Avalon Pilot part III-6: Babel

The travelers and twelve men with great spears, like their leader, gathered on the mound.  The men all looked big and strong, and as Boston noticed, they all looked mean and cruel besides.  The travelers got to walk in between the two lines, which may not have been military lines, but certainly spoke of men who knew how to retain prisoners.  Doctor Procter got to walk up front next to the big old man.

“It’s all right,” Lockhart suggested.  “The amulet is programmed correctly.  You just take us in the direction we need to go.”

Doctor Procter still did not get it, but he made no objection.  They started off the mound, and the people parted before them like the Red Sea parted for Moses.  Lincoln looked around and he did not like what he saw.

“The people.”  He spoke quietly to Alexis, but Lockhart and Boston in front of him and Mingus and Roland with their good elf ears heard.  “They look like people past the tipping point.  The looks they are giving the old man as soon as his back is turned are frightening.  I sense trouble.  I don’t think we will get all the way to the tower.”

“Humans,” Mingus scoffed.

“They look to be cooperating,” Roland pointed out.

“Are you sure?”  Lockhart asked Lincoln, even as he took the shotgun from his back and cradled it with one eye to be sure the marines were ready.

“Oh, yes,” Alexis whispered.  “I trust Benjamin’s nose for trouble.  His senses are excellent.”

Lockhart nudged Boston to encourage her to get ready to run, but she had her eyes on a man who paralleled them in the crowd.  He seemed like one man who did not appear to have evil intentions toward them.  It stood out, an unusual sight in a crowd of people who looked like they would just as soon eat the strangers as look at them.

Then it happened, just below the tower hill, and just before they broke free of the crowd.  A big, burly man full of soot from the fires, one who looked something like a blacksmith stepped forward, supported by three other equally gruff looking men, and they blocked the way.

“What is this?”  The old man looked up from the amulet and stared hard at the blacksmith who responded with what sounded to Lockhart like, “Gubba-dubba-mubba.”

“Gibberish,” the old man spat.  “Remove him.”  He turned to the man with the spear beside him, but that man also said something odd.

“Bullaka Meeko?”

“I think he said, who died and made you god?”  Roland whispered

Still, the intent of the big old man was clear, so the spearman lowered his spear and stepped forward.  The blacksmith stepped inside the stone point of the spear and landed a right hook on the spearman’s jaw.  That one act set everyone free.  Suddenly fists were being thrown everywhere and the scene dissolved into mayhem.

“Gibberish.  Why can’t you speak sense?”  They heard the old man shout even as Boston shouted louder.

“This way.  Hurry.”

The travelers followed Boston, and she followed the man who had signaled to her.  She had no idea what that man wanted, but he led them away from the ever-widening circle of violence.

The last they heard from the big old man was, “You must do what I say.  I am god!”  Then a fist went into the old man’s mouth while the travelers, with no real injuries, managed to break free.  The man they followed led them quickly up the tower hill until they were above the mayhem.

“I am Peleg,” the man said, once they could slow to speak.  “My family is safe.  Come.”  He led them around the base of the hill to where the forest grew up to the back of the rise.

“Peleg?”  Lockhart looked at Doctor Procter and then back at Mingus.

“One of the good guys,” Mingus assured him.

“So why are you helping us?” Lockhart finished his question for the man.

“Because you don’t belong to Nimrod.  You are strangers and deserve no part in the madness that is breaking out everywhere.”

“But what is going on?” Alexis was the one who asked.

They came to the trees and Peleg whistled before he turned to answer.  “Nimrod has told us there is no God.  He has taken the place of God and played on the fears of the people.  He says this monstrous tower of his will be our lasting memorial in case the flood comes again and we are all swept away.”

“But you don’t believe that.”

“No.  Some few of us have not forgotten.”  As he spoke, young men, women and children came out from among the trees to stand beside him.  “We remember the source of all, and the rainbow pledge.  Many people have already escaped, but sadly they have taken to the worship of the powers in this earth.”

“But that was madness back there,” Boston took up the cause.  “I can still hear the screaming and fighting and dying.  Why?”

“Because the people finally realized if Nimrod can be a god, so can they.  They are all being their own god.”

