Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 3 of 6

Captain Emilio Esteban proved to be a gregarious sort of man.  He had the travelers dine with him that night, offered plenty of wine, and kept the topics of conversation to pleasantries. The second night proved different.  When the travelers entered the captain’s cabin, they were met by soldiers who stripped them of their weapons and equipment.  Only Elder Stow managed to hang on to his things.  His personal screens went up and the soldiers could neither touch him nor his equipment.

“Hand over everything or we will have to hurt the others.”  The head soldier grabbed Sukki by the arm.  “This is your adopted daughter, is she not?”

“Try not to hurt him,” Elder Stow told Sukki.  She nodded before she removed the hand from her arm, grabbed the man by the shirt, and threw him down the hall to where he crashed into the stairs.  “My equipment stays on my person for now,” Elder Stow announced.  “You soldiers will just break it or push the wrong button and sink this ship by accident.”

“Fair enough,” Captain Esteban said.  He invited the travelers to his table set for twelve, where the first mate, second mate, and navigator were already waiting.  “We are entering Guanabo bay and passing the island of the same name.  I considered dropping you there.  The island is mostly barren, but the Taino people that have taken refuge there would probably help you escape so there would be no long-term benefit.”  The officers stood until the captain got seated.  “I decided you would serve better as hostages.  Of course, depending on who we run into, I might even be persuaded to temporarily return your weapons.  Let us hope the buccaneers leave us alone.”

Everyone sat with questions in their minds.  Katie was the first to frame those questions into words.  “What are you afraid of?” she asked.  “What are we headed into that a servant of the Masters might return our weapons to us?”

The ship’s stewards brought in plates of food for everyone.  The chief steward opened the wine and began to pour.  Captain Esteban sipped his to taste the wine before he spoke.  “It is not fear,” he said.  “The Masters are masters of fear, doubt, and pain.  Resistance is futile, to use the old expression.”  He looked at his plate of food but downed his glass of wine.  The chief steward filled it again while he thought.  Then he began.

“You know the north coast is full of buccaneers—French settlers who hunt and cut the trees.  They trade in leather and lumber and grow subsistence crops to make their daily bread.  But now, they are beginning to leak down into the western lands, looking for places where they can build plantations to grow tobacco, sugar cane, cotton, and other cash crops.  They are beginning to import slaves.  And as if that is not bad enough, they have given ports for French and English, privateers—men with papers from various monarchs and governments.  Some of them have begun to explore the island of Tortuga as a possible redoubt against us, should we raise the men and ships to drive them off.  For the present, though, the north is controlled by buccaneers and pirates.  It is not safe for plain farmers and families.”

“You said the south was full of cannibals,” Decker interjected.

“Natives,” the captain nodded.  “Many Taino have found refuge on the island of Guanabo, as they call it. But most remain in the south of Hispaniola, the southwest, away from the forts around Santo Domingo.  They have begun to protect their territory.  They are not slow to kill any Spanish they find in their land.  But they are not many or strong at this point, and they have been unable to fight off the Carib who have invaded the south coast.  The Carib do sometimes eat people.”

“Why don’t the Spanish fortify the center, here in the west?” Lincoln asked.  “I would think once the center is secure, turning to the north and south might be manageable.  You might even negotiate a peace with the natives and the French.”

Captain Esteban grinned.  Most of the others gave Lincoln hard looks, like he did not need to be helping the Masters.  “That was the plan,” the captain said.  “That, and fortifying Santiago against the English so we do not leave a strong enemy at our backs as we colonize the southern states of what will never be the United States.  Unfortunately, something has landed in the center.  Do you know what I mean, landed?”

“How do you know?” Lockhart asked, as Elder Stow began to fiddle with his scanner to see what he might pick up, long range.

“There are reports of whole villages, French and native, destroyed, not abandoned.  The people that have been found are said to have been drained of blood, and many eaten.  Both the pirates and the Carib are afraid to go there, and the governor of Santo Domingo is drawing up an order to insist the people move closer to the city and forts in the eastern part of the island.  It is for their own protection.”

“Depending on who we are talking about, I don’t see that anything in this age will protect the people,” Decker said, and looked at Nanette and Sukki, both of whom looked frightened, or at least uncertain.

“Yes,” the captain said with a sigh.  “Depending on what we find, I may have to return your weapons temporarily.  I know your weapons have been taken from you more than once in your journey, but I do not have time to train my men in their use and you have all the experience in both their use and in dealing with alien creatures.”

“Maybe the Flesh Eaters,” Tony suggested.  “I might say Wolv, but I am not aware of them draining the blood.”

