Avalon 8.1 Rain and Fire, part 5 of 6

Katie whistled for her horse, and he came right away.  The other horses followed, except Lockhart’s horse, Seahorse, and Boston’s Strawberry.  They were not finished munching on flowers for breakfast, and Seahorse even stamped his hooves like the unruly child he was.

“Strawberry,” Boston called, and the horse came.  Seahorse still resisted but did not want to be the only one left standing in the field.

While the horses got saddled, Sukki asked what the opposing army was doing.  “They are just standing there being quiet.  It feels creepy.”

“Spooky,” Nanette agreed.

Decker lifted Tony’s hands.  Tony held his handgun at the ready, but he pointed the gun too low, anticipating the recoil.  “No recoil until after you fire,” Decker said.

“I can’t think of anything we can do to send them away.  This looks like a stalemate,” Lockhart said.

Lincoln walked up, having just put Ghost in the harness.  “Don’t look at me,” he said.

Cadmael offered a thought.  “It looks like the whole army from Caracol.”

“Maybe we could talk to them and see what they want?” Gabor suggested.

“Major, ever do any sharpshooting?” Decker asked.  “Six hundred meters is not that far.”

“Yes Colonel,” Katie answered.  “But I don’t think we are starting with sharpshooting.”

“We see if we can talk,” Lockhart agreed.  He started forward.  Katie, Cadmael, and Gabor went with him.  They got about a hundred yards toward the forest when they heard someone in the army line shout a command.  Lockhart could not tell what was said, but at once, the whole enemy line rushed forward.  More than five hundred, and maybe a thousand Caracol warriors hit Elder Stow’s screens at once.  They bounced off, but he heard Elder Stow shout, “No, no.  No.”

Lockhart quickly turned and brought everyone back while the Caracol warriors tried again and again.

“No,” Elder shouted once more, and the screen disappeared.  Three thousand Caracol warriors crossed the line, screaming murder.  Decker and Katie opened fire with the rifles set to automatic.  Lincoln, Lockhart, and Tony added their handguns to the mix.  At that distance, given the way they were all bunched up, they would hit something.

Boston gave her handgun to Nanette who bravely walked up beside Decker and pulled the trigger.  Boston did not have time to make explosive arrows, but she had her wand.  Alexis was already calling up a wind strong enough to blow dozens off their feet.  Boston made her flamethrower which at least slowed the charge.

Sukki rose up, seeing that Elder Stow was busy with the screen device.  At twenty feet in the air, Sukki could see the whole Caracol army.  She looked at her own hands.  She could not control her power well enough yet.  She did not practice.  She still scared herself.  She could not just stun them to put the whole Caracol army unconscious. She could fry many of them and leave charcoal bits on the ground that used to be human beings, but she could not bring herself to do that.  She made up her mind that she had to do that when something intruded through the air.

A dragon flew between the travelers and the army of Caracol, spewing fire on the army the whole way.  That fire, far more powerful than Boston’s little flame thrower, turned the whole front of that line into a burning, screaming mass of humanity.  The ones behind, or who were not disabled by the fire, turned and ran for their lives.  Decker, and after a minute Katie mercifully shot the men who were burning and screaming in pain.  After another moment, Tony joined them.  Then Lockhart pulled his shotgun and finished some of the last.  It felt like a horrible thing to have to do, but no one talked about it, ever.

Cadmael stood like a stoic and watched flanked by young Xipetec and old man Kaax.  Gabor and most of his escort crew were on their knees, and a few were crying.  A few more screamed and shrieked when the dragon turned in the sky and came in for a landing.  Lockhart stood out front and yelled at the top of his lungs.

“No fire.  Do no harm.  Friends.  Friends.”  He repeated the phrase in the Agdaline tongue that all dragons were bred to obey.  “No fire.  Friends.”  Of course, whether they obeyed when they got big and went wild was always a question, but there was nothing else they could do.  They stood in an open field without so much as a rock or tree to hide behind.  “Friends.”

The travelers gathered behind Lockhart.  The Mayan kept their distance, and many stayed on their knees.  The horses kept their distance as well, but they did not run off, being magically tied to their riders.  They shuffled away from the beast but stayed within reach.

The dragon landed and raised its head high in the sky.  It burped a small burst of flame into the sky and repeated Lockhart’s words in the Mayan tongue.  “No fire.”  People looked up and saw someone on the neck of the dragon, riding the dragon, like they once saw Ixchel, daughter of Maya, the corn woman goddess, who rode a different dragon a long time ago.

