Avalon 5.7 Little Lost Lamb part 6 of 6

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…

Happy Reading


Avalon 5.6 Notes from the Underworld, part 2 of 6

The travelers stopped in a grove of trees to rest and snack before they went into the city.  The horses needed extra rest and water to get through the desert.  Sekhmet kissed her sister, hugged her mom and dad, and told them to not take too long—that she would meet them in the gate.  She vanished, and the travelers adjusted their clothes and their minds to being in a hot and dry land.  It made quite the contrast from the chilly wind and rain of Greece, and Alexis said, with the sudden, drastic change in climates every time they stepped through a gate, it was a wonder they didn’t all end up with pneumonia.

The travelers got to Memphis in record time, and as they sat for their mid-morning snack, they talked of small things and tried not to focus on how much further they had to go to get back to their own twenty-first century lives.

“So, that Horemheb was not relate to the Horemheb that was governor of Memphis back in Rachel’s day?” Lockhart wanted to be sure.

“Not an uncommon name in the eighteenth dynasty, I would guess,” Katie said, and placed a hand gently on his shoulder so he would look at her.  All he wanted to do was look at her.  That brought a different thought to Lincoln’s mind.

“So, Major.  What was going on between you and Meriope?”

Decker growled, but softly.  “She’s a virgin dedicated to the goddess, and no way I was going to break that bond.”  Everyone turned to look at him.  Even Artie paused in her staring and grinning at Katie and Lockhart.  Decker took a sip of his tea and completed his thought.  “That was just Aphrodite toying with me.”

A wail came up from the river.  People jumped, Katie, Decker and Lockhart ending up on their feet.  It sounded human, but not exactly human at the same time, and every spine felt chilled by the sound.

“Let us look,” Alexis said, and Boston nodded, but looked like she was not sure if that was such a good idea. They practiced going invisible, and ran toward the water.  The others felt the wind.

Elder Stow got out his scanner and after a moment he announced, “I don’t see anything.  This little scanner is useless.”  He turned it over.  “It is fully charged, but that Anazi equipment I use to keep it charged is on its last legs.”

Boston and Alexis stopped by the water where an odd sight greeted them.  A cobra that had to be nine or ten feet long had a six-foot crocodile wrapped up, like a boa or a python.  They were thrashing around the edge of the water, and it looked like the crocodile was losing the battle.

“That makes no sense,” Alexis said.  “Cobras don’t get that big, and they are not constrictors.”  Alexis and Boston watched for a moment before she turned her head toward Alexis and Alexis added, “I learned something about snakes and poison in nursing school.  You know, venom has medicinal properties.”

Boston nodded, and checked first to be sure the way was safe before she bent down to the water and tapped the surface.  “Little ones.  Water babies,” she called.  “In the name of the Kairos and on the Kairos’ business I would speak with you.”  She tried calling twice before she looked back at Alexis.

“I sense fear,” Alexis said, just before a woman appeared, standing on the water.  The woman looked to be made of water, like a water sprite, but she was clearly more than a sprite. She was a naiad of the river—Boston felt the power in the woman—and she might have been there watching the whole time without their knowing it.

“They are afraid,” the woman confirmed what Alexis felt.  “I am one of the many daughters of the Nile, and I can speak to the questions I see in your hearts and minds.  In the beginning, by decree of the Aten Ra, Sutek became the chief defender of the Re.”  She paused to point at the sun.  “But Sutek became corrupted and got sent over to the other side ages ago.  Horus became the king, as the Aten Ra decreed, but then the Aten himself freely chose to depart for the other side.  In these last years, the Aten tried to return and the gods themselves feared to see it.  The Kairos prevented that return, and the gods are pleased, but in the process, the underworld became torn and shaken.  Chaos has come.”

“Chaos?” Alexi asked.

“A forbidden class of demons your Kairos calls poltergeist have been released from their prison on the other side.  They are formless and shapeless, but they can haunt life and are the very nature of chaotic evil.  Worse, Apophis, the god of chaos himself has escaped from the underworld.  Now the Re is in grave danger, the Aton is no longer able to decree otherwise, Sutek is no longer there to defend him, and Horus is withdrawn into his own safe space and wishes to remain apart from this place.  The world stands in peril.  Apophis may eat this world, beginning with the Re, which is the sun.”  She did not vanish, exactly.  She split into a million droplets of water and blended back into the great river.

