Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 6 of 6

The ground trembled under the Greek soldiers, and those who were not knocked down by the lightning stroke, fell from the earthquake.  It seemed a curious earthquake, because the travelers did not feel it at all.  All that happened was the Greeks lost their footing, and a hole opened up in the side of a very small ridge.

Everyone stared at the figure in the field.  The helmeted figure of a woman looked like the avenging angel of Almighty God.  The sword she held looked impossibly big and unquestionably sharp.  It seemed the very scythe of the angel of death, the reaper come to harvest souls. The Greeks wailed and tried to hide themselves in the ground they felt surely they would be buried in.

“Athena,” Galatea said, and clapped.  “I mean, Minerva.”

The Eporites did not hear, being too busy prostrating themselves.  The travelers vaguely heard, as the struggled to shut their mouths.  Minerva roared.

“Tramp!”  Nanette appeared in front of the goddess, and trembled.    “I don’t need Apollo to laugh and point at me.  And I don’t need the Kairos to tell me this is not how it is supposed to go.  I made you, and this is what you have done with your life?”

“It’s not fair,” the witch complained. “Why are the gods on their side? They have the weapons and the power. They have everything.  It isn’t fair.  I should have it.  I should have it all.  I want it now.  Give it to me.”  The witch may have put every ounce of compulsion and magic into that demand, but in the face of a goddess, that would have been like a drop of water trying to put out the sun.  Not only is that nonsensical in terms of size and strength, but the sun is not even the kind of fire that water can affect.

“Your other half does not feel this way,” Minerva said, silencing the girl to interrupt her.  “Don’t ask me how I know, but clearly you were corrupt from the beginning.  I will find the source of that corruption.”

“No.” Nanette shrieked.  “We serve that one.  She is my source.”

“Of whom do you speak?  Who is your source?”

“No,” Nanette, the witch screamed and instantly caught fire.  She continued to scream for a few seconds before she entirely burned up, leaving only a small pile of ashes on the dirt.

Minerva reached out to put her hand over the ashes before they blew away on the wind.  The ashes came up to Minerva’s hand, and they saw a small clay jar in that hand.  Somehow, the ashes squeezed into the jar so not one escaped, and Minerva put a stopper in the top of the jar.  “And there they will stay until the opportune time.”

“Is that it?” Lockhart whispered.

“I don’t honestly know,” Katie answered in the same soft voice as Minerva looked at the travelers.

“Go home,” Minerva said, not only did the cavalry troop vanish, and the soldiers on the ground, but Petracles and the Eporites, and all of their horses vanished as well.   Only the travelers remained, and Galatea, who suddenly looked miffed.  Minerva ignored the girl as she talked to the travelers.

“I did not look close at this one. She is no more. She will neither bother you nor hinder you any longer.”  Minerva waved, and Katie vanished to reappear beside Minerva, well out of ear shot.  “I went and saw her.  My daughter.  She is beautiful.”  She began to cry.  “She is so smart.  She reminds me of him.  I love her so much.”  She began to weep, and Katie held her and offered what comfort she had.  Minerva did not have it in her to cry for long, and shortly, she pulled back.  “Don’t tell. Please.  Keep this our secret.”

“Your secret is safe.  You just love that beautiful girl.”

Minerva nodded and nearly smiled. “And you and Lockhart should have a girl.”

Katie looked in the direction where the others stood.  “I hope. Someday.”

Minerva nodded again, and disappeared.

As Katie slipped back down the little ridge, she found the others excitedly talking to someone.  She could not see him until she practically stood on top of him.  “Bogramus,” she said.  It was the dwarf from the last time zone, and after sixty years, he only had a touch of gray.

“Well you see, Miss Boston, it was like this,” Bogramus spoke like a grown man to a young child.  “Hephaestus, er, Vulcan said he wanted some minerals dug out of the Nebrodes Mountains, and since I had a whole crew of bored fellas, we said we could do that.  We are dwarves, you know.  Digging for gold is our specialty, but we take work where we can.”

“So, we go this way?” Lincoln asked, and pointed into the cave.

“Yep.”

“But wait,” Katie said, trying to catch up in the conversation.  “Where is the time gate?”

“This way,” Lincoln said, pointing again.

“But it would not be right to come all this way and not say hello to Vulcan,” Millie added.  “You said he invited us.”

Katie agreed before she said, “Wait. Where is Wallace?”

No one wanted to say it.  Alexis stepped up.  “He didn’t make it.  He waded into the soldiers and Nanette screamed and pointed right at him, so they killed him first.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Katie said, especially to Millie and Evan. Evan nodded and Millie sniffed and nodded with him.

Katie returned the nod and started toward Lockhart and the entrance to the cave, but this time Galatea said, “Wait.” She hugged all the women and shook hands with all the men, including Bogramus. “I don’t do underground stuff. Well, I do grottos and sea caves, but with water and high tide.  Smokey, hot underground? No, no.”  Galatea waved and vanished with the words, “See you next time.”

Then they began to walk into the cave and found it well-lit with torches.  “So how many dwarves are working here?”

“Seven,” Bogramus said with a straight face.  “And all bachelors.  Ah, this is the life.  No females to make us miserable, and no children running around getting in the way. Ah.  Mind you, I wouldn’t mind if you knew where some unattached females were hanging around, bored, maybe.”

“Do you whistle while you work?” Lockhart had to ask.

“No, not especially.  Ragtide likes to sing, but we gag him as quick as we can. He is what they call stone deaf.”

“Tone deaf,”

“That too.”

Within an hour, they came to a big open cave, well ventilated, but full of iron works and coal fed boilers and furnaces.  It got hot in there, but Vulcan stood by a forge, waiting patiently.

“Elder Stow,” he called, and the Elder went to the god, meekly, wondering.  “Put your equipment on the table here.  Put it all down, and don’t leave anything out.”

Elder Stow looked briefly at Lockhart and Katie, who both nodded and encouraged him.  He had misgivings, but did as instructed, and stepped back with a word.  “It would probably be best if even you did not get a good look at the inner workings of some of my equipment.”

Vulcan laughed.  “Your secrets are safe.  It is your power source I am concerned about.  Apollo says the time of disillusion is drawing near, and I am thinking the gods might not be around to charge up your equipment next time you need it. There.  Everything is charged except your scanner.  Now here.  This is a new piece for you to carry.  It is a charger.  It should build up a full charge in a few minutes under a light source.  Let us say there are a few things you don’t need to know, either.  Then you touch it to the power source point and it should charge whatever piece of equipment you have in seconds.”

Elder Stow took it and tried it on the scanner.  “Thank you.” It worked perfectly, and did not overcharge the scanner.

“Sure, sure.  You can have your people take it apart to see how it works if you haven’t already come up with something similar by the time you get home. Meanwhile, I might copy that material, your substitute metal there, for a couple of swords I have in mind.  Probably my last gifts to the Kairos before I go away.”

“Hey Boss,” Boston shouted.  The time gate is right in front of us.”

“Yes,” Vulcan laughed.  “Didn’t you wonder why it was only two days’ distance? I thought it would be better to keep it on shore.  Otherwise, the time gate would have been across the sea, half-way to Epirus.”

“It is noon,” Katie said.  “We could go now.”

“You are welcome to stay here and leave in the morning.”  Vulcan said, and smiled, knowing how hot it was for the humans.

They all said thank you and hurried before they melted.

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

MONDAY

Avalon 6.12 The Road Ahead is the final chapter in Avalon, season six.  The travelers from Avalon confront the three outlaw-cowboys who are giving the First Emperor of China some unnatural help. Don’t miss it.  Until Monday, Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 5 of 6

By the morning of the third day, Galatea got right up behind Petracles again, a very contented smile on her face. Apparently, everything went well in the night, though Petracles looked exhausted.  The six soldiers Petracles brought with him to escort the group rode at the back and had the good sense to keep to their own camp in the night and keep their mouths shut.

Boston was not so sensible.  She turned to Sukki, pointed at Galatea snuggling up to Petracles, and said, “See, that is how you do it.”  She said it several times.

“What makes you think I want to do it?” Sukki responded, but turned her face away, and turned red.

They found a narrow wooden bridge across the Simeto River, and felt grateful to be able to cross without incident. It did not seem a very wide or deep river, but the travelers were glad not to have to go out of their way to find a ford.

Katie said, “Hopefully, things like roads and bridges will become more common from here on out.”

“That is Mount Etna?” Lockhart asked about the snow covered peak they headed toward. Katie nodded.

“That would be my guess.”

“I don’t see any smoke,” Lockhart pointed out.

“No,” Katie agreed.  “Lincoln could probably read in the database about every eruption around this time, but all I know is, while the volcano erupts often in history, most of the time it is inactive.  Like maybe a hundred years of quiet between eruptions.  An eruption might last a month, several months, a year or two, but then the mountain gets quiet again for the next twenty years or maybe two hundred years.  Who can say?”

“Like predicting earthquakes,” Lockhart suggested.

“Yes.  Related,” Katie said.  “I had a friend at the Pentagon who worked on that very thing… To predict earthquakes, not to trigger them.”

Lockhart nodded that he understood.

“Wait,” Katie said, and stopped, so the whole train of horses stopped.  “We are being followed.

“Where?”  Lockhart looked back.

“Since the river.  A whole troop of men.  They have cut us off from the bridge.”  Katie looked at Lockhart.  “I’m sorry. I got busy loving you and stopped paying attention.”  Her head snapped toward the front, but then Boston and Sukki were galloping back from the point.  A minute later, Decker and Elder Stow both raced in from the sides.

“There is a whole army out there,” Boston said it first, as Petracles with Galatea came along side.

“Yes,” Galatea said.  “Men from Tauromeni and Catina.  I was wondering when you were going to notice.”

“I smell the witch,” Lockhart said.

“I hear that,” Decker agreed.

“I can put up my screens, but not for long.  Then we will be out of power.”

“They may try a mass attack from all sides.  Our weapons are good, but not against an army.”

“It would be like Custer’s last stand,” Boston suggested.

“We can’t draw the wagons in a circle. We only have the one,” Lockhart joked. “Why don’t we see what they want before we start shooting people.”

They moved forward, slowly in a group, and stopped a hundred yards from the phalanx of men.  Lockhart and Katie then rode out to the fifty-yard line and stopped there, to wait.  Petracles, and thus Galatea followed them, but the rest wisely stayed behind.

“Petracles wanted me to stay back,” Galatea said, with a true smile that made the others smile.  “He wanted to protect me.  Isn’t he the cutest thing.”

Petracles did not think he was cute, but he spoke, and tried to stay serious.  “I represent Pyrrhus here.  These Greeks have no business turning out soldiers against their king.  The king has given you safe passage.  In fact, he insisted.”

They did not have to wait long. Six men rode out from the other side. Galatea whispered, like it was a conspiracy.  “They are under the spell of your witch.  She is hiding.  Shh. Don’t tell that I told you.”

“Hello friend,” Lockhart began, but Petracles interrupted.

“I am here as representative of Pyrrhus the king.  These people have been given safe passage to their destination. How dare you bring an army out against your king.”

“These are not people,” one man spoke in a hypnotic monotone.  “They are demons from beyond time.  They must surrender all of their things.  They must surrender themselves to be burned at the stake.”

