After 821 BC Phoenicia. Kairos lifetime 74: Ibelam, the Sailor
The dry ground appeared desert-like in every direction. There were trees enough for shade, but many looked stunted by the conditions. The travelers moved in a group. No one wanted to be the rear guard because the dust blew in that direction. For once, Boston and Sukki did not straggle at the back of the pack.
“His name is Ibelam,” Lincoln said, having read about him in the database. Alexis and Katie listened, and so did Lockhart, though he kept one eye on the trail ahead. Boston certainly could have heard with her good elf ears, if she bothered to listen.
“Phoenician, you said.” Katie wanted to get something straight in her mind.
“I would guess we are in southern Syria,” Lockhart said.
“Or northern Arabia,” Alexis offered an alternative.
“He must be moving,” Boston interjected. “The gate is getting closer on its own.”
“Ibelam?” Sukki did not seem concerned about where they were. She just wanted to get the name right.
Lincoln nodded. “Next to Ibelam it says, see Sinbad the Sailor.”
“Maybe some of those stories started this far in the past. They were told, originally, long before Mohammed. They got modified to fit Islam after the fact.”
“After the fact?” Boston asked, and this time Katie nodded.
“Mohamed won’t be born for almost fifteen-hundred years in the future.”
Lockhart spoke his thought. “Sinbad sounds like the Kairos. He sits at the center of the hurricane while everything whirls around him.”
Katie almost said she agreed, but Decker chose that moment to ride in from the wing. Elder Stow, seeing Decker’s dust, rode in from the other wing.
“Man crying for help up ahead,” Decker showed his binoculars. “Being chased by what looks like skeleton soldiers.”
“Sinbad must be getting close,” Lincoln mumbled through a slight grin.
Lockhart pointed. “Decker and Katie with me on the right of that hill up ahead. Elder Stow, take Sukki to the left. We need your scanner, but get your weapon ready. The Patton sabers is about all we have that is effective against skeletons. Fire and wind,” by which he meant Boston and Alexis. “You go down the middle, and Lincoln, go with the women, sword ready.”
Katie gave Lockhart a love slap in his shoulder. “And what am I?”
“I should say the other women. You’re with me.”
Katie nodded. She wanted to be with him. The riders split up.
“Help!” Muhamed scrambled up the steep, rocky side of the hill. He almost slipped in his haste, but then he had a thought. He kicked at the loose rocks in the hope of starting a rock slide. “Help!” His cry felt like an automatic reaction to danger. Like, the word just popped out of its own volition. He had no idea if anyone might be around to hear him. It did not appear so. He picked up a couple of rocks and threw them at his pursuers. The skeletons were not bothered by the rocks, even as he hit one and knocked the arm out of its socket. The others raised their shields and brandished their swords. He imagined if they had flesh and blood, they might shout at him.
“Help!” Muhamed shouted, involuntarily, and turned to resume his run. It hardly mattered. He would eventually tire and run out of breath. The skeletons needed no breath. He stumbled. It proved fortunate. A skeleton-thrown spear tore through his sleeve and scraped his arm, but missed his back. “Help!” His voice rang out again.
Muhamed glanced at the sky and realized he ran the wrong way. The time gate lay in the opposite direction. He seemed headed toward the very people he intended to stop. The goddess had been very clear about that. The demoness in the future gave him the elixir of life, and the formula, and showed him how to make it. The same demoness in the past ordered him to ruin the ones running through time. She made him able to know the time gates and where to locate them. She kept him in bondage for several years, but at last she set him free to exact her revenge.
“Ahhh!” Muhamed threw himself to the ground and covered his head. A line of flame, like from a flame-thrower, shot over his body and struck the nearest skeleton. The skeleton began to burn, rapidly, but it did not stop moving. “Ahhh…” A great wind followed the flame. It knocked two off their feet, and caught in a shield where it picked a third off the ground. It blew long enough to make the skeleton lose its footing, so it tumbled down the rocky ridge and broke to pieces. But clearly, the wind proved no more effective than the fire, even if the burning skeleton eventually collapsed.
“Elder Stow,” a young woman’s voice called out.
“Just coming to it,” a man answered.
Muhamed dared to lift his head and watch. His eyes got wide, his mouth opened and he gagged on what he saw. A line, like a stream of light struck skeleton after skeleton. They did not move, like being blown by the wind. They did not burn, like the one struck by the fire. They simply crumbled to dust as soon as they were touched by the light. The dust, or maybe ash, blew away on the wind like nothing ever existed in that place.
