Avalon 8.8 The Bad Penny, part 6 of 6

The big ship overhead projected a greenish light on the Wolv below.  It took a few seconds.  The travelers saw many of the Wolv continue to struggle against the light, but eventually all within visual range collapsed.  Lockhart and Katie agreed that they were unconscious.  Decker said, “Darn.”

Giovanni and Leonora came up from the northeast gate where he and the circus people stood, ready to defend the gate if necessary.  Fortunately, it did not prove necessary.  Sibelius and Vadar, the knife thrower might have stood, briefly, but most, like Titania, would have not stopped any determined Wolv.

“Elenar,” Giovanni named the unfamiliar ship for the travelers.  He went to retrieve Elder Stow’s Communication device.  He needed to talk to the newcomers.

Tony asked, but since Lincoln was not there to look it up in the database, Lockhart had to dredge up the information in his memory from his Men in Black reading.  “They lived on earth more or less at the same time as the Neanderthals, that is, the Gott-Druk—Elder Stow’s people.  But where the Gott-Druk lived here in Europe and the Middle East, the Elenar lived more in Siberia, China, and Southeast Asia.  They got taken off the earth with Agdaline technology at the time of the flood, same as the Gott-Druk.  Early theories called them Cro Magnon or proto humans of some kind, but now the thinking is they are Denisova or Denisovan based on some specimens reported in the journals just before we left.  They look human enough even without a glamour, but they are more closely related to Neanderthals than us Homo Sapiens.  The man from the paleontology department who told me about the report said we will never know for sure unless we can sequence their DNA, whatever that means.”

Giovanni returned, speaking into the communicator, and followed closely by Elder Stow who did not want the Kairos to break it, again.  “Elenar.  This is the Kairos.  You do not belong here on this planet, but given the circumstances, I thank you for your timely arrival.  I will expect your representative in one earth hour.  Better come in the north gate.  The Wolv left plenty of bits and pieces of good men scattered around the battlefield, so you would need a strong stomach for the east gate.  One hour.”  He clicked it off and handed it back to Elder Stow with a word.  “See?  Didn’t break anything, but now you have some explaining to do, I believe.”

Elder Stow looked like he did not want to have to explain, but with a deep sigh he looked down and spoke softly.  “I vaguely remembered something in history, about a thousand years before my time.  I looked it up in my database, which I have found to not be very accurate in some cases.  But anyway, there was once a Gott-Druk group called the Restoration.  They were one of a number of groups that sprang up from time to time, all focused on returning to Earth and retaking our ancient land.  Right about this time, the Restoration experimented with using the Wolv to do the deed.  The Wolv worked well for the Humanoid people.  My history does not admit they ever got passed the talking stage, but apparently, they experimented, as their written record suggested.”

“Your people brought the Wolv here?” They all caught on, but Katie said it.

“Yes,” Elder Stow said.  “We, here, are at roughly the center of the European land mass, Gott-Druk homeland. The written record suggests bringing a brigade, about six hundred to this location and see how well they can clear off the land, that is, kill all the humans.  If these few can clear off and successfully defend an undetermined area of land, that will indicate how many Wolv need to be brought in to clear the entire continent.  The Wolv can be removed again with the stun method, as the Elenar just used, and the idea is then the Gott-Druk can return and live in peace, or as we say, grow fat and full of wisdom.”

The Elenar ship landed, crushing a number of trees that still stood after Elder Stow’s handheld weapon swept the area and the massive explosion of whatever weapon the Wolv brought up.  Decker countered that the Gott-Druk probably had the weapons, including the handheld weapons, and probably did not share them with the Wolv for a good reason.  “The reason there are no Humanoids around anymore is because they taught the Wolv how to use their technology, and the Wolv turned on them in the end.”

“Boston.  Where are you going?”  Sukki shouted as Boston walked away.

Boston shouted back.  “Madam Figiori has some fortune telling cards.  I’m teaching Baklovani the wolfman how to play Go Fish.”

“Can I play?” Sukki asked.  Boston stopped and waved to her.  She ran to catch up.

“Elenar…” Elder Stow said the word and it was not kindly spoken.

“Katie jinxed us when she mentioned them in the last time zone, or the one before that,” Alexis said and put on a big smile.

“Hey!” Lockhart protested.

Alexis just smiled more.  “Well, Benjamin was not here, so I thought it was my wifely duty to say it.”  Lockhart shrugged.  Katie and Alexis both smiled as they watched Boston and Sukki disappear among the circus wagons and tents.  “Probably best if the wolfman stays undercover for a while,” Alexis said.

Katie had a question.  “How long before Lincoln will be able to travel?”

“Tomorrow, maybe.  Next day would be better,” Alexis answered.

“Good enough,” Lockhart said.  “Right now, Decker, Katie and I have to make sure the Wolv in the field are all dead.”

“Grisly job,” Decker said, but he was ready.

###

The Elenar had four warships in a combat group commanded by the Elenar version of a commodore.  Giovanni met with the commodore and his staff while two of the warships penned in the Gott-Druk merchant that brought the Wolv to earth.  The last Elenar ship stayed in orbit to relay information from overhead.  The Gott-Druk had no other ships.  This was an unapproved civilian undertaking.

The Elenar said they kept tabs on various Gott-Druk groups and had a big file on the Restoration.  They said how they got their information was a state secret, but it was not hard to figure out what was happening when some of the Wolv disappeared from one world they were monitoring.

Of course, the Elenar asked about the screens and superior weapons the travelers displayed.  Giovanni said they were state secrets, but he did arrange some help for the travelers to continue their journey.

Two weeks later, the travelers reached the time gate on the Rhine, well above Basel.  They figured Giovanni left Baden-Baden in about a week and headed north toward Manheim.  The circus had to skip the performance scheduled for Stuttgart, but they made some money in the towns on the way to Manheim and they should be in Frankfurt on the day their advanced posters said.  Besides the danger of the few Wolv that still roamed around the black forest, they had to be in Aachen by August.  Giovanni had the written invitation signed by the Holy Roman Emperor himself.