“That sounds bad,” Boston said, and Alexis led them back to the others where they reported the news and what they saw.  Lockhart wisely moved them on to the city.  He felt what they all felt, that there was nothing they could do about the trouble, though of course they would help if they could.  Sekhmet met them in the gate, and when they told her what they learned, she shrugged it off.

“Those river girls live to trouble the waters,” she said.

Sekhmet took them to a private home where the horses would be safe and the travelers could sleep well without the need for keeping watch.  By the time they arrived, they relaxed and put the worried thoughts out of their minds.  The man of the house looked to be about forty; and he showed them great kindness before he let it slip that he knew who they were and that they were trying to return to the twenty-first century.

“I am Ptah,” he admitted.  “I am Sekhmet’s actual father, though I don’t mind that you have adopted her.  You two seem to have a good heart for strays as well as for each other.”  Ptah smiled for Katie and Lockhart and added, “Here, my daughter told me that I am supposed to say it is a shame you are not yet married.  You know, we could arrange things easily enough; but honestly, I know you will do what is in your heart when the time is right.”  He turned to his own thoughts.

Katie took Lockhart’s hand, but then asked what put that serious look on Ptah’s face.

“Eh?” he looked up.  “No, I just realized that you are a clue to the mystery of dissolution.  The gods, most of the gods are aware that a day will come when our life in the flesh will come to an end.  We will return to the spiritual realm, and the spirit lives we had at first, without eyes or ears or any way to know how we are affecting life on the earth.  Some, well… Many protest that humanity will not survive without our willful guidance—without the testing of the soul, and pointing the right way.   But here you are.  You come from after the time of dissolution, whenever that may be, and you are mature and intelligent and quite capable of building a good life without our interference.”

In that moment, Boston came running down the hall, followed by Alexis and another elf maid, and she yelled.  “Hey, look.  We got elves.”

“House elves,” Alexis said, over Boston’s shoulder.

Sekhmet and Artie also came in from the patio, looked at everyone, and giggled.

Lincoln came in from the stables shaking his head and holding his nose.  Decker and Elder Stow followed.  Elder Stow kept trying to explain that the expulsion of gas shows that your guest is relaxed and content in your home, like a good burp after eating shows respect for the food.

“You were saying about intelligent and mature,” Lockhart said.


Mutemwiya and her neighbor, Nephthys, walked slowly to the town marketplace, two old ladies walking at an old lady pace.  Kiya, burdened with her big bag of vegetables that banged her hip every time she picked up her feet, decided that the slow pace to town was just as well.

Bubastis was a growing, vibrant place.  It became a little city in only the last hundred years, as Kiya recalled from conversations with the palace bookkeepers—what felt like ages ago.  That was one of the reasons she chose to hide in Bubastis. The town had new faces almost every day, so people paid no attention.

The Nile had slowly shifted, as it did, making new arms there and revealing more fertile soil here in its march to the sea.  Bubastis slowly gained land, good fertile land, and people came to till that land, and the city grew.  Kiya imagined the city would grow for another few hundred years before the Nile slowly shifted again and the city started to shrink again.

“We must stop at the temple on the way,” Mutemwiya reminded them, as if they had forgotten.  “We must offer our best to the goddess if we hope to have success in the market.”

Kiya smiled.  Bast served as goddess of many things, but mostly she was goddess of luck.  Kiya had certainly been lucky to stay hidden as she had for so many years.

Avalon 5.4 The Mystery of the Madness, part 5 of 6

The following evening, the travelers entered the city of Memphis, and immediately exited the city again near the Nile where the shacks of the poor huddled close together.  Lincoln and Lockhart wondered how they would ever find one Rachel in the unwashed masses, especially since Rachel appeared to be a common enough name among the Semites.  Fortunately, Sakhmet found them first.