“Maybe the New Exterminators Lady Catherine mentioned,” Nanette said.  “She did not give many details, so we don’t know what they are, exactly.”

“I hope they are not the arachnids… Panknos… the spiders,” Sukki said and shivered to think of it.

“We all hope they are not the spiders,” Katie agreed, and turned to Lincoln who had dug out the database.  He read for a second before he reported.

“Spiders,” he said.

“Let me see that.”  Captain Esteban reached out to Lincoln.  Lincoln hesitated, but two of the guards in the room stepped in his direction, so he handed it over.  The captain stared at the screen, tried touching the three buttons, and let the first mate have a look.  The man merely shrugged, so the captain handed the database back to Lincoln who adjusted the buttons to get back on the correct page.

“It is as I suspected,” the captain said with another big sigh.  “All we can see is fuzz and wavey lines.”

“The hedge of the gods,” Katie said.  “It prevents ears from hearing, or in this case, eyes from reading about the future.”

“Yes.”  The captain seemed to understand.  “But I have no such hedge.  There is nothing to prevent me from speaking about the future.  Sadly, hardly anyone understands what I am talking about.  When I mentioned the film Gone with the Wind, only Don Fernando smiled and said, “But now, there will be no Civil War, and the film will be in Spanish since we will hold on to California as well as Texas.”  Captain Esteban shrugged like it was a done deal.

“The Kairos might have something to say about that,” Elder Stow interjected.

“Ah, yes.  The other reason you are my prisoners.  You will lead me to the Kairos, and I will get to kill many birds with one stone, as the saying goes.”

Katie frowned.  “Assuming you don’t get eaten by whatever landed on Hispaniola.”

“Of course,” Captain Esteban said, and smiled.  “More wine?”



The ship comes to land not far from where the aliens have landed, most likely the giant alien spiders. Until Monday, Happy Reading.


Avalon 9.2 The Called, part 3 of 6

The travelers piled out the back door.  The wife and two serving girls stood by the door, screaming.  The innkeeper lay on the ground. A spider the size of a small table hovered over the man, spitting venom at the women to keep them away.  Katie flipper her rifle to automatic, but Decker was one step ahead of her.  He sprayed the spider with bullets, putting any number of holes in the thing.  It collapsed as Katie spun around to fire at the roof.  The spider there leapt away while it shot a stream of webbing at Katie and her rifle.  Katie also leapt away, so they both missed.  Too bad for the spider.  It landed just above Lockhart who blasted it twice with his shotgun.  The spider face turned to mush, and it fell off the roof.

Elder Stow raised his voice to get everyone’s attention.  “A three-man scout ship,” he said and stared at his scanner.  “Probably from a shuttle such as used to carry up to forty Wolv.  I’m expanding the search grid now.”

“I hope there isn’t a mother ship out there full of spiders,” Katie said, as she and Tony examined the webbing.  Nanette and Sukki ran to examine the dead man on the ground.

“The horses,” Tony said, to suggest spiders might have gotten into the stables, but Elder Stow interrupted.

“The scout ship is in the other direction.  The third spider, probably the smart female is there.”

“We need to make sure they don’t report back to the mother ship,” Decker said, and indicated that Elder Stow should lead the way.

“Tony and Lincoln, check on the horses and Ghost.  Nanette and Sukki stay here and help if you can.  Katie,” Lockhart said.  Katie left off examining the web as he and Katie followed Decker and Elder Stow to the edge of the village, which was not that far away.

Down an alley between two buildings, they looked out on a field of weeds and a few trees a short distance away.  The scout ship landed beside the trees, not exactly hidden.  Lockhart shouldered his rifle and reached out to Elder Stow.  “Scanner,” he said.  “Elder Stow, you need to get your weapon ready in case it takes off.”

“We don’t want them reporting to the mother ship,” Decker repeated himself.

Elder Stow only hesitated for a second before he shook his head.  He clipped the scanner in place, back on his belt, and got out his weapon.  “The scanner is expanding the search.  It will beep if it locates an appropriate energy source.”  He retrieved his weapon.

Lockhart nodded and led the group several feet out onto the field.  They were all familiar enough with the ship design to recognize any weapons the ship carried were pointing away from them.  They stopped suddenly as five smaller, chair-sized spiders came rushing out from among the trees.  “Babies,” Katie yelled as she and Decker sprayed the spiders with bullets.  They were fast.  Katie and Decker shot four of the five, but Elder Stow sprayed all the babies with a wide angle shot that put them all down.  Decker continued to shoot them to make sure they were all dead, even as the ship began to lift off the ground.