Lincoln whispered to Alexis.  “This is a different breed.  It still has all its feathers, like a baby.”

Alexis nodded and answered.  “And it looks more like an actual worm than most, with hardly any claws front and back.”  She pointed.  “The folded wings are hardly noticeable, the way they blend into the body.  It is a wonder it doesn’t set itself on fire with those feathers.”

Lincoln clarified.  “I read about that.  They are leathery and fireproof, a strong protection that is more flexible, though not as strong as scales.  Most dragons, especially the more dinosaur-looking type, shed their feathers at a certain age when their scales begin to harden. But a few of the more obvious worm-like breeds, the kind that slither but don’t really walk, wear their feathers their whole life.”

Alexis nodded, as the dragon said another word.  “Friends,” and Lockhart noticed the dragon spoke in the Mayan language, not the Agdaline.  He was about to say something when they heard the person overhead riding on the Dragon’s neck.

“Boston,” the woman said.

Boston shouted back.  “No way.  I’m not climbing on a dragon back to get my hug.”

The woman, obviously Yamaya, laughed.  They heard it as the dragon lowered its head to the ground and let a little puff of smoke out from its nostrils.  Yamaya slipped down and opened her arms.  She grinned, but Boston remained wary, being so close to the big dragon’s head.  At last, though, she could not help herself and ran into the hug.  Everyone smiled, though most looked at the dragon to see if it reacted.  It watched but stayed quiet.

Yamaya went around to hug all of the travelers.  It felt a bit like she was sending the dragon a message that these people were okay, and the dragon should not hurt them.  Then she introduced her dragon and stepped over to scratch behind the dragon’s ear.

“This is my friend, Gluga,” she said.  “She is my protector, though she says she is more like my mother, and I am like her baby.  She never had any babies.”  Gluga snorted and shot out her tongue, briefly, like a snake might taste the air.

“Glugh?” Lockhart said as he tried to grasp the Agdaline word.  “Injury?”

“Hurting,” Yamaya said.  “Gluga was a prisoner in a stone-built cage in Tikal for five hundred years.  She cried and told me how much being a prisoner hurt her.  We figured out how to set her free and we escaped to the wilderness around Uaxactun, but that is a long story.”  Yamaya looked up and saw a face she recognized.  “Cadmael,” she said.  “How dare you return here.”

Cadmael fell to one knee and lowered his head.  “These people appeared to belong to you.  They said as much.  I do not understand most of what they say or how they can do what they can do, but if they are not of the gods, as they claim, then they certainly must belong to you.  I felt it only fair to guide them and give them as safe a passage as I could.  I still owe you my life.”

Yamaya looked like she could not stay mad.  The smile came back with force.  “Thank you, but you and your friends can go back south if you do not want the Lords of Tikal to find you.”

“Yes, please.  Thank you,” Cadmael looked relieved that he was not going to be eaten.

“And these men from Tayasal?” Yamaya asked, not sure what to ask, exactly.

Somehow, Gabor found the courage to answer.  “My Lords said to take these people to Tikal and offer them for the sacrifice, to prove that Tayasal is still loyal to the great city and not willing to submit to the advances of King K’an of Caracol.  I see now that was a wrong-headed and foolish idea.  My few men could not take these people anywhere they did not want to go.  Please, mighty Queen of the Serpent.  May we live?”

Yamaya shook her head and sighed.  “Go ahead.  Take your men and leave.  Be content to live beside the lake of plenty and do not come here again.”

Gabor bowed his head and did not have to yell to get his men to hurry back the way they came.  Cadmael, Xipetec, and old man Kaax also bowed, and with more reverence and less desperation.  Then they turned and followed the men of Tayasal.

“They planned to give us to Tikal to have our hearts cut out?” Tony said, and people looked at Yamaya.

“It is what we do,” she said.  “But honestly, I don’t understand all the politics involved.  All I know is the people are divided, like polar opposites mostly on stupid little stuff that should not matter.  It is like the hundred year’s war with Catholics and Protestants killing each other over stupid stuff.  It isn’t like your Civil War where a couple of big issues divided the people and needed to be decided.  It is more like your twenty-first century where progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans can’t even talk to each other.  Only here, the cities fight each other all the time, and have for years.  And why?  Mostly over stupid stuff.  They just can’t agree.  I don’t understand politics.  Why can’t people just be nice to each other and live in peace?”