Lieutenant Harper got it.  “And when everyone is their own god, everything becomes relative.  Then even the words you speak mean whatever you want them to mean, whether anyone else understands them or not, it doesn’t matter.”

“So the gibberish.”  Alexis stepped up and took her husband’s arm.

“What a nimrod.  What a maroon.  Yuck, yuck.”  Lockhart smiled.  To Boston’s curious look he simply added, “Just something from my youth.”  Oh.  She curved her lips but made no sound.

“Our way lies along the edge of the trees.  My family is reluctant to venture into the forest.”

“Our way?”  Lincoln asked, and Doctor Procter pointed into the deep woods.

“Thank you.”  Lockhart thought to say it.

“Go with God.”  Peleg responded, and he and his family began to move off the plains.

“Humans.”  Mingus shook his head.  “It is all gibberish if you ask me.”  He started into the woods, and everyone became obliged to follow.  They did not get far, though, before Doctor Procter shouted.

“No.”  He spun around, ran toward the hill.  He began to climb.  He ran elf fast, or half-elf fast, but because of his age, it did not take long for the others to catch up.

“What is it?”  Captain Decker asked.

“He will not leave until he sees the Kairos,” Mingus answered for the half-elf.  “And on second thought, I suppose I agree with him.”  They did not have to look far.  A child, rather, two children sat in the shadow of the tower, joined not along one whole side as in the drawing on the Ark, but only at the wrists.  He had no left hand and she had no right.  They sat in the dirt, turned away from the madness going on across the plains below.  They could not have been older than five or six, and they were crying.

Avalon Pilot part III-5: Nimrod

“To the high ground and prepare to defend yourselves,” Lockhart shouted, and the marines moved before they noticed what the others saw right away.  The people did not follow them.  None of the people so much as stepped on the mound.  They looked like they did not dare touch it, and after only a moment, they began to wander back to whatever they had been doing, as if the travelers were never there.

“Very primitive construction.”  Doctor Procter had already moved on to examine the crude tent.  It appeared to be no more than a number of overlapping animal skins held up by some precious lumber.  It seemed larger than Lincoln thought when he saw it from a distance, and might easily hold a dozen or more people.  He sketched furiously, but at the same time, he imagined a good gust of wind could blow it apart.

“Wow.”  Boston stared at Alexis and Roland.

Alexis smiled.  “On my bad days, Benjamin calls me a witch.”  She looked at her father.  “But he says it with love,” she added.

Boston got herself spun around to face a pair of angry eyes.  Lockhart did not look happy.  “You nearly got us all killed.  I said leave the food alone.”

Boston dropped her eyes.  “I know.  I’m sorry.”

“You’re lucky they didn’t mob you and tear you to pieces looking for the food.”

“Don’t be too hard on her,” Roland came to her defense.  “She was thinking and just trying to help.”  Boston heard, but she was busy.  She looked up into Lockhart’s eyes.  She saw that he loved her and the scolding was out of love, and that made her happy.

“I won’t do it again,” she said.

“Yes you will.”  Lockhart softened a little as the relief he felt washed over him.  He hugged her.  “You just need to remember I’m the director here in Bobbi’s absence.  Maybe I can’t tell these elves what to do, but I’m still your boss.”  He looked up.  “And that goes for you, too.”

“Yes boss.”  Lincoln spoke absentmindedly since he was busy.  Alexis grimaced and gave a sloppy little salute.

“Oh!”  Doctor Procter got ready to open the front flap of the tent when he got surprised instead.  A woman came out and held the flap open.  She opened her hand to invite them in.

“It appears we are wanted,” Mingus said.

“Careful,” Lincoln whispered, as they walked into the dark tent one by one.

“Come in, come in.”  They heard the man’s words before their eyes adjusted to the dim light.  It turned out to be not much of a tent.  It had no furniture, just some straw in the corner to sleep on and a big stump to sit on.  The man looked very old, but when he stood up from the stump, he also proved to be a very big man.  “We do not often have strangers here.”  He examined them as closely as they examined him.

“Where are we, exactly?”  Lincoln asked.