Somehow, Giovanni arranged for a three-man Elenar scout ship to fly cover during the traveler’s journey.  To be honest, they flew up and hovered with their scanners turned to the forest and Rhine River the travelers rode beside.  They looked for any stray Wolv or Gott-Druk that might be tempted to turn in the direction of the travelers.  None did, and in the evening, the travelers always camped in the wilderness, wherever they could find a secluded spot for the Elenar to set down and join them for supper.

Elder Stow kept up his glamour the whole time, looking like a kindly old man.  The Elenar scanners were very good in that age, but they would have to suspect the ruse to penetrate the glamour, and Elder Stow was not about to reveal himself.  Certainly, the travelers understood and kept his secret.  They mostly called him Stow and only let the name Elder Stow slip a few times.  Lockhart explained that they honored and respected their elders and Stow was clearly the elder among them.  The Elenar bought it and there were no incidents.

When the travelers went through the time gate, Elder Stow only said one thing.  “I did not find their sense of humor funny.”  The Elenar laughed a lot, were kind-hearted people who knew how to tell a joke.  Sadly, most of the Elenar jokes had a Gott-Druk as the butt of the joke.

Elder Stow harumphed.  Boston looked at the man and outwardly agreed with him, but she thought some of those jokes were very funny.

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

MONDAY

A four part episode with posts Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and THURSDAY.  Metal Men turn up in Normandy in 1066.  The masters have plans to change the future.  Don’t miss it.  Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 8.8 The Bad Penny, part 5 of 6

Everyone tried to pile out of the town hall at once.  They had a traffic jam at the door.  Giovanni grabbed the two knights and pulled them aside.

“Don’t strip the men from the walls.  If the Wolv see an unguarded wall, they will attack there.  Keep men especially around the gates, north, south, and the two little gates in the east.  One opening, and they will pour into the city. And get the people that are outside, inside.”

“Right,” Sir Bertulf said, and he ran off toward the north gate where he massed some men for the night.

“Sir Giovanni?” Sir Radbod asked, just to clarify the Italian word, Don.  Giovanni nodded, and Sir Radbod returned the nod.  He ran off to the south and the Baron’s residence.

Katie grabbed Nanette, with Sukki and Boston standing there beside Madam Figiori.  “Nanette, I need you to go back to the inn and let Alexis and Lincoln know what is happening.  Maybe you should saddle the horses in case we need to make a quick getaway out of one of the east gates.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Madam Figiori said.  “Help is on the way if they get here in time.”

“What kind of help?” Boston asked, not doubting the madam’s word for a second.

“I do not know,” Madam Figiori said.  “But it will be substantial.”

Katie turned back to Nanette.  “Would you, please?”  Nanette only hesitated a few seconds before she ran off toward the inn.

When the women got to the wall, Decker yelled.  “Major.  You take the far end.”  He pointed and flipped his rifle to automatic.  Katie ran down the walkway as men came to stand there, shoulder to shoulder.  Most had spears, but some had bows as well.

“Boston,” Elder Stow called, knowing Sukki would come with her.  He paused in his work on his screen device and handed Boston his weapon.  “You know how to use this,” he said.  “You and Sukki need to go beyond Decker and Katie.  That is about as far as the particle screen wall will stretch.  Hopefully, I can make a Decker wall where the Wolv cannot get in, but Decker can shoot out, but it will only be so wide.  It probably won’t take long for the Wolv to find the outer edges.  You two need to be at the edge.  Oh, and daughter,” he spoke to Sukki.  “Don’t strain yourself.  I know your gift takes a lot out of you.”

“Yes, father,” Sukki said, and with a glance at Boston, she ran in one direction.  Boston ran off in the other.

Lockhart said to Tony.  “Looks like you and I have the center.  We need to give Elder Stow enough time to finish his work on his gadget.”

“It is not a gadget,” Elder Stow mumbled as Tony nodded, pulled his handgun, and stepped up to the wall.  Tony and Lockhart had to scrunch down a little in order to not be seen over the wall.  Most of the men stood straight up, thinking that they were well beyond the range of arrows.

Sure enough, several streaks of golden light came from the edge of the woods.  The lights reached the top of the wall and swept the wall clean of men.  Plenty were burned.  Plenty died, but plenty also ducked in time, and since the light did not linger in a given place, they stayed safe behind the wall.  Lockhart figured a sustained strike in one spot would turn the wooden wall to ashes.

“Here they come,” someone yelled, and a hundred Wolv came rushing out from among the trees.  Decker and Katie opened fire almost immediately.  Both fired first at the places that produced the golden light beams, but soon enough they began to gun down the oncoming Wolv.  The Wolv were fast.  It would not take them long to cross the open area and reach the bottom of the wall.

Decker and Katie, military trained and being highly intuitive, both ducked at almost the same time.  Two golden light beams zeroed in on their position but did not fire for long.  On the first sign of those weapons, Boston adjusted Elder Stow’s weapon to a broad beam, if she did it right, and turned it up to maximum power.  When the light weapons turned on Decker and Katie, she fired at that location.  The trees in that spot exploded, including a couple of big ones that crashed over into the woods.

“Wow,” Boston said to herself as she patted herself on the back.  Then she thought she better move further down the wall.

Almost eighty of the hundred Wolv arrived at the base of the wall, and roughly a third immediately began to climb, using their claws to get a grip on the wooden logs.  The defenders had arrows and spears which the men tenaciously clutched in their sweating palms.  Many arrows helped, but it took three or four well placed arrows to just slow them down.  By far, the stones and bricks the defenders threw were most affective.  A good-sized stone could knock a Wolv right off the wall, and even if it was not seriously injured, it would have to start again from the bottom.

The travelers took a slow but steady toll on the Wolv.  Katie and Decker especially cleaned out the area beneath their positions and had to start leaning over the wall to shoot others.  Lockhart with his police revolver and Tony with his semiautomatic handgun were not nearly as affective.  But they killed or wounded the ones in their immediate area.

Several Wolv made it to the top and shredded plenty of defenders, but the defenders were still numerous enough, so with enough spears, no Wolv got down into the town.

A much bigger and thicker golden light came from the woods.  Tony and Lockhart ducked at first, but Tony noticed the weapon was not directed at them.  It fell beneath them and Tony shouted.  “Back away from this area.  Hurry.”

