Avalon 4.6 part 6 of 6, While the Getting is Good

“Be good,” Hathor turned to the travelers.  “Live long and prosper,” she grinned that time and vanished.

“Hey, that’s my line,” Sinuhe said.

“No it isn’t.  That is Spock’s line,” Lincoln objected.

“I’m saying it four thousand years before Spock is even born, so I can claim it.”kiss 1

“Cheater,” Lockhart took a breath and offered his opinion.  Katie nodded like she agreed, and then went for more of that kissing stuff.

“All right,” Sinuhe started, but Lincoln interrupted.

“What did she mean about the way the gods keep secrets?” he looked like he was still coming out of a fog.  “Was she talking about Heba—.”  He found his mouth covered by both Alexis and Sinuhe.

“Yes,” Sinuhe said.  “And given the way the gods keep secrets; I expect her to show up any second.”

“I’m so sorry,” Alexis said to Sinuhe as she turned to Boston and hugged her.  Mingus was still on the floor, crying.  Elder Stow moved to comfort the girl, but he was not a hugger.

“All right…” Sinuhe started again, but this time Hellel interrupted.

“Why is she crying?”  Hellel pointed at Boston.  “The goddess loved on her.  I’m the one who got threatened.”

“Hathor reminded her of when she married,” Sinuhe explained.  “She got married in Egypt, but there was an accident, and she lost her new husband.  We think he made it home ahead of her.  We hope he will be there when we get home.  That is the hope we are going on.”

“But you said you had three more years to get home.  When did she marry?”

“About four hundred and fifty years ago,” Sinuhe said.  “That is just an estimate.  About three months ago, travel time.”

Hellel did not know what to say about that.  Gabrall looked up from his place even as Lockhart and Katie took a breath and went to join in comforting Boston.

kissing 1“Gabrall,” Sinuhe caught his attention.  He got the man to take charge of getting the army started on the clean sweep project.  They had to get every shovel, broom and bucket for water they could find.  Fortunately, the sea was full of water.

Just as that was settled and Zagurt and the king were beginning to stir, and it looked like Hellel was ready to get off her chair and find out more about a four hundred and fifty-year-old bride, there was a flash of light and Hebat arrived wearing a yellow sundress and big round sunglasses.  She marched up to Sinuhe and planted her lips on his, and he kissed her back.

After a while, they parted, and Hebat had the biggest, silliest grin on her face.  “My Egyptian,” she said.  Hellel found some courage.

“Hey.  That’s my husband,” she protested.

Hebat turned and lowered her glasses to glare at the princess.  “So?  You don’t love him.  My man is starving for love.” She turned back to Sinuhe and kissed him again, and this time he reached down and squeezed her bum.  She purred, and Hellel couldn’t say anything but, “Hey!”

“I am a married man, alas,” Sinuhe finally said.  “And you are a married woman.”

“I know,” Hebat said.  “Kind of exciting, isn’t it?”sinu hebat

“You should go.”

Hebat pouted, but did not argue.  She turned to strut in front of Hellel and caught movement out of the corner of her eye.  She shrieked a happy shriek and vanished just before Sinuhe could whack her bottom.  Hellel’s comment was interesting.

“Gee, you never whacked my bottom.”

###

The travelers all agreed it would be wise to move on the following morning.  As Sinuhe explained, “The wrath of the gods is unforgettable.  Even the mild annoyance of the gods leaves an impression, but you know how memory works.  The mind twists the message very quickly.  Often, the message is not clear, filtered through that anger.  But even when it is clear, it does not take long before the person is doing the very thing the god warned them not to do, and they will swear they are following the will of the gods.”

“Basically you are saying the king is going to change his mind,” Lockhart summarized.

“I don’t think it will take long,” Sinuhe nodded.

Decker added a thought.  “The human race is a poor excuse for…the human race.”  He rode out to the wing.

dwarves a1“By the way,” Mingus said as he was at the end of the line with Boston.  “Thanks for giving us Pluckman.”  More than forty dwarfs surrounded the group.

“My pleasure,” Sinuhe said and waved.

“I am sure,” Mingus mumbled, and Boston giggled.

The travelers moved three days down from the hills toward Galilee, and stopped on the third afternoon.  An army was coming up the valley.

“Pluckman, can you tell whose army that is?” Lockhart asked.  Pluckman stared at the man, slack jawed.

