Avalon 4.2: The Storm Overhead, part 1 of 6

After 2335 BC, Sanctuary on the Silk Road.  Kairos 48: Devya, First Daughter of the Indus.

Recording …

The travelers came into the time zone under a heavy cloud.  It was a rough and rocky place.  The hills were strewn with stones and patches of tall scrub grass turned dry and yellow in the late summer.  There appeared to be a grassy path that pointed in the direction they were headed, and more than one of them remarked how like a road it was.  They pointed to places here and there where others traveled that road and left signs of their passage.

“The only thing we are missing is the occasional road sign,” Lincoln joked.

“I don’t like the looks of that cloud,” Alexis spoke up.  Her eyes were not down on the grass.  The black cloudcloud was very dark and low in an otherwise bright, blue sky.  It looked suspicious, if clouds can look suspicious.  Lincoln studied it, but said nothing.  Lockhart and Katie looked, having overheard.  They were not talking to each other much at that point, so they were happy to have the interruption.

“It appears to be moving off, same direction, but much faster than us,” Lockhart said.  He turned to consider the sun and concluded they were headed southwest.  They would spend the afternoon riding into the sun.

“No telling the wind speed at that elevation,” Katie said.  “Maybe it is hurrying to catch up with the rest of the storm before unloading.  It looks heavy with rain.”

“I doubt the cloud thinks,” Lockhart said.  He did not mean for it to sound as disagreeable as it sounded.

“I don’t know,” Katie hedged.  “I used to believe the world was full of what Lady Alice described as dead, empty matter and energy, the way moderns think of it, but since coming on this mission, I have come to realize that what Alice said is true.  The whole universe is more or less alive in one way or another, and we humans are just too thick and stupid to perceive it.”

“More or less,” Alexis butted into the conversation, since Lincoln went back to read in the database.  “It is unlikely that cloud, or any given cloud is sentient, but it has enough life to respond to a word of power, like a creative word of the gods or magic, you know.  After all, this whole universe was created out of nothing by the Word of God.”

Lockhart and Katie gave Alexis a funny look, and Katie responded.

“You were born and raised an elf.  I would not have expected that from you.  Boston maybe, but not you.”

Alexis 2“Since I became human, I’ve become a good Methodist.  I don’t know.  Boston is right.  I am a serious liberal about most things, but when you realize the universe is alive and growing and changing everywhere, the idea of a creator makes a lot more sense than everything happening by freak accident.  Besides, we have met some of the gods, and everything leads me to believe even they will have to answer some day to someone or something greater than them.”

“Very well said,” a woman responded, but it went in and out of the traveler’s ears like a thought so they made no effort to look around to locate that woman.

“The silk road,” Lincoln raised his voice and distracted everyone.  “This is not the Indus Valley.  Obviously there are no Harappan villages around here.  I might have to revise that if we run into any stray Dravidians, but I would guess we are probably somewhere between Merv and Smarkand.

“Samarkand.  There is a name of legend,” Katie grinned.

“For the record,” Lockhart said.  “I didn’t like the looks of that cloud either.”  Lockhart stopped, so the rest stopped.

Father Mingus and Boston came up from the rear.  “Time to walk the horses?” Mingus asked.

“Lunch,” Lockhart announced.  He got down and spoke more softly for whoever was listening.  “There is some good grass here for the horses, and we have a good trail for as far as I can see, so let the horses rest and then we can ride until the trail peters out.”

“It is a good trail,” Katie said, as she watched Decker and Elder Stow come in from the flanks to join them.  She was listening.  She also looked at Lockhart with an expression that said she was sorry for whatever she did.  Lockhart got busy getting out the remains of breakfast.

Mingus and Boston were in charge of the fire.  They could both start a fire by magic, even in the fire campfire 1worst conditions.  In this place, they had to be careful not to set the dry grasses on fire, but they found a good location, and soon the fire was roaring.

Lincoln and Alexis were in charge of checking the area for any edibles to enhance their meal.  Alexis had the vitamins that everyone took in the morning, so there was no danger of scurvy or any other such sickness, but Alexis had her limits on a diet of deer, deer, elk and deer, as she called it.  She and Lincoln usually found tubers or berries or something, and Alexis normally did not have to resort to her magic to help.

Decker and Lockhart took over the hunting duties after Roland was taken from them.  Elder Stow with his scanner and Katie with her military rifle took guard duty.  Katie complained at first, saying she could take a turn on the hunt, but Lockhart reminded her of her duty.