“In my world.  And my people, as you have seen, are hungry.”  He took a step and paused in front of Mingus.  “I do not traffic much with elves.”  He stepped over to examine Doctor Procter.  “And there is something different about you.  Something wrong.”

“He is a half-elf,” Boston offered.

The man shivered a little, reacting the way Lockhart reacted when he first thought about it.  “But you others.”  He paused to point at Alexis.  “Six, I think.  You six are my people.  You should be helping with the tower.  You should be building the monument to my eternity.”  A compulsion filled his words.  For a moment, Lockhart felt very much like that was what he wanted to do; but then Alexis touched him.  He watched Roland touch the two marines while Alexis touched Boston and took her husband’s arm.  The feeling of compulsion faded.

“So that is how it is.”  The old man stared at them for another moment before he noticed the doctor’s amulet.  Of all the sophisticated things they had, the big old man went for something he might call familiar.  “And what is this?”

“It is just a bit of sentimental wood.”  Doctor Procter practiced that lie.

“No, wait.  Don’t tell me.  It is, how should I call it, a locator.”  The big old man smiled at himself.  He obviously had special powers of discernment as well as compulsion.  “I should have this, but then you know how to use it.”  Doctor Procter could do little more than nod.  “I need you to locate something for me.”  He turned his back on them to walk again to the stump and bed where he lifted a spear as tall as the tent top.  “Please.”  He said that last word without facing any of them, and it sounded like it came out, forced through gritted teeth.

“Well, I don’t know.  It isn’t…”  The doctor started to speak, but stopped when Mingus bumped him.  Mingus, a full-blood elf, knew the sound of a bargain when he heard one.

“What would you have us find?” he asked.

The big man stood with his spear.  “There is a creature,” he said, before then he thought to explain.  “My people are hungry because the powers in my world have rebelled against me.  They have made this unnatural abomination and kept the food to feed it and help it grow.  This travesty must stop.  You must help me find it so I can end it.”

“And what is in it for us?”  Mingus responded.

The big old man turned and eyed the elf with big, sad eyes.  “My people are hungry,” he repeated.

“A true manipulator,” Mingus spoke, with a bit of admiration in his voice.  He would have said something else, but Lockhart interrupted.

“We will do it.”  Several eyes shot to him in wonder.  “Doctor, we can follow the direction on your amulet and I am sure this fine man will help us with the crowd.”


“Yes, of course.”  Alexis stepped up and took the doctor’s hand.  “We will follow the direction pointed out on the amulet and this man will help us through the masses of people.”  She turned to the big man.  “We will help you because the people need food.  People should not starve.  That isn’t right.”

The big man smiled weakly but called with some strength.  “Moragga!”  The woman poked her head into the tent.  “Gather the men.  We are going on a hunt.”

Avalon Pilot part III-4: The Plains of Shinar

In the morning, the armed and ready group walked slowly toward the mass of people.  They paused only briefly when they were seen.  They started to walk again when it appeared they were seen and ignored.

“I was going to mention this gathering of humans,” Mingus said quietly to Lockhart.  “I guess it slipped my mind.”

Oddly enough, Lockhart did not get angry.  He fully expected the elder elf to lie or withhold information, if for no other reason than because he was an elf.  But he had been taught by the Kairos in years past that once a little one gave friendship, it was solid and steadfast.  He could only hope.

As they drew near to the crowd, they began to see the gaunt faces of the people.  Ragged, well-worn animal skins barely clung to some of the people.  Others were simply naked, and on many of them, the ribs showed to indicate their hunger.  The eyes of many were empty, like they had lost all sense of what it meant to be human—what it meant to have hope.  Still, they labored.  Lockhart noticed the men dragged trees from further and further afield, and he noticed the great pit that had to be a quarter mile wide from which they dug clay with tools of stone and bone.

“Oh, the children.”  Alexis spoke with concern.  A pack of them gathered to see these strange new people.  “Boston, give me some of the bread-crackers you have in your pack.”  She reached one hand back but her focus stayed on a grubby little girl in the front of the pack.  Boston would have given the crackers to her if Lockhart did not speak up.