“You are asking a dwarf to tell the difference between one set of humans and another/” Katie scoffed and put down her binoculars.  “Besides, how many armies do you expect to find traveling in this wilderness?”

The others waited while Lockhart and Katie walked their horses forward.  Pluckman and a half-dozen heavily armed dwarfs went with them.  Decker and Elder Stow stayed out on the flanks where they appeared to be out of range from enemy slings and arrows, but were well within range of the weapons they carried.  They each had their own little troop of dwarfs that clung to them like bugs on a windshield.

Lockhart and Katie did not have to wait long before the army ground to a halt and a dozen men jogged out to face them.  Lockhart spoke before they got too close.

“I have a message from Lord Sinuhe, general of King Enshi.  He says you better hurry up.  The Syrians are two days ahead of you, and you know how the Syrians can be.  They will try to sneak in and take your prize if you don’t get there first.”

The men were amazed by the horses, but their eyes hardly left the dwarfs.  “You travel with earth spirits?”army 2

“We have many friends,” Katie said.

“But why would the king’s general send us this word?” a second man asked.

“Because he knows you Canaanites and the city people have much in common where the Syrians are a strange and unnatural people of foreign gods who should be driven back to where they came from.”

“And you?” The man framed his thoughts, but Lockhart cut him off with his hand like a traffic cop.

“No, we have other business to attend to.  We have delivered the message for our friends, but we are going to the inland sea.  What you do with the words we have given you is up to you.”

The man nodded as Lockhart and Katie turned their horses and went back to the group.  The dwarfs disappeared, but they growled, an effective sound for the Canaanites, no doubt, but it almost ruined everything as Katie and Lockhart tried not to laugh.

The Canaanites went back to their army to begin moving again.  The travelers and their dwarf escort passed them from up on the ridge.  Whether the Canaanites hurried from that point or not, Katie and Lockhart never knew.

“So I don’t get it,” Alexis said when they finally settled down for the night.

Lockhart answered her.  “The way Sinuhe explained it, there are natural prejudices that he can stoke to a nice little flame.  He hopes, if he plays his card right, the Syrians and Canaanintes will fight each other and leave the city alone, or at least be so diminished at the end, he and his little army should be able to handle them.”

“Tricky, and mean,” Alexis said.

“And very hard to pull off,” Decker said.

dwarf night

 

Pluckman yelled “Food,” and the campfire became a madhouse where no one could talk.  Katie had to shout her question at Lockhart.

“I wonder how it will turn out.”  Lockhart could only shrug as the music and dancing started that would go on passed midnight.

Avalon 4.6 part 5 of 6, Laying Down the Law

“You didn’t have to cut so deep,” Alexis complained as she stood and went to see about the broken nose.

“A miracle,” the guard who had been cut looked at his belly, leg and hand and yelled.  Everyone paid attention.  “Look, look.  I am healed.”

“You are the healer?” Hellel turned to the side to get out from under her husband’s glare.  “But you are a woman.”

“What does being a woman have to do with it?” Katie asked.

“It makes me afraid to think what your men may be able to do,” she responded and sounded sincere enough.

“We are not gods,” Lockhart said quickly.  “We are not able to work miracles, though Alexis has Alexis 1some gifts for healing.  But what we can mostly do is be good friends.  We try to make friends wherever our journey takes us.”

“Yes, I have consulted with Sinuhe,” Alexis said after tending the broken nose.  She rejoined the group and faced the king.  “King Enshi.  There is no cure for your condition.  Your physician is doing everything possible to relieve your symptoms, but some of this must be up to you.  You must watch your diet.  If you eat foods that are bad for your condition, no one but the gods may be able to help you.”

The king lowered his head and took the scolding well.

“Now, about your plague,” Alexis continued.  “Again, your physician and I have talked, and frankly there is a limit on what any of us mortals can do.  But there is one thing that would help a great deal, and might actually end the plague.  I said might.  Right now, your streets are full of people.  I don’t blame them.  I hate armies.  But your streets are also, if you will pardon the expression, full of shit.  If you cleaned the streets, and cleaned up after your animals, and bring wagons for people to dump their waste rather than dumping it in the streets, that might be the best thing you can do.  The respiratory condition Sinuhe has described can be caused by a number of things, but filth may be the cause, and at the least it is not helping.”  Alexis quieted, and Gabrall presented the counter-argument.