“Friend,” Lockhart began again, but this time Katie interrupted.

“Galatea.  Can you set these free from their hypnotic spell?”

“Oh,” Galatea shook her head.  “I don’t know if I am allowed to do that.”

“Please,” Lockhart said.

“Just these six,” Katie explained. “I’m not asking you to set them all free, or anything big like that.  Just a little thing.  Just these few.”

Galatea’s smile returned, like she could not stay serious for very long.  “Okay,” she said, and the six men covered their eyes, shook their heads, and looked confused before one of them spoke.

“What are we doing here?”

“Wait.  I remember,” another said, and looked at Katie and Lockhart with an odd expression on his face.

“You don’t look like demons,” a third said.

“These good people are under the protection of the king,” Petracles spoke up again.  “I am sure you don’t want to make King Pyrrhus mad at you.”

“Dear, no,” one man said.

“How did we get here?”

One figured it out.  “It was the witch,”

The city elders awkwardly turned on their horses to face their own army.  Only a moment later, they saw the witch come out from behind the men. “No,” she yelled.  “That’s not fair.  Attack.  Attack.”

Decker had somehow managed to get the rest of the group to form a defensive circle around their one wagon. He made sure the Eporites had their bows ready, and made Boston and Alexis get out their bows, even if Alexis protested.  Boston gave her Beretta to Sukki, and Decker gave his handgun to Evan.  They did not have a spare for Wallace, but that turned out to be just as well.  On sight of Nanette, Wallace rode his horse as fast as he could across the field, shouting.

“Nanette.  I’m here for you.  Nanette.”

No one could stop him, as the cavalry troop that cut them off from the bridge prepared to attack.  At the same time, the phalanx of Greeks began to march forward.

“Hasty retreat,” Lockhart said. Katie had her rifle ready, but she agreed.  Petracles rode in all seriousness, but Galatea got her grin back, like it was all too exciting.  The six elders did not seem to know what to do.  Two rode with the travelers.  Two rode slowly back to their troops, knowing they could not stop them.  The final two just stayed where they were, like men frozen in indecision.

Katie spoke when Wallace rode past them. “Let him go.  Nothing we can do for him now.”

When the riders got to the wagon, Katie quickly gave Millie her handgun, having shown Millie how to use it whether Millie liked it or not.  She pulled her rifle up to her sight, and Elder Stow let his sonic device squeal as loud as he could set it.  Even the traveler’s horses protested.  The oncoming horses stopped, bucked, stumbled, turned aside, or turned around and rode back the way they came regardless of their riders.

“Fine and well,” Decker said, “But that is not going to work on the foot soldiers.  The men advanced, seven or eight feet of spear poking out of the front of the formation.  “Captain.”

“Ready, sir,” Katie said in her crisp, military voice.  The others stepped up around them with their bows and handguns.  Bullets from handguns might not penetrate the shields with enough force to do damage to the man, but at least they would not bounce off, like arrows.  Katie and Decker had the rifles, and Lockhart had his shotgun.  Not much against five hundred or more men.

“Aim,” Decker said, and one of the Eporites yelled from behind.

“The cavalry have regained control and are preparing a charge from three sides.”

“I’ve got it,” Elder Stow countered. “Stay on the foot soldiers.”

The cavalry began yelling and started to ride.  The foot soldiers got to where Decker prepared to yell fire. when the cavalry froze, horses and all in mid-stride, and a massive stroke of lightning came down in front of the Greek phalanx, knocking the whole front row off their feet, and some of the men following as well.

Avalon 6.10 Alexander’s Eyes, part 6 of 6

Five people climbed the rocks to where Lysimachus slept.  From there, they had the best view of the fortification that blocked the pass, and the field that sat between the rocks and the fort.  Katie and Decker carried their rifles and had their military-issue night goggles.  Elder Stow had no doubt much more sophisticated goggles of a sort for night vision.  Bogramus, of course, could see perfectly fine in the dark as might be expected for dwarfs. Lockhart was the only one who couldn’t see anything but dark, and Lysimachus the same when he awoke.  Katie had to describe the scene.

“A group of men are kneeling by some bushes off to your left, there.  Three have come up to Elder Stow’s screen and look puzzled.  They appear to be trying to find the edge of the obstruction, or find a way through.  That must be frustrating.”

“Can they get through?” Lysimachus asked.

“No,” Katie said, and handed the night goggles to Lysimachus to take a look.

“The screens are like a globe or a ball completely around us,” Lockhart explained.

“They even project under the earth,” Elder Stow added, just before an arrow struck where the three Thebans stood outside the screens.  The arrow did not penetrate from inside the screens, so it bounced back to the rocks.

“Hold your arrows,” Lysimachus shouted.

“Not single-sided?” Decker asked.

Elder Stow grunted.  “Bullets can go through.  Arrows are too slow moving and do not have enough force driving them.”

“Don’t get any ideas,” Lockhart said, when Decker raised his rifle to look through his scope.

“My mother and father,” Elder Stow said. “Shall I send out a blast of light?”

Decker immediately pushed his night goggles up on his forehead.  Katie got hers back and held them with a look at Lockhart.  “Go ahead,” Lockhart said, and closed his eyes.  “Maybe it will scare them off without having to kill them.”

Elder Stow nodded and took two sticks from an inner pocket of his shirt.  One was his sonic device with which the travelers were all familiar.  The other stick looked like an enlarged toothpick. He appeared to squeeze the toothpick, and a stream of light shot into the sky where it formed a small globe like a miniature sun.  It would only last a few minutes, but in that time, the whole area became bathed in light.

The Theban soldiers became easily visible, no matter how hard they tried to hide in the bushes.  The enemy officer recognized they were caught, and quickly hurried his men back to the fortification.

An orange light snaked out from the fortification and touched Elder Stow’s blast of light.  The light flared and went out.  The travelers and Lysimachus blinked.  Bogramus spoke.

“Powerful witch, that one.”

“I feel like we’ve fallen into a sword and sorcery novel,” Katie said.

“More like science and sorcery,” Lockhart countered.

“Equipment and enchantment.  Maybe machines and magic,” Decker suggested.

“Maybe we should get some sleep,” Katie said, and took Lockhart by the arm.

“Knowledge and necromancy?” Bogramus spoke up.

“No,” Decker shook his head as they prepared to follow Katie and Lockhart back down the rocks. “It has to start with the same letter.”

“I will stay here for a while to keep watch,” Elder Stow volunteered.  Lysimachus nodded, and went back to lie down.

When Boston came to the lookout at four, to relieve Elder Stow, she suggested, “Elves and engineers.” Lysimachus had gone back to sleep, but Harpalus sat there keeping Elder Stow company.  He asked what she was talking about.

“I have no idea,” Elder Stow admitted. “Is Decker still on with that?”

Boston nodded.  “Bogramus likes dwarves and devices, but Decker says it should be technology and something magical that begins with a “T”.  He says he will have to wait for Lincoln to get up and search the thesaurus in the database.”

“What are elves?” Harpalus asked.

“I am,” Boston said, before she could stop her mouth.  Of course, then she felt she had to show the man.  She lifted her glamour of humanity, but only briefly before she put it right back on again.  Harpalus smiled and almost applauded.  He turned to Elder Stow.

“And are you an elf?”

“Certainly not.  I am a Gott-Druk, and my people used to own all this land before you humans came here.  We lived in peace for a-hundred-thousand years before the stupid Agdaline ruined everything.”

“Gott-Druk?” Harpalus asked.

Elder Stow lifted his own glamour for a second before he restored it. Harpalus looked shocked by Elder Stow’s appearance.

“Are you human?”

“Genus homo, yes.  I am human enough, only not sapiens like yourself. Homo-neaderthalensis.”

Harpalus did not understand.

“Where is Sukki?” Elder Stow asked. “We have father-daughter things to do.”

“I’ll get her,” Boston said.

An hour later, Lysimachus was up and ready to lead the Macedonian cavalry against the gate.  Erigyius agreed to lead the men on foot, provided he did not have to have contact with the dwarves or fairies.  That would not be a problem.  Bogramus already took his dwarves around to the other side of the fortification where they could fall on the enemy in the rear.  He left the camp saying, “Dwarves do damage.”

Katie, Lincoln, and Evan with Katie’s handgun went with the men on foot.  Katie kept her rifle.  Lockhart lent Lincoln the shotgun in case he got close.  Lockhart, Decker, Sukki with Boston’s handgun, and Boston, wand in hand, rode their own horses with the cavalry.  Boston said she would burn a hole in the fortification wall if necessary. Wallace also insisted on going, to Evan and Millie’s surprise.  He borrowed Elder Stow’s horse.  He got Decker’s handgun at Decker’s insistence.  He said he had no intention of hurting anyone.  He just wanted to be there for Nanette.  He imagined she needed him to come and save her, and no one could tell him otherwise.

A few Macedonians got assigned to hold the rocks and protect Alexis and Millie who stayed with the wounded in the grassy area.  The rocks would be the fallback position in case the assault did not go well.  Elder Stow stayed with Harpalus in the lookout spot. In daylight, they could see most of the fortification that blocked the pass.  Harpalus had Decker’s binoculars, and repeated the notion that the gunpowder with which the Thebans mined the road had to be in the barrels in that makeshift shed.

“To keep it dry and out of the rain,” Elder Stow had agreed.  It should not matter to the sonic device.  He had the correct frequency to set off the black powder.  The question was whether he could project it far enough and direct it on a narrow band with enough strength to reach the powder.  He only had small devices such as a ship’s officer would carry, including his handgun.  They were trinkets, really, and not designed for constant use, much less designed to do so many of the things he made them do.  Their power sources remained limited, and needed to be recharged on a regular basis.

Elder Stow spent his time on watch and Sukki and Boston’s watch time as well, working on the sonic device.  He attached it to whatever power sources remained, and imagined after this, his equipment would be useless.  Once again, he wished young Garron survived the sudden and utterly unexpected trip into the deep past.  Garron knew the equipment—the hardware, and the programing.  Garron might have easily done all those things Elder Stow had to struggle with and figure out for himself.  Garron might have known how to more easily recharge his power sources, or maybe how to use those Reichgo batteries that Katie and Decker still carried around.  Elder Stow felt glad he was able to make the equipment do things they were not designed to do. He felt glad that he had not broken the whole lot of them.  Trinkets, he thought of them and waited.

“Are we ready?” Harpalus asked, with a small touch of excitement in his voice.

“Not yet,” Elder Stow said.  He heard Lockhart’s voice in his communicator. Harpalus jumped at the voice and stared at the communication device.  Katie chimed in a moment later.

“Just need to keep Erigyius back a bit. Don’t want to get too close.  We don’t know how big the explosion may be.”

“Mother.  I appreciate the confidence you have in me,” Elder Stow answered.  “As the father might say, let’s hope this works.”