“Don’t do that,” he commanded.  “You will start a food riot.”

“Best to keep things hidden for now,” Mingus agreed.

“Absolutely,” Captain Decker seconded that agreement.

Alexis looked disappointed.  She turned to Lincoln, her hand still out in search of bread.  “Dear?”

Lincoln shook his head and gave a very practical answer.  “We may need that food down the road.  It isn’t for these people.”  He held his breath as they walked straight into that mass of humanity.  “I still say we should have gone around,” he mumbled, but one way was the clay pit, and the other offered no place to hide.  Truth be told, they were all curious about what they might find.

They walked around most people who hardly gave them a glance.  Some people stepped aside for them to pass and mumbled unintelligible words in their direction.  Sometimes they had to walk a good bit to the side because there were fire pits everywhere, where men and women baked the clay into bricks, adding only a bit of grass, leaves, or crumbled bark dragged in on the trees, in order to hold the clay together.

“Straw would work better,” Lieutenant Harper spoke quietly, but they looked around and saw only mud beneath their feet.  It looked that way for miles.  The earth had been stripped clean of every living thing and trampled under two million feet

They walked slowly, all bunched up, eyes everywhere, until they came near a mound in the center of it all.  It had a tent on top, and sat about half-way to the hill with the growing tower.  Lincoln looked ready to ask about the mound, the one spot that remained untouched in all that mass of humanity, but several men stepped in front of them and finally and deliberately blocked their way.  They stopped.  One man with skin the color of red clay, and with big eyes, big hands and a big nose took a long whiff of air.  He smiled, showed all three of his teeth, and said, “Mangot.”  The man beside him said, “Golendiko.”  The third man, one almost as big as Lockhart, shouted, “Clidirunna.”

Mingus tried to clean out his ears.  Elves were gifted with the ability to hear and respond no matter what language was spoken, but he was getting none of it.

“I think they are trying to say food,” Roland said, and he put his hand to his sword hilt but made no hostile move.  The shouting soon became enough to attract a crowd, but the crowd still looked reluctant to touch the strangers

“Make for the mound,” Lockhart suggested.

“Keep moving.”  Captain Decker urged them forward.  At first the crowd parted, but before they could reach the actual mound, the crowd closed in again.  Lockhart could see over the heads of nearly everyone, and he saw the commotion had not drawn in more than fifty or so people.

“Make for the mound,” Lockhart repeated, softly, for fear the people would understand.  They moved, but the crowd moved with them to block the way.

“Food!”  Everyone spun around.  Boston was at the back, as usual, and she threw a half-dozen bread-crackers over her shoulder, away from the mound.  People shrieked and raced to fight over the morsels.  Everyone got jostled.  Lincoln got knocked to the ground, and Lockhart yelled.

“Everyone circle around Boston,”

“Lieutenant, opposite sides,” Captain Decker shouted.  They circled up even as more people arrived to block their way.  Eyes looked at Boston and wondered if there might be more food where that came from.

“Serious damage going on here.”  Lincoln pointed at the fight over Boston’s generosity.

“You mean you?  You big baby.”  Alexis got on the opposite side of the circle from her husband.  She stood next to her brother and faced the mound.

“Let us move together, as one body,” Mingus suggested.  They did, and the crowd backed up, slowly.  They got within ten yards of the mound before the crowd froze and would not budge.

Roland reached for his sword.  “No, no.”  Doctor Procter stayed the elf’s hand.  “One act of violence on our part and we will be dog feed.”

“So, we are in the red zone,” Lockhart said.  “Any ideas as to how we score?”

“A quick shot over their heads?”   Captain Decker suggested.

“Sudden moves and frightening sounds would not be a good idea,” Lieutenant Harper said.  “Besides, they would not understand it.”

Alexis grabbed her brother’s hand.  He looked at her with a curious expression as she spoke.  “Split the herd.”  He nodded.  They swung their hands, once, twice, three times, and a brilliant flash of light poured from their fists.  It shot straight to the mound and shoved everyone in that line back ten feet on either side to make a clear path.  They ran.  No one had to say it, and they reached the mound before the crowd could stop them.