Gluga lifted her head a little and nudged Yamaya gently.  Yamaya’s smile returned, and she nodded.  “Come on,” she said.  Gluga will lead the way.  We cross a few fallow farm fields and get to an old causeway that will take us to the old city where we are living.  Come.  Get your horses and come on.”

Yamaya started walking, and Gluga slithered out front, making a nice indent in the field.  It took a bit to gather the horses.  Ghost, for some reason, did not appear bothered by the dragon.  So soon they headed out across the field, following the woman and the serpent.

The travelers stayed one night in the Wilderness of Uaxactun before they went on to Yamaya’s old city which Lincoln identified as Mirador.

Avalon 8.1 Rain and Fire, part 4 of 6

It took them three days to reach Seibal and another day to reach Tayasal.  Cadmael told them this was the most dangerous area and showed them all the roads that went to Caracol.  “Lord Kan II of Caracol turned his army many times against Naranjo, a city in league with the Great Tikal.  Finally, in the last year, he has taken Naranjo away from Tikal and all the cities fear he will now turn on them.”

“The people in Seibal and Tayasal seemed nice, but nervous,” Katie said.  But the smaller towns and villages we came through seemed unafraid.”

Cadmael agreed, and Kaax spoke.  “When the king goes hunting, the monkey laughs but the deer scatter.”

Decker gave it a guess.  “When a city goes on the warpath, they don’t bother with the small towns and villages. They go after the cities that own and control those towns.  But for the bigger cities it is like every man for himself.”

“Every city for itself,” Lincoln corrected.

“Land a Goshen,” Decker said.

Lincoln looked at Lockhart’s face and kept his mouth closed.

###

The following morning, the travelers left Tayasal under escort.  A man named Gabor led twenty men who pledged to take them safely to Tikal.  He and Cadmael did not know each other, but they soon got on friendly, speaking terms.

“And you believe these are messengers of the gods?” Gabor asked.

“If not, they should be,” Cadmael answered.  “I have seen thing and they know things, even future things that should not be spoken.  They told us about the hurricane the day before it arrived.”

Gabor closed his mouth and shook his head.  “It was a bad storm,” he admitted.

When they stopped for lunch, Elder Stow took a long look ahead on his scanner.  He saw a village about an hour away, but something did not look right.  He could not decide what bothered him, so he asked Decker to spy with his eagle totem.  Decker slipped out of the group where he could meditate in relative quiet.  His eagle totem took him almost to the clouds, and when he dove down to the village to give his eagle eyes a good look and he understood what bothered Elder Stow.

Decker opened his eyes and returned to the group with a word.  “The village ahead is full of soldiers—warriors.  They have the residents rounded up and surrounded in an open area, and they appear to be ransacking the village.  I think gathering foodstuffs.”

“How far away?” Lockhart asked.

“About an hour, if I judge correctly,” Elder Stow said.

“Any way to spy out the village and not be seen?” Lockhart asked.

“A few trees left along the causeway,” Decker answered.  “But mostly flat, open farm fields.”

“Yeah,” Lincoln interrupted.  “I expected this whole area to be deep dark jungle.”

“I agree,” Tony said.

Katie shook her head.  “Most of the jungle has been cut down for slash and burn agriculture.  And they probably have cut two or three times what they plant in a year.  They rotate fields because jungle soil plays out fairly quickly and needs time to renew.”

“Okay,” Lockhart raised his voice to regain everyone’s attention.  “We will get as close as we can and let Elder Stow pull up that hologram thing so we can look before we leap.”

An hour later, Elder Stow brought up an image from his scanner.  It showed Gabor, Cadmael, and the Mayan warriors in red, the travelers and their horses in blue, the residents in the village ahead in green, all bunched up in an open area, and the invading warriors in yellow.  For once, Elder Stow did not say yellow is for danger.

Cadmael pointed to the image and spoke.  “Tikal would not send armed men to a village.  They depend on grain from the village to feed their people.”

Gabor swallowed and said, “Caracol.”  He blinked at the image and explained himself.  “This place belongs to Yaxha, not Tikal.  The army of Caracol may be after Yaxha after Naranjo.”

Or they may be attacking Tikal itself and wanting to secure the land behind them and gather food to feed their army,” Decker suggested.

“Maybe Tikal is attacking Yaxha as a counter to Caracol taking Naranjo,” Katie said.

“Tikal owns Yaxha,” Gabor said.  “But Yaxha may be tempted to switch to Caracol after the taking of their sister city, and that might be enough to bring out Tikal’s men.”