Elder Stow picked up the sonic device and switched it on.  Elder Stow and Harpalus stood for a good fifteen seconds, before the distant powder exploded, all at once.  It sent up a great plume of smoke and fire.  It loosened the face of the cliff that edged the fortress, and sent boulders crashing into the camp.  The blast shattered the little shack to splinters and sent men flying and broken. It knocked down the nearby palisade, where the Macedonians from one side and dwarves from the other hoped to attack the Thebans on foot, while the cavalry kept the rest busy on the remaining wall.  To be honest, the plan might have worked, once the Macedonians and dwarves closed their mouths and got moving; but instead, they all stopped moving altogether. The travelers did not freeze in their tracks, but they got transported with all of their horses and equipment to the other side of the pass.

“What?”  Lincoln asked, but no one else said anything.

Athena stood before them, sadly shaking her head.  “I see why the stupid Kairos says it is too soon for guns and gunpowder,” she said. “I think for once I agree with him. I know where it is being made, and I will remove it, and the knowledge of it from my jurisdiction.”

“Thank you,” Lockhart said, as he and the other riders got down from their horses.

“Nanette?” Wallace had to ask.

“Your witch and your cowboy rushed to the time gate, and with the twister of the witch, they are even now moving into the next time zone.”

“But she is not our witch,” Alexis spoke quickly before the goddess vanished.  “She is your witch.  You make her in the future.  When Evan and Millie, and Wallace too, decide to explore the past, Nanette, the real Nanette asks for some way to go with them, to help them.  You make a duplicate Nanette, like an identical twin.  As I understand sometimes happens with identicals, the real Nanette is the good one, and this Nanette has become the evil twin. I suppose you will have to make her when the time comes.  This one has made a mark on history that should not be erased, but we would appreciate it if you dealt with this duplicate Nanette before she does any further damage.”

Athena stared, stone faced.  “I noticed my fingerprint and wondered,” she slowly nodded.  “I will think on it.”

“Athena,” Katie stepped up.  “May I talk to you?”  Katie looked back at the others.  “In private.”

Since Athena was prevented from reading Katie’s mind by an act of all the gods, she got curious, a rare treat for the gods.  Katie and Athena disappeared and reappeared up the way, well out of earshot, even for Boston, the elf.

Athena said nothing

“It is about Justitia,” Katie said, and found the courage to add, “She seems a wonderful girl.”

Athena looked genuinely surprised for all of a second before she looked to the side and confessed, without explaining.

“Apollo once privately prophesied that I would have a child wiser than myself.  I denied him.  I was the virgin goddess for a reason.  Then Troy. Almost a thousand years later, and I still love him.  The Kairos, of all people.  I know Aphrodite and I were on opposite sides, but… I don’t know if I will ever forgive her.”  Athena found a tear and Katie dared not interrupt.

“I denied the baby for seven hundred years.  Apollo and Artemis tricked me into delivering the girl.  I tried to blind the girl.” Athena sniffed.  “Artemis hurried her away, and took her to her father, though the present life of the Kairos was that woman in Rome.  I let it go.  I watched, sometimes.  She is a lovely girl.”  Athena sniffed again, and wiped an eye.  “I often stand in for Zeus and Hera, you know, Jupiter and Juno in Rome.”  She smiled slightly.  “It was Cronos who confined his father to the Roman peninsula, but Zeus who gave him the name, Saturn.  He reciprocated by insisting everyone else have different names in his part of the world… Except Apollo.  He liked Apollo for some reason.”

“You know, the girl will never be wiser than her mother unless you love her and teach her,” Katie said, softly.

Athena turned her stone face to Katie. She gave the same look as when she said she would think about dealing with the witch.  She might have nodded a little.  Katie was not sure, but instantly, she found herself back where she stood with the Macedonians, ready to assault the fortification.  It was not much of an assault.  The Thebans and Athenians immediately surrendered. Bogramus said his two-dozen dwarves were very disappointed.

“Maybe next time,” Katie said.

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

MONDAY

Shipwreck.  The travers head for Sicily, but first, they have to navigate a water gate, and that is never easy.  Plus, the witch has not given up, but now the gods are on notice.  Who will get there first, and in one piece?

Until next time, Happy Reading

*

Avalon 6.10 Alexander’s Eyes, part 1 of 6

After 357 BC, Pella. Kairos lifetime 82: Diogenes: Alexander’s chief of spies.

Recording …

“Where are we?” Decker asked. “This place looks familiar.”

“It is,” Lincoln answered.  “We came through a gate near this spot roughly eighty or more years ago, into Ophelia’s world.”

“So, we are back in Greece,” Lockhart concluded.  “Somewhere around Olympia.”

“More like around Messenia, I would guess,” Katie suggested.

“The Kairos must be up around Thermopylae, I think.  Maybe Delphi.” Lincoln agreed with a nod.

“Good,” Decker said, and rode out to the wing.

“Maybe this time we will actually find a Nemean lion,” Lockhart suggested, but softly, and with a smile for Katie.

“Ancient history,” she responded in a whisper, as Evan stepped up and offered a thought.

“When we came through here, going the other direction, we came in somewhere around Thrace, and traveled through Macedonia, where we met Diogenes, who gave us some coins for a boat.  We went through Thessaly and exited somewhere off the coast of Thermopylae.  We landed in Diana’s world in the river, if you remember.”

Millie stepped up, Charles Wallace Dodd beside her.  The man appeared to leech himself to Evan and Millie as the only familiar faces in a sea of strangers.  “Of course, at the time, we had no idea who Diogenes was.  He just seemed like a very nice young man.”

“He is,” Alexis spoke up from behind.

Boston put her amulet away, beneath her shirt, and grabbed everyone’s attention.  “We need to go almost straight north, but there is a sea of water in the way.  We will have to swing around by Corinth and go through Bozotia.”

“Boeotia,” Katie corrected.  “By Thebes,” She added for the others.

“Yeah, that place,” Boston agreed, and nudged her horse ahead.

They paused the conversation to watch Boston and Sukki ride out front.  Katie imagined Sukki would mostly walk with the group and let her horse, Freedom, take a turn hauling the little wagon that carried their extra saddles and things. Diana tried for new horses from the future, but the best she could pull back from the future was the wagon.

“It seems a shame to make your horse haul this wagon,” Katie said.  “He was not made to pull the luggage.”

“It isn’t a very big wagon,” Lockhart said.  “And Dog doesn’t mind.”  He put a hand to pat his horse’s neck, and Dog nodded, like he agreed.

“My mother and father,” Elder Stow interrupted and spoke to the leaders of the group, but he mostly spoke to Katie. “You should have my horse.  The father has his own, and you may need to ride to help, or to check our direction, or to safety.  I can float along as I did at the beginning, and if you fear someone may see, I can do so invisibly.”

Katie shook her head.  “We go with what we have.  I can borrow Dog if I have to ride.  You, on the other hand, have learned well how to ride, and no human would ever risk trying to sneak up on us with you on the wing.  Floating risks being seen, and if you were invisible and needed help, how would we ever find you?  You keep to the horse on the wing.  Besides, I would never ride to safety and abandon my friends.”

Elder Stow stiffened a little, but his words were instructive.  “That is why you are a worthy mother of the group.”  He turned and rode out to the wing opposite Decker.  Lockhart and Katie, with the rest of the group, walked. Lockhart figured it would be a long walk to Bozotia, or whatever.

That evening, they asked Wallace why he decided to abandon Diana and follow them back into the future.  Evan said, “I thought you were going to write a paper on the Empire of the Roman Republic, or whatever you titled it.”

“I was,” Wallace said.  “But I abandoned that idea when I realized I had no way to take the papers with me back into the future.  Then, I figure with you folks, at least I had a reasonable chance of getting back to Professor Fleming.”

“We were really innocent, you might say, ignorant traveling through time the way we did,” Evan admitted.  “We are lucky to still be alive, all things considered.”

Millie patted Wallace’s hand like a mother might pat the hand of her child.  “And here I thought you got a lead on Nanette and wanted to follow her.”

Wallace turned red.  “That’s not it.”  He looked away.  “The Nanette we saw in the warehouse was not the real Nanette, I understand.  She must be terribly confused, upset, and afraid, to act the way she did.”

Millie patted again while the rest of the crew sighed or rolled their eyes.  They explained it all to Wallace, that the Nanette that went with them into the past was a duplicate Nanette, created by Athena.  They explained about the good twin and the evil twin that the spiritual world often produced in identical twins, but he could not seem to grasp the concept.  He had a hard-enough time grasping the idea that there were spiritual creatures at all, like Boston being an elf, and he could see that with his own eyes.  The reality of the gods, or that magic really existed in the world were concepts beyond his comprehension.  For a scholar, he had a remarkably closed mind; but then, he admitted as much.

“Truth is, I am not much of a student,” he said.  “Professor Fleming took me on because my family has lots of money.  Our trip to Rome was financed mostly by my mother.”

People nodded that they understood, but the conversation petered out and they went to bed.  They had a long walk ahead of them.

###

At the end of the week, in the morning, the travelers arrived on a hill overlooking a river.  They had covered about a hundred and fifty miles in that week. The straight line would have been more like a hundred and ten, but they had to circle around through Corinth.

“Besides,” Boston said.  “The Kairos moved twenty or thirty miles down toward us, so that is good.”

The view of the river valley would have been excellent from their height, except there were two armies filling the space, and they seemed to be fighting, or something like fighting.  Long lines of men on foot with big shields and spears appeared to be pushing each other, face to face, and without too many casualties on either side.

“Like American football,” Lockhart said, as he looked through Katie’s binoculars.  Katie got out her scope and attached it to her rifle for a good look. Decker did the same, and handed his binoculars to Lincoln.  Elder Stow had his own goggles which were honestly better than any binoculars. Boston had elf eyes, as good as eagle eyes, but the rest had to make do with whatever they could see at that distance.

“The half near us seems to have pushed back to the left,” Lincoln reported.

“A feint,” Major Decker said.  “See, as soon as the ones retreating got to the higher ground, they turned to fight again.  Meanwhile, the ones on the right now have a big gap in the line.”

“Chaeronea,” Evan shouted.  He figured out what battle they were watching.

“Macedonians on the left,” Katie said. “Athenians pushed forward and Thebans holding their ground on the right.  I see the gap between the Athenian and Theban lines.”

“Here comes the cavalry,” Wallace said, his voice full of excitement.  The others, but for Evan, spoke in calm, measured tones, like people might watch a contest on the television. Major Decker, at least, had been in battle.  Evan and Wallace had no television voices, and neither did Elder Stow.

As the Macedonian cavalry charged along the edge of the hill they were on, and Katie remarked that it had to be Phillip, and the other Macedonian cavalry troop exploited the gap between the Theban and Athenian lines to swing around and strike the Theban flank, Elder Stow shouted.

“The witch.”

Before anyone could say anything or stop him, Elder Stow fired his weapon from the hilltop.  It struck the Athenian line and exploded the ground beneath their feet, sending men and horses in every direction.

Lockhart yelled, and Elder Stow stopped after the first shot, but a moment later, Katie fired her rifle several times.  Decker saw and joined her in shooting several Athenian cavalrymen.  They stopped firing when the Macedonians moved up and reconnected with the small group of Macedonians that had been cut off and surrounded.

Lockhart yelled again.  “What happened to not interfering?  These weapons are supposed to be for defense, only. We defend ourselves when our live are in danger, but otherwise, we are not supposed to interfere with the normal course of events.”