“I am sure what you say is true, but we can only pray for rain and seek the will of the gods in this matter.  We do not have the people to do such work as you suggest.”

“What do you mean?” Lincoln spoke, in part to support his wife.  “You have a whole army of men right now that have nothing better to do than stand on the wall and spit off the battlements.”

Sinuhe smiled.  “I should have thought of that.  We could work them for the free food they and their families are getting.  It would keep them fit and give them something to think about other than the coming enemy, if any.  They say, idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

“I am not paying an army of men to clean the shit from the streets,” the king objected.

“Would you rather pay the army to stand around and play spitting for distance?” Lockhart asked.

sinu court“That sounds like a fun game,” Zagurt whispered for the first time.

The king thought about it.  Clearly, he had not considered it in that light.  He was glad when the guard came back with what remained of the pigeon on a silver platter.  The king looked at it.  The Bird had a huge hole in the middle.  Zagurt leaned over.

“Let me see,” he shouted, and “Wow.”

Hellel just glanced at it.  She was too unhappy that she would not get her hands on a cracker, or apparently any other magic and powerful thing these strangers might have.  Her mind turned to stealing.

The king took the time of distraction to change the subject.  “I have sent men to collect your beasts.  It may be with a gift of one of your beasts I may let you live in peace.”

“I am sorry,” Boston stepped up.  “Your men will not be able to do that.  Our beasts are protected by a hedge of the gods, as are we.”

‘Quite right,” Everyone turned their heads as the image of beauty and perfection became manifest in that room.  The king covered his eyes, and Zagurt thought that was a good idea.  Gabrall began to choke on his breath.  Guards dropped to their faces.  Hellel’s mouth opened and she curled up in her chair, looking like one who wanted to run away and hide, but it was too late.

Sinuhe went to one knee and lowered his head.  “Hathor,” he breathed, as the woman walked right up to him and stopped.

“Stand up, Kairos.  You are only embarrassing yourself.”

He did, but he had something to say.  “You are my goddess this time, and you remind me of my princess whom you blessed so favorably in her youth.”sinu hathor

Hathor laid a hand on Sinuhe’s cheek and smiled for him, such a radiant smile that Alexis and Lincoln who got the full force of it were forced to lower their heads.  Hathor turned to Lockhart and Katie.  She hugged them both and spoke.

“That is from your baby girl, Sakhmet.  She misses you very much and send her love.  She also wonders how much longer before you two marry.”  Hathor let out a wry smile that time, and Lockhart and Katie felt it in the pit of their stomachs as they turned to face each other.

Hathor stepped passed them to where Mingus was on his knees with his head down.  “I should think so,” she said.  “You have two good daughters and it is high time you showed them both that you love them, and stop picking on Alexis.”  She saw Elder Stow, who appeared to want to join Mingus on his knees but looked frozen in his place, but she turned to Boston.

Boston was in tears, and Hathor gently hugged her and rocked her.  “Sweet, baby child.  You must not lose hope.  I am sure if there is any way possible, Roland will come back to you.  And if you must travel all the way home to him, I am sure he will be waiting for you with open arms.  Three years is not forever.  I think you two may have a good eight hundred or more years ahead of you.  Let your heart lead you, and be happy while you can.  As the Kairos is fond of saying, the future isn’t written yet, so you can make it what you want.”

Hathor let go and stepped passed Lockhart and Katie who were kissing and oblivious to everything around them.

“Why are you here?” Sinuhe asked.

“I remain the sponsor of foreign nations, with the permission of El and Astarte.  I am mostly finished with the Canaanites and never got into Syria much, but my father, Osiris did, and I am still fulfilling his promise to you, since…well, you know, even if you don’t remember at the moment.  There are still some cities here on the coast, including Sidon, Tyre, and others.  Ugarit is about as far north as I go.  Above that, the cities are Akoshian or Mycenaean and answer to Olympus.  Inland, the Hittite and Hurrians have their own pantheon, mostly run by a certain lady whose sinuhe 4name begins with H, if you know who I mean.

“I was beginning to hope she did not know I was here,” Sinuhe said.