Lockhart and Tony went in opposite directions, and the defenders near them followed.  Lockhart looked briefly at Elder Stow who still sat there cross-legged, concentrating on his screen device.  He saw Elder Stow touch something on his belt, and a moment later when a big hole appeared in the wall, and the wall in that place collapsed, Elder Stow continued to float there, unmoved.  Of course, the light weapon killed the Wolv in that immediate area, so the Wolv who were still alive were in no position to take advantage of the hole, but they would soon enough if the defenders could not plug the gap.

Then, two hundred more Wolv came roaring out of the woods, making the total used in the attack only half of the Wolv brigade.  And the defenders were already beaten and had a great hole in their wall besides.  They would have surrendered to any human opponent, but they knew there was no surrendering to these beasts.

Boston and Sukki had babbled with each other through their wristwatch communicators.  The people back at the inn might have heard the conversation, but the travelers on the wall could hardly pause long enough to make sense of it.  Sukki and Boston, being well down on both ends of the wall, heard well enough.  And they both said now at more or less the same time.

Boston fired on the spot where whatever made that big beam of light appeared to be located.  Sukki raised her hands and let her power loose, full strength on the same spot from the other side.  Neither had to fire for very long, and the weapon, or whatever it was, exploded.  It sent up a huge cloud of smoke and shook the ground to where even the sure footed Wolv fell to the dirt.  The wall shook, as did the nearby buildings in the town, and some men fell off the wall, while others grabbed the lip of the parapet.

“There,” Elder Stow said and smiled, pleased with himself and oblivious to all that happened around him. But as the two hundred Wolv got up and gathered to restart their charge toward the hole in the wall, they ran into a screen wall they could not breach.  They crashed and bounced back, and no amount of clawing or biting with those powerful jaws made a difference.

Decker wanted to test the screens and see if they were indeed a Decker wall he could shoot through.  He and Katie moved in toward Tony and Lockhart.  There were still thirty or more Wolv on their side of the wall that had to be dealt with, and they would find the hole in the wooden wall soon enough.

Sir Bertulf moved up the men he held in reserve.  They readied themselves for the onslaught.  The travelers got to where they could shoot toward the hole.  Boston and Sukki moved in toward the hole, but they leaned over the top of the wall and fried Wolv on the run.  They figured, now that they had taken care of the main weapons of the enemy, they were free to turn on the Wolv.  The enemy certainly knew they were there, though they probably imagined two very powerful handheld weapons.

Few Wolv made it inside the hole, and while many men got killed, Sir Bertulf had enough men to prevent the Wolv from breaking into the town.  The travelers firing down from overhead had a lot to do with that.  Alexis with her wand and Nanette with Lincoln’s handgun showing up also helped.  Alexis especially was able to call up a hurricane force wind that blunted any charge the Wolv tried to make.

“Look out,” Elder Stow said, and pointed to the screen wall that rested some fifty yards out from the town wall.  The travelers looked, and saw hand weapons, or maybe rifles fired from the other side.  The golden light did not penetrate Elder Stow’s screen, but it did show where it touched the screen, and in this way, they appeared to be looking for the edge of the screen, and they found it.

The Wolv gathered by the two edges.  Katie and Decker opened fire on the gatherings.  Sukki looked tired, and Boston took a moment to turn Elder Stow’s weapon back to a wide angle shot; but she never fired the gun.  Everyone, including the Wolv stopped when a large spaceship zoomed in to hover over the field.  The Wolv started to run as some ten or so fighter ships came out from beneath the mother ship.

At first, the travelers feared the ship belonged to whoever brought the Wolv to earth, but when the Wolv appeared to turn and run for their lives, they understood this ship, if not on their side, at least was against the Wolv.

Avalon 8.8 The Bad Penny, part 4 of 6

Sir Bertulf and the night watch arrived at the same time as Decker, Elder Stow, Sukki and Boston.  The travelers did not appear to be fully awake, but Sir Bertulf and the men on the watch all gagged on seeing the shredded gate guards.  Giovanni arrived moments later with one of the old men that went with him to check out the farm.  The old man spoke first to Sir Bertulf.

“This is what we saw on the farm, though the family looked partly eaten.  We ran as fast as the horses could run when a dozen of these Wolv came out of the woods.”

“I count two Wolv,” Giovanni said, and he leaned back and shouted up to the top of the wall.  “Alexis.  How many did you get up there?”

Lockhart’s voice answered.  The man could not be well seen on the night shrouded walkway.  “Lincoln shot one.”

“That is three,” Giovanni said, seemingly satisfied.  He understood three-man—three-Wolv—three-person fighter/bomber craft became standard among space-faring people since the days of the Balok, some five thousand years earlier.  That three-man or three-Wolv thinking translated into all sort of other circumstances.  A three Wolv scout troop was what he expected.

“We saw at least a dozen at the farm,” the old man said, and added softly, “I didn’t stop to count them.”

Sir Bertulf stared at the Wolv by his feet when Giovanni said, “These were probably advanced scouts sent to check out the lay of the land.”

“There are more out there,” the old man said.

“You talk as if these Wolv think like an army.”  Sir Bertulf tore his eyes away from staring at the beast.

“They have first rate military minds,” Giovanni answered.  “Despite the fact that they look something like ordinary wolves, these Wolv are not dumb beasts.  They talk, are organized, and make excellent soldiers, which is why one group of people used them as front-line troops in their days of conquest.”

“How many do you figure?” Decker asked.

“At least a company of forty.  Maybe a whole brigade.  That would be six hundred.  Let us hope there are not more.  Oberon!” Giovanni called.

“Right here, Lord,” the dwarf answered.  He came out of the dark street followed by the half-ogre Sibelius and a very grumpy old woman named Madam Figiori.  Madam Figiori was a very old, full blood elf whose magic allowed her glimpses of hidden things, including rare glimpses of the future.  She ran the fortune teller’s booth, but at the moment, being a light elf, she wanted to be sleeping in the dark time.

Sibelius carried the stretcher Giovanni made with the hope they would never have to use it.  Sadly, circus people sometimes had accidents and needed to be carried to a place where they could rest and recover from their injuries.  In this case, Sibelius held up the stretcher with a question in his eyes.  Immediately, Alexis shouted down from overhead.