“Sorry,” Decker said, and it almost sounded like an apology.

“But that was Phillip, I am sure of it,” Katie said, in self-defense.  “He isn’t supposed to die yet.”

“Not your decision, Lockhart said.

“Sorry.”  She sounded like she meant it.

“Lincoln spoke into the tension in the air.  “The Athenian line is broken.  Those men are going to be slaughtered.  I can’t look.”

“I didn’t look in the first place,” Alexis said.  She sat with her back to the whole thing.

“The Theban line is curling up,” Decker reported, having moved on from the liberties he took.  “You say that slick move of cavalry through the gap made in the line was Alexander the Great’s idea.”

“I think so,” Evan said.

Katie said, “He isn’t great yet.”

Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 6 of 6

After Diana explained to Justitia the phrase, “hurry up and wait,” for the third time, Katie came over to go over the plan.  “Elder Stow is going to set up a one-sided screen wall.  We can shoot them, but if the witch has taught her minions to use the guns, they won’t be able to shoot us.  Boston has agreed to send some explosive arrows in any openings they make in the way of windows or doors.  Alexis, Boston would appreciate your help with that.”

“Won’t that endanger Evan and Millie?” Alexis protested.

Katie shook her head.  Elder Stow scanned the building, and Boston confirmed by her senses that Evan and Millie are being held in a back room, well away from any up-front action.  She also confessed that her little grenades would not be like the sticks of dynamite Father Mingus made.  Hopefully, it will keep the witch off balance and discourage any sharpshooters.

“Hopefully,” Lincoln said.

“Elder Stow will walk the screen closer and closer to the building.  When he is close enough, he has it set to push rapidly forward to a few feet inside the building.  That should bring the front of the building down.  Then with these short swords and our sabers, we should be able to take her minions and get our weapons back.  Boston and I will run to get Evan and Millie, since we are the fastest.”

“And what about the witch?” Diana asked, bluntly.

“It is a calculated risk.  Thus far, the witch has shown no great signs of courage, but she has shown a great sense of self-preservation.  We are hoping when she sees the weapons doing her no good, she may find the back door and revise her plans.  Maybe get Millie and Evan to steal all of our things next time, but anyway, get out while the getting is good.”

“Bolo!”  Diana raised her voice.  A man came to see her, and the others paid attention.  Bolo had thirty ragged-looking men with him.  “Bolo is with the city guard,” Diana quickly explained, and she told about the fine young couple being kidnapped, and avoided the word, witch.  She said the enemy had very dangerous weapons that can kill from a distance, but her people here have a means of countering that.  Bolo and his men must stay behind her people until the front of the warehouse collapses.  Then they can charge, fast as they can, and capture whatever kidnappers survive the collapse of the building.

Bolo looked at Katie, who stood as tall as him, and glanced at Lockhart and Decker who stood much taller than him, and nodded.  “I have no doubt what you say is true,” he said.

“Hello Bolo,” Justitia said, and smiled for the man.

Bolo tipped his hat, like he forgot Justitia could not see him do that.  “Look at you,” he said, through a smile of his own.  “You are looking more grown up every time I see you.”

“Save it for later,” Diana interrupted.

“Lady,” Bolo nodded and got serious as he turned to shout at his men.  “We are dealing with kidnappers, but they have some special and terrible magical weapons.  So we stay behind these good people until it is time to charge, and I’ll tell you when to charge.”

“Go,” Lockhart said, and Elder Stow started inching forward.

As expected, the door and windows opened and gunfire came from the openings.  Boston and Alexis were ready, with a dozen arrows each.  Every time a head popped up or out, an arrow got sent in return, and the arrow exploded.  Also, as expected, the bullets petered out until they stopped coming altogether. Even enchanted, or perhaps hypnotized, men were not willing to risk being skewered by an arrow, and especially if that arrow exploded.  No doubt several of the men were among the dead and wounded.

When Elder Stow got close enough, the front of the building collapsed as expected; but so did most of the building. Only the back wall and a bit on each side still stood, and they looked shaky.  The travelers charged before the dust cleared.  The city guard came right on their heels.  Then Diana, unexpectedly, ran out in her excitement and worry. Justitia and Lincoln had all they could do to keep up with her.

Diana ignored the city guard who gathered the survivors from the exploding arrows and collapsing lumber. She clambered over the rubble and ignored the travelers who were searching for their weapons.  She got to the back and stopped beside Katie and Boston, who looked stymied.  The witch had Millie by the neck and a knife at Millie’s throat.  Two of her minions had Evan pinned by his arms.

“Let us go,” Nanette screeched. “Or I swear, I will slit her throat. And you know, I will be happy to do it.”

Justitia came up and hardly breathed before she shouted, “No.”  It was a word heard all around the neighborhood.

“No, Nanette,” Charles Wallace Dodd ran up, flanked by Felix and Bolo.

“Hold him,” Diana said, and Bolo and Felix each grabbed one of Wallace’s arms so he could not run to the witch. He also did not seem to have anything else to say.

Justitia pushed in front and raised her hand.  “You go too far.”  Diana felt the sword slip from the sheath at her back and saw it fly to Justitia’s hand. She decided to close her eyes. She desperately wanted to interfere, but she did not.  “I will dispense justice by my own hand if I must.”  Justitia waved the sword.  “And my justice will be swift and final.”

“The blind girl?” Nanette couldn’t believe it.  “You have no power here.”

“But your heart betrays you,” Justitia said, and held up her other hand.  The scales from the kitchen appeared in her hand.  “The good you have done is a thimble, and mostly it was done by accident.”  One side of the scales weighed down a little.  “But your crimes, since Mother made you, have been countless.”  She began when this second Nanette got made and through all the time zones, declared every wicked and evil thing the witch did.  The witch just stood there, like one unable to move.  The other side of the scale bent so low, the scale looked in danger of breaking.  “You have been found guilty.  Your sentence will be swift.”

“No,” Nanette screamed, an ear-piercing sound.  She dropped Millie and caused a whirlwind to surround her and lift her from the ground. She flew through the hole in the roof and disappeared in the distance.

Justitia turned with a smile as the two men holding Evan collapsed into unconsciousness.  The scales had vanished, but Justitia still held the sword, and Diana stepped up, and yelled.  “Justitia.” It was not a pleasant sound. “That is not your job.  You may be judge.  You may be jury.  God willing, you will never have to executioner.  But you are not allowed to be all three.  I’ll have no vigilante daughter.”  Poor Justitia wilted under the scolding.  But with each word, Diana took a step closer, until she wrapped Justitia in a great hug and added, “I was so scared for you.”

“Oh, Mama.”  Justitia found some tears.  “I was scared, too.”

###

They found two men waiting when they arrived at Diana’s home.  Her husband, Publius, wrapped Diana in a hug and included Justitia.  “Where were you?  I got no answer from the servants, and we were getting worried.”

Diana’s father, seated, old man that he was, had a different opinion.  “I came to visit and found my grandson tied to the gate.  No servant will confess to the deed, and Gaius believes it would be shameful to tell.  Then I found Publia and her friends tearing up the house with a wild party.  I know she is not yet sixteen, but I had to threaten to find her a husband to get her to stop.”

“I had an errand—”

“What kind of errand could take you from your duties as a wife and mother?  Marcia, you are my good child…”  The old man sighed.

“This fine young couple got kidnapped by a witch…”

The old man waved his hand.  He heard one thing.  “You got kidnapped?”

“That’s right,” Bolo said.  Both he and Felix were there to confirm everything.

“Oh my dear,” the old man said to Millie. He got up.  “Please come sit here.  Both of you.  That must have been a terrible ordeal.”

“The kidnapper had a knife to her throat and threatened to kill the woman,” Felix said.  The travelers kept back, knowing it would generally best in such circumstances to let the Kairos explain whatever the Kairos was willing to explain.  In this case, the old man gave Felix such a stare, he straightened up and said, “Lucius Falerna Felix,” and he added, “Sir,” just to be safe.

The old man took Millie’s hand and patted it gently, just like you would expect from a doting grandfather, but his words remained sharp.  “And why would you take sweet Justitia on such an errand?”

“She followed.  The servants were instructed to not let Gaius follow. Publia was not here when we had to run,” Diana said, quickly.

“Good thing Justitia was there,” Bolo said, getting set to praise her.

“The witch got frightened by so many of us,” Diana interrupted.  “She flew away, as witches do.  I am sure we will not be bothered by her again.”

“I see,” the old man said.  “And who are all these others?”

“They are friends,” Diana said.  “They may be a bit harder to explain.  Their home is in the far future.”

At least her husband laughed.

“They are from the future?” the old man said.  “Really? So, tell me something about the future.”

“That would not be wise,” Lockhart said.

Katie stepped up.  “Even Delphi couches their words in vague symbols and disconnected words, and for a reason.  Knowledge of the future is not to be trifled with.  But I will say this.  I have a feeling when the Gauls come again, you will defeat them handily, and may even find the Etruscans willing to bow to your victory, that is, if you arm and protect your soldiers with the equipment Diana has created.”

The old man smiled.  “Just what I wanted to hear.  I, too, believe I will defeat them the second time, and Marcia is my good luck charm, you know.”

Diana did not look happy, but in the end, she nodded.  “I’ll give you that one.”

###

After two weeks, the travelers said good-bye to Centurion Felix.  The old man said he could use good men.  They also said good-bye to chicken-head and snake-head, and the whole troop of Roman-looking soldiers.

The minute they stepped through the time gate, Lockhart pulled Katie aside and said, “Explain.  Justitia said her mother created Nanette.”

Katie nodded.  “Minerva, that is, Athena is her mother.  Diomedes is her father.  Apollo let it slip that if Athena ever had a child, the child would be wiser than her mother.  Athena Kept Justitia from being born for over seven hundred years, and then blinded her when she was born.  But Artemis and Apollo intervened and brought her to Diana to raise, which kind of makes sense, seeing as the Kairos Diomedes was her father.  Diana says there is no doubt Justitia is wiser than herself, so Athena should not have a problem with that.”  Katie shrugged.

Lockhart gave her a kiss.  “I cannot imagine our daughter will be wiser than her mother,” he said.  She smiled and looked down, shyly, thinking of having a child.  “Or stronger, or faster, oof.” Katie elbowed him in the stomach.

“Don’t push your luck,” Katie said.

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

MONDAY

Episode 10 of season 6 begins, where we meet an old friend who has shown up in several episodes, the Kairos, Diogenes of Pella, first cousin to Alexander the Great.  Of course, the witch, the outlaw cowboys and some gunpowder don’t make it easy.  Until then, Happy Reading.

*

 

Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 3 of 6

Nanette picked up Lincoln’s revolver, the only weapon she felt some familiarity with.  She pointed it at Evan and Millie and pulled on the trigger, but nothing happened.  It took a minute to figure out how to take off the safety.  Then she pointed it again, but at the last second, turned it on one of her flunkies.  The bang was loud.  The man yelled his surprise and collapsed, his hand across his stomach where he started bleeding out.  Nanette’s arm shot straight up.  She almost hit herself in the face with the weapon, but looked at it with approval as she put the safety back on and handed it to one of the other men.