“I would say that is least likely,” Decker countered.

“Sir,” Katie acknowledged her superior officer.

“Most likely, Caracol,” Cadmael said, and they planned what to do.

The travelers mounted up and rode their horses into the village.  Their Mayan guides and escort bunched up behind them.  Nanette and Alexis walked in the rear and led Ghost and the wagon.  Elder Stow payed close attention to his screen device and fiddled with the controls.

The warriors, and they were about three dozen from Caracol, made a line between the travelers and the village residents.  The line of armed men said stop where you are and go no further without anyone having to say anything.

Lockhart waited until Elder Stow said, “Done.  Ready.”  Then he got down and stepped up in front of his horse.  This time, Katie stayed mounted.  She had her rifle out and ready.

“You have a leader?”  Lockhart, looking like a giant to these men, had to wait while the men of Caracol whispered among themselves.  Finally, one stepped forward and Boston yelled.

“That is not the leader.  That is the one the leader designated to face the giant.”  Of course, her good elf ears heard exactly what the men had been whispering.

The man looked back, and a different man stepped out.  He looked determined and walked up to Lockhart.  Lockhart held his hand up as if to signal that was close enough, but the man kept walking until he bumped his toe and then his face and hands into Elder Stow’s screen and fell back on his rump.  The man rubbed his toe as Lockhart shrugged.

“I am giving you thirty seconds to collect your things and leave this place and leave these people alone.  After that time, I cannot guarantee you will survive.”

A Caracol warrior stepped up from behind the line and threw his spear at Lockhart while Lockhart said slowly, “One—two—three.”  The spear did not fare any better than the Caracol leader.  It bounced off Elder Stow’s screen and they all heard it crack.  Lockhart simply said, “Four—five—six.”

The leader jumped up and started to yell at his people to grab everything they could and go.  Several started toward the villagers, and Lockhart shot off his shotgun.  The thunderous roar and spray of buckshot, mostly that tore up the ground, got everyone’s attention.  A couple of Caracol warriors got pinprick holes in their legs that started bleeding. Several warriors screamed.  Many of the people screamed.  Lockhart was not sure if maybe some of the escort warriors from Tayasal screamed.  But then all went silent, and eyes turned to Lockhart.  He spoke into the silence.

“The people and their food are not your things.  I said collect your things and leave.  “Eleven—twelve—thirteen.”

The warriors from Caracol went off down the road and disappeared by the time Lockhart got to twenty-five.  Elder Stow turned off his screens.  Everyone came up into the village.  Nanette and Alexis went straight to the people to see if any were hurt.  Katie shouldered her rifle and got down to give Lockhart a kiss on the cheek.

“I counted slowly,” he said.

“I’m glad we did not have to kill anyone,” she said.

“Me too,” Decker said, but then answered the surprise on the faces around him by adding, “Believe it or not.”  He reigned back to join Tony in securing the wagon.

Cadmael and the men from Tayasal all wanted to spend the night in the village.  It turned four o’clock which meant they only had a few of hour of daylight left, but the travelers insisted they push on, not that they had any expectation of making it to Tikal before dark, but, as Katie explained, “By morning, the men of Caracol might be able to set up an ambush and we might walk right into it.”

The Mayan dragged their feet, but the travelers did not stop, until around six.  They came to a field left fallow, and they thought it might be a good place to camp.  They had plenty of open space behind them and stopped about six hundred yards short of a jungle area, so they had plenty of space ahead of them as well.  They had no interest in being surprised.  After they all got settled, Elder Stow set his screens around the camp so their night would be undisturbed.  The horses got set free for the night since Elder Stow finally figured out how to set the screen so they could shoot through it if they had to, but the horses and people could not accidentally walk through it and find themselves on the outside.  Of course, nothing but air and most birds could penetrate from the outside.  Boston, Sukki, and Nanette complained that the insects could also penetrate the screens.

Elder Stow shook his head.  “The insects are already inside,” he insisted.

Come the morning, the travelers woke to a surprise.  On the edge of the trees, six hundred yards off, and totally blocking the causeway to Tikal, there stood hundreds, or more likely thousands of Caracol warriors, ready for a fight.

Lincoln complained.  “You try to be nice.  You count nice and slow and let the men go, and they come back with an army.”

Avalon 8.1 Rain and Fire, part 3 of 6

The Avenue ended in front of an adobe mountain beside what Katie called ball courts.

“Basketball?” Lockhart joked.  He knew better.