Avalon Pilot part III-3: Ararat

It took all day to climb and scramble down the mountain, and cross the hills that quickly petered out as they approached the plains.  In the first valley, Alexis found a section overgrown with vines.  She picked grapes, and everyone had some and enjoyed them, even though they had seeds.  The humans were no longer accustomed to eating grapes with seeds.

“The Kairos said the food here would nourish only we might not find everything we need.”  Lincoln made a note in his book.

Boston spoke up.  “I have the daily vitamins.  We need to start taking them in the morning.”  She looked.  She had three bottles in her medical pack.  One was marked human, one marked elf, and one marked especially for Doctor Procter.  She wondered what made them all different.  “Hey, wait a minute.”  Boston took the medical kit out of the top of her pack.  It came in its own carry pack, like a purse that could be worn over a shoulder.  She handed it to Alexis.  “You have to be better at this than I am.”

Alexis took it, and by what she called a simple bit of magic, she made the strap longer so she could slip her head and one arm through and carry it on her hip.  “I was thinking of asking for this, but I thought maybe you wanted it.”

“No, ma’am,” Boston said.  She felt used to thinking of Alexis as a much older woman and decided it might take some time to make friends.  “I cry too much and I don’t like to see people bleed.”

“I thought so.  Emotional, like a little one.”


“Flighty as a fairy, they say.”

Boston frowned.  She did not imagine that was a compliment, but she did not say anything for the sake of a possible future friendship.

“I hope you keep a good eye on your father,” Lockhart told Roland as they walked.  He looked at the elf and tried hard not to show anything on his face before he turned his eyes again to the trail.  “To be honest, I was not made for elves and fairies and such, though I have known a few in my time.  Still, and I mean no offense, but I find being so close to elves…” he paused, and thought, a bit creepy?  “Let’s just say it is going to take me some time to get used to it.”

Roland did not get offended.  In fact, he answered in innocent honesty.  “I know exactly what you mean.  I have spent time on earth, but working and observing.  I am not used to being around mortals, er, humans like this.  I think what makes it hard for me is the fact that we are more similar than most people think.”

“Similar?”  Lockhart could see very little in the way of similarities.  Creepy was not a bad word.

“We both fall in love, and elves and humans can even have babies together.”

Lockhart could not keep his lip from curling up ever so slightly at the idea of making love to an elf.  He looked back at Alexis and Boston, and gave Roland the point.  Not every human had his problem.

“Do not worry, Lockhart.  I will keep father ever in sight.”  Lockhart merely nodded.

“Aha!”  Doctor Procter shouted from the front of the line.  Lincoln walked beside the doctor and Mingus came right behind.  In fact, Mingus nearly bumped into the two when the doctor came to a sudden halt.  “It’s working.”  The doctor held up the amulet.

“Let me see.”  Lincoln wanted a look, and Boston ran right between Lockhart and Roland.

“That girl has too much energy,” Lockhart said, softly.

“Yes, she does,” Roland agreed, but it was impossible to tell what he thought about that matter.

“You see?”  The Doctor explained.  “It is linked to the castle all the way in the future.  It picks up the vibrations of the time gates and points the way we need to go, like a compass.  That will take us to the next gate.  It gives an approximate distance to travel, here, about twenty miles; and it should give off a dim green light when we get near the gate.  I don’t know if that part works yet.”

“But that is wonderful,” Lincoln shouted.  “However does it work?”

Doctor Procter looked up at the man, while Mingus said the expected, “Magic.”

“You lie like and elf.”

Mingus and Roland spun around to see who insulted them, but Alexis said it, and grinned.  Mingus stared at her for a second before he conceded the point.  “I never could lie to your mother, either.”  Roland wisely said nothing.

“Let’s have it.”  Alexis reached out and the Doctor handed over the amulet as Lieutenant Harper came up to have a look.  Alexis twirled it twice in her hands before she handed it to Lockhart.  Lockhart immediately handed it to Boston, and Boston spoke up.

“The latch.”  She opened it and stared at the sophisticated electronics inside for a few seconds before she made her pronouncement.  “It is a homing device.  On earth, I would call it a geo-positioning device, but here, I suspect it works in some strange way because of the space and time distortions we are traveling through.”  She closed the amulet and looked up.  “So how close was I?”