“Gather these weapons and put them in the wagon,” she ordered.  “Take the couple.  Gag and tie them to the wagon.  I may have further use for them.”  As she followed everyone out the door, she turned her head with one last thought. “All right, Meg.  You can have the wounded one.”

Everyone heard the screams of absolute terror.  Millie threw her hands to her ears.  Evan looked back and dropped his jaw.  Nanette came out grinning.  She said, “They eat fear.  They feast when they scare someone to death.”

###

Boston gave her bow and arrows to Katie, and her Beretta to Lockhart while she held on to her wand.  Alexis pulled her wand and gave her bow and arrows to Lincoln, though she said he could not hit the broad side of a barn. Sukki pulled out her knife, military issue from the future, made from a steel far better than she ever imagined. Elder Stow had his gadgets. Decker broke off a table leg he could use as a club.

“A spear would be nice,” he said.

Lincoln nodded.  “Keep them at arm’s length.”

When Lockhart, Katie, Decker, and Elder Stow came out of their rooms and on to the upstairs balcony, their heads cleared a bit.  Good thing, because three giant spiders came clicking down the hall in their direction. Katie sent an arrow through one while Lockhart fiddled with the safety on Boston’s handgun.  Boston waved her wand and set the other two on fire. Alexis called up a wind that blew them on to the courtyard below where they would turn to charcoal without setting the whole house ablaze.

“No point in setting the house on fire,” she said out loud, and Boston smiled sheepishly, like she had not thought of that.

Everyone paused when they heard a distant, Bang!

“Millie and Evan?” Katie asked.

“They are gone,” Boston reported.

“Along with the weapons,” Decker said. He and Elder Stow faced the other way on the balcony, but no spiders came from the direction of the kitchens.

“We need to help the family,” Alexis said.

Lockhart shook his head.  “They seem to be coming from that direction.” He shot another one that might have come from the upstairs storage room.

“The horses,” Sukki suddenly spouted.

“The sabers,” Decker and Lincoln thought of them at the same time.  Lincoln, Decker, Lockhart and Katie had Patton Sabers wrapped up in their things, kept in the stables with their horses.

Decker started in the direction of the stairs without waiting.  The others followed.

Elder Stow shot one on the stairs. Decker got to use that club when a giant spider surprised them in the courtyard.  They picked up their pace and burst out the back door, heading toward where the barn and stables were located.  Decker and Katie sensed the trouble, and Boston heard the click-clickof spider legs on the wooden walls inside the stables.

“Hurry,” she yelled.

Alexis waved her wand at the door, and the doors blew open.  The horses in their stalls were panicking.  They saw dozens of giant spiders around the place.

Decker and Lincoln ran for the sabers. Alexis took her bow back so she could shoot the beasts and conserve her magical strength for her healing magic, if needed.  Katie, being an elect, quickly mastered her bow and arrows.  Lockhart fired the Beretta two handed, as he had been taught all those years ago at the police academy.

Elder Stow pulled out his sonic device, and the spiders protested.  The humans shouted their complaints and rattled a bit as well.  Elder Stow refined the sound, and all the spiders fell off the walls.  He did minimal damage to the creatures, but he paraphrased Alexis’ words.  “I don’t want to burn down the place.”

By then, everyone had their sabers, and they waded into the spiders.  Sukki liked her knife, but found it as easy to punch one and cave in its head. Despite her glamour of humanity, in reality, she was a bit of a linebacker in her build, and very strong.

Boston took back her bow and arrows from Katie, and thought she better practice.  Elf maids were known for their excellent archery, and she knew a fire in the stables would only make matters worse.  It did not take long to slice the remaining giant siders in the building, but the walls and the people got covered in blood and guts.

“We need to see about the family, and the other people in the inn,” Alexis said, again.

Sukki stepped up, holding her side. “I got stung,” she confessed.

Alexis and Boston got her to lie down, and Alexis went to work immediately drawing out whatever poison might have been in the bite, and then healing the wound, which looked like quite a gash.

“We will check on the family,” Katie said, meaning her and Lockhart.

“I’ll stay here with the girls,” Lincoln said, and for once, Lockhart agreed.  Lincoln got all too quick to keep back where it was safe, but in this case, these spiders could be anywhere.

“Just give me a second to adjust this screen device…” He turned it on, and handed little discs to Katie and Lockhart, and one for Decker who had his hand out.  They were tuned to let the people pass through the screens.  “If there are any inside the area, you will have to deal with them, but at least no more should be able to get at you from the outside, or at the horses.”

“Ready?”  Decker seemed anxious.

“I’ll have to check the horses next,” Alexis said, off handedly.

Lockhart simply nodded and led his group back toward the house.

“Alexis.”  Boston called from the stalls.  Alexis’ horse, Misty Gray, was not only dead, it appeared partially eaten. Katie’s Black Beauty was down and breathing heavily from the poison.  Elder Stow’s horse was also down, with multiple bites.  Lockhart’s horse, Dog, still stood, but he looked bitten several times.  Decker’s horse, Weber, looked bitten at least once.  The poison oozed out of a gash on his side.  Boston’s Honey and Sukki’s Freedom looked untouched, and that felt like a small miracle.

“Alexis,” Boston called again, but she sounded weepy.  She saw two spiders on the wall, ready to swing down on Black Beauty.  Boston carefully fried them with the hope that they would not fall and set the hay and the whole stables on fire.  Alexis, and Sukki, back on her feet, helped contain the fire.  Lincoln got the last one with his saber as it made a dash for the door.

Boston wept, but Alexis grabbed her hand to add her magic to the healing process.  Sukki and Lincoln kept watch, just in case.  Alexis made an executive decision.  She pulled the poison from Weber, Dog, and Elder Stow’s horse, which as far as anyone knew, he never called anything other than horse.  Black Beauty seemed too far gone, and by the time Alexis and Boston arrived there, exhausted, the horse had died.

Boston wept some more, and Alexis joined her.

###

Lockhart, Katie, and Decker burst back into the downstairs courtyard area, sabers ready, Lockhart still holding tight to Boston’s Beretta.  Elder Stow came a step behind, juggling his weapon and sonic device.  He considered activating his floatation device and flying up to the balcony above.  He also considered going invisible, but he imagined these giant spiders had to be the result of some magic, and that magic might see through his invisibility screen. His plan went on hold when they got met by some fifteen or twenty spiders in the courtyard.

The travelers almost backed out of the house in the face of such odds, but a dozen men burst in the front gate to add their spears, swords, and shields to the fight.  More spiders came from the family side of the house, or dropped down from the balcony or the roof, but altogether, the fight did not last long.  The spiders were disgusting when stabbed or sliced in half, but they were not smart and only knew one way to attack.

At the end, one man lost his spear and screamed when a spider got ready to bite him.  Lockhart’s bullet arrived at the same time as an arrow.  The arrow got shot with enough force to drive the spider back against the wall.  A woman stood in their midst, and smiled.

“That was fun,” she said.

“Artemis,” Katie recognized the woman.

The woman sighed.  “In this place, it is Diana.  Saturn renamed everyone in his corner of the world.  Before he went over to the other side, he even gave Hera the name Juno.  That took courage.”

“I imagine Hera is not one to trifle with,” Katie said, as she and the goddess hugged.

“I should say,” Diana agreed, as she backed up and put one hand to her cheek as if remembering something from long ago.  Katie thought it might have been Troy.

“So, Lockhart.  Are you taking care of my elect?” Diana asked, referring to Katie.

“More like she is taking care of me,” he answered, and Diana smiled again.

“Decker,” she turned to the man. “Venus and I were talking just the other day, and your name came up.  You are still on her list, you know.”

“No.  Please,” Decker said, and Diana laughed, which made every face in the courtyard smile.

“Elder Stow,” Diana moved on.  “How is that adopted daughter of yours?”

“Well, I hope,” he said.

“She is well,” Diana assured him, as she turned at last to the soldiers in the courtyard.

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

MONDAY

The chase begins, to save Millie and Evan, not to mention get back the weapons which do not belong in the hands of the with, much less in the days of the Roman Republic.  Until Monday

*

Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 2 of 6

The travelers stabled their horses and took all five empty rooms at the inn.  They would have preferred six rooms.  Boston and Sukki did not mind rooming together, but Decker and Elder Stow did not mix well.  Major Decker, the marine, had been trained to sleep wherever, when he had a chance, but Elder Stow snored, terribly.  Decker claimed he kept waking up, thinking someone was sneaking up on him.

In the back of their minds, Millie and Evan wondered if that night would be the night they could steal the formidable weapons of the travelers.  When they came in from the stables where they took a turn seeing to the horses, a man got in their way.  He got their attention with a word.

“Light and dark.  Light and dark.”  He said it twice and handed them a potion of some sort.  “The lady said spill this in the room of the marines.  Do not breathe the vapors, but wait an hour. Then the sleepers should stay asleep.”

Evan took the potion and slipped it in a pocket.  Millie nodded, as they entered the common room.  She looked once at Boston, but Boston did not indicate that she heard anything with her good elf ears.  Evan imagined no one noticed.

That evening, Evan and Millie went up to their room early.  Millie ran into a spider web on the stairs, and nearly screamed, but Evan held her.

“Just a cobweb,” he told her. “Hush.  Just a cobweb.”

Evan stepped inside Decker and Elder Stow’s door and spilled half of the potion on the floor by the bed.  He did not see or smell any vapor, but he did not stay in the room for long.  The other half he spilled in the Lockhart’s room.  He knew Captain Katherine Harper-Lockhart was a marine who worked out of the Pentagon, though maybe Nanette did not know that.  Then Millie and Evan sat on the edge of their bed, staring at the wall, and waited for an hour, looking like two china dolls with no will of their own.

The others came up and went to bed. Something outside roared.  Someone down the street screamed.  Strange lights flashed outside the inn and sped off to disappear in the city streets.  Evan and Millie heard the click-click-click overhead, like squirrels in the attic.  Being from 1905, they never imagined Santa Claus.  Then the hour was up.

Evan pulled back the curtain that acted as a door, and stepped carefully into Decker and Elder Stow’s room.  Major Decker slept on the floor, though it looked like he may have passed out.  Evan gathered up Decker’s rifle and gun-belt, which had been laid carefully on a small table in the room.  Decker shifted in his sleep, but he did not wake.

Elder Stow slept on the bed, and was not presently snoring at all.  Evan paused to look long at Elder Stow’s things, which had been piled on an end table beside the bed.  He honestly did not know one item from another, so he could not imagine what might be the weapon.  When Elder Stow turned on his back and snorted, Evan left the whole pile undisturbed. He was only supposed to gather the weapons.

Millie crept into Katie and Lockhart’s room as quiet as a mother might check on a sleeping child.  Their weapons sat in a single pile on the floor, by the bed. Millie easily picked up the rifle, Lockhart’s shotgun, and both gun-belts, though that was all heavy for her. She stopped still, when Katie suddenly spoke.

“No… Don’t…Wait…”

Millie dared to look, but Katie appeared to be talking in her sleep.  Millie hustled through the curtained doorway.