“Similar,” Katie said.  “Except the ring the ball needs to go through is twenty feet up and turned sideways, and no hands or feet allowed.”  To Lockhart’s curious look, she added, “Head shoulders, elbows, chest and knees only.”

At the end of the Avenue, roughly thirty men, looking like warriors but mostly older men, stood on a three-foot platform to stand above the crowd, a place where they could talk down to the people.  Aapo, Yochi, and Eme bowed deeply.  The people crowded around to hear what the rulers might say.  The soldiers waited, patiently, and kept the crowd from coming too close.  Katie and Lockhart stepped forward, followed by Lincoln and Alexis.  The horses, not having any grass to nibble, and wary of the crowd around them, also waited patiently for their riders.

“We are…” Lincoln started to speak but found Alexis’ hand over his mouth.  He meant to speak to Lockhart and Katie, but no doubt other ears would hear.

Aapo went into a long and fanciful tale about the travelers appearing out of nowhere, and coming from the west, which seemed important.  He told about the horses being poisonous, but how they were good servants to the gods.  He named Gukumatz, and the others that he knew.  He talked about how they flew over the narrow ledge on the mountain and embellished everything to make the tale almost unrecognizable.  He finished.  He waited like a man waiting for judgment.

Cadmael stepped up, bowed briefly, and added one word, militarily short and to the point.  “I see no trouble from these people.”

Silence followed as Elder Stow shuffled up from behind, his eyes glued to his scanner.

Katie and Lockhart took a step forward, and Katie spoke.  “We come in peace and pray that peace may extend to all of your people.”

“My father,” Elder Stow spoke to Lockhart as quietly as he could, but Gott-Druk are not good at whispering.  “I am picking up a storm over the water in the northwest.”  He stopped talking and stared at the group of elders.  Katie sensed what was coming.

One of the elders pushed to the front of the group.  He held a spear which he threw at Katie.  Katie stepped aside in time, but the spear struck Elder Stow, who fortunately had turned on his personal screen as soon as they got surrounded by the crowd.  The spear bounced off and Katie caught it.  She growled.

“That was not smart.” Lockhart spoke softly into the hush that followed.  Katie snapped the spear in two.  She threw the pieces to the ground.  Boston pulled her wand and shot a stream of fire which burned the weapon.

The elder who threw the spear screamed something unintelligible and reached for a second spear.  Decker fired his rifle.  The man spun around, fell to the ground, and died.  Two other men in the elders group quickly dropped their own spears.

“That was foolish,” Katie yelled, while Lockhart turned to Elder Stow.  Elder Stow pulled himself together enough to finish his thought.

“At its rate of travel, the hurricane should be here by tomorrow afternoon.  It will probably be a tropical storm by then, the way you folks judge things, but still destructive.”

Katie kept yelling.  “We came in peace.  We are not your prisoners.  We are not your sacrifices.  We are not your enemies, and you do not want to make us your enemies.”

“Cadmael,” Lockhart interrupted and looked at the man.  Cadmael had his hands up which somehow indicated to his warriors that they should not interfere.  “Is that the way to the main city?”  He could not remember the name.  He reached for Katie’s hand.

“Tikal,” Lincoln escaped Alexis’ hand and filled in the name.

Cadmael nodded, then shook his head.  “It is beyond the temple.”  He pointed to the pyramid.

“Take us,” Lockhart said before he turned to the elders.

“You should be kind to the strangers in your midst,” Katie finished yelling.  The elders looked unmoved.

Lockhart raised his voice.  “A hurricane is coming.  You will face the storm after mid-day tomorrow.  Consider this your warning.”  He waved Cadmael to move on, and the man did not argue, but Alexis spoke up.

“We need grain for the horses.”  Alexis reminded them all of what they talked about earlier, and she turned to give Aapo a hug.  She hugged Yochi and Eme and thanked them for their help.  Boston and Sukki joined in the hugs.  Lincoln suggested they go straight home and prepare their families for the coming storm, and they did, appearing anxious to get away from there.

“I would not expect any grain from these people,” Katie said, not quite out of steam.

“I can help with that,” Cadmael said.  He bowed to the unmoving and silent elders on the platform and waved to his warriors.  The warriors formed up and the crowd parted for them.  The travelers soon got behind the pyramid.

“This is the causeway to Tikal,” Cadmael explained.  “It is five days journey.  There are turns, crossways, places to stop and shelter, and places to avoid.  I will go with you.”  Before any of the travelers could object, Lincoln interrupted.  He had the database and talked with Boston, who checked her amulet.