“Come on,” she said.  “Rachel has her detectives over for brainstorming.  I don’t know what brainstorming is, but it sounds like an interesting concept.”

They arrived at the house, and were expected.  Apparently, Sakhmet informed Rachel in advance, so they had plenty of food prepared.  Alexis did get to offer bread, but otherwise, everyone ate what the locals had to offer.  And it was more than plenty, and afterwards, Rachel’s parents and family went to visit aunts and uncles so Rachel and her friends could have the house.  After squeezing in and some shuffling of seats, Rachel introduced her detective club.

“This is Surti.  She is one of the chief cooks in the governor’s house and came here to help mother prepare this feast.”  Everyone said it tasted very good.  “Surti is the smart one, like Velma.  Meme is more like Daphne, you know, beautiful, but not much going on upstairs.”  Rachel tapped her temple.

“I would rather be beautiful than smart,” Meme said.

“Sadly, too many women feel that way,” Alexis responded.

“Hotep,” Rachel continued.  “He gets to be Fred.  While David, and his friend Joseph get to be Shaggy and Scooby.  I’ll leave it to you to decide which is which.”  David and Joseph were still nibbling on supper, and the bread Alexis made.

“And what does that make you?”  Boston asked.  “You are young again, by the way.  Almost the youngest I have seen you.”

“As young as me,” Artie said.

“And you have Daphne looks and Velma brains,” Katie said.

“No,” Rachel said.  “I’m the director and Sakhmetet, my friend, is the producer in charge of special effects.”

“That means I get to be in charge of all the money, whatever money is.” Sakhmet, alias Sakhmetet said.

Lockhart, Lincoln, Artie, and Elder Stow had no idea who Rachel was alluding to, but they did not worry about it, except Lockhart who nudged Katie.  “It’s a generational thing,” Katie said.  “I’ll explain it to you later.”

Decker harumphed and stepped outside.  He understood the show and the characters, but he would not admit it.  He came back in with two of the lanterns the travelers sometimes used in the dark.  It lit the inside of the shack like day, and he settled back into his seat.  That little shack was full.  They did not have any extra room to move around.

When Rachel turned to introduce her friends from the future, she mentioned things the travelers rarely paid attention to.

“Captain Katie Harper and Major Decker are soldiers, like captains of the host, or maybe Decker is more like a general.  Decker is especially trained in covert operations; that is, dealing with secret work being done by one person or a group, and figuring out how to shut them down.  He might be able to recognize something that is not right, or normal.  Likewise, Lincoln used to work for the CIA.  He is trained to gather secret information, and whoever is cursing the men, he is doing a remarkable job of keeping his hand secret and hidden.”

“That kind of work takes time,” Decker countered.  “Digging up secrets is not an overnight job.”

Lincoln agreed.  “It usually takes months, sometimes years.”

“All the same,’ Rachel said.  “We might only need a set of trained, fresh, outside eyes to see what we might be missing.”  Decker and Lincoln did not disagree with that idea, so she continued.  “Artie and Elder Stow have the most outside eyes.  Artie’s problem is she has not been in normal, human life for very long and might not recognize something that is out of the ordinary.”

“But my sister is smart,” Sakhmetet interrupted.  “She sees more than you think.  She just has to learn to mention it and share what she sees, like not be slow to ask questions.”

“Seems to me she asks plenty of questions,” Katie spoke up.

“All the same,” Rachel said.  “Ask, and Elder Stow has special equipment that might pick up a stray energy source, for example, that might be out there, and help pinpoint things if the Masters are behind this.”

“I will get to work on that right away,” Elder Stow volunteered.

Rachel nodded by way of thanks.  “Now, Alexis, Boston and Sakhmetet all have special abilities and contacts I am not at liberty to talk about.”

“I’m not getting involved on that level,” Sakhmetet objected.

Rachel nodded, but did not respond directly.  “If this is the result of bad magic or spiritual forces, like maybe with the blessing of one of the gods, these are the ones who can figure that out.”  Rachel looked at Sakhmetet, and Sakhmetet raised no further objection to the idea that one of the gods might be behind it all.  As they thought about it, that even seemed likely.

“And the big fellow?” Hotep asked.