The hall outside the room ran like a long balcony overlooking the center courtyard of the building.  Downstairs, the common room took up the whole back end of the building.  The kitchens stood at one end.  The family rooms took up the other end.  Upstairs, a dozen rooms sat off the long balcony which had stairs where the balcony turned on both ends.  The three rooms over the family end had two cousins and a storage room.  The three rooms over the kitchen end were the ones to sleep in during the cold rains of winter.  Presently, Evan and Millie stood with their arms loaded with guns, lit only by the stars and the moonlight.

“Wait here,” Evan said, as he put down Decker’s rifle and gun-belt.  “If I get caught, you will have to carry these things.”

“I can’t carry all of this,” Millie complained, quietly.  She stared at the guns, an uncertain look on her face, but she said no more.

Evan crept into Lincoln and Alexis’ room, quiet as a mouse.  He knew Alexis carried no weapon, but Lincoln had a gun-belt he wanted to get.  He briefly wished he used some of the sleep-vapor potion in the room.  He remembered Alexis was a witch of sorts and he feared she might wake.  But his instruction had been to use it on the marines.  There were actually two marines, but neither was Alexis or Lincoln.

Evan paused and stared at the enormous spider web in the corner of the room by the closed window shutters.  He knew that could not be just old cobwebs, but he could not stop to worry about that.  He had a task to finish, for Nanette.

When he came out, he took a rifle, the shotgun and three gun-belts, two of which he quickly slipped around his waist. That left Millie with the other rifle and the last gun-belt.  She handled that well enough, but she had a question which she whispered when they reached the stairs.

“What about Boston and Sukki?”

“Sukki doesn’t have a weapon,” he answered.  “Boston has one, but she keeps it in what she calls her elf slip.  It is invisible to me.  Besides, being and elf, I am sure Boston would wake up the minute we pulled back her curtain.  We go with what we have.  One gun is no big deal.”

Millie said nothing, but as they came to the bottom of the stairs and started across the central courtyard, headed toward the wall and iron gate that served as the front door, she first wondered why they were doing what they were doing—disarming the others.

Just before they reached the gate, a foul wind and brilliant light entered the courtyard from above.  It stopped near the couple, swirling lights of yellow, red, and blue.  Evan and Millie stared, as a darker ghost-like form grew in the center of the light.  It looked human enough, until the form turned to face them.  As the colors of light swirled and cleared, Millie screamed.

“Demon,” Evan gasped.

“Jesus,” Millie honestly prayed.

“I rebuke you,” Evan yelled, and the demon image screamed, a high pitched, piercing sound that echoed in the natural acoustics of the home.  Evan and Millie ran out the gate.  The demon light flew up and over the roof.  Alexis, Lincoln, Boston, and Sukki sprang to their feet.

“What was that?” Sukki shivered.

“Something to wake the dead,” Boston said, but she only meant it as the overused twenty-first century expression.

Katie kicked Lockhart and fell out of bed.  Lockhart groaned, and got up like a father needing to hold the baby in the night. Katie shook her head to try to clear it. The couple threw on their clothes, a simple thing with fairy weave which seemed to cover them with almost a mind of its own.

Decker sprang up, and felt very dizzy. Elder Stow held his head and complained.

“I feel like I drank alcohol,” he said. Elder Stow could not hold his liquor, at all.

Decker reached for his rifle, which wasn’t there.  “The weapons are gone,” he said.

Elder Stow looked at the pile of his things beside the bed.  He picked up his own weapon and fired at something behind Decker.  Decker whipped his head around and saw a spider roast. The spider looked the size of a small end table.

###

Millie and Evan found the man from earlier, and without thinking, they followed him to a house down the street from the inn.  There were other men there, a half-dozen in all, and they all had the same look about them. The men moved slow and awkward, and their eyes appeared glazed over.  Someone from the twenty-first century might refer to them as mind-numbed robots.  But Millie and Evan, being from 1905, saw them the way every human before the twenty-first century would see them, as enchanted, and under the spell of the witch.

When Millie and Evans dropped the weapons on the floor in front of Nanette, they did a little head shaking of their own, to come out of the hypnotic suggestion.  They looked at each other, wondering why they disarmed their friends.

“Is this all of them?” Nanette asked.

Evan found his mouth open.  Words came out, and he could not stop them. “Boston, the elf still has her weapons. They were in her slip and invisible to me.  Sukki still has her knife, but we thought it best not to enter the elf room, lest we be stopped.  Alexis still has her wand in her old elf slip, that is invisible to me, but if she has a weapon, it would be a bow and arrows at most.”

“Alexis hates weapons,” Millie added.

“Elder Stow still has his things,” Evan continued.  “I looked at it all, but I did not know which one was the weapon, so I thought it best not to disturb the pile.  But we brought all of their guns and weapons of power to you.  Why did you make us do this?”

“Why are you haunting the town with demons?” Millie asked.

Nanette grinned a wicked grin.  “Meg,” she called, and something came from the back room.  It appeared a ghost-like person, a woman not quite solid, and she floated into the room and cackled—her attempt at laughter.

Evan’s eyes got big.  Millie moved into Evan’s arms and turned her head into his shoulder so she would not have to see.

Avalon 6.7 Yeti, part 4 of 4

“The witch and her outlaws came through here about three months ago,” Rajish explained.  “It was winter, but the storms were not nearly as bad as yesterday. Clearly, she set some traps for you.”

“Don’t play with that,” Lincoln interrupted.  Alexis wanted to touch the bandage around her head.  “Let it heal.”

Alexis put her hand down, reluctantly. “So, we are in a period when the other earth is near and leaking creative and variable energy into our universe?” Alexis asked, to distract her mind.

“Yes,” Rajish said.  “And we are at the beginning of the period, so that will continue for the next three hundred years or so, which will be five or six time zones.”

“Understood,” Lockhart said, as he, and Boston came in from a visit to the stables.

Elder Stow and Sukki quickly followed, coming from places unknown.

Decker and Katie came in sweating. They had been in the work room where they worked out with the monks, and showed them a few martial arts moves the monks did not know.

Since Millie and Evan were already present, Rajish clapped his hands and people brought in food.  Then Rajish spoke.

“Since everyone is here, awake, and alert, let me answer Katie’s question from yesterday—two questions actually.  The second is, I helped save civilization. We gathered the armies of the Ganges and stopped Darius at the Indus—an idea that may be repeated in a couple of hundred years when Alexander comes to call…though I seem to recall that things go differently for Diogenes.”  Rajish shrugged.  “To answer the first question, I am here hiding.”

People looked at each other. Boston spoke.  “What are you hiding from?”

“Well, let’s see.  Zoroaster caught the ear of Cyrus the Great, and now his grandsons and the Magi have taken the ear of Darius and have helped build and direct the Persian Empire.  I best stay out of that.  Then back home, in the Ganges, the Buddha is ready to start teaching, and all that he does, and Mahariva is establishing Jainism, and I really need to not interfere. I talked to Gautama when he was young, but all it did was make me realize I need to keep my mouth shut.  When I came here to deal with the Skudsku, I thought China might work; but then it occurred to me that Laozi is just finishing the Tao Te Ching, Confucius is about half-way through his epic works, and Sunzi is about ready to start writing his book.”

“What did Sunzi write?” Lockhart asked Katie, but Katie, Decker, and Lincoln all answered.

“The Art of War.”

“The point is,” Rajish continued. “These are transitional years in human history, and in human thinking.  I don’t know why it all bunches up like that, but from about six hundred BC to about three hundred, From Homer to after Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, everything changes.  I would say it fits nicely with the influx of creative and variable energy—magic energy from the Other Earth, but…  We won’t have another time like this until the enlightenment, and that fits mostly in years when the Other Earth is out of range.  I would give it another three hundred years then, from about 1650-1950. The age of reason and science, in art and music, and all those revolutions, including the industrial and technological kind.  I may feel different when I get there, but this time around, unless something comes to my attention, I think this hermitage is safe enough.”

“So, you are teaching the monks the martial arts?” Katie asked.  “How is that not interfering?”

“Yeah, well…”  Rajish shrugged.  “My contribution.  The Persians are very good.  They are not Spartans, but good.  And the many, constantly warring states in my homeland, in India, have developed many techniques.  The warring states in China won’t really start for another twenty to forty years. I am sure they will benefit greatly from the monks from here, and all the new monasteries that will be built. These people are Taoists, you know, given to folk religion.  So, will the Shaolin monastery be founded by Taoists or Buddhists?”  Rajish shrugged again.

“You don’t mind if I teach a few things?” Decker asked.

“Local weapons only.  No Patton sabers.  Hand-to-hand is okay, but use your judgment.  No anatomy lessons.”

“Understood,” Decker responded.

With that word, Alexis yawned. Rajish imagined she and Lincoln could use the extra rest.  There were only two more things he felt important to say while everyone sat present.

“Lincoln,” he said and waited for Lincoln’s full attention.  “I’m sorry, but Cortez is finished.”  He waited for Lincoln to nod.  “I have to figure out how to send the horse back to the 1870s so Casidy can get some trade-in value.  Probably not much.  But that leaves you three horses short, and there isn’t anything I can do about that right now with the Storyteller still missing and all.”

“That’s okay,” Katie spoke up.

“We talked about that earlier while Lincoln and Alexis were still in recovery,” Lockhart said.  He looked at Evan, and Evan and Millie both nodded.

“It should work,” Evan said.

Katie explained.  “Alexis can take back Misty Gray, and she and Lincoln can ride him.  Evan and Millie can ride on my horse, Black Beauty.  I will ride with Lockhart on Dog, even if it is a ridiculous name for a horse.”

Lockhart smiled.  The name worked for him.  He spoke.  “It isn’t an ideal solution.  We will have to walk the horses even more than we have.  And we may be in trouble if we need to get away in a hurry.”

“Build that bridge when we come to it,” Decker said.

“Not to mention the wear and tear the extra weight will put on those poor horses,” Katie said.  “I worry about the horses.  We have been riding them a long time.”

Rajish held up his hand.  “I understand.  I am trying to send some fresh mounts into the past, but that is not so easy.”

Lincoln interrupted.  “I think part of what happened to Cortez was he just got exhausted.”  Alexis nodded, pointed at Lincoln, and yawned at the same time.

Boston spoke up.  “Sukki and I will take Lincoln’s saddle and equipment.”

“Yes,” Sukki said, and almost closed her mouth when every eye turned to her.  She pulled up her courage.  “But what can we do about the traps of the witch?”  She turned her eyes to the floor.  Millie stepped in to help.

“From what all you say, it will take more than normal time to get to the next time gate, and we won’t be able to hurry up.  So, how can we do that, safely?”

You still have your chestnut?” Rajish asked.  He held out his hand, and Millie pulled it from a pocket she had in her dress.  She did not hesitate to hand it to the man. Rajish looked at it carefully, and continued his thoughts.  “I have three masters of the mystical arts.  Individually, they cannot match the witch, but combined, they should be able to sniff out whatever traps the witch may have set.”

“I assume we cannot continue to count on help from the Yeti,” Lockhart said.

“No,” Rajish shook his head.  “When the witch came through, my memory got jogged. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I remembered you, and that you would follow fairly soon, but I had no idea when that might be.  I let it be known to the Yeti and… whoever, to please help you.  I assumed the witch did not have your best interests in mind. The three stood against her, so she did not come here, but…”

“But look,” Evan interrupted.  “I knew Nanette.  She was a fine, kind, and lovely woman.  What happened to her?”