Elder Stow had to work fast to create a narrow beam on full power.  The ship topped the trees and looked ready to take off at high speed before Elder Stow fired.  He clipped the treetops before he zeroed in on the ship.  The others could see the beam of Elder Stow’s weapon.  It went right through the ship, unhampered by any screens the ship may have had, and continued to the clouds above.

The engines on the back end of the ship that faced them began to smoke.  The ship shot up suddenly a thousand feet into the air where there was a small explosion, and the ship began to fall as gravity took over.

“Into the alley,” Katie yelled.  From there, they saw the ship plumet down to crash almost where it started.  Katie turned away and covered her head.  The others joined her, having learned not to question her elect instincts.  The ship exploded when it hit the earth.  The two buildings they stood between took some of the shrapnel.  One caught fire.  The travelers were lucky not to be hit by any flying metal.  One man around the corner, out of sight from where they stood got hit in the head with a small piece and went unconscious.  The wound bled plenty, but he would survive.

Men and women, locals came from the streets around.  Some went to work on putting out the building fire.  A few stopped to stare at the dead babies and wonder what would cause a spider to grow so big.  A few joined the travelers in checking out the wreckage.  They found what Decker claimed and Elder Stow confirmed was the biggest spider of them all.

“The female,” Elder Stow said.  He had his scanner out again and checked to be sure nothing else would explode in their faces.

“Don’t touch them,” Katie yelled at the man who was about to touch one of the babies.  “Poison,” she shouted, and the man withdrew his hand.  “Acid,” she added, just to be safe.  The people would have to be careful to bury the spiders.

“You know, the female might have radioed the ship,” Lockhart said.

“That depends if the females got those systems working,” Elder Stow said and looked at the wreck.  He shrugged, believing there was no way they would know.

“You don’t normally send out scouts without some way of reporting on what you find,” Decker said.

“Yes, but…” Elder Stow paused when his scanner beeped.  He examined it closely.  “At the edge of where this little toy can reach, I believe a Wolv shuttle.  It is powered down, but readable.  I would estimate we may reach there early afternoon tomorrow.  I can put a screen around the inn and maybe part of the village for tonight so we can get some rest.  Of course, picking up the shuttle does not mean there is not a mother ship beyond where this scanner can reach.  A mother ship might carry half a dozen shuttles, but the shuttles alone could travel hundreds of light years on their own, so it may be just the shuttle to deal with.”

“Yeah,” Decker said.  “But if they can turn a three-man scout ship into an eight-spider ship, they might have two hundred spiders on that forty-Wolv shuttle.  That is a lot of spiders.”

Katie walked up with a man beside her, talking on her wristwatch communicator.  “Lincoln, report.”

“We have gathered quite a crowd.  Tony is checking the horses and equipment.  Sukki and Nanette are trying to explain the impossible to the mayor and two of the councilmen.  I kept everyone back from touching the spiders here.  The poison might be on the skin…”

“Same here,” Katie interrupted.  “The spiders turned an old humanoid three-person scout ship into an eight-spider ship.  We got them.  All are okay.  One local injured.  Elder Stow shot down the ship when it tried to take off.  It exploded so we have no way of knowing if they contacted the mother ship or not.  Over.”

“The mayor claims three dead between the inn and where you went.  It appears as if the spiders zeroed in on us at the inn.  You don’t suppose they are after us, do you?  Over.”

“Doubt it,” Katie responded.  “They probably scanned the area and picked up our advanced metals or maybe Elder Stow’s energy signal and came to check it out.  Over.”

“You make them sound more intelligent than I wanted to give them credit for…”

“We will be back shortly,” Katie interrupted.  “Try and keep the people there away from the spider bodies until we get there.  We have to clean up this mess first. Out.”

Lincoln switched off and found Sukki and Nanette both floating a few feet off the ground.  Sukki could fly.  Nanette could lift herself by her telekinetic magic, but the locals would not know the difference.  Between the two of them, they got the astounded local men to fetch the tools to dig a hole, at least six feet deep.  The local women had taken the wife and servants inside the inn.  One of the members of the village council had the body of the innkeeper taken away to rest with the other dead.  That still left a second councilman and the mayor to complain, though they did not complain too loudly.  They understood what the hole was for.  By twilight, the men had a hole about as tall as a man.  Nanette used her magic to lift the dead spiders, one at a time, and place them in the hole.  The men began to shovel the dirt back in, and Katie walked up with the others.  She turned to Nanette.

“We could have used you at the crash site.  We did not dig nearly as deep to bury the babies, and there was not anything we could do about the crashed ship other than rope it off and tell people not to go there until the Kairos could come and decide how to handle it.