“She won’t hear it from me, but you know how well secrets are kept among the gods.”  Hathor stopped to shake a finger at the king.  “Leave Sinuhe’s friends alone.  Do what they say.  Give them whatever they ask for, and send them happily on their way when they are ready to go.”  She turned to Hellel.  “And if you steal so much as one thing from these good people, you may find yourself living with the gutter rats, and may even become one of them, am I clear?”

Hathor spoke is a very straight forward way.  She did not raise her voice or sound at all cross.  But everyone felt the feeling behind the words, and trembled.  Gabrall fell to his face and wept for fear.  Sinuhe wondered if Hellel wet herself again.

Avalon 4.6 part 4 of 6, Demonstration

The room was typical, as the travelers supposed, an open room supported by a number of pillars which broke up the space.  The king sat at one end on a raised platform with his daughter seated to his right and his son seated to his left.  The king had a stool in front of his chair where his swollen right foot was lifted up and sat on a soft cushion.  He looked at the strangers, not in a rude sort of way, but calculating, like he was wondering what these people had to offer that might benefit him, personally.

The room also contained a dozen guards dressed only in short skirts, and holding six and a half hellel court 1foot spears with big bronze points.  The guards were all big men in that day and age, but they were not pleased with having to look up to Lockhart and Decker.  Sinuhe himself was taller than the rest, being five-eleven, but at least he was technically on their side as their general.

The man the travelers all took to be Gabrall stood beside the king’s left ear.  He looked competent, but also like he did not trust anyone but himself.  The man to the king’s right, and slightly behind Hellel, appeared to be Sinuhe’s assistant, no doubt charged with watching the king’s health in the night.  He acknowledged his master as Sinuhe came in.

Sinuhe bowed a normal enough bow and introduced everyone, interrupted only by Zagurt’s expected exclamations of “Red hair!” and “Yellow hair!”.  Names were familiar except ‘King Enshi’ was proper.  The terms Prince and Princess were not current in that place.  Zagurt and Hellel were more likely referred to as the king’s son and the king’s daughter in common conversation.  After the introductions, everyone waited for the king to speak.

“My daughter tells me you are people with great powers,” he said.

“I only mentioned it in passing,” Hellel confessed, and lowered her eyes as if she was all innocent.

“I would see a demonstration,” the king said.

“Not by my advice,” Sinuhe said.  “Great power can bring great destruction.”

“Your advice is not wanted, physician,” Hellel spoke most rudely, while Gabrall leaned down to whisper in the king’s ear.  The king nodded and pushed Gabrall’s face away.

“So, Egyptian.  Are you still the frightened coward that came to my door all those years ago?”

sinu bird

Sinuhe frowned and looked around the room.  His eyes stopped at the windows which were eight feet above the hall.  Of course, they had no glass, so the windows were wide open to whatever flies and birds wanted to venture in.  Presently, there was a pigeon strutting around on the ledge, cooing.

“Decker,” Sinuhe said and pointed.

Decker took his rifle.  He did not have to be told.  He took careful aim and squeezed the trigger.  The gun fired.  The bird disappeared outside, and Sinuhe signaled a guard to go and fetch it while everyone else recovered from the shock of the noise.  Hellel screamed, and Sinuhe wondered if she wet herself.

“What a crack,” Zagurt yelled.  “I want a cracker.  Can I see that?  Father, can I have a cracker?”

Sinuhe, Lockhart and Katie all stepped up in front of the others, no doubt thinking much the same thing.  Sinuhe spoke.  “No, Zagurt.  You do not know how it works.  You do not know what you are doing.  You might accidentally kill your father or sister, and then you would be in real trouble.”

“I won’t.  I wouldn’t,” Zagurt insisted and looked at his father.

“Let us wait and see what is left of the pigeon, if anything, before you decide.”

“Father,” Hellel spoke up.  “You don’t have to listen to these people.  You can just take the cracker if you want.”

Sinuhe shook his head.  “I don’t believe the whole army could take so much as one if these good people did not want them to.”

“It is for your own safety and protection,” Lockhart said in his best police voice, but no one listened.

“We shall see about that.” Gabrall spoke at last, and signaled one of the big guards to take it. Katie 5

“Captain,” Decker said to Katie, without spelling it out.  The guard was wary, gripped his spear tight as he lowered it and tried to look mean, but stopped altogether when Katie drew her saber and put her big army knife in her other hand.

“What are you doing?” Lockhart asked her, and reached for her arm.