“Are you all right? Are you injured anywhere?”
Muhamed smiled. “No, praise Allah and his holy prophet. I escaped with only this scrape.” He showed his arm where the bloody cut looked like more than a scrape.
The other witch, the one with fire-red hair ran up. “Lucky we came along,” she said, while the black-haired witch tore his sleeve to get at the wound.
Muhamed nodded, but said nothing as he could not get his eyes off her red hair. He understood this one, in reality, was a demon creature of fire and light who only appeared as a red-headed human witch.
“Lincoln, help me,” the black-haired witch called, and a man came to help her get Muhamed to sit up.
“I am fine,” Muhamed assured them. “I am just winded by running so far and so fast.” then he quieted while the black-haired witch worked.
Three people came from one direction, riding on big horses. The men looked like two giants, one white and one black. The woman between them appeared a beauty with hair as gold as the sun. Two more walked up from a different direction. One old man, who toyed with a box as he walked, and one broad-shouldered young woman who looked strong enough to wrestle one of the giants.
Muhamed knew these were the people the goddess wanted him to ruin. He had hoped to do that without being found out, but the skeletons had other ideas. The skeletons did not obey him. Instead, some turned on him. He wondered if that might have been because they lacked the flesh to properly absorb the elixir… Muhamed looked at the others and shut down those thoughts. He imagined he needed to be extra careful. The goddess warned him that these people were clever. It might be best to not talk at all. He would listen, and maybe learn something of their intentions.
“Elder Stow?” The white giant named the old man, but his inflection suggested a question. The old man appeared to be studying a small box.
“Robert.” The one with the golden hair got the white giant’s attention. “This would be as good a place as any to camp. The steep, rocky incline is a defensive help.”
“Decker?” Robert asked the black giant.
“I agree,” he said. “We will have to watch our rear and have to back-track in the morning to get down below, but we seem to be doing a lot of backtracking lately, so no big deal.”
“On the other hand,” the golden-haired woman said. “Being on this little hill, our campfire will be seen for miles, unless Elder Stow sets his screen device on invisible mode.”
“No,” Robert said. “We need to conserve his battery life. Katie, why don’t you take Decker and see if you can find something to shoot. Take Boston with you to give warning, in case some of the skeletons decide to double back. Lincoln, Alexis and I will take the horses tonight. We better tie them. There isn’t much to graze around here, anyway. Elder Stow and Sukki, you can get the fire started, if you don’t mind, and if you can find enough to burn. And take our guest…Does he have a name?”
“Muhamed,” he said. “Muhamed bin Saladi.” He looked at his arm where Alexis had been working. “By the prophet,” he mumbled. The wound not only stopped bleeding, but it looked closed up and completely healed. He could still feel it a little, where the cut had been, but it otherwise felt as good as new. Then he had a second thought
“The magic will not wear off in time and the wound come back.”
“Not that kind of magic,” Alexis said with a small smile. “The healing is real.”
Muhamed nodded and returned the smile, but he told himself again to be careful. He did not expect help and kindness from the evil people the goddess described. Saving him and healing him might be a trick to lure him into their wickedness. He decided his best bet would be to show gratitude and keep silent, feigning ignorance, until he found a way to escape their clutches. He stood and helped the old man and the strong young woman gather and stack some wood, and he tried to smile. He mostly smiled.
Elder Stow and Sukki tried to smile in return, though Elder Stow in particular did not appear very good at it. It felt awkward for them all, before Alexis came back and reported that Lincoln and Lockhart had the brushes and would give the horses a good rubdown.
“Sukki,” she said. “You need to come with me back down the trail. We need to see if we can find some fodder for the horses to chew on, and maybe something for us to chew on as well. The camel we shot and chewed on for lunch is already starting to turn in this heat. We need to find something, in case Decker, Katie, and Boston don’t find anything better to eat.”
Sukki dropped her few sticks beside the circle of stones Elder Stow started building, and she looked up. They all looked up. A large space ship of some unknown design shot overhead, headed in the same direction they would have to travel in the morning.
“Fudge,” Alexis said, and she really said fudge.
“Not Agdaline, or Anazi,” Sukki knew that much.
“I am not familiar with the markings,” Elder Stow admitted.
Muhamed stared like a man who had never seen or imagined the like. He barely kept his mouth from screaming.