“Power corrupts, absolutely,” Lincoln suggested.

“That isn’t it,” Rajish said.  “The Nanette you know is still with Professor Fleming, I believe.  It was her concern for you traveling into the past that inspired her to beg Minerva for some way to help and protect you.  The goddess agreed, and before I could stop her, she made a duplicate Nanette, like a twin.”  Rajish shook his head.  “It was as I feared.  In the spiritual world, identical twins, same gender, are rare and special.  When they are like fraternal twins, like Apollo and Artemis, they are fine, but identical twins are often a problem.  It is mostly a human myth, but in the spiritual world, it is often true enough that there is one good twin and one bad twin.  I feared this would happen.  The fact that Nanette has proved to be a very capable witch is a complication.”

“I’ll say…” Alexis yawned again and laid the non-bandaged side of her head against Lincoln’s shoulder.  She appeared to be ready to sleep.

Rajish stood.  “You need to stay here a few days.  Alexis, being a healer, will heal faster than most.  Still, I wouldn’t recommend moving her for a few days.”

###

When the time came, the three mystics helped the travelers avoid a flash flood in a valley as they headed toward the foothills.  They avoided a tiger attack one morning as they climbed up into those hills, and on one evening, they drove off an attack from a pack of about fifteen dholes. Lockhart thought they were jackals, but Elder Stow said they were more like hyenas.

Elder Stow and Decker each took one of the mystics to ride with them.  Sukki and Boston doubled up on Boston’s horse, Honey, so the one mystic who knew how to ride a horse could ride Sukki’s horse, Freedom, and lead the way.

Decker and Elder Stow still moved out on the wings from time to time, but the mystics said that was where they wanted to be.  The third one often rode out front.  They said that their senses could stretch out and pick up the lay of the land in front and around the travelers.  They could also sense that the witch had come through the area, but they admitted that they did not know if the flood and predators was something the witch did, or just natural phenomena.  The dhole and the tiger might have just seen the horses as large prey after a long, hard winter.

“Getting close to humans might have been a calculated risk, not having experience with your weapons,” one said.

To be honest, they did not ride much. They walked most of the way, in part because of the burden on the horses, and in part because of the uncertainty of the terrain under the snow.  Lincoln did not want another overburdened horse to slip and twist a leg, and Alexis still touched her head, though she had healed well.

On the eighth day, the mystic who rode out front looked at the chestnut he had been given.  He affirmed Boston’s prediction that they would reach the time gate by sundown.  A short time later, they all began to hear howling and screeching in the wilderness.

“Yeti?” Lockhart asked.

“Snow leopards,” one mystic said.

“They are often blamed for the myth of the Yeti…” Katie began, thought about what she said, and added.  “Of course, now we know otherwise…”

They came to the edge of a woods and another steep hill, like the hill of the mudslide, except this one looked covered in snow.  At once, like the last time, the ground began to tremble.  The distant yowling increased.  The snow gave way.

“Avalanche,” Lincoln yelled, and this time, they had no time to mount and ride away.  Fortunately, Elder Stow flipped a switch on his screen device, which he wisely set up ahead of time, for once.  The snow, rocks and uprooted trees stopped and piled up at the edge of the screen, or slid over top.  Elder Stow had to get his weapon out to burn a short tunnel away from the hill.  They made it out from beneath the mess without too much difficulty, and when they reached the camp beside the next time gate, the mystics had something to say.

“It seems to me you have the resources to counter about anything the witch might attack you with.”

“That depends on what she throws at us,” Decker said, as the only negative comment.

“Still,” the man continued.  “Don’t worry about us.  We are adjusted to this environment and have some resources of our own. We should be home in about four days, five at the outside.  It took longer coming here because we needed to find a route safe for the horses and we had obstacles to avoid.”

People nodded.  On the return trip, the mystics did not have anyone trying to kill them.

The travelers stepped through the time gate first thing in the morning.  When Boston and Sukki got relegated to the rear again, they shared their thoughts.

“I hope the witch thinks we got killed by one of her traps,” Boston said.

Sukki only said one thing.  “I’m scared.”

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

MONDAY

The travelers look for Ophelia, a Spartan princess just after a war with Athens, and they run into Wolv, one thing to make Spartans and Athenians join forces.  Until then, Happy Reading

*

Avalon 6.4 Stories, part 3 of 4

“Millie agreed to go with me into the past, to see if we could piece together how the Republic got started.  Wallace insisted on coming with us when Nanette showed up at the time gate.  Wallace wanted to stay with Nanette.  Tony talked about heading into the future, but he said he could not leave the professor to fend for himself.  Of course, I don’t believe the Nanette who went with us was actually Nanette.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, all went well enough until we arrived in Sicily.  But Nanette seemed changed from the start.  She did not talk to us.  Her warm and friendly personality changed into a sour personality.  She got plain rude, and mean to Millie.  But when we got to Sicily, she began to be able to do things—impossible things.  I don’t know. Like magic or something.  Like she had powers all of a sudden.  It was just little things at first, but her personality got worse with everything she learned she could do.  It was like the magic made her turn evil.  Millie said she noticed some things earlier, when we were traveling through China, somewhere in there.”

“Sicily?” Katie interrupted.

“That was the time when Pyrrhus of Epirus got invited to drive the Carthaginians off the island.  I guessed the year at 279 or so.  Millie and I discussed making the long trek to Rome. This would be on the eve of the Punic wars.  But Nanette forced us through the next time gate, and after a while, she followed us, or so it seems.”

“But why do you say it was not Nanette?” Lincoln asked.

“Because of the way she acted, and many things she said.  She talked about still being there with Professor Fleming, and how she would never leave him.  But there she was with us.  She talked about being in two places at once, and how hard that was.  And she talked about Janus, the two-faced god of the Romans, you know, one face comedy and one face tragedy.”

“One face good and one face evil,” Katie said.

“We met him, once, in the Alps,” Lockhart remembered

“So, maybe Janus split her into two Nanettes,” Boston blurted out.

“You mean, the god?” Evan had to ask.

“Don’t underestimate what the gods can do,” Lockhart said.

“We met the wicked witch, briefly,” Alexis said.

“Nanette?”

“Yeah,” Lincoln said.  “She’s taken up with some cowboys.  1870s?”  He looked at Boston.

“!870s,” Boston nodded. “I got shot.”

“Same age our horses came from,” Katie added.  The others had not realized that.

“Benjamin,” Alexis did not spell it out.

“Just coming to it,” Lincoln said, and after a minute he reported from the database.  “The Other Earth reaches half full in 525 BC, and is good until 225 BC.  Then we go into dark moon until 75 AD.  We are in a dark period right now, since 825 BC.  Now let’s see…”  Lincoln fell silent for a minute.  “Interesting…”  more silence. “I put in Sicily.  Umma from Carthage.  323-267 BC.  After her, Meng Shi in China.  267-228 BC. They both live in days when magic is possible.”  They had to explain for Evan, and Sukki, since it had not come up before.  Once again, they all looked to Lockhart to explain.

“The Other Earth fills the same relative space as our own earth, but in another dimension.  As it has been explained to me, it is what they call a physics universe, not a parallel earth.  As I understand it, the further you travel across the physical dimensions, the more the laws of physics that we know break down or cease altogether.  You don’t have to go far before life itself becomes impossible.  In the case of the Other Earth, it may be closer to the core than our own universe, because all of the laws of physics we understand function there too, but it has an additional force or energy like gravity or magnetism that we don’t have.”

“It is called creative and variable energy,” Alexis interrupted.

Lockhart nodded.  “We common folks call it magic.  Magic energy.  And some people, not many, can somehow tap into it and do miraculous things.”

Alexis spoke up again.  “Even in our day, we have not determined the genetic component, but it does tend to follow bloodlines.  It sometimes skips a generation, like grandmother and granddaughter, but not the mother.  It shows up about two-thirds in women and one-third in men.  No one knows why.”

“So, Nanette is a witch.  She can tap into this magic power…”

“…Creative and variable energy,” Alexis corrected.

“But what does this Other Earth have to do with her?” Evan wondered.

“Camp first,” Lockhart said, and pointed to the next group of trees, which looked like the edge of a forest. “I know it is early, but there are too many eyes in the sky.”  He pointed back; the way he had to look to be able to explain things to the others.  People looked.  A larger ship moved slowly across the sky, and Lockhart finished his thought.  “They are either surveying the area or looking for something.”

“Or someone,” Katie agreed, and she headed out to find an acceptable, defensible campsite.

Once the camp got set up, and the horses got their fair share of time, the people settled in around the fire, hoping the deer Katie bagged would be more edible than the goat Decker provided for lunch.

“Okay,” Lockhart began.  “The Other Earth has two differences to our earth, besides the magic energy we told you about.  One is, the Kairos never got born on the Other Earth.  At some point, the gods went to war with one another.  The landscape got shoved around pretty good and most of life got wiped out.  As for the humans, there were no survivors.  One of the gods who survived over there was Poseidon.  Somehow, he got the other surviving gods on that earth to agree to try and merge the two earths.  It did not work, for several reasons, as the Kairos explained it to me.  For one, Poseidon and the gods in our earth were not keen on the idea of merging with another version of themselves from another universe.  Second, the Other Earth existed as a mirror image of our own, with Europe pointing east instead of west, and so on.  And third, as the two worlds came into what they called conjunction, all this magic energy began to leak into our universe and caused all sorts of problems.”

“You mean, the people in our world suddenly became witches and warlocks.”

“Wizards, not Warlocks,” Boston said, and turned up her nose.

“Not many.  Never many, but some,” Alexis said.

Lockhart coughed.  People quieted.  “When the worlds got close, the Kairos Amphitrite figured out how to make a hole between the worlds and travel from one to the other.  The gods on the Other Earth wanted people, and life restored there, so they could have someone to be gods over, I suppose.  Amphitrite made the agreement.  Plenty of ordinary people crossed over, but especially those who were gifted to use the magic energy that world offered.  The gods of that earth set it in motion, relative to ours. Every six-hundred years, the worlds come into conjunction, and some people cross over.

“Not many come into our world,” Alexis said.  “But some went there, especially in the ages when witches get burned at the stake.”

Lockhart continued.  “The best way I have been told to picture it is to look at the moon.  Between the half to half-moon, through the full moon, we get close enough to the other world, so like increased moonlight, we get magic energy leaking into our world. That is when travel becomes possible between worlds, though it takes considerable magic to do it.  From half to half through the dark of the moon, the leakage really is not enough to activate any magic potential.”

“Right now, we are in a dark time,” Lincoln said.  “We should go through the light time from 525 to 225 BC, which would make the full moon in 375.  You said Nanette began to show signs of magic after entering the Chinese time zone. That had to be after 228, up to 323 BC, so well within the light time.”

“I see,” Evan said, whether he saw exactly or not.

“It sounds like Nanette had the potential,” Alexis said.  “The world went light around 1875, but by 1905 she maybe did not have enough light to bring out her potential.  Going back in time to where the light started in 225, and you landed about 279or 280 in Sicily, that sounds like light enough to bring out her magic.”