Katie reverted to English so the locals would not understand her.  “We settled this back in the migrant camp with Beltain.  If I win, they are humiliated, but if I lose, they only beat a woman.”

A reluctant Lockhart looked at Decker, but he had confidence in Katie.  He looked at Sinuhe, but Sinuhe merely shrugged with his shoulders and eyebrows and said nothing.

The guard appeared to be reluctant to attack the girl, so she slapped her saber twice into the man’s spear, the second time causing a small cut on the man’s hand.  That made him mad and he lunged, but she stepped into the lunge and pushed the spear away with her knife laid up against her forearm, and she sliced the man’s leg, then his belly, though not deeply like a killing cut, then paused where her saber went to the man’s throat.

The man fell to his knees, and Alexis scolded.  “Katie.”  She rushed over to begin healing the man.

A second guard stepped forward.  Katie handed her saber to Boston to clean, slipped her knife back in its sheath, then ducked and spun, and grabbed the man’s spear just below the point.  She yanked on the spear and almost took it away from the guard.  He held on, but his arms were stretched all the way out.  Katie shoved on the spear, and the butt of the spear slammed hard into the man’s stomach.  He doubled over, moaned, and finally let the spear go as he also collapsed to the floor.

Two guards came, and Lockhart barely mouthed the word, “Cheater” before Katie ducked, rolled to one side, and stood again to grab one man’s spear down by his hands.  She forced that spear to block the other spear while her foot kicked the man beside her in the face.  He fell back, his nose a bloody mess, and Katie now had the spear all to herself.  She blocked the other man’s spear again, hard away from his body while she stepped in close and laid the point of her spear against his throat.  She slid her hands up to the point and grabbed the man by the shoulder, and squeezed, mes king 3which had to hurt.

“Stop,” the king commanded.

The man froze as Katie spoke.  “I’ll drop my spear if you drop yours.”  The man’s eyes darted back and forth as his spear immediately clattered to the floor.  “Good move,” she said.  She let go of her spear and stepped to Boston to retrieve her saber.  She checked to see that it was clean and slipped it back in its sheath.

“Four guards and one woman,” Sinuhe said with a shake of his head.  He stared at Hellel.  “I will say again.  The whole army could not take the power from these good people.  Be content that they are willing to be our friends.”

“It is for your own safety and protection,” Lockhart said again.

Avalon 4.6 part 2 of 6, Sitting in the Gate

“Now, this is a city,” Decker said. “Note the walls.”

“It is called Gibal,” Lincoln said.  “It might be Kedem or Byblos in some other languages.  I think it is the Egyptian Byblos, and probably gets lot of trade traffic from there.”

“Yes, but compared to the last place,” Decker generally waved his hand around in the air.  There appeared to be people everywhere.

“Stinks,” Lockhart said.

“They throw their waste into the street,” Elder Stow complained.city street 4

“They need a good rain to wash the streets clean,” Lincoln spoke up from behind.

Alexis perked up.  “Maybe that is where that whole notion came from that it always smells fresh and clean after the rain.”  Lincoln nodded his agreement.

“Major,” Katie said.  “I appreciate you joining the conversation, but keep in mind, we are not supposed to talk about the last city we were in unless the Kairos brings it up.”

“Personally,” Elder Stow butted in.  “I don’t like being stared at.”  Plenty of staring was going on.  “Doesn’t this city seem a bit crowded to you?”  Decker shook his head.

“At least we are dressed properly this time,” Alexis said, as Decker and Elder Stow fell in behind Lincoln and Alexis so they could ride two abreast.  Mingus and Boston pulled up the rear, as usual.

“Hey Lincoln,” Lockhart spoke up.  “Pull out the database.  I need you to check and make sure we got reservations for the Holiday Inn.  Given the crowd I expect they will book up.”

“Very funny,” Katie said.  “The field set aside for caravans should be up ahead, unless the guard in the gate was lying to us.”

“I don’t see any field,” Alexis said, as she stood in her stirrups and looked around Lockhart.

Lockhart called a halt to the procession as children ran in front of them, chasing each other, or being chased.  “Stay in the saddle,” Lockhart said.  “Come on Katie,” but she was already dismounting.

“I think there is some grass under there,” Katie said.  “It is kind of hard to tell with so many tents covering it.”

Lockhart wrinkled his nose.  “Too many camels.”