“Benjamin got clawed.  We need a way to get him back to the inn.”

“Come on, strongman,” Decker said and headed toward the stairs.

“I wondered why Madam Figiori said to bring this.”  Sibelius smiled as he held up the stretcher and followed.

Katie came down first and saw that there was nothing Alexis could do for the gate guards.  Sir Bertulf jumped when he saw Katie examining the men.  He began giving orders to the watch.  “Raise the city guard.  I want torches on the wall in the night so we can see them coming.  We have to man the whole wall.  They could come over at any point, and I’ll flog any man who falls asleep on the watch.”  He turned to Giovanni.  “Are they afraid of fire?”

“Not in the least,” Giovanni answered.  “You can’t think of them as dumb animals.  If we make the wall too costly for them, they may try to set the wall on fire, or burrow under, or build siege engines like an army of men.  They are ferocious, like berserkers, stronger and faster than ordinary men, but most of all they think.  They are not dumb beasts.”  Sir Bertulf nodded, even if the reality of that would take time to sink in.  Giovanni added another note.  “You need to consider manning the wall in shifts.  They may be here before morning, or it could be days or even weeks before they turn in our direction.”  A final nod from Sir Bertulf and he ran off followed by two watchmen.

Other watchmen started up the stairs as Decker and Sibelius brought Lincoln down as carefully as they could, with Alexis yelling at them to be careful.  Lockhart followed, coming down the stair where he and Katie joined Elder Stow, Sukki, and Boston who had gathered around Giovanni.  Giovanni was speaking to the dwarf.

“No, Lord,” Oberon said.  “It looks like the six hundred you guessed.  There are some good dwarfs, some string beans, flutter-byes, and dark ones all volunteering to help defend the town, but not many of each.  Those Wolv are scarry just to look at.”

“Every bit helps, and I am sure your volunteers will do more than they should.  Thank them for me.” Giovanni turned to the travelers, but Madam Figiori interrupted his thoughts.

“No telling if I can see rightly in the dark.  It is unnatural to be awake and about at this time of the night.  But it looks like you have an elect, a member of the elder race, a girl who is simply cracking with powers—the gods must have been generous to you, girl—and the red head is a full blood elf, a princess I would guess from the look of her.”

“Boston,” Giovanni smiled.  “You need to visit with Madam Figiori while you are here.”  he turned to the old elf.  “Consider Boston like the daughter you never had.”

Madam Figiori harumphed and walked once around Boston like she needed to see the girl from all the angles.  Then she spoke.  “She is a fiery wild child.  Brilliant, but a disobedient, stubborn girl who can drive everyone crazy around her.”  Boston did not object, but she looked sad to think this elder elf did not like her.  Madam Figiori surprised her when she let out a little smile.  “She is exactly the kind of daughter I would have had if I had one.”  She turned again to Giovanni.  “Nothing I can see right now.  These Wolv are just exploring for the present and their minds are too wild to make sense.”  She shrugged.  “I will sleep on it.  Come, girl,” she said and walked off with Boston following.  “What kind of a name is Boston?  Well, you used to be human.”

“Ugh,” Boston protested.  “How did you know that?”

“I know too much.  Elves frown on soothsaying and fortune telling.  It got me kicked out of my woodland home, but that happened a long, long time ago…”

That was all the travelers heard before Lockhart turned to Giovanni and asked, “Where do you want us?”

“Available,” Giovanni said.  “I would prefer you on the road to the next time gate, but that would not be safe right now.  I guess for now you can stay around the main gate on the main road.  The south road gate is next to the Baron’s residence.  Hopefully the man is not a complete fool, or Sir Bertulf may double the guard there.  Later, maybe when everyone is up in the daytime, you might hang around with me by the town hall.  That is the center of town.  We can run from there to the wall, wherever we may be needed.  Elder Stow?”

Elder Stow took one more look at his scanner.  “I have expanded the alarm to a half-mile all around.  That takes in the town and should give us more advanced warning if there are Wolv in the area.”  He handed Giovanni a disc.  “Here.  It is tuned to the scanner and will relay the alarm, should it go off.”  Giovanni thanked him and put the disc in his pocket.

Giovanni said, “I suppose it won’t do any good to ask Decker to take his eagle totem in a fly around in the morning.  As I recall, he can’t see much under the trees.  Still, he might luck out and catch a glimpse of whatever ship brought the Wolv here.”

“Agreed,” Elder Stow said.  “But for now, we need to rest while we can.  It also won’t do any good being exhausted when the Wolv come in force.”

Everyone agreed with that and went their separate ways.  Lockhart and Kate climbed to the walkway up on the wall where they had a turn watching for the Wolv, while men came to man the gate and clean up the mess of bodies below.

###

Giovanni had a fine breakfast prepared in the town hall.  The travelers had already eaten at the inn, but they did not mind nibbling on the food.  Decker meditated and sent up his eagle totem.  He saw nothing to speak of under the forest canopy and could not confirm the glistening something he saw in the distance, well beyond his range.

“It might be a ship, a big ship, or two ships,” he said.  “It might be a refection off the next big town over.”

“Stuttgart,” Lincoln named it. “On the Necker River.”

Decker said, “It might be the river.”

Elder Stow added a note.  “I am seeing movement in the woods, but it could be a herd of deer or something.”  His uncertainty did not reassure anyone.  He picked up on that and defended himself.  “This is just a toy.  It is not a real scanner. I am doing my best.”

“I am sure you are,” Katie said and smiled for him.

“I can’t eat anything,” Sukki said.  “All I can picture is the Wolv eating the whole town.”

Nanette nudged her.  “Good thing you had a big breakfast before coming here.”

Sukki nodded.  “I wasn’t thinking about the Wolv then.”

Sir Bertulf and some of his men were there along with the two old men from the farm.  One of the other knights, Sir Radbod was also present.  He came around after he saw the bodies of the shredded gate guards.  No telling where Sir Aldabert and the Baron Fredrick stood at that point, but at least now Sir Bertulf did not need to watch both ends of the town at the same time.

Any number of circus people were present as well, including Oberon the dwarf, Sibelius the strongman, Titania, the bearded fat lady, and Leonora decked out in her harlequin costume, who complained that they had an adventure in the night without her.

