Artie woke feeling rested and very happy. It was not the sort of happiness that made her get teary eyed, but a kind of peaceful contentment sort of happiness that she never felt before. She looked over Anat’s head and Naman was awake.
“Good morning,” he whispered.
Artie listened to the sound of the early birds and whispered back, “Good morning.”
Anat squirmed between them without opening her eyes. “Not yet, mom and dad. I’m still sleeping.”
Artie looked at the girl and at Naman. She had to find out. Anat was ticklish, and she giggled, uproariously. Naman was not so ticklish, but Artie discovered she was. They rolled on the ground and laughed and laughed until they could not laugh any more. Then they sat and breathed deeply, and looked at each other, until Artie spoke.
“What happened last night?”
“What?” Naman asked.
“Not that,” Artie said, and turned a little red. “I didn’t mean that.”
“Oh, that was so wonderful,” Anat said in an exagerated way. Artie and Naman had to attack her with some more tickles. But it was after the fact, and Artie got her mind back on track.
“I mean after that,” She squinted at the girl and poked Anat on the nose to say, ‘be quiet’.
“I’m not sure,” Naman confessed. “Did it rain?”
“It got windy,” Anat said. “My hair would not stay still.”
Artie’s eyes squinted before they brightened all at once. “I just remembered something. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.”
“The Djin?” Naman suggested.
“He must have clouded my mind,” Artie nodded. “The answer is so obvious.” She sat down on the ground, crossed her legs and closed her eyes.
“What is she doing?” Anat asked.
“Hush,” Naman said. He saw his father and mother come out of the house with his brother Basan and his other sister, Doma. He waved for them all to come close, but be quiet. He had no idea what Artie was doing, but he felt it had to be important.
When Artie was settled in her heart and mind, she spoke. “Anath-Rama, my own goddess. I know I am within your realm, and I ask you to hear my plea. I have become lost, and have lost my companions. Will you help me to find them? We have a very long way still to go, and I cannot go alone.” She paused before starting again.
“Sakhmet, my sister. I know that Egypt is a long way from here, but you explained that you have access to this place. If you can hear me from so far away, I have lost and been separated from Mom and Dad, and I have been very afraid. Please dear sister, can you come and help me find my way home, to our family again.” She paused once more before starting again.
“Dear Karinna, my very best friend. I don’t know what kind of rituals I should perform to reach out to you. I am sure you have some lovely rituals and temples and everything by now. I was thinking we could have another sleepover. I would like that. And maybe in the morning you could help me find my companions. I am distressed, and unhappy, but you could meet my boyfriend. That would be nice. And Grandmother Hannahannah could come and watch over us, and keep us out of trouble again, like last time, if she wants.” Artie stopped because she did not know what else to say.
“Who?” Abinidab asked quietly.
“Arinniti, I think,” Naman answered and he hushed them.
“Now what?” Anat asked, not so quietly as she sat down beside Artie.
“Now we wait,” Artie said. “All I can do is ask.”
“All day?” Anat asked.
“If necessary,” Artie said and touched Anat on her nose again.
“All you have to do is ask,” an old woman said, as she tepped out from the dark at the back of the barn.
“Grandma,” Artie jumped up and ran to hug her. She remembered nothing about the night before.
“Too bad,” Hannahannah said. “The lovely Amphitrite was very thorough.”
“You are protected. You cannot get pregnant, though I am sure that is what the Djin wanted.” Artie put her hand to her belly, looked at Haman and smiled, weakly. “And that is too bad, because you would have made a wonderful mother.”
“Artie.” They all heard the word before they saw the woman come out of nowhere and bound up to Artie for a big hug. They took hands like a couple of schoolgirls and both talked at once, but after that initial gasping for breath, they each took a step back for a better look. “There is a switch,” Arinna said.
“Usually I leave them at sixteen and go away for just a short time, but by the time I get back, they are old and gray. But here, we had our sleepover in Aleppo, must have been three hundred years ago. I’ve lived those three hundred years. I’m all grown up now, but you are still sixteen, aren’t you?”
Artie nodded. “And I got a boyfriend.” She pointed to Naman, who was the only one who did not have his mouth and eyes wide open, or covered. Naman looked to be stiff with shock. Abinidab had fainted.
“I had a few of those,” Arinna said, but then softened and genuinely said, “I’m glad for you, and I see you have grown up.”
“Sister,” Sekhmet said and ran up to hug her sister. “Mom and Dad and everyone have been so worried about you.”
“You know Arinna?” Artie was polite. She did, and Artie was glad they were better than just cordial friends. Artie felt a tug on her dress and turned. Anat wanted to be introduced.