“I thought the little ones took such things to Avalon,” Nanette said.

“True, but there were not any elves, dwarfs, fairies, or goblins around to ask about it, and with Boston gone, we have no way of contacting any.”

Sukki came up and looked at Katie and Nanette.  She shivered and said quietly, “I hate spiders.”



The Kairos, the travelers, the Masters, and the spiders all come to the same town, but it appears the spiders have a target. Until then, Happy Reading


Avalon 9.2 The Called, part 2 of 6

The next day, the travelers climbed into some hills where they stopped for a picnic lunch.  Having reached the late medieval world, and certainly in Europe, with the slow recovery of the population since the various crisis of the late Middle Ages, including the plague, the travelers found plenty of village inns all along their route.  Those inns had big fireplaces which helped against the winter cold, so even if the food and lodging were usually poor, at least they did not have to camp in the snow and wilderness very often.  In fact, when they crossed the hills that separated the coast and Barcelona from the Ebro River valley, they chose to picnic where they might have found a village inn to rest.  Katie found a spot where the wind at least blew the snow away.

“I want to hear what Lincoln and Elder Stow have figured out without unauthorized ears listening in,” Katie explained when she picked the stopping place.  Decker agreed, and just checked both sides of the hill to be sure they had an unobstructed view.  He did not want anyone, or anything, like space alien spiders sneaking up on them without their ability to see and be forewarned.

Lincoln read from the database for the last day and a half and was ready to report his findings to the others.  Elder Stow also spent some time reading in his own Gott-Druk database.  It was not nearly as detailed as the one Lincoln carried, and particularly with regard to human history it was often wrong, but Elder Stow’s database contained some information that Lincoln did not have, like what to do about certain alien species.

Lincoln began with Catherine, the Kairos.  “You remember. English mother, Spanish father who served as a military officer for King John II of Aragon.  Her mother died when she was young.  Her father died in Naples and the crown supposedly did not know there was a child, a teenager.  The house was given to a different family, and Catherine got thrown out.  She took up with a man named Smith—a quarter-English descendent of the English troops the Black Prince sent to Castile in support of Peter of Castile in the War of the Two Peters.  Smith was an old man who turned to highway robbery having no other way to make a living.  He taught her…”

Lincoln scrolled a little before he began again.  “She took over the brigand group.  People called her The Falcon—the crest she wore on her tunic over her armor, her cloak, and her shield.  El Halcon mostly because people did not know it was a woman…”  Lincoln found the place he was looking for.  “Anyway, she saved John II, the King of Aragon’s life, and his son, Ferdinand, as in Ferdinand and Isabella.  She fought off the Moors, servants of the Masters sent to kill specifically Ferdinand… That was before Ferdinand and Isabella married.  You can imagine the Masters probably did not want that marriage to take place.”

“Talk about changing history,” Katie said, and Lockhart nodded. Once again, Lockhart figured any names he knew had to be important to history.

“Anyway, Catherine admitted to the king who she was, and the king recognized that he made a terrible mistake taking her father’s title and property.  He promptly married her off to the old Count of Chaca—Jaca, the original capital of Aragon that became an Aragonese border county against Navarre, the Basque country, and the French.”

“Okay,” Decker interrupted.  “She is a countess.  Now it is 1476.  What is she doing now?”

“How old is she?” Sukki asked.

“Thirty-nine,” Lincoln said.  “Probably thirty-eight, depending on when her birthday is.  Anyway, Ferdinand and Isabella married in1469 and Isabella claimed the throne of Castile in 1474 when her half-brother, King Henry died.  Unfortunately, Joanna was supposedly Henry’s child and also claimed the throne, and she had the King of Portugal supporting her.  Let’s see. Joanna is about fourteen.  Isabella, about twenty-four.  Castile is divided, and basically Aragon is fighting Portugal.  Catherine gets out her armor and brings her people to support Ferdinand.  She gets it out one more time in the future when they overrun Granada.”

“Wait,” Katie said, sharply.  “We don’t need the details of future events any more than anyone else.  Any one of us might accidentally say the wrong thing at the wrong time and to the wrong person.  You know that.”

“Yeah, sorry,” Lincoln said.  He pulled his cloak tight over his shoulder.  The cold wind was picking up, and he was missing his wife, Alexis.

“But wait,” Nanette spoke with a glance at Decker.  “What did you find out about the Galabans?”

“The database calls them Conquistadores,” Lincoln said.  He looked around the campfire to judge the reaction to that word before he said, “Elder Stow and I talked about it this morning, and I think he has more general information that he wants to share.”