One chair, the eighth, remained empty at the table where Rachel, Hotep, Surti, Meme, David, Joseph, and Sakhmetet sat, staring at Lockhart.  The travelers mostly sat where they could around the room and on the floor, but they also looked in Lockhart’s direction as Rachel spoke.  “Lockhart needs a seat at the table.  He was a police officer and knows all about the law, hard clues, permissible evidence, and real detective work.”  Rachel patted the empty chair beside her, and Lockhart got up to sit.

“So, what have we got?” he asked.  “You have suspects?”

Rachel nodded, and heard no objection to sharing the list.

“You need to determine if they have means, which is to say, are they capable of doing the crime.  Motive, that is, do they have something to gain by doing the crime.  And Opportunity, which is, were they alone and in the neighborhood when the crime occurred, or do they have some alibi that suggests they could not have committed the crime.”  Lockhart turned and smiled at Katie.  “Police work, 101.  Means, motive and opportunity.”

“That is very good,” Surti said, and at least Hotep nodded.  “I will have to remember that.”

“So, here is what we got,” Rachel said.  “And my people can object if I explain it wrong, or put in information if I forget anything.”

“You mean us?” David asked.

“No, the wallboard,” Meme shot at him, and stared as they both turned toward Joseph.  Joseph had his mouth stuffed with bread at the moment, so he could only smile and wave at them.

“This is getting exciting,” Hotep said, and he slipped his hand over Rachel’s hand, and she did not object to that, but the travelers all snickered a little.  They knew the Kairos usually came surrounded by monsters, and they often arrived in the middle of a fight.  Normally there was not time to sit down to a pleasant meal and think about it.

“Top of the list is Sokar, the weasel.  He is a foreigner, a Hyksos, but he styles himself as an Egyptian.  He has the position of assigning the daily tasks to the Semite groups, and if you cross him, you will get the manure work.”

“I assume, in this day and age, that would be literal manure work,” Decker said.

Rachel answered with a nod.  “Sokar has a fine house in the city, and some servants.  He knows all the right people, and even has the ear of the governor.”

“Means, motive, opportunity,” Lockhart said.  “What makes him a suspect?”

“He wants to kill off the Jews,” she looked at David.  “The children of Abraham,” she explained, and added, “My friends know what I mean by Jews.”

David interjected.  “We have been reduced to making bricks and working in the clay pits and mines.  It is the most grueling and short lived of lives, usually reserved for criminals.”

“Is that a sufficient motive?” Lockhart asked.

“Yes, for the masters.  They, and the demons, would love nothing better than to eliminate the Jews at this point in history—before they ever get to the promised land.”

“It is true,” Hotep said.  “We overheard Sokar talking to my father, the governor, and accusing Rachel’s people of cursing the Egyptians and causing the madness.”

Lockhart nodded, and Rachel continued.  “The rest are further down the list.  Amonre is the chief of the night watch.  He is an ass, but that doesn’t mean he is guilty of anything.  The main evidence is circumstantial.  Thus far, he has managed to be in the right place at the right time, seven times now, to stop the madmen before they could do much damage.”

“He is either doing his job very well or he is very lucky,” Surti suggested.

“Or he is in on it and has inside information,” Lockhart said.  “One to watch.”

Rachel nodded again.  “Then there is old Haman.  He is a kindly old man, and I should have no reason to suspect him but for his clichés.”

David interrupted.  “You mean the royal gardener?  Our old man Haman?”

Rachel nodded again, and Hotep smiled at her, and watched her long brown hair bob up and down.  In fact, most of that time, he could hardly take his eyes off her.  Rachel ignored Hotep and spoke.

“It is the most circumstantial, but he speaks in clichés such as you know, and always gets them in the right context and everything.  Things like, there is safety in numbers, and, better safe than sorry.  This morning he said, when the demon-man showed up he was frightened out of his wits.  When I asked if they might catch the person responsible, he said, time will tell, and it is only a matter of time.”

“Purely circumstantial,” Lockhart agreed.  “But again, oddly coincidental.”

“Don’t forget Miriam the Healer,” David said, and Meme nodded strongly.