“If you were traveling with evil Nanette,” Lincoln said.  “You are probably lucky to have escaped.”

“But that is not the only way magic can happen,” Alexis added, and waited for Evan to look at her before she explained. “Most of the spirits, such as greater, lesser, and even most of the little spirits have natural magic inside them. Also, half-breeds can do things, though lesser and lesser, even down to the seventh generation. The blood is not considered fully human again until the tenth generation, for example…”

Evan looked at Boston, the elf.

“Mine is mostly fire magic,” Boston said.

“I guessed from the red hair,” Evan smiled, then looked at Alexis again.  “Don’t tell me you are a witch.”

“Lincoln only calls me a witch on my bad days,” Alexis admitted. “Boston and I are not dependent on how close or far away the Other Earth might be.  My magic is in the wind, and healing magic.  I used to be an elf.  Boston used to be human.”

“From Massachusetts.  You know, Salem witches and all that.”

“But how can that be?  What do you mean you used to be an elf?”

“Boston became an elf to marry my brother, Roland,” Alexis admitted.  “I became human to marry Benjamin.”

“I didn’t know you could do that,” Evan said.

“It isn’t done, except in special cases.”

“The Kairos?” Evan asked.  Everyone nodded.  Then they quieted to give Evan some room to breathe.  It was a lot to take in.  They ate.  Finally, Alexis became concerned about the look on Evan’s face.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Wondering if Millie made it to safety,” he said.  “I pray for her every night.”

“I pray for Roland,” Boston said. “He disappeared.  We are believing he got a free ride back to the future. But there was a wolf.  Not a wolv, but a real werewolf, and he may have gotten torn up.  We don’t know.”

“Same,” Evan said.  “Except mine was a Wolv.”

“I can pray for Millie, too.”

“And Roland?”  Evan was not sure of the name, but Boston nodded.  After that, Evan seemed to relax around Boston, even if she was an elf.

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

Don’t miss tomorrows post for the end of the story.

*

R6 Festuscato: 6 The Witch of Balmoor, part 3 of 3

Patrick started down the rough path, which became a bit of a climb to reach the floor of the hollow.  Bran and Greta followed him, and Giolla came and pushed up to stay near the priest.  Lord Flahartagh followed reluctantly, and Fionn came last and looked like a man who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

“Come, come,” the old woman cackled.  “I have been expecting you, but tell me, druid, how did things turn?”

“You failed, old woman.  The priest lives, and I should take my money back.”

“Curious,” the old woman cackled.  “They were the most poisonous serpents in the world. But who can control serpents?”

“Patrick can,” Giolla shouted.  “He cast your serpents into the sea where they all drowned.”

“You paid her to attack the priest?”  Lord Flahartagh caught up with what was going on and he hit his druid and knocked him down.  “You know what happened last time,” he roared.

“What happened?” Greta asked.  She wanted the conversation to continue while she thought of what to do.  She felt sure any direct movement toward the hole in the world would be stopped by the witch.

Lord Flahartagh explained.  “My father’s grandfather got cheated by the MacNeills and the King of Leinster when the King ruled in favor of the MacNeills and they took possession of the whole of the fens.  He came to the witch and she called up the dragons who terrorized our lands as readily as they terrorized MacNeill and Leinster.”

“Who can control a dragon?” the witch asked in a gleeful voice.

“Festuscato can,” Bran said, and Greta looked up at the man.

“Hey, I healed the dragon.  Oh, okay.”  Greta threw up her hands and went away so Festuscato could fill his own boots.  The witch looked startled, and the Irish yelled again, though not as loud as the last time.  Festuscato returned in his white tunic with the dragon on the front, and sent the cloak of Athena away.  “Good to be back,” he said, and winked at Patrick, while he walked around as if seeing things for the first time, and in truth positioned himself to take a stab at the branches as soon as the opportunity arose.

“You are the dragon,” the witch said, and with the sound of respect in her voice.  “I have heard of you.”  Clearly, hearing and understanding what she heard were two different things.  No human witch, no matter how powerful, could probe the depths of the Kairos.

“So, what’s cooking?” Festuscato asked and leaned over as if to get a look.

“The soup of life in the cauldron of life.”

“That is never the cauldron of life,” Festuscato objected.  “Dagda’s Cauldron was big enough for a man to stand inside it.  Cauldron of life?”  Festuscato scoffed.

“Patrick’s words are the words of eternal life,” Giolla spoke up.

“Jesus is the giver of life,” Patrick said, and the witch screamed and covered her ears.  That told Festuscato that the witch was not just a sorceress, she was demon possessed, a complication, and no doubt the source of her knowledge.

“I control life here,” the witch insisted and she lifted her spoon to mumble incoherently and wave her hand above the bubbles.  Spiders began to crawl over the edge of the cauldron and several bats flew up into the sky, to dive bomb the people.

“Mousden!”  Festuscato called, and since Mirowen presently held the boy’s hand, she came with him.

Mousden took one look at the witch, reverted to his pixie form, screamed and raced to hide behind Patrick’s robes.

“Mousden, come here,” Mirowen scolded and Mousden looked up and took a breath long enough to mouth another word.

“Lunch.”  The bats flew for their lives.  The spiders were not so lucky.

By the time the witch closed her mouth at the unexpected turn of events, Festuscato had Wyrd out of his sheath.  One swipe of that sword, and the old branches got cut off. He punched the remains of the branches, hurt his hand, and the wood popped out the other side of the hole, somewhere on the other earth.  The hole itself snapped shut with an audible SNAP.

The witch screamed.  Mousden screamed again on principle.  Festuscato more accurately shouted his words.  “Get out of the hollow!”  He grabbed Patrick’s robe as Mirowen scooped up Mousden, and they began to climb.  Bran went right there with them, but the others were a bit behind.  When the witch collapsed, she began to decay rapidly. She had to be over ninety.  Maybe she was over a hundred-years-old.  Maybe she was already dead and just being propped up by the demons that inhabited her.  They would never know.  As they reached the ground level above, the walls all around the hollow gave way and the hollow filled rapidly with water.  They watched while in the end it became a pond in the wilderness, and when it overflowed in one spot, it became a little stream.

“There is some water worth avoiding,” Lord Flahartagh said.

“No,” Festuscato shook his head.  “What do you think, Springs?”

A little head popped up from the stream and spoke. Flahartagh got startled, but he did not yell this time.  “Lots of muck in the water from that blasted soup the witch was cooking.  Come back this time next year and we will get things nice and cleaned up for you.  That old witch kept us out for a long time, but I knew she could not keep us out forever.”

“Thank you, Springs,” Festuscato said.  “Good to see you.”

“My pleasure.”  Springs saluted, and broke apart into the water from whence he came.

“I see you have lots of friends,” Lord Flahartagh said, and Festuscato nodded.

“Like my housekeeper Mirowen, and her ward, Mousden.” Mousden went back to walking, looking again like a nine-year-old, and it would have been easy to forget his pixie appearance or blame it on the witch casting illusions, but Mousden chose that moment to let out a big belch, and Mirowen scolded him.  “He ate too much,” Festuscato suggested.  Lord Flahartagh’s eyes got big for a second before he began to laugh.

Patrick and Fionn the Druid kept up a lively debate all the way back to the road.  To be sure, Fionn did not want to crowd his lord and remind him he went to the witch in the first place.  No one really listened to the debate, unless Bran listened, but it did seem to the casual observers that Fionn kept losing.

By the time they reached the road, Fionn started reaching for arguments that were no more than thinly disguised insults, like a man who lost the debate, and knew it, but was damned if he would admit it. He started insulting Patrick when they reached the road and Patrick had enough.

“No one is forcing you to listen to the good news, but as young Giolla plainly told you, what I am bringing is the word of life.” Patrick slammed the butt of his shepherd’s crook on the ground for emphasis.  Unfortunately, the ground seemed extra soft on the side of the road and the staff sank into the muck.  A second later, Patrick had to let go as the staff got hot.  They all watched as the staff sprouted leaves, and they watched the roots grow.

“Dern,” Festuscato said.  “I liked that staff.”

Fionn got scared when they went to see the witch. He got frightened out of his mind when he saw the pixie, and then the water sprite, but he could pretend they did not exist.  This became too much.  The fear covered Fionn’s face and he yelled the last weapon in his arsenal.

“I will call upon the gods and tell them to strike you down.”

“I don’t think that will work,” Festuscato said. “The gods don’t appreciate being told what to do.”  He stepped aside and traded places through time with Danna.  She called sweetly, “Rhiannon.”

Rhiannon did not have to come, but she came because it is polite when Mother calls.  “What is it this time?”

“This druid wants you to strike down Patrick.”

“Oh no, I couldn’t.  He is such a nice man.”

“That’s what I thought.  I told him the gods did not like being told what to do.”

“Oh, don’t I know it.  Mannanon can be as stubborn as the sea.”

“He can’t help it.”

“Oh, I almost forgot.  Clugh ate a whole goat and slept for almost twenty-four hours.”

“He is growing up.  You did cook the goat.”

“Of course, He made the cutest little whine when I tried to give it to him raw, so I cooked it for him and he squealed.  He was so happy.”

“So, you’re not mad at me for giving you the dragon?”

“Oh, how could I ever be mad at you, Mother.” Rhiannon stepped up and kissed Danna on the cheek, waved to everyone and vanished.  Danna turned to the Druid who stared, mouth wide open.  She stuck her finger in his face.

“Listen to Patrick.  He is telling you the truth.  In the words of my good friend Yul Brenner, his god is God.  Now close your mouth, and if you are good, and I said if, mind you, you just might find something special in your stocking … no, wait … Frosty the Snowman.  Anyway.” Danna hugged Patrick, and then she gave him three pieces of gold and some advice.

“The women, especially rich women will give you gifts.  Remember in this culture, they will be insulted if you don’t accept them.  But on the other hand, men will accuse you of accepting gifts from women.  You will have to do your best to turn those gifts to the church to answer your critics, and otherwise, go with God.  Use the gold to buy a new shepherd’s crook.  It suits you.”  Danna stepped back.  “The old way has gone.”

“The new way has come,” Patrick said, and Danna vanished, and she took Bran, Mirowen and Mousden with her.

They appeared on the road just beyond MacNeill’s fort, and Danna changed back to Festuscato.  He let his armor and weapons go away in favor of his comfortable clothes, and he spoke.  “I believe I have tempted history here far enough.”

“So, explain how the shepherd’s crook sprouted and grew,” Bran wondered.

“Maybe if he had some natural magic in him,” Mirowen started, but Festuscato interrupted.

“Can’t be natural.  The source of the magic got cut off when the hole closed between this earth and the other earth.”

“But then, how?”  Now Mirowen was curious.

“Some mysteries are best left alone.  It is time that we go,” Festuscato said, but he paused when he saw a half-dozen wagons beside the fort where they blocked the view of the town and dock.  Festuscato made sure Mirowen had her glamour on and Mousden stayed in his big size. “I smell visitors, and something else.”

“Yourself,” Mirowen suggested.  “You need a bath.”

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MONDAY

R6 Festuscato: 7 Travelers: The tinkers bring spooks with them.  Don’t miss it.

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