“Donkeys, mostly.” Katie said.

Alexis t1“I don’t like the idea of taking the horses in there for the night,” Lockhart said as he craned his neck.  “Even if there was a place to set a camp, which there isn’t.”

“Hey, what passes for currency around here?” Decker asked from two horses back.

“Gold, silver, jewels,” Alexis turned her head.  “Whatever people want.  It is all trade.”

“I would trade Beast,” Elder Stow said about his horse.

“You are naming your horse Beast?”  Boston heard and spoke from the rear.

“Yes.  A beast not to be trifled with, and preferably not ridden.”

“That’s what you get for having short legs,” Decker said.

“Hey, hush,” Lincoln interrupted.  “Some little guy is talking to Katie and Lockhart.  Let’s see what happens.”

The little man spoke.  “My master sent me to bring you to a safe place for your animals, your Orses.”

“Horses,” Lockhart responded.  “But we are looking for…”  He could not remember the name.

“Sinuhe,” Katie said.  “He’s Egyptian.”

“He is my master,” the little man nodded.  “Come.  He is presently occupied, but will come this evening to visit you, or perhaps in the morning.”

Lockhart glanced at the overflowing field of tents and humanity and made the obvious choice.  “Walk them,” he shouted, and in a softer voice spoke to the little man.  “Lead the way.”

“Why is Sinuhe busy?”  Katie was curious.  The little man turned his head as he walked.  He smirked.sinuhe man

“He is presently sleeping with the king’s daughter,” he said, and waited a long time before he added, “His wife.”

“Married another princess, did he?” Lockhart remarked.

The little man turned his head to glance back, questions on his face.

“Robert,” Katie said.  “I already scolded Decker for that very thing.”

“Oops.”

The travelers walked uphill until they passed through a gate to a courtyard surrounded by a two-story house with plenty of balconies on the second floor.  A stack of wood sat to the left side, with some already in a stone ring and burning.  The fire just needed to be built up.  On the right, there stood a pen, like a reasonably sized fenced in area for the horses.  The unmistakable smell of camel and donkey suggested that the household was accustomed to having visitors and their beasts.

“All the comforts of home,” Lockhart declared.

“Honey is hungry,” Boston countered, as she got down to pat her horse’s nose.

The little man suggested oats, and they all said that would be fine.  Then he fetched the servants to bring several large jugs of water, a bowl of mixed fruits, though mostly dates and apricots, and a second bowl of mixed vegetables, which was mostly onion.  Two men brought a side of lamb that Alexis declared almost cooked.  And they were left alone to cook, set their tents and tend their horses as they pleased.

“The house fire and kitchen is probably out back,” Mingus said, as he pulled up a seat beside the fire.

“We came under the gate to what I guess is the front of the house,” Lockhart agreed.

Katie suddenly looked up, and her face lit up.  “Now I understand.”  She turned to the group and spoke with some excitement.  “All of the ancient texts talk about men sitting in the gate, and all this time I kept thinking like the city gate, and I wondered what they were doing there, looking for enemies on the horizon?”

city courtyard 1“Checking out the next caravan that won’t find room in the field,” Lincoln suggested.

“No, but you see?  They were sitting in the gate like to the ruler’s house; like us spending the night in front of Sinuhe’s house.  We are literally sitting in the gate.  And when it says the king, or whoever, went out to the gate to question so and so, it meant he stepped out his front door.”

“Why would men hang out in front of the king’s house?” Lockhart asked.

“It’s where all the power is,” Alexis answered him.

“Exactly,” Katie said.  “They gather and talk politics and business and such things, watch and talk to supplicants and ambassadors as they go in and out of the house.  I don’t know why I never realized that before.”

“Never sat in the gate before,” Decker suggested.

“Of course, by the middle ages, the court all moved inside.  But originally, the courtiers all waited outside in the actual courtyard of the gate.  What do you know.”  Katie looked very pleased with herself.

“Father, you don’t need the meat.  You are getting pudgy,” Alexis spoiled the moment.

“I’ll eat what I like,” he responded sharply.  “This lamb cooked up very well.”

“Garlic and flour,” Boston admitted.

“And a fine job you did.  Besides, it is not venison.”

Alexis nodded.  “I’ll give you that.”