“Right,” Elder Stow said as he got out his own database for reference.  “There is not really much to tell, but essentially the term Conquistadores is correct.  Their world was destroyed in a battle between the Flesh Eaters and Apes.  Most of their world is radioactive.  In the end, there were only small places that remained habitable, and the population got squeezed into those places.  They were…” Elder Stow paused to think.  “About Roman level of technology.  No gunpowder.  They had concrete and steel, but they were experimenting with steam engines, so not an exact parallel.  The war left a lot of broken space race technology around, and some of it was serviceable.  Over a few hundred years, they not only got space flight, jumping straight to faster than light flight, but they also got the weapons technology to take to whatever worlds they discovered.”

“Conquistadores?” Tony asked.

“Yes.  They visit and plant a small colony.  In a short while, they bring supplies and more settlers.  Maybe start a second colony.  Eventually, the native population figures it out.  They resist, but the Galabans use their superior technology to crush the resistance and maybe make slaves.  More come, and if they carry a disease that the human race has no resistance to, too bad for that.  Eventually, the human race will be pushed to the edges, or forced to try and fit in with the Galabans that now own everything.  As I understand it, that is the technique.”

“Conquistadores,” Lockhart said in a grumpy voice.

“The Priest said Barcelona was a temporary settlement until the Kairos has time to make better arrangements.  Maybe she will move them off world—like to an uninhabited planet.”

“They drowned their ship,” Lockhart pointed out.  “And the Kairos does not have any spaceships I know of.”

“Yes,” Elder Stow agreed.  “But I have learned on this journey not to underestimate what the Kairos may do.” People understood and agreed with that.

“What about the spiders,” Sukki asked, while they talked about the aliens.

“Ah!” Elder Stow put up a finger to take back the conversation.  “They are called Panknos in my Gott-Druk database.  They are human size and poisonous, both.  The females are intelligent enough to figure out space flight. cryogenics, and even repair the ships they take to some extent.  They do not have any technology to build ships, but they can figure out how to fly any ships foolish enough to land on their world.  The males are not so smart and tend to be eaten by the females after their egg sack is fertilized.  They birth hundreds of babies at a time, so the Galaban was right about them breeding fast.  Their world is way overpopulated, so they are quick to find ways to escape their world and would dearly love a world like Galabar or Earth where there is a ready food supply.”

‘Great,” Lincoln said and frowned.  “Flesh Eaters—no, Wolv all over again.”

“Similar,” Elder Stow admitted.  “They don’t have ready access to ships, like the Wolv had whole fleets of Humanoid ships.  But the Wolv and Flesh Eaters who went there both lost. Poisoned, mostly.  They got overwhelmed with numbers of Panknos and got eaten.”

“Serves them right,” Decker said.

“So let us hope they did not follow the Galabans to this world,” Nanette said, and people began to clean up from lunch.  No one had any appetite left.


On the fourth day out from Barcelona, having ridden due west, Lincoln suggested they were nearing the Aragon-Castile border.  “Sometime tomorrow, we will be getting into where the war of the succession is going on.”  He pushed the slop around his bowl and stared around the inn.  The slop was supposed to be chicken something, but Lincoln was not sure it ever got near a chicken.

“We just need to keep a low profile,” Lockhart said, and Decker agreed, but Katie shook her head.

“These kinds of civil wars don’t give people a choice of staying out of it.  Even peasants get asked which side are you on?  We need to be prepared for that.”

“If it helps,” Sukki said, and pulled out her amulet which showed the next time gate and the general contours of what lay around them.  “The Kairos appears to be getting closer.  We might meet her tomorrow, and if she keeps moving east, we might find the time gate before we reach the war.  You said the war was mostly in the far west, over by Portugal.”  Sukki smiled.  She did not normally say that much, but these people were really becoming family, so she did not feel so shy.

Elder Stow whispered to Nanette.  “There are still Panknos in the future, but they are confined to their home world.  Everyone knows not to go there.”

Nanette nodded as Tony spoke up.  “Anyone find any chicken in this goop?”

Decker smiled.  “I ate something that may have been chicken.  No guarantees.”

“Tasted like chicken,” Katie said with a grin.

“It’s all Greek to me,” Lockhart said and returned her grin.

“Land of Goshen,” Lincoln said and added his grin.

“Land a Goshen,” Decker responded with an “Ouch.”  Nanette kicked him under the table.

“Family,” Elder Stow said with the biggest grin of all.

Tony just frowned and stirred the goop in his bowl.  Someone out in the kitchen screamed, and Tony jumped up as he mumbled the word, “Saved…”