“The Healer?”  Alexis asked.

“A first-class witch,” Rachel said.  “An Ammonite, I believe.”

“Who?” Hotep asked Rachel, having missed earlier discussions of her.

“You remember,” Rachel said, as they unconsciously took a better hold of each other’s hands, and she explained for Hotep and the travelers.  “You got sick when you were about ten.  He had the measles, a good Anazi disease, thank you very much.  Your father called in the woman when the Egyptian physicians proved powerless.  She healed you.”

“I remember you stayed with me the whole time.”

“I did.  Someone had to defend you from the quacks.”

Hotep smiled for the group.  “She calls Egyptian physicians quacks, but won’t explain.”

“They wanted to bleed him with leeches,” Rachel and Hotep were both smiling broadly, holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes.

“So, Sotek, Amonre, Haman, and Miriam, the ammonite witch, who sounds like the only one who might have the means to do the work of infesting people with demons,” Katie spoke up from the floor.

“Powerful, like the Witch of Endor,” Rachel said, and turned her eyes back to the conversation.  “But Miriam has only done good, as far as I know.”

“The fifth suspect could be someone completely unknown to you that you have not even thought of,” Lockhart added.  The people all agreed that that was a possibility.

Avalon 5.4 The Mystery of the Madness, part 3 of 6

Rachel went out to the kitchen where Surti was cooking a fine meal.  She got her cloak and said good-bye to Surti and Meme, and said she would see them in the morning.  About a third of the servants in the house were Egyptians who stayed in the house overnight, to care for the family and whatever guests there might be, and to meet any needs that might come up in the dark.  A good two-thirds of the servants were Semites, and some were children of Abraham.  The latter waited for her at the gate, because she was late.  They normally walked home at sundown.

The guards, who were all Egyptians, smiled and waved her through, and old Haman spoke right up.  “It wouldn’t be safe to walk home alone in the dark these days with madmen roaming the streets.  Things go bump in the night.  I made everyone wait for you.”

“Thank you,” Rachel said, genuinely grateful, though she had not seen any madmen yet.  She had only heard about them, but what she heard scared her to no end.  They did not sound like madmen.  They sounded like demonized men who went out into the streets to steal, kill and destroy, which was all demons knew how to do, other than lie.  They were said to have great and terrible strength, to punch through walls, and kill an ordinary mortal with one punch.  They were said to cut themselves when they could, like men trying to kill themselves, though some said they were unnaturally attracted to blood.

“Never you worry,” Haman said.  “We are family, and I know there is safety in numbers.”  Haman said things like bump in the night or safety in numbers once in a while, and that made Rachel raise her eyebrows.  Mostly, they were common sense things, but as often as not, they were expressions that became clichés in the future.  It meant nothing, necessarily, but it did make Rachel wonder if the outwardly nice old man, Haman, might be one to watch.

Rachel decided then and there if her people were being accused of bringing the madness on the people, the only way to save her people would be to find the real culprits.  Rachel would have to become detective Rachel, but then she grinned.  “One old man.  One beardless boy.  And three women, one of whom is my mother’s age, and one of whom is as old as you.”

“I’m the eldest,” one of the women spoke up.

“I got fuzz on my chin,” the boy protested.

“But you are right,” She smiled for the old man.  “We are safer together.”

Old Haman nodded, but then stopped, and the whole group stopped with him.  There was a man in the street.  He held a bloody ax and chased after a young couple.  The young girl and boy were both screaming, the boy maybe one pitch higher.

The ax man stopped suddenly and turned to stare at Rachel’s group.  He yelled, though it was hard to make out what he actually said.  It sounded like, “The Kairos and the Jews.  Kill them now.  Kill them now.”

The women, except Rachel, screamed.  The boy ran.  Haman stood still in his panic as the ax man approached, or maybe he knew he was safe.  Rachel asked Amun Junior to come and step into her shoes.  It felt like a prayer, but from somewhere in the deep past, Junior agreed.  Rachel vanished and Junior appeared, and he came dressed in the armor of the Kairos.  He had a great sword at his back, and a long knife across the small of his back, if they were needed.