“Hello?” They were all interrupted by a woman whose big nose, hollow cheeks and dark eyes made hellel 3her appear older than she probably was.  “Red hair and yellow hair,” were the next words out of her mouth, though it was hard to tell that by firelight.

“Join us,” Katie said, feeling very magnanimous.

“Is it safe?” she asked as she sat by the fire.  “Sinuhe says you are people of power and he is glad you have come.”

“Is he around?” Lockhart asked.

The woman started to point toward a balcony on the second floor before she realized what he was asking.  “Oh, no.  He has not slept in three days.  I would not expect to see him before morning.”

“I’m Alexis,” Alexis said, and she went around the circle introducing everyone.  She concluded with, “and you are?”

“I am Hellel, his wife.  I am only a poor woman, but I try to get him to rest when I can.”  She smiled and did not even bat an eye at stretching the truth.  “But tell me, because my husband was so tired, he could not tell me much before he fell asleep.  He says you are old and dear friends, but you do not look Egyptian to me.”

“We are not Egyptian,” Lockhart said, and to Katie’s sharp look, he smiled.  “We are originally from a land so far away, neither ships nor caravans can reach there.  We have been traveling for over a year, nearly two, and by my estimate, we have at least three more years to go.”

“Your special powers must help a great deal, though I confess my husband just mentioned them without actually telling me about them.”

“And rightly so, young lady,” Mingus spoke up.  “Some things are best left alone.  Some things are not to be talked about.”  He also gave Lockhart a hard look, but he stuck out his hands like he was trying to warm them.  He caused the fire to flame up.  Hellel opened her dark eyes wide, but said nothing about it.

“You really should ask your husband in the morning,” Katie suggested.

Hellel shook her head.  “He has so much on his mind, what with the plague and all.”

“Plague?” Lincoln sat up straight.

“Yes.  He is looking for a cure—oh, he said one of you is a healer.”

“I don’t do plague,” Alexis said.  “I do wounds and some broken bones, but I don’t do disease.”

mingus 1“I’m sorry,” Hellel said, sincerely enough.  She looked at everyone, but no one was going to offer any more information, so she stood.  “I should leave you.  I also need to sleep and I am sure I will see you tomorrow.”

“When we go to see the king,” Katie said.  “I am sure he will have his daughter beside him.”

Hellel stopped, opened and shut her mouth twice, then waved to the shadows where her two guards came out to escort her home.  Mingus spoke when she left.

“If she is Sinuhe’s wife, why did she not notice that Boston and I are elves?”

“I’m guessing there is not much love there,” Boston said, sadly.

“Maybe she did notice,” Alexis said.  “Maybe she just could not believe someone so fat could be an elf.”

Avalon 4.6: The Rule of One, part 1 of 6

After 2162 BC, Gibel (Byblos).  Kairos 52: Sinuhe, Egyptian Physician

Recording …

Sinuhe stepped out on the balcony, looked out over the battlements of the city wall, and took a long look across the desert.  Not for the first time, he thought he should have run away to Babylon, or Haran, or anywhere but where he was.  The berserkers were out there.  Hittites, Hurrians, Mitani, Gutians, Dozens of different ‘ites’.  Did it really matter what they called themselves?  They all wanted land.  They all wanted the city, and all the wealth generated over the years of trade and settlement.  A port city whose trade would not be interrupted by simple overland routes.  That was a rare prize, and a city where the king was sickly, perhaps dying, and the son was said to be an idiot.  That city was just aching to be overrun.nat scenery 1

“Sinuhe.  Husband?”  Hellel called from the workroom.  “Physician?”

“Out here, Hellel,” Sinuhe raised his voice.  “Just taking stock of the state of the world and my unfortunate place in it.”

“I am in your world.  Thank you very much, husband,” Hellel said with a fake pout.  She stepped on to the balcony, walked up beside him and put her hand out to rub his back in sympathy, if not love.  “You should get some rest.”

Sinuhe knew it was not Hellel’s idea to marry him any more than he had in mind to marry her.  The king insisted.  The king suffered from a bad combination of gout and arthritis.  Sinuhe was an Egyptian pharmacist, trained in the medical arts.  He made clear to the king that there was no cure, and he would have to do his part by watching his diet, but he relieved the swelling and the pain, and the king was so grateful, he did not want Sinuhe to get out of his sight.  The marriage tied him down.

“I’ll be all right, but maybe I should lie down for a bit.”