“Six days if we stop and shelter from the storm,” he said.  “Yamaya should be another day beyond Tikal.”

Cadmael sent most of the men home to prepare for the storm.  He did not doubt the warning the travelers gave.  Some came back temporarily with bags and clay pots full of grain and food for the road.  Tony directed them to fill the wagon.  The causeway looked like a reasonable road, at least in the city.  No telling how bad it might get in the wilderness.  One good thing, though, was the land was not solid jungle, like it got in the future.  In fact, much of it was cleared for farm fields, so Tony figured if the road got too rough in a country not made for wheels, he might do better driving across the relatively flat farm fields.

Cadmael returned with two men to speak to Lockhart and Katie.  He introduced them.  “The young one is Xipetec.  He is not married and has brothers and sisters to take care of the home.  The old man is Kaax”

“Itzenkaax,” the man said.  “But they call me Kaax, and I’m not that old.”

Cadmael nodded.  “His wife died three years ago from the sickness, and his son left with the others to prepare his family for the storm.”

“The three of you will show us the way to Tikal?” Lockhart asked, wanting to be sure what the arrangement was.

“The magic number,” Kaax said, and pointed up.  “Like the three stars that stand side by side in the heavens.”

“Orion’s belt,” Katie said.  “I smell some Shemsu in that.  Boston,” she called.

“I only smell human beans,” Boston responded, and no one corrected her, though Alexis rolled her eyes and imagined she had been hanging out with too many imps and dwarfs.

“No, actually,” Cadmael shook his head.  “These are the only ones courageous enough to travel with you.”

“Good.”  Decker butted up to the front.  “Three wisemen.  Now, can we get moving before those elders think of some way to attack us.”

“Right,” Lockhart heard.  Boston and Sukki rode off a short way down the road.  The rest walked their horses and followed on foot.

The causeway proved good, about twenty feet wide and relatively flat, though mostly it wound around the hills.  “Good to not have to climb over the hills,” Decker remarked.

“But not good winding like a lazy river,” Tony responded.  “Give me Roman roads every time.  Straight as an arrow.”

“And the Romans built bridges,” Nanette added.  They arrived at a riverbank.  The river did not appear to be too wide or deep, but it guarded a small city on the other side, one that did not appear too friendly.  Thirty men stood on the opposite bank, and they were armed.

Cadmael stepped out front and shouted across the river.  One older man shouted back, but eventually the travelers would be allowed to cross.  Cadmael turned to explain to Lockhart.  Lincoln, Alexis, and Boston all listened in.  “They will let you pass, but you must go around and not come into the city.  I know a way where you can bring your wagon.”

“We are not that scary,” Lockhart protested.

Cadmael shook his head.  “You are strange and different.  That is enough for some.  And these people are afraid of Caracol.  They are not bad people.  There is much jade here along the river.  They dig what Copan does not take, and they trade well, but now, they are afraid.”

“El Porton,” Lincoln named the place.  “That is what it is called on my map.”  He showed Alexis.

“My father,” Elder Stow walked up with Katie.  “I have set four discs on the wagon, front, back, and both sides.  Sukki and I can float it across without getting it wet.  Tony will bring the mule.  Decker will bring Mudd.  Nanette will bring Sukki’s horse, Cocoa.”

“Better let me take Cocoa,” Boston interrupted.  “Cocoa and Strawberry go together.”

“But, my father,” Elder Stow continued, and looked up at the drizzling rain that started again an hour ago.  Everyone glanced up, following Elder Stow’s lead.  “The storm has sped up.  It will arrive tonight.  I recommend high ground in case the river overflows.  We need somewhere the horses can graze.  I can set my screens around a large enough area to keep out the worst of it.”

“We need somewhere that won’t become a mud slide,” Katie said

Two hours later, as the sky darkened beneath the clouds, they arrived in a meadow just north and up the hill from El Porton.  “I told them the storm is coming,” Cadmael said.  “But I cannot say they will listen.”

“The telling is the important thing,” Katie said.  “You have no control over what they hear and believe.”

Elder Stow threw the switch and young Xipetec stood and let out a shout.  “What happened to the rain?”

“Magic,” Boston blurted out, the second time Boston tried that line.  Alexis gave her a hard, motherly stare.

“Come,” Alexis said.  “I will show you.”  She led the young man to the edge of the meadow and showed him where the screen stopped, and the rain began to pour.