“That is what Boston usually says,” Sukki told her when Boston and Madam Figiori came in laughing about something.  Boston took the madam to introduce her adopted sisters Sukki and Nanette.  Madam Figiori was just revealing the impression she got of both of them, impressions that were uncanny in their accuracy, when Elder Stow’s alarm went off.

“I guess that is not a herd of deer,” he said.

Oberon nodded.  “It looks like the full six hundred, and they are straight out in the woods from this point, about half-way between the north and south gates.

“God help us,” Sukki said, and even the disguised little ones present did not object to that idea.

Avalon 8.8 The Bad Penny, part 3 of 6

Once again, Katie had to ask.  “Why were you worried about Giovanni getting a hug?”

Leonora looked at Katie like she might not want to reveal her secret.

Katie clarified her thoughts.  “I mean, it is obvious you love him, but I take it you two are not married.”

Leonora got teary eyed and spoke softly, like woman to woman.  “Giovanni dallied a lot in the past.  You know what I mean, dallied?”  Katie nodded and Leonora continued.  “He has been good since I joined the family—that is how circus people talk and think about each other.  Baklovani and Titania, and Constantine our tightrope walker, oh, and Madigan the musician have been with him the longest.  They were in the old circus before Giovanni’s father died.  Don Giovanni is Sir Vincenzo Giovanni the third.  His father was the second. His grandfather started the circus and got knighted by the Duke of Venezia…”

“You and Giovanni,” Katie reminded her, and Leonora sniffed before she continued.

“Anyway.  Giovanni dallied a lot when he was young, but he has not strayed since I came.  The ones who have known him since he was a child all say they never expected him to stop like that.  They privately talk about him becoming a monk or maybe getting ready to explode.  But he has a rule, and he is very strict.  He does not get involved in that way with circus people.  He does not get involved with family.  He says that would be like incest, or something.”  She let out a few tears.

Katie hugged the girl and Lockhart had a thought.  “Did you ever think of quitting the circus?”

Leonora wiped her eyes and nodded.  “But I have nowhere else to go,” she said.  “These good people have become my family, and I cannot go home. That would be like a death sentence.”

“And you got concerned when Giovanni said he wanted to get her hug?” Katie asked, still sounding sympathetic.

“Curious?” Leonora tried, but Katie shook her head.  “Okay, concerned.  But I know his much older and much more important rule is he will never get involved with any of his little ones.  He told me how the goddess Danna once made herself a fairy who did not remember that she was the goddess.  She tried to talk to the fairies on their level and tried to keep them from making a terrible mistake.  It sort of worked out, but in the meantime, she got involved with a fairy prince and had a son.  And Giovanni says for the last four thousand years, Taliesin has been nothing but a pain in the butt.”  Leonora smiled at her own mouth.

Boston came racing out of the inn when they reached the front door, and she hugged Leonora, much to her surprise.  And she spoke.  “Lockhart says I’m a pain in the butt sometimes, too.”  Then she added a note Leonora did not know how to interpret.  “I love you very much.”

Fortunately, Alexis followed Boston out the door and stepped up to Lincoln as she explained.  “Don Giovanni must love you very much.  You recognized Boston as an elf before anyone identified her as such.  And Boston feels the love for you, and no doubt would protect you in whatever way she has to, though she might not exactly do what you ask.”  Alexis gave her husband a peck on the lips.  Katie took Lockhart’s arm.  And Boston spoke again.

“That is exactly how I feel.  Don Giovanni must love you very much.”

“It is just Giovanni, I think,” Lockhart said and looked to Leonora for confirmation, but Leonora was busy crying.

“Let’s go see what kind of swill this place serves for food,” Lincoln interrupted.  “We kind of missed lunch.”

###

Giovanni came in the evening after supper.  He found the travelers with Leonora sitting around telling jokes.  Some of the jokes Leonora told were childish, like one might find in a riddle book for children, but they were fresh and new in that day and culture.  Some were rather bawdy, but Decker matched her there, much to Nanette’s red-faced embarrassment.

When Giovanni came in, Leonora jumped up first, threw herself into his arms and planted a kiss right on his lips.  He did not appear to object, but before he could say anything, she stepped aside and said, “Boston.”  Boston hugged Giovanni hard and whispered in his ear.

“You should marry her.”

Giovanni backed up and shook an accusing finger, first at Boston.  “You have been talking behind my back.”  Then he turned his shaking finger on Leonora.  “You planned this.”

Leonora grinned and leaned back until her hands touched the floor.  She slowly raised one leg at a time over her head until she landed in front of her chair.  She sat down and said, “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama.  I still don’t know what that means.”

“From the future.” Katie grinned.

“The Kairos is usually careful about such things,” Lockhart said, and having everyone’s attention he added, “Standard watch tonight.”  He looked around to make sure there were no objections and added another thought.  “I think we need to get up on the wall around the main gate and keep our eyes open.  And go armed.”

“I was just going to say that.” Decker said.

Tony and Nanette got up.  They had the sundown watch, from six to nine.  When Nanette stood, she stared at Decker to let him know she was not entirely happy with his mouth.  But then she leaned over and gave him a kiss, which he seemed to appreciate.  She got Katie’s handgun and knife on the belt which she buckled around her hips like a gunslinger. She had her wand, but she was presently in a time zone where the other earth phased too far out of range to leak magic energy into our universe.  It would be 1275 before her magic returned to her.  Tony, of course, had his own M1911 handgun and trench knife.  Everyone figured he would need them when he got home just in time for the start of World War I.

Alexis and Lincoln stayed up for the present.  They had the nine to midnight shift and an hour nap before the shift always made Lincoln cranky.  Instead, they tended to sleep between midnight and eight in the morning and were occasionally the last ones up in the morning.  Nanette and Sukki took over the breakfast duty, and the travelers usually left the morning camp about nine.  They traveled about four hours, took a lunch between one and two, and traveled another three or four hours in the afternoon, stopping about five or six depending on the time of year and their location on the planet.

The goal was thirty miles per day or about three to four miles per hour, which they rarely made.  Even when the roads were good, twenty-five or so was about the best they could do.  They walked the horses almost as often as they rode, and Ghost the mule had his limits.

