.”

“Horses in the gate,” the man by the window reported, and the others all went to look

“Thank you , Miras,” Devya said, sounding better now that she had decided something.

###

The travelers were led up a steep path to the city gate, the city, really hardly a town, sat on the top of a hill.  It had a wall around it, stone and well fitted, and Katie had to remark.

“I smell Shemsu work in the fitting of those stones.”

“Probably cut, carried from some distant quarry and fitted perfectly.  The Shemsu way,” Lincoln spoke up from behind.  “It says here that Devya’s people have Shemsu roots.  From Zisudra’s day, I would guess.  Devya herself is described as having skin as dark as an African, but with Caucasian features and eyes as blue as the sky.”

“A fair description of my wife,” Avi interrupted.  “And yes, she speaks often of the Shemsu talent with stone, but right now we need hunters to track down whoever stole the amulet.  Devi says with all of the Indo-Iranians that are due to move in and through the area, without the amulet we can expect nothing but war and killing, and the destruction of our fertile valleys.”dev temple 8

They all dismounted, and Lincoln and Alexis volunteered to set the horses for the night so the others could go inside the temple, or cathedral, which is what the palace looked like.  As they crossed the front covered porch to go inside, Lockhart pointed out the rocking chairs.

“My favorite pastime,” Avi admitted.  “I can sit and rock for hours.  Devi says one day, far in the future, Romans and Han will meet here and rock and make treaties.  I do not know who these Romans and Han may be, but living in peace is a good thing.  I have seen too much of the alternative in my life.”

“As have we all,” Katie agreed.

“Boston!”  It was the first thing they heard when they went inside.

“Nuwa dragon already covered that,” Boston said, and stuck out her tongue.

“I see you are maturing in your elf life,” Devya said, as she reached out and gave Boston a hug.  “Lockhart, I am glad you are here.”

Avi went straight for his wife, Devya, and kissed her, which made her smile.

“I’m over forty, and he still makes me smile,” she said.  “Where is Alexis?” she looked around.  “Alexis would understand.”

dev amulet 1“She and Lincoln are looking after the horses,” Lockhart said, anxious to hear about what was going on.  “So Vanu,” he referred to a time zone almost fifteen hundred years in the past, real time.  “Did Dayni’s brother and friend steal the amulet again?”

Devya offered a grin as she remembered.

“You are not supposed to tell her about lifetimes she does not remember for herself,” Mingus scolded.

“It’s all right,” Devya assured them.  “Remembering Vanu was how I thought to get the amulet and bring it here to Sanctuary.”  She stepped to the back of the room where there were arched openings that led out to a tremendous cobblestone court.  She only took one step out, the others hovering behind and around her shoulders, and she called at the top of her lungs.  “Fuxi!”

A giant dragon materialized in the courtyard, and yawned, like he had been sleeping.  “I see you found your friends,” he said.

“Fuxi,” Devya said, sternly.  “Please look up and down your road once again, from Bukhara to the Khyber pass and tell me what you see.”  Fuxi rattled off information about several tribal groups, merchants, farmers, and one group of children paying in the road, but none were the ones Devya was looking for.  Fuxi yawned again as Devya gave her instructions.  “Stay in the court for now.  Do not wander off.  We will need you to help seek out the thieves in a very short while.”  Fuxi said nothing, while Devya led everyone back inside to the map on the table.

“I take it Fuxi saw us on the road,” Lockhart surmised.

Avi nodded.  “We did not expect you to be the thieves, but we thought you might have seen them if they hurried to Bukhara before we noticed the amulet was missing.”

“About thirty men came here a week ago and camped below the city,” Devya explained.  “They were not a typical migration group, being only men without women and children.  that should have raised what you call red flags, but I have been preparing our people to receive migrants by the hundreds and thousands over the next few hundred years, so no one said anything.”pep ind men

“Migrants?”  Katie, the doctor in ancient and medieval history and technology asked.

Devya stopped moving and turned to face everyone to be sure she had all of their attention.  She did not want to repeat herself.  “Yes,” she said.  “People are moving from the north, Siberia, from around the Caspian and Aral and the Tien Shan,  They are moving from all around and north of the black sea.  They are moving.  Areas become over hunted, populations get too big, groups push against groups, people begin to discover agriculture and look for where the grass is greener.”

“People are still just discovering agriculture?” Lockhart asked with some surprise.

“Yes, hush,” Katie hushed him, and Devya continued.

“This place, from Samarkand to Merv and from Bukhara to the Khyber is green.  The Monsoons off the Indian ocean have shifted to come up through Iran and we have benefited.  Tens of thousands, and over the centuries, hundreds of thousands of people will come here, but most will not stay.  History has called them the Indo-Irannian people, but they are really a very diverse people from many places.  When the giants in Iran recede, many will move down into that land and become Medes and Persians, and others.  Eventually, groups known as Indo-Aryans will move through the pass and invade the Indus, though it won’t be a conquest type invasion, more of a gradual takeover as the Indus dries and the Harappan people move down into the subcontinent.  Climate change, you know.  Eventually, the monsoons will shift back to the Indus and Iran will begin to dry, but that won’t happen for a long time.”

“So this is like the birthplace, like the womb for whole people groups and eventual great civilizations,” Katie said, with her eyes wide as if something just clicked in her thinking.

“Yes, but it will be a thousand years of blood if we cannot retrieve the amulet of peace and prosperity.  It must cover the land, and especially the center point, here, in the city which is supposed to be sanctuary.  Without it, we are doomed to war as these various groups fight for supremacy.”

“I can see that,” Decker said, and Lockhart, Katie, Elder Stow and Mingus all looked at him, wondering what was on his mind.  Boston looked at the map on the table.

nat Rhodes inand“What are these lines?” she asked.  “They look like more roads.”

“Very good, sweetheart,” Devya responded briefly as she also looked at Dekcer

“They are,” Chuchi said.  “But they are human made roads, not so good.  Especially the crooked one that edges the mountains to Samarkand.”  Chuchi pointed and smiled hard at Boston.  “Mother calls it a short-cut, but in truth it takes almost as long as going around by way of Bukhara.”  He leaned over to get closer to her face.  “This road is easier to follow, but longer.  It goes to Merv.”

Devya stepped between them.  “No, my son,” she spoke to Chuchi.  “She is an elf, and married.”

“Mother,” Chuchi protested, but the others smiled, except Mingus who appeared to be thinking hard.  Lincoln and Alexis came in at that point and Lincoln had to ask.

“So what did I miss?”

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You don’t have to miss anything.  Be sure to return next Monday (Tuesday and Wednesday) for the conclusion of Avalon, episode 4.2 The Storm Overhead.  The clouds are gathering as the travelers go in search of the missing amulet of peace and prosperity, and confront the thieves who stole it…

kavalon travelers horse 1