“You are an elect, strong, tough, gifted to fight with or without weapons, able to sense danger and when an enemy is near.  I thought since Neolithic times it was the job of the elect to defend the home and guard the women and children when the men went out to hunt.”

“Yes, but,” Katie hedged.  “We don’t have any children.”  As she said that, Boston came running into the camp at about 50 miles per hour, testing her elf speed, and whooping like a teenager on the last day of school.  “Point taken,” Katie said.  So she and Elder Stow defended the camp while Lockhart and Decker hunted.

On that afternoon, no one needed to hunt.  They had leftovers, and Alexis found some berries and some greens she could boil.  The berries tasted sweet while the greens had a bit of a bitter taste, but Alexis said the greens were like spinach, full of iron, so everyone ate some.

Avalon travelers horses 3When lunch was over, Lockhart whistled.  The horse he had named Dog came trotting up, and the other horses followed.

“You do that very well,” Katie told him.  Lockhart made no response.  He slipped his arms around her and kissed her hard, and she kissed him right back.  The words between them were not spoken out loud, but they did not have to be.

It was less than an hour after lunch when the travelers came across three things.  The first was a very small village, actually only a few huts close together in a valley just below their position.  The village was nestled up to a hillside and the planted fields, now fallow after the harvest, spread in every direction from there, but for the road.  From their viewpoint, the travelers could see where the road continued to the west-southwest beyond the village.  It stood out like a clear border between the fields.

Second, Boston shook her amulet and rode to the front to report.  “I have never seen this happen before,” she said.  “We were headed perfectly on the road, but suddenly the target turned to the south-southeast, almost like we are supposed to turn left in the village there.”

“Maybe one of the gods took…Devya?”  Alexis began, and Lincoln nodded to the name.  “Maybe one of the gods took Devya on a ride, you know, instant teleport.”

“I don’t think so, maybe,” Boston said as she continued to tap her amulet, and Katie got hers out to confirm the direction.

“I can see where a new road covers that direction,” Decker said as he joined the group.  He pointed.  “There, where that barn-like building sits on the edge of the village, by the fields.”  Several saw.

“But how can it just change direction like that?” Katie asked.

“I did that,” they heard a woman say.  “You would have struggled to get over the mountains.  I thought it would be easier to go around the mountains on my road.”

“Who is speaking?  Where are you?” Alexis asked.

“Right here,” the voice said.  “Devya calls me the Great Silk Worm.” A great, wingless dragon, a truedragon 6 worm still sporting feathers like a young one, appeared beside the travelers, bigger than any imagined a dragon should be.  It was Smaug sized, and looked able to swallow a horse and rider in a single gulp.

The people all gasped.  Elder Stow let out one expletive and checked his scanner since the dragon appeared on his flank.  But the horses did not show any concern, and the dragon explained., without moving her lips to match her words, Lincoln noticed

“No, the horses cannot perceive me, and neither can the village people.”

“Just as well,” Lockhart tried to pull himself together.  “The Y. M. C. A. hasn’t been invented yet.”

Decker let out a rare grin.  Katie spoke, accusing.  “You’ve been saving that one.  How long have you been saving that one?”  Everyone smiled a little and tried to relax, but then the dragon got it and let out a laugh which was probably not as frightening as a roar, but close enough.

Avalon 3.7: part 2 of 5, The Geography Lesson

“I must say, this does not look like the silk road to me,” Lincoln said. “Are you sure we didn’t stumble on to the rock road?” They had to walk the horses all day because the terrain was rock strewn and the footing too uncertain.

“Well,” Nuwa responded. “We are pretty far away from home. I am sure you imagined taking a leisurely stroll along the He River.”

“It would have been nice,” Lincoln agreed

“Well, in this case, either we skirt the mountains—Tibet, where I believe the Pendratti are hold up in some underground lair, or we cross the Taklimakan desert. I suppose we could have looked in the Tian Shan, the mountains north of the desert, but the Di of the land do not fully control that area. The Tibet area also has much autonomy, but it is closer to home and the likely suspect.”Nuwa silk road 3

“Did you consider the Pendratti might have landed in the desert?” Katie asked. “They are reptilian, are they not?”

“Not enough flora and fauna to research, and too far from people other than the Qinjong, and they seemed to have made a pact with the Qinjong to supply people for their needs. The desert does have some strips and places where springs and winter melt allow for some surface water, but they will be my third choice for looking.”