“Judging from the looks, I would say you nailed it,” Lieutenant Harper said.  “And that was very good.”

“She is a natural born geek,” Lockhart added, before Roland burst out with his thought.

“Why, that was brilliant.”  Boston turned a little red, as was her way, and pointed up the hill.  She handed the amulet back to Doctor Procter and walked out front until her feelings of embarrassment subsided.

From there, it did not take long to get to the top of the last hill before the plains.  When they arrived, about an hour before sunset, they were astounded at what they saw.  There had to be a hundred thousand campfires and a million people packed into a treeless, grassless valley that butted up to a hill at least two or three miles away.  On top of that distant hill, there sat an Empire State Building high tower.  Captain Decker got out his binoculars.

“It can’t be.”  This time, Lincoln said it first.

“Shinar,” Doctor Procter announced.

“We went under a glamour here,” Mingus said.

“I remember,” Alexis spoke up, and this time she took a moment to explain what a glamour was.  “That means we made an illusion so we would look like the normal people and not stand out in the crowd.”  Alexis shook her head.  “But it is not easy to do, and it works best when applied to oneself.”

“That is something Roland and Mingus may have to consider in the future.”  Lockhart looked at the sky.  “For now it is nearly dark and I think we should camp on this side of the hill, out of sight.”

“It is hot enough,” Captain Decker agreed.  “I suggest we skip the fire to not draw attention to ourselves.”

Lieutenant Harper had her own binoculars out and she responded only to Doctor Procter’s statement.  “Shinar.  The Tower of Babel,” she said.  Then she paused.   She caught the glint of sunlight off something shiny on that distant hill.  When she squinted, it looked to her like a man on horseback.  It looked like a knight in armor.  She blinked and it vanished.  She shook her head.  She felt sure horses were not domesticated yet, and surely these were not a metal working people to produce such armor.  She decided it must have been an illusion, or her imagination, and put it out of her mind.

Avalon Pilot part I-5: Humanity

People, maybe a million souls, stretched out on the flat land beyond the tower.  They dressed in ragged animal skins, or went naked, looked gaunt and starved, but for some reason, they kept working—gathering clay, whatever grass or bark they could to strengthen the bricks, baking the bricks, and adding them to the tower.  Why they would continue to work while they starved to death, Mingus could not imagine.  They were human, he concluded.  They were crazy.

“We need glamours, an illusion so the people think we are one of them.”

“Father,” Alexis objected.  “These people need help.”

“That may be, but we dare not stop among them.”  He paused to look at his daughter.  He dressed her in fairy weave for their first journey, a magical cloth that could be shaped, colored, and given texture as desired.  Alexis shaped her fairy weave to give it the look of raged, animal-skin clothing.  She added the glamour to appear too skinny, like a person half-starved, and she added a slightly bloated belly, but he made her adjust the look.

“You need to darken your hair so you don’t look so old.  I suspect when the elderly collapse, they probably get eaten.”

“Father,” Alexis objected again, but she made the change.

“Now follow me,” Mingus said.  “I believe we have jumped to the first days, before the human race got scattered and the language broke into a million forms.  These people likely speak the universal tongue, which you should understand.  But if they speak to you, do not answer them.  Keep your head down, and do not meet them in the eyes.  We are going to try to skirt the edge of this mass of people, and walk.  Only walk.  If we must run, I will tell you to run; but if we show these people our backs, I suspect they will be after us like a pack of dogs.”

“Father.” Alexis said it a third time, but she voiced no more objections.

The people grunted and moaned, but few talked.  It seemed like talking would take too much energy, and that was energy they needed to use for brick making and building.  No one moved, or stepped aside for the couple.  Mingus and Alexis had to walk around people, fire pits, and bricks laid out to bake in the sun.  It felt like they were weaving a thread through a tapestry.

The first portion of the journey went well. The people ignored them, but the mass of people stretched for several miles, up to the edge of a hill that looked a long way away.

“There is some powerful enchantment at work here,” Mingus said.  Being an elf, he was able to direct his words to Alexis’ ears only.