Lincoln turned to the old man, Kaax.  “You’re not curious?”

Kaax shook his head.  “But I am looking forward to a piece of deer that isn’t drowned.”

Cadmael just laughed.

The storm had plenty of lightning and thunder, but Elder Stow tweaked his screens to shade them from the great flashes of light and deaden the sound of the rumbling thunder.  They stayed most of the next day.  Finally, Lockhart made them move two hours north where they found a new campsite.  He was not about to let them go back to El Porton and see what they could do to help the people and with whatever damage might have occurred.  That might have delayed them for a week, but he only told Katie that was what he was doing.

************************

MONDAY

The travelers run into big problems on the way to find Yamaya.  A whole army blocks the path, and a dragon intervenes.  Until then, Happy Reading

*

Avalon 8.1 Rain and Fire, part 1 of 6

After 606 A.D. Yucatan

Kairos 99: Yamaya, the Serpent Queen

Recording …

The old man and old woman stepped in front of the villagers and bowed to the strangers.  They looked uncertain, and some of the villagers behind them looked afraid.  Lockhart and Katie tried to smile, and Lockhart thought it was a good thing Decker stayed busy trying to get the wagon through the time gate.  Decker’s smile had something of a shark-look to it, or maybe like the way a crocodile smiled right before it ate you.

“We mean you no harm,” Katie said.

“We are just passing through and will go as soon as we are all gathered,” Lockhart tried.  He noticed Sukki sat calmly on her horse and the horse stayed still beneath her. Boston’s horse kept wiggling, like he wanted to get moving already.  Boston paid little attention as her eyes focused on the amulet that pointed to the next time gate.

Lockhart glanced in the other direction behind him.  Elder Stow had his scanner out, searching the farm fields that snaked up the mountainside, and the deep forest ahead of them, in case something ahead might present a danger to them.  Lincoln assured them that the Maya had no standing armies, and only raised men to fight when they went to war.  Several people said that was fine, but they did not want to walk into a war.

“What is the hold up?” Lincoln asked.  Alexis looked content to wait, but Lincoln, and sometimes Decker, could be as impatient as Boston’s horse.  Lockhart shrugged and turned his attention back to the older couple.  The old woman let out one very soft shriek and looked down at her feet while the old man took one more step forward and spoke.

“I am Aapo.”  He bowed.  “My wife is Akna.”  He bowed again.  “This village is our children, mostly, they are our children.” He bowed for a third time.  “The great city of Kaminaljuyu, is in that direction.”  He pointed off toward a mountain to the right and a little behind the travelers.  “How may we serve you?”

“No,” Boston spoke up, and when Lockhart and Katie looked, she pointed north, in the direction they faced.  Before Lockhart could respond, the man lifted his brows, almost smiled, and spoke again.

“That way is the great city of Tikal where the feathered dragon king rules over all the cities and the people.  Certainly, the messengers of the gods would be most welcome there.”

Decker pushed up from the rear to report. The old man shouted, “I’ic’ ajaw,” and fell to his knees.  The old woman let out a little shriek again, and joined him on his knees, though it looked like her old knees did not want to cooperate.

Decker ignored the couple and reported.  “We are ready to go, but Tony says the wagon probably won’t make it if we have to drag it through the jungle.”

“What?” Lockhart asked.  “Not you,” he said to Decker.  He wanted to know what the man said and wondered why his mind did not automatically translate the words into English.  That one gift of the Kairos made this journey possible: to understand and be understood no matter the language spoken.

Katie frowned.  “I think I’ic’ is the word for black and ajaw is lord, I think.  Like a name.  Some names don’t translate well.  Maybe black lord, or ruler of the blacks or blackness.  Maybe Lord of the darkness.  Then again, it may be a reference to Africa, like Lord of Africa or something.”

“We get the idea,” Lockhart said, and Decker nodded slowly as he thought about accepting that designation.  Katie’s blonde locks and Boston’s red head got plenty of notice from time to time, but mostly Decker, and now Nanette, stood out in some places as something different because of their dark skin.

“Tell him we are looking for Yamaya,” Lincoln shouted from behind.

The woman Akna let out her full shriek and fell to her face.  The people behind her also gasped and shrieked, fell to their knees to join their parents, and quite a few of them scanned the skies for something unnamed.