Lockhart and Katie took the hard shift between midnight and three in the morning.  They adjusted to a two- or three-hour nap before their shift and five or so hours after their shift.  They were most often the last ones up in the morning.

Decker got up and went to bed fairly soon after Giovanni arrived.  He imagined he would hear the details later.  Elder Stow followed Decker upstairs soon after.  He left his scanner on the table where an alarm would go off if it detected any Wolv within a hundred yards of the wall.  They had the dark of the night shift from three to six, and Elder Stow could be particularly difficult to awaken at three in the morning.

Sukki and Boston had the sunrise shift.  Out in the wilderness, Boston would start the fire and Sukki would get the breakfast going and the all-important tea-fake-coffee.  That normally happened after they watched the sunrise, and people began to stagger out of their tents.  The horses and Ghost got special attention in the morning before they started out.  But that night, they got interrupted well before the morning shift.

Katie and Lockhart got up and got their rifles ready.  Katie got her gun belt back.  Nanette left it outside her door when she went to bed.  Alexis and Lincoln were on duty and expecting Lockhart and Katie to walk down to the gate and relieve them when Elder Stow’s scanner alarm went off.  It was loud.  Lockhart called it loud enough to wake the dead.  Neither knew how to turn it off.  They figured, let it run until Elder Stow himself came downstairs and dealt with it.  They took off for the gate.

Above the gate, up on the walkway, Alexis let out a Sukki worthy scream. She turned around and came face to face with a Wolv that had clawed its way to the top of the wall.  Alexis dropped her wand, but she raised her hands and managed a great gust of wind which knocked the beast off the walkway and down into the street.

Lincoln ran when he heard the scream, but he did not dare shoot the beast for fear of hitting Alexis.  He stopped suddenly when a second Wolv clambered over the wall and landed in front of him.  He pulled the trigger several times, and the Wolv collapsed just before a third Wolv came up from behind and raked its claws across Lincoln’s back.  Lincoln had thickened his fairy weave shirt and made it as leather-like as he could.  All the same, the Wolv nails cut through and left three long streaks of blood.  The claw pushed Lincoln forward where he fell on his face and could not get up right away.

The wolf down below killed three of the four gate guards, even with a spear stuck in its side.  The fourth guard managed a spear thrust that cut something vital in the beast. The Wolv let out a howl, and Lincoln’s Wolv stopped drooling over Lincoln’s body and quickly jumped off the wall to land in the street below.

The fourth guard did not stand a chance, even as he picked up one of the fallen spears.  He screamed as he faced the Wolv and got a good look in the eyes of the beast. He tried to fend off the claws with his longer reaching weapon, but the Wolv proved too agile and quick.  It bit the man’s arm and yanked it off the man’s body as the man screamed again.  Katie arrived with her rifle set to automatic.  She riddled the Wolv with five rounds.  When Lockhart got there, he blasted the Wolv with his shotgun.  Then he blasted the other one just to be sure.

Lockhart and Katie ran up the gate stairs and looked hard over the ramparts to see if they could spy any more Wolv in the dark.  Lockhart found the one Lincoln shot.  It was not quite dead, so he blasted it as well.  Katie found Alexis leaning over Lincoln, practicing her healing arts on his back and crying.  Lincoln could only say ouch until the healing magic penetrated as deep as the cuts.

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

MONDAY

It looks like the Wolv are checking them out, and coming… Until Monday, Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 8.8 The Bad Penny, part 2 of 6

“I thought they all died,” Sukki said as she got down from her horse.  “There should not be any more Wolv.”

“Not a chance,” Boston said, as Nanette and Titania came up to join them.  “They just got stranded on whatever planet they were on when their Humanoid ships busted beyond what they could fix.”

Elder Stow came up staring at his scanner.  He ostensibly came to help the women move their horses off the road.  The circus people were still bringing in the wagon loads from where they parked in a field outside the town palisade.  The others all went to help.

“Actually,” Elder Stow spoke to the women.  “Even in my day, a thousand years in the future, there are a half-dozen or so worlds where packs of Wolv still roam around.  You see, on some worlds the people were made extinct before the Wolv returned to space.  Some fought off the invasion as Earth did a thousand years ago in the days of Ali Baba.  But eventually the Humanoid technology broke as Boston said, and the Wolv became trapped on that world.  Again, some local people defeated the Wolv, and if they were advanced enough to do it, they also got an introduction to Humanoid technology and space travel.  I suspect the Flesh Eaters, and maybe the Apes fall into that category.  But on some worlds, the Wolv won and now own at least a half-dozen worlds in my day.”

‘You mean, they might learn how to fix things and come back here at any time?”  Sukki worried.

“No, daughter.”  Elder Stow gave her a reassuring smile.  “The Wolv everywhere have reverted to their natural pack and tribal state; what modern people would call a Neolithic existence.  They can learn.  They can be taught, as the Humanoids taught them how to use their equipment, but it will be thousands of years before they learn enough to build their own spaceships, and it is possible that will never happen.”

“But they are here,” Nanette said, sounding nearly as nervous as Sukki.  “How did they get here?”

“Over here,” Alexis shouted.  She and Tony had the wagon in a side street, and Alexis had hers and Lincoln’s horses.  The others each grabbed the reigns of two horses that were otherwise just standing around, and they followed the wagon, while Elder Stow said one more thing.

“That is the question.  They had to be brought here.  Who brought them?”

Decker and Lincoln went to help pack and bring in the last of the circus wagons.  The town watch and soldiers were anxious to get the gate closed, though they had not yet seen a Wolv.  If they had, they might have slammed the gate already and let those outside the palisade fend for themselves.  Decker did not have the heart to tell the locals a wooden palisade wall would hardly be sufficient against the Wolv.  It would not keep out an army, but the town could surrender to an army.  If they surrendered to the Wolv, the Wolv would just eat them or tear them to shreds just for fun.  The palisade might keep out a company of men attached to a distant army.  It would at least make the company think twice before attacking, so Decker supposed it was not a totally useless wall.

Meanwhile, Lockhart and Katie met with Don Giovanni and Leonora, and two older men who went out to one of the outlying farms to see what the madman kept screaming about.  They tried to explain things to the local Baron, his three knights, and the four town elders.  At least one of the knights, Sir Bertulf seemed to understand what they were talking about, or maybe he believed them.  The others all wanted to deny reality or interpret it in a way that did not appear so threatening.