Junior raised his hand, and the ax man froze in place, though clearly the ax man resisted with all his might.  It made no difference.  Amun Junior lived as one of the gods of Egypt for the sake of Amun, his father.  That meant he was not only a god, but in his own jurisdiction.  His will was absolute, limited only by the actions of other Egyptian gods or the Most-High God.

The ax man did manage a slight roar, but a much louder and deeper echoing roar came from down the street.  As Junior examined the demon filled man, a lion appeared.  The women behind him, and Haman stared, and even the boy came back to stare and gasp as the lion turned suddenly into a beautiful woman.  She ran up to Junior and threw her arms around him.

“Wait, sister,” Junior told her, and she waited while the night watch arrived.  The head of the night watch, Amonre, seemed a gruff and cruel man.  Rachel did not like him.  Worse, Rachel did not trust him, but he did seem to be getting the madmen before they did too much damage.  Rachel thought it might be a bit too convenient how he knew where to find them.  The watch took the ax and bound and gagged the man so he could not escape, though he could struggle and swear through the gag.

“Thoroughly demonized,” Junior said, and gave a gentle brotherly kiss to his sister, Sakhmet.

Sakhmet returned the familial kiss with a word.  “Not a vampire type demon, though they may become that if they are killed.  I don’t know.  Demons are not my strong point.”

“They should not be anyone’s strong point.  They aren’t allowed to inhabit flesh and blood,” he said.

“Tell them that.”

“As defender of Upper Egypt, I imagined you would be in Thebes.”

“I came to Memphis to visit my father Ptah when this whole thing started.”

“And any word from mother, or I should say, not-my-mother Ishtar?”

Skhmet grinned at her half-brother and shook her head.  “Not lately.  She stays pretty much in Mesopotamia these days, and I have my work here.”

Junior nodded.  “And where is Wadjt, defender of lower Egypt.  This is her city.”

Sakhmet made a face.  “She is on the outs since she let the Hyksos in a couple of hundred years ago, and she encouraged them.  I think she is still sulking.”

Junior nodded again.  “I was with the Hyksos, you know.  I did my best to spare Memphis.  Wadjt said she did not care if the city got burned to the ground.”

“Unhappy love affair,” Sakhmet explained.  “The girl died young, and Osiris would not let her come back.  Wadjt told Horus to screw himself with his own glasses and went off to sulk.”

“She was very sulky back then.”

“So, who are you this time?” Sakhmet asked, as Amonre and the watch dragged off the demonized man.  Junior made the two of them invisible, and hoped Haman did not see.

“Rachel,” he said, and traded places with Rachel so she could hug Sakhmet herself and say, “Thank you for watching over us.”

Sakhmet frowned and said, “Tell my brother I’ve been a full-grown woman for some time now.  He doesn’t have to do things for me or think for me anymore.”

“Sorry” Rachel said.  “But I need you to make me visible again as soon as I figure out how to not make the others notice.  I’m working undercover.”

“The demon noticed you, and who you were.” Sakhmet said.  “But you seem like a sweet girl.”

Haman called.  “Rachel.”

“Here I am,” Rachel called back from down the street where she found herself.

“Tell him you got scared and ran off. Oh.” Sakhmet, still invisible to the rest of the world, paced her, but appeared to get excited.  She clapped her hands rapidly, like a six-year-old, and shouted.  “They’re here.  My adopted mom and dad.  Talk to you later.” She vanished altogether.

Rachel mumbled.  “All grown up and mature.”  She laughed a little while Haman spoke.

“I got worried when I didn’t see you.  I thought maybe you vanished into thin air”

Rachel squinted at the man.  “Yes, but I realized it would not have been right to run off and leave you to the madman.  So here I am, safe and sound.”  She squinted again when she said safe and sound, but he betrayed nothing.

“The watch came and got him, and just in time.  And there was a lion, but I don’t understand that part.”

“The lion of Judah?” Rachel suggested, and the boy perked up as they continued on the journey home.

“I didn’t know Judah had a lion.”

“It’s an old story,” the old women said.  “Older than me.”  She smiled at herself and told the boy the story.