“You have been working to find a solution since the new plague broke out.  That is three days without rest.  I would not be a good wife if I didn’t insist.”

“Gabrall busy?” Sinuhe asked.  He regretted it the minute it came out of his mouth.  He was really enjoying the back rub, but he turned and saw the steam reach up behind Hellel’s eyes.  “I’m sorry.  I’m tired,” he excused himself.  He knew the rules were different for the king’s daughter.  She had Gabrall and several other lovers.  He dared not so much as look at a girl the wrong way.  She got special treatment, but it was impolite to bring it up.hellel 2

“I don’t know what he is doing,” Hellel said, curtly, and looked like she was going to spit, or slap him.  She was not the worst looking wife by any means, but she had a mean, some might say cruel streak in her.  She could be demanding, though generally with her many lovers, Sinuhe was spared the worst of that.  But she could be sweet at times, and Sinuhe honestly needed to make the best of those times.

He slipped his arms to her shoulders.  “I would be honored to lie down with you,” he said.  “After all, when I have finished doing everything I can and fail to cure this plague, I am sure I will lose my head and then I will lie alone for the rest of eternity.”

“No.  Don’t say that.”  She moved up into his arms.  Sinuhe had the passing thought that Hellel would take his head when she was good and ready.  She was not about to let him lose his head for something as petty as failing to cure a plague.  “Father is not that petty,” she said, as she laid her head against his chest.  She changed her mind.  “Okay, maybe he is, but I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Sinuhe knew full well how petty the tyrant could be.  Worse than that, he knew the son, Hellel’s brother, was no improvement.  Zagurt was not only petty like his father, he was as cruel and demanding as his sister.  Add to that him being an idiot, and it was a powerful combination of disasters to come if he took the throne.  Besides all that, Zagurt was as gay as they came.  Sinuhe knew Gabrall was also Zagurt’s lover, though he imagined the man was more accurately Zagurt’s abuser.  He figured Gabrall was happy to have the best of both worlds.  He imagined when the king died, Gabrall might kill the son and take the throne for himself.  Good for the city, but not good for Sinuhe if Gabrall decided her needed to marry Hellel to make his usurpation legitimate.

Sinuhe leaned over and kissed Hellel on the head.  He felt her smile, always a good sign.  He thought in a short while, they might go lie down.  They might even work on a next child.  Thus far she had no complaints.  Certainly she never suggested removing his manhood.

Hellel shifted a little in his arms to get more comfortable.  “This would all be so much easier if I did not like you so much,” she said.sinuhe 2

“And I like you more than you know,” he said what he always said, because it was not entirely untrue.  “Still, I know what you mean.  Your father could take my head and it would not be so painful, for you, I mean.”

Hellel backed up a bit to look up into his face, but she did not let go.  “Why this sudden obsession with cutting heads off?”

Sinuhe reminded himself that after everything else was said, Hellel, unlike her brother Zagurt, had some good functioning brain cells.  “Old man Korath died this morning.”

“That is not your fault,” she said.  “I am sure you did everything you could.”

Sinuhe shook his head, but looked deeply into her eyes.  He felt in that moment like he very much wanted to lie down with her.  Maybe he was exhausted, but his body was waking up.  He went to kiss her, but after a quick peck on his lips, she turned her head and exclaimed, “That is the strangest looking Caravan I have ever seen.”  Sinuhe looked down at the gate as she continued.  “Where did they find those big beasts to ride on.  I have never seen such a thing.  Egyptian, have you ever seen such a thing?”

“Yes,” Sinuhe answered honestly enough as he slipped his arm around his wife’s shoulder and they watched the travelers come into the city.  In one sense, Sinuhe felt some relief.  Alexis was a great healer, and a registered nurse who might help him stop the spread of this plague, if not find a cure.  Then again, he felt their advent could have been better timed.  He eyed the horizon for that Syrian berserker army he expected any day, and he voiced his other thought.

mes king 3“Don’t let your father blame these strange visitors for the plague.  The plague has been here for three days already and one man died before these people even got here.

Hellel opened her mouth as she thought about it.  “Don’t be silly,” she concluded.  “He wouldn’t do that.”  Sinuhe knew full well that the man might do that.  The people looked to the king for all sorts of unrealistic things.  If the king could not insure the good health and long life of the people, political expediency suggested he find a convenient scapegoat to blame.