Alexis felt unsure if she could still do that.  She knew the little ones in the future could hear, understand, and respond to any human language, but Alexis knew she could no longer do that since she became human.  Too bad, she thought.  It would have helped when she and Benjamin traveled to France.  Alexis contented herself with listening.

“It appears to be centered in the middle of this mass of people, and feels like some form of compulsion.  No doubt that is why these starving people are continuing to work day and night.  And here, I thought they were just expressing typical human insanity.”

Father!  Alexis did not say the word out loud, but she thought it as hard as she could.

Two-thirds of the way along the edge of the camps, and Alexis could not hold her eyes to the ground.  The distraction came in the form of a dozen naked, filthy children attempting to run and play.  It looked like a game of tag, and for the most part, the adults around them ignored them.  Sometimes the children got yelled at.  Sometimes they got pushed to the ground or got hit.  One brute picked up a little girl and threw her into the fire.  He laughed as the girl scrambled to get out.  She did not get badly injured, but Alexis could not help herself.

“Father.  The children.”  She watched a baby try to suckle a dry and shriveled breast.  The mother had nothing to give.  “The children,” Alexis repeated.

A man stood in their path and signaled for others to join him.  “What about the children?” the man asked.

“They are making a nuisance of themselves,” Mingus quickly lied.  “We can’t get any work done.”

“I’ve watched you,” the man said.  “You haven’t been working.  You are not staying in your place.  I think you are trying to escape.”

The crowd that gathered began to make noises about taking them to Nimrod.  More than one suggested eating them.

“We are going to collect plants for the bricks,” Mingus tried.  “In the hills.  It is the new place.”  He pointed up the hill at the end of the camp.  “We were sent to see what is there that may be useful.”

The man paused, rubbed his chin, and the crowd noise toned down.  The man looked once up the hill before he decided.  “No.  That is the place from which destruction comes.  No one goes into the hills.”  The crowd noise started up again. Alexis pulled her wand. Mingus made a fist around which he formed a small fireball.  Then everything stopped and became utterly silent.  Everyone looked frozen in place, unable to move.

A woman appeared in that same instant.  She looked young and seemed to be well fed, which made her stand out in the crowd.  The man who blocked their way and the crowd did not appear to notice.  In fact, after a moment, the people all went back to what they were doing as if nothing at all happened.

“Let me look at you,” the woman said, and grabbed Mingus by the chin.  He squinted as she squeezed, but did not resist.  “Elder elf.  You two are leaking the future all over the place.”  She let go and looked at Alexis.  She smiled.  “Former elf,” she said, correctly.

“Yes, ma’am,” Alexis offered, and felt it was only right to curtsey.

“Your Kairos.  I see you belong to them.  They are right now wending their way back to the tower.  They are not in a position to draw attention to themselves by meeting up with you.  Really.  You must stop leaking the future.  I have already been exposed to far more knowledge about the future than is safe.  The Kairos is beginning to leak, badly.  I had to put a hedge around them so the others could not find out about tomorrow.”

“I am sorry,” Alexis said, feeling the need to apologize out of her confusion.  She did not understand why this woman referred to the Kairos as they and them.

“We don’t know how to stop leaking,” Mingus admitted.  He imagined this woman had to be a goddess and she unconsciously read their minds.

“I can see your limitations.  I am a titan.  The gods have not begun yet, though young Zeus has been born and he is coming to kill his father.”  She raised her hands, one to each of them.  “There.  I have placed a hedge also around you, and I will ask others to strengthen it. I have also scrambled your words, so when you speak of future things, no one may hear unless they are standing with you and hear by normal hearing.  The gods to be do not need to know what will be.”

“But what if I inadvertently say something in the wrong ears?” Alexis felt concerned.

“Then you will give the Kairos in the future many headaches.”

Mingus understood what confused Alexis.  The Kairos in this day had to be the twins, Zadok and Amri, if the history was correct.  He looked at his daughter with his expressionless look, but the woman read the elder elf’s true insides.