“Are you sure? You are too cute for them. They might not be able to resist you.”
“I’m sure. Karinna is so beautiful, I can hardly look at her. And your sister looks wild, and I bet she would be the best playmate. And your Grandmother looks like the best grandmother, ever. My grandmother is gone.” Anat pouted. “She died last year.”
Artie stepped back and let the goddesses have at it, and all three were positively charmed by the little girl. Artie put her arm around Naman’s waist. She hugged him a little, from the side, and he came around a little, but then the travelers appeared, with a few extra people nearby, and Artie ran, but not as fast as Katie ran. They hugged and cried and kissed. Lockhart was a couple of steps behind, and he watched, until the women grabbed him. Then he cried, too, but just a little
Artie went around to the travelers and hugged them all. Never was anyone so glad to see their friends. Boston pointed out Enki, the god, who wiggled his glasses and gave Artie a smile. Katie introduced a slightly rounded older man as the Kairos, Utumari, the Hittite governor of Kadesh.
“The king left him there after the war to hold the line against the Egyptians,” she said.
Then they came to Utumari’s wife, Anath, and Utumari got distracted, which was good, because Artie’s eyes got big. and Katie had to put her hand over Artie’s mouth. The woman had gray hair, and looked filled out, but Artie would recognize her goddess anywhere, no matter how she appeared. She cried a little more for loving Anath–Rama so much, but the woman merely hugged her and told her she loved her.
Artie looked up at Katie who said, “Hebat is mad that she did not think of it first.”
“But Hebat is married,” Karinna said. “I should know. She is my mother.” Karinna held Artie’s hands once more and said, “Sometimes, I think about that night and wish I could be young again to have a sleepover, one more time.”
“Me, too,” Artie said. “It was the most fun time, ever.”
Karinna smiled. “You sound like little Anat,” she said, and vanished.
Hannahannah made a special point of giving Katie a hug before she also vanished.
Utumari stayed long enough to meet the village elders before he, too, had to go. Enki was kind enough to take him and his wife back to Kadesh.
Sekhmet stayed, but she was well practiced at toning down her awesome nature so she could mingle with humans and no one would really know.
The whole village had another celebration that very night. Artie made Naman stay with Larsa, and he said he understood.
“She will make the best wife, and I will love her, and she will give me the best sons.”
“Make sure,” she told them both, sternly, and then she gave Naman’s mother a good talking to, Sekhmet hovering over her shoulder the whole time.
Two of the elders talked with Abinidab about the lion he saw in the neighborhood.
“The lion is gone,” Sekhmet interrupted, and decided to explain. “One of the gods must have seen your distress and moved it further down in the wilderness. Trust me. I know lions.”
“I should say Artie is the one who knows lions,” Abinidab said. The story had gotten around, and probably would be retold for many years.
Artie put her hand up. “I do swear. I only did what my big sister taught me. She is the best big sister in all the world and I always listen to her.”
“But not always do,” Sekhmet mumbled with a smile. They turned to walk back to their mom and dad and Sekhmet added. “That must make you the best little sister in the world.”
“No, that’s my job,” they heard as Anat squeezed between them. Sekhmet and Artie nodded in the same way at the same time, then looked at each other.
“Middle sister?” Artie suggested.
“Middle sister,” Sekhmet agreed.
Like the night before, the farmers left by nine, which felt more than late enough to be getting to bed. Katie looked at the girls, Artie, Sekhmet, and Anat sleeping with her head in Sekhmet’s lap.
“You bless her like that, she will end up marrying a king.”
“It will serve him right,” Sekhmet said, without explaining. Artie grinned, and Katie changed the subject.
“So, tell me about this boyfriend of yours.” Artie turned her head away slightly and blushed slightly. Katie drew in her breath. “Did you?” Artie blushed a little more and reached for Sekhmet’s hand as Sekhmet grinned. “You did.” Katie concluded, a little loud.
“Did what?” Lockhart looked up from what he was doing.
“Nothing,” all three women said together, and Lockhart swallowed and went back to what he was doing.
In the morning, Artie found out that she was right in front of the time gate that whole time, only she did not know it. She hugged the family goodbye, kissing Abinidab like a good daughter, and hugging Amma, who had reconciled in her head that her son was going to marry Larsa. Artie hugged Naman, and held him tight, but she did not cry. Then she hugged Larsa, because it felt like the right thing to do.
Freedom was saddled. Artie was in her riding slacks and pink shirt. She waved good-bye to the sruprising number of people who turned out to see them vanish into the air, and Katie and Artie followed Lockhart and Lincoln through the gate.
Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest. Kairos 67, The Nameless god…enough said…