Aapo swallowed before he spoke.  “The Serpent Queen.  The enemy of Tikal.  The thief from Ox Te Tuun, who stole the feathered dragon for Chiik Naab, to burn the great cities of Tikal.  Even the Yaknoom, ruler of the enemy city Calakmul of the three stones fears her…” Old man Aapo’s words petered off as he fell silent and got down on his face beside the old woman.

Lockhart frowned and turned to Katie.  “Translate?”

Katie shook her head.  “My knowledge of Mayan and Mesoamerican languages in general is very limited, but my guess would be mostly names.  Ox Te Tuun is probably a city name.  Chiik Naab might be a region, or maybe the area that city controls.”  She shrugged.

“Lincoln?”  Lockhart raised his voice without turning around.

Lincoln got out the database to be sure, but he already read about it, so he related what he remembered.  “Tikal and Calakmul are two great cities in the classical Mayan period.  They are competitors.  Think Athens and Sparta.  And like Athens and Sparta, they have different cultures and worldviews.  Tikal may have been conquered by a pre-Aztec people in the pre-classical era.  That may be the source of the feathered serpent or feathered dragon image.  They have a king.  Women are merely wives and concubines.  Very patriarchal.  Calakmul is more classic Mayan, some think.  They are the city of the snake—the Kan is the snake symbol.  The nobles are even called the divine lords of the snake.  I know.  The snake versus the serpent can be confusing.  Anyway, kings and queens tend to joint rule in Calakmul, though sometimes they have just a king, but women are more equal, and some even fight on the battlefield.”

“Get to the point,” Decker said.

“Mayan cities are independent city-states more or less like the Greeks used to be.  Tikal and Calakmul have a network of allied cities that they minimally control, for trade and military purposes.  Sometimes, cities switch sides.  It’s complicated.  But Calakmul and Tikal are the Athens and Sparta—the big players.  Yamaya was born in Palenque.  Her city got conquered by Calakmul when she was six.  She got forced married to the son of the king of Calakmul.  She actually became queen of Calakmul for about six years before her husband Cauak died in battle trying to take another city.  The younger brother, Chen took the crown, and drove Yamaya into the wilderness of Tikal.  The king of Tikal planned to cut her heart out—they all practice human sacrifice here—but she somehow set the feathered serpent of Tikal free from its cage, and they escaped back to the wilderness between the cities, ending up in a smaller city called Uaxactun, if I said that right.  Now, both the Athens and Sparta cities are afraid of her because she has some control over the serpent, that is, the dragon.”

Lockhart shook his head.  “This isn’t helping,” he said, and looked again at Katie who smiled.

“Quetzalcoatl,” she said, calling him by that name.  “Looks like the Kairos found a dragon, and she has both main cities scared of her.”  Katie smiled and noticed Aapo looked up and looked curious at the name.  Katie tried another name and pointed at Lockhart.  “Kukulkan.”

“Gukumatz,” Aapo said, nice and loud, and he almost smiled.  Most of the village looked up, and looked pleased, though the old woman shook her head, kept her face pointed toward the dirt, and continued to look scared.

Lockhart still frowned as Decker whispered, “I’m content with Lord of Africa.”  He went back to check on the wagon crew.

Lockhart sighed.  “Stand up, Aapo.  No one is going to eat you.”  Even as he spoke, the early morning sun broke free of the hills to bathe the travelers in the light.

Aapo stood slowly.  He watched, as Elder Stow pushed up on one side, and Boston, who finally got her horse to settle down, pushed up next to Katie.  Boston and Katie pulled out their amulets to compare.  They looked like pieces of driftwood, or maybe seashells, shaped like miniature conch shells of some sort.  Elder Stow spoke.

“My father.  I checked when our friend here mentioned a city on the other side of that mountain.  There appears to be a narrow path between here and the city, and from the city, something like a road appears to head north, the way we are headed.”  He looked over at Katie, and she nodded and pointed north.

“The highway,” Aapo pointed to the mountain.  It is the safe way between Kaminaljuyu and Tikal.”  Lockhart nodded as Sukki got down.  She found Alexis already headed toward the people.  They both ended up beside a nervous Aapo and reached down for the wife.

“Stand up, Akna,” Alexis said.  She and Sukki each took one arm of the old woman and lifted her to her feet.  The woman still would not look up, and backed up, bowing, until she got surrounded by her children, most of whom were standing again and watching.

“You can take us to Kaminaljuyu?” Katie asked.

“Show us the way?” Lockhart clarified.

“As the gods command,” Aapo said and bowed deeply.  Lockhart frowned again, but Lincoln spoke up from behind.

“Good.  We can start moving.”