“You love your daughter well.  That is the only reason I did not give you to the bokarus of the woods.  And yes, the Kairos is Amri and Zadok.  And yes, I can still read your thoughts.  It is my hedge, but it is too late for me.  I have already been tainted by the future, even beyond the day of the dissolution of the gods, though most of the gods have not yet been born.”  The woman raised her hand and the three of them vanished from that place and reappeared on the distant hilltop, the one before the mountain that still had grass and trees upon it.  A fire had already been made, and a beast of some sort, well cooked, roasted slowly over the flames.

“But who are you?” Alexis asked.

“Leto,” the woman said, and she had two things to add.  “I will also put a hedge around your friends when they arrive, so you may have to explain it to them.  Now I go to mourn.  I know Zeus will bring an end to the days of Cronos.  That is as it must be.  Time being the mere counting of days will come to an end.  Time will now be vested in the Kairos.  Everything will get complicated and confusing.  It will be counted by events and the rise and fall of great civilizations.  Now, we begin event time, and I know the tower will fall.”  She vanished.

Alexis turned to her father.  “What friends?”

Mingus shrugged.  “All I know is the way to get home is to go back to the beginning of time.  Once we break through the last barrier, we should automatically go back to our own time.”  He lied.



“So why did you kidnap me if you were just going to bring me right back?” she asked in her sharpest voice.

Mingus shrugged.  “I realized when we got here that it was not fair to you.  What I want doesn’t matter.”  He looked sad, but elves could fake that look very well.

Alexis did not buy it.  “Change of heart?”  She scoffed.

Mingus shook his head and offered another lie.  “Actually, in the forest, I realized I was putting you in far more danger bringing you here than leaving you back home.  I never could fool you, or your mother.  Here.  Have some lunch.  Then you can lie down for a while and get some rest.”

Alexis did not trust her own father, but that did not prevent her from eating and lying down.  She trusted enough to know her father would watch over her while she slept.

Alexis woke up around four in the afternoon, as near as she could tell.  It appeared to be summer, so the sun was still well up in the sky.  Mingus had the campsite cleaned up, so all they had to do was walk.

“You wouldn’t have liked the climb earlier, in the heat of the day.”  Mingus tried to sound like he cared.

Again, Alexis did not exactly buy it, but she went along because she had no choice.  And it felt all uphill.  After a short way, it seemed like they left the hill and started to climb a mountain.  The sun eventually set off to their left hand, but Mingus did not want to stop.  He made a fire into a small floating globe of light to trail them in the dark.  Alexis used her wand to make a fairy light, to light their steps and shed some light on the way ahead.

Alexis had to stop about every hour to catch her breath, but Mingus seemed kind to her, even brushing off logs and boulders to let her sit and rest her legs.  Near midnight, they finally came to a dark entrance to a cave.

“No,” Alexis objected.  “I’m not going in there.”

“I’m sorry, but this is the way.  Trust me.  We are almost there.  Besides, I don’t want to risk sleeping again out in the open.  Trust me.  Another hour and we will be home.”

Alexis screwed up her face and tried to shove her fairy light into the cave.  It immediately went out.  She took out her wand and tried again.  The second light fared no better than the first.

“Wait, let me show you.” Mingus said.  He stepped through the opening and made a fire light that lit up the way for a short distance.

“A tunnel?” Alexis asked.

“That is how I know we are in the right place, now come on.”

Alexis stepped forward and felt her whole-body tingle as she stepped through the opening.  She watched her wand rapidly shrink.  The oak stick became covered with bark before it sprouted a leaf, became a twig, and vanished altogether.  “What?”

“Proof we are on the right road,” Mingus said.  “You don’t need the wand to make a light.”

“It helps.  I’m tired, already.  The wand helps me maintain focus so I don’t have to do it all in my head.  That is very draining.”

“But only one more gate and we will reach the last point,” Mingus assured her.  “When we pass the last point, we will be home.”

“Is that what that was, a gate?”

“Like an invisible door,” Mingus said.  He knew she did not remember much from their journey home from the eighteenth century.  He made sure she did not remember.

“It felt like spider webs.”

“So only one more web, and after that we will come to our destination.”

“I don’t like spiders,” Alexis said, and shivered, but she walked.