“Tian Shan Mountains?” Lincoln asked. He was trying to work the database with one hand so he could keep the other hand on his horses reigns.

“The desert is minimally under control of the Di, and the Tian Shan are least under their control, sort of like Aesgard exerting some control over Russia, but less and less as you move out into Siberia. Siberia, in many places, is a bit like a no-man’s land. So it is with Tibet, the Taklimakan Desert in the Tarim Basin and the Tian Shan. The Shang-Di claims more than he can handle. The Tian Shan are mountains that really belong to Tien or Tian and his siblings, along with a chunk of Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan and other Stans.”

“Afghanistan?”

“No. At that point down the silk road you are getting into Brahmin territory, and he keeps edging toward the Indus Valley. It’s complicated.”

“Look out!” Roland yelled from the front. It appeared as if the whole side of the mountain was headed toward them. Conversation stopped abruptly as they mounted and road, dangerous footing for the horses or not. Katie grabbed Nuwa and hauled her up behind as she kicked Beauty into high gear. All of that loose rock was going to catch them, but at once it stopped, utterly and completely, like it ran into a damn.

Nuwa silk road 6Everyone looked at Elder Stow, but he shrugged. “I couldn’t get a screen up in time, and I have no screen strong enough to stop that.”

Nuwa got right down. “Tuti. Thank you.”

The rocks rumbled in answer and the ones out front crumbled into sand.

“I assume the Taklimakan has plenty of sand,” Lincoln said as he got back down, breathing hard, almost as if he had run that distance.

“Buckets full,” Nuwa said, but she was not paying attention. She was scanning the ridge.

“There,” Katie pointed and handed down her binoculars. Nuwa watched a small Pendratti ship take to the sky while a dozen or more Qinjong rode off on their ponies. She followed the Pendratti ship before she handed back the binoculars.

“I would say we are headed in the right direction,” Nuwa said, before she called. “Decker, Roland, Elder Stow! From here on you need to keep your eyes open for some kind of ambush.   Hoopers!” One hopped up to receive instructions. “Set your people around the group at a distance to give us warning if the Qinjong, Pendratti or others are coming near, or if we are going to come near them. Send your swiftest in the direction taken by the Pendratti craft. We may be near enough now that maybe they can long-sight where it lands.”

The hooper bowed and bounced off at a remarkably rapid pace. “I made them shortly after I made Friend, the first Hobgoblin, I mean Xiang me made them,” Nuwa mused. “It was like I made Friend carefully, like a fine sculpture, but for these I was sort of doing my laundry and threw the wet dirt at them.” Nuwa shrugged. “I think I had a bad marriage. I don’t recall, exactly. Then again, I wasn’t married to Fuxi the fish brained.”Nuwa fuxi fishing 2

“Why do you call him that? He has a good reputation in the myths,” Katie said.

Nuwa raised her eyebrows. “So I do something worth remembering and he gets the credit? It figures.”

“Not so, or not entirely,” Katie said. “You have quite a reputation yourself, and for more than just being a wife and mother.”

“I do? Well, don’t tell me about it because even if the legends are wrong, I don’t want to change it. I live in fear of knowing how history is supposed to turn out and then screwing it up. It is the law, you know. You aren’t supposed to tell the Kairos about things she hasn’t experienced. If anyone remembers me …” Nuwa laughed at the thought of being remembered in history.

###

“So where are we going?” Boston asked over supper. “Because as long as we are traveling with you, we certainly aren’t getting closer to the next time gate.”

“We are in a valley of sorts between the Kunlun Mountains and the Tibetan Plateau,” Lincoln tried to explain.

Nuwa silk road 4“No, we are actually on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau,” Nuwa corrected him. “The further we go, the more up we go. I will admit, though, in this place it now looks like a valley. But it will get difficult the further we go, which I suppose is why the silk road, once it got started for real, went around north of the desert by Tian’s Mountains.”  Nuwa chewed.  “One thing about Fuxi.  He is a good cook.”

“You mean we aren’t on the actual silk road?” Katie sounded disappointed.

“Not technically, but there is a way through, I think. Or Brama makes a way at some point. Anyway, it doesn’t start with silk and not much silk actually makes its way to Rome and Greece in the way far future. Not much, relatively speaking. I suppose more gets to India, but let’s be honest. Mostly the road is used to move slaves and drugs and sometimes armies.” Nuwa shrugged, like humanity could not help itself.