“So, a pack of wolves attacked the man’s farm,” the Baron said with a haughty laugh.  “Nothing a couple of good hunters can’t take care of.  It happens all the time.”  He walked off and two of his knights went with him, laughing about the panic.

“No.  You don’t understand,” Otto, one of the old men started to speak but paused when Giovanni put his hand out.

“He will believe it when he sees it,” Giovanni said.  “Let us hope it is not the last thing he sees.”

“How can we help?” Lockhart asked.

“Actually, for once you can stick around and get your rifles ready,” Giovanni answered as he turned to the town elders.    “Besides, it isn’t safe out there to be traveling right now.”  He spoke to the elders.  “Do you understand what is going on here?”

The head of the little group looked at his fellows before he answered.  “I am with the Baron.  A pack of wild wolves I understand.  I don’t know these Wolvs you speak of.”

“Just as long as you open the gates for the people to come behind the shelter of the wall.”

“We will not keep anyone out,” he responded, and they left.

“Sir Bertulf?” one of the older men asked, wondering what the last knight present thought.

Sir Bertulf pulled a little on his beard.  “You say and all agree these are not natural or normal wolves.  They think, are clever and cunning, and have a language all their own with which they communicate with each other even as we talk with one another.  Are they demons, then, who have taken the form of wolves?  I know their master goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  I do not doubt that his servants may take the form of wolves and be equally hungry.”

The old men looked at Don Giovanni as Lockhart began to speak.  “That is not exactly right.”

“But close enough,” Giovanni said.  “And if that line of thinking helps the people mount a reasonable defense, then let’s go with it.”

“We will spread the word among the people,” one of the old men said.

“And I will see to the soldiers and the night watch on the wall.” Sir Bertulf agreed.

As they left, Leonora grabbed Giovanni.  “Tell me about these friends of yours.  You never mentioned them.”

“I never think of them until they arrive, or mostly,” he said.

“They have an elf with them.”  Leonora smiled.

“And a member of the elder race, two witches, and Katie here is an elect.  We will meet them all later, but that is not important now.”  Giovanni turned at the door and looked to see the gate closing.  His circus wagons stretched the whole length of the street from the gate almost to the Baron’s residence at the far end.  The Baron lived in a mansion and had a strong stone tower as a fallback position.  He also had his own wall around his very big piece of property.  It was an improvement over the town wall because the bottom four feet or so was stone.

“I hope we don’t end up stuffing as many people as possible into the baron’s tower as a last resort.  That would not be good.”

Leonora tugged on Giovanni’s sleeve.  “So, where do these Wolvs come from?” she asked.

“Wolv,” he corrected her.  “It is like sheep.  Wolv covers the singular and the plural.”  The couple looked eye to eye in silence for a moment, and Katie smiled and nudged Lockhart who imagined he knew what she was nudging about.

“But where…”

Giovanni put an arm around Leonora’s shoulder.  She quieted and let out her smile.  He pointed to the sky and said, “You know in the night when all the stars come out?  Generally, in that direction.  You know, they are all suns very, very far away.  There is a world, like the earth, that goes around one of those suns.  They come from there, and how they got here is a question.”

Leonora sighed and laid her head against Giovanni’s shoulder.  Katie had to say something.

“Surely, the Humanoid ships are not still functioning.”

“No,” Giovanni said.  “And don’t call me Shirley.”  He smiled.  “But seriously, they had to have been brought here.  The question is by who and for what purpose.”

Lincoln called as he walked up to the town hall.  “Lockhart.  Katie.  We found an inn and got five rooms before they filled up with circus people.  The horses and wagon are in the barn.”  He stepped up and smiled for what he took to be two couples.  Giovanni quickly let go of Leonora and asked her a question.

“Would you mind going with the travelers to help them get settled in?  I need to settle the train and get the tents up in the street, I guess.  Tell Boston I haven’t forgotten.  I’ll be along later to get her hug.”  Leonora backed up and looked at him.  He explained.  “It is just tradition.  She is the elf.”

“Oh,” Leonora said and seemed to understand something. “Come on,” she waved to Katie and Lockhart as she and Lincoln led the way down the side street.  “The Frauenhaus,” she named the inn.  “Not the best in town, but acceptable.”

Avalon 7.5 Ali Baba and the 40 Guns, part 6 of 6

“Bodies,” Decker reported what they could all see.  The few men they saw looked shredded.  The Wolv they saw appeared dead, or at least not moving.

“I don’t see movement in the fort.”  Lockhart looked through Katie’s binoculars.

“I see… Thirty some Wolv in the trees by their ship,” Elder Stow said.  “My guess is the EMP worked, and they are trying to figure out what to do about it, now that thy are vulnerable.”

“Visitors,” Boston said, and added the words, “Friendlies.”  Katie sensed them and pushed up beside Boston to block the view in case Decker or Lockhart thought to shoot first and ask questions later.

Boffo, the dwarf came from the trees, holding tight to an iron bar.  It looked like a duplicate of the one Schaibo carried, but it looked like it fit Boffo’s big hand.  Maruf the cobbler led the three women out of the trees and on to the road.  Princess Nuronnihar looked terribly frightened and confused.  Almeria and Peribonou came holding hands, while Jasmine rode on Almeria’s shoulder and held tight to Almeria’s rich, black hair.  Aemir the elf chief followed, while Cedar, still holding the EMP transmitter, fluttered up to Baba.

“We did just like you said,” Cedar reported.  “We got here just before the Wolv charged, and Jasmine was very brave to press the button.”  He handed the device back to Baba as Aemir took up the tale.

“We had their instruments fooled, but they must have picked up traces of the metal used in your guns.  They found us by visual sighting.  Sorry we couldn’t make the whole camp invisible.”

“Survivors?” Lockhart asked.

“Mostly,” Aemir answered.

“We got the women out while the Wolv danced,” Maruf said.

Baba explained. “When their personal screens burned out, they probably got a bad case of electrical shock.”

“Their charge did not go as expected,” Boffo said, and grinned.

“I got people left and right,” Aemir continued.  “They won’t be able to flank the camp, if that is what they are thinking.”

“Right,” Baba said.  “Almeria, take my horse—Tony’s horse.”

“And what are you thinking?” Almeria asked, sharply, as Baba gave her a quick kiss and showed her how to use the stirrup.  

“Princess get up behind Boston.  She will keep you in your seat.  Peri get behind Sukki.  You all need to ride back to the wagon.  Peri, you need to talk to Alexis.  She used to be an elf and became human to marry.  I’ll get up behind Lockhart. Maruf with Decker.  Aemir with Elder Stow.  It is open ground, but if Elder Stow can manage a wall screen on our side, the rest of us can make a dash for the castellum.”

“Boss,” Boston protested.

“No arguments,” Lockhart said.

“Boston,” Baba continued.  “You need to keep your senses flared in case a group of Wolv break away to follow you.  You have your Beretta, and Sukki has the power in her hands to protect you, if that should be necessary.”

“I don’t think we have time for that,” Elder Stow interrupted the plan.  “We have eight or nine sneaking up on our flank, and the rest, maybe twenty-six or twenty-seven look ready to charge the fort.

“Damn,” Baba said.  “Maruf, take the rest of the horses back into the woods to keep them out of the line of fire.  Cedar and Jasmine get big to help with the horses, please.  Keep them calm and quiet… Well?”  He looked at Boston, who all but growled at him.

“Come on,” Boston shouted, and led the women back the way they came.

Baba turned to the travelers.  “Elder Stow?”

“Just a minute… There.  The screens are set around us and the horses.  The women have moved out of range, but we should be safe.  They should not be able to get at us.”

“Good.  Decker, Katie, and Elder Stow focus your fire on the ones charging the fort.  Lockhart, Maruf, Aemir, and I will deal with the ones that come up to the screen.”  He called and became clothed in the armor of the Kairos, sword over his shoulder and long knife across the small of his back.  He left his helmet, shield, spear, and the cape of Athena on Avalon, but he could call to them if he needed them.

“And Elder Stow,” Lockhart added.  “Please take the safety off your weapon this time.”

“Automatic,” Decker said, interrupting Elder Stow’s grumpy response. “Three round bursts,”

“Sir,” Katie acknowledged that she heard.

Baba and Maruf loaded their primitive rifles.  They fired a good-sized mini ball with enough force to penetrate armor, though not nearly with the force of Lockhart’s shotgun.  Aemir and Cedar got out their wands, but they were not sure what they could do, exactly.

The Wolv sneaking through the woods divided when they saw the horses ride out.  Four came to the screened travelers, not knowing about the screens.  Four chased the horses.

Boston rode at a fast trot, but did not push them to gallop, wary of their passengers.  Peri enjoyed the ride behind Sukki, though the Princess screamed in Boston’s ear, shut her eyes, and held on to Boston for dear life.  Almeria kept up on Tony’s horse, not because she was a great horsewoman, but because the horse stayed with the group.  They got less than five minutes away when they saw two riders coming toward them.  Lincoln and Nanette stopped in an open field as the others rode up.

“Tony and Alexis have the wagon,” Lincoln shouted.

“Look out!” Nanette shouted and pointed.  The Wolv were able to move fast enough through the woods to catch the horses.  They came racing across the meadow, and people reacted.  Lincoln and Boston pulled out their handguns and both managed to fire on the same Wolv.  It ran out front.  It eventually stumbled, and with enough bullets in it, it collapsed.  Boston whipped out her wand and turned her flamethrower on the beast, just to be sure.  Lincoln turned on the other two.

One attacked Sukki on the left side, and the other ran around to the right.  Sukki screamed, not being able to turn her power in both directions.  She did not know if she could turn the power on.  She did not know what she was doing. She panicked, and the power came from her hands, outstretched to hold off the beast, much like it did before, only this time the whole mid-section of the beast turned to dust and ashes.  The head and legs fell.

Nanette screamed.  She had her wand but did not know what she was doing any more than Sukki.  The Wolv to Sukki’s other side leapt.  It kept going up, until it floated twenty feet in the air.  It clawed and scratched at the air, and roared, but could not come back down.  Lincoln fired, over and over, and Boston had to distract Nanette with a word of praise.

“All right, sister!”

“I panicked,” Nanette admitted, as the dead Wolv crashed to the ground.

“I panicked first,” Sukki said.

“No, I did, as soon as I saw them,” Nanette countered.

“No, as soon as we started riding to escape,” Sukki insisted.

“God,” Boston interrupted.  “I love having sisters.”

The group turned and found the wagon not far away.  They also found another Wolv body.  Tony shouted to them.  “Alexis held it back with her wind, and I shot it with all six bullets in my gun.  Alexis told me there were more bullets, so I shot it three more times, and twice more after I got down to make sure it was dead.  I checked.  The gun is still fully loaded.  What kind of magic can do that?”

Lincoln shrugged.  “The gun will never run out of bullets.  We have had that grace since the beginning, like Alexis’ never-ending vitamins and the never-ending bread crackers.  Just keep in mind, the gun can still overheat and break if you abuse it.”

Tony nodded, looked at his handgun and said, “I wonder how the others are doing.”

The others, at that moment, were destroying the Wolv charge.  Decker, Katie, and Elder Stow dropped one after another of the beasts as they raced across the field.  Nothing came from the makeshift fort until the Wolv nearly arrived at the palisade.  Then they heard the orders shouted.  A volley from fifteen rifles put holes in about ten of the beasts.

“Second row.  Ready.  Fire.”  They heard the echo through Elder Stow’s screens.  A second volley of fifteen rifles fired, and the charge of the Wolv stalled before they could get their claws on the wooden stakes that made the palisade. The Wolv might have torn through that wood like paper.  They heard, “Third row…” but it got interrupted by the sound of Lockhart’s shotgun, and the two rifles behind them.  Baba shot a big hole in the middle of one. It would not live long. Maruf caught one in the face.  Lockhart blasted a Wolv back to slam into a tree and added a second blast just to be sure.

Aemir managed to raise a root from the ground over which the last Wolv tripped.  The Wolv slammed his face into Elder Stow’s screens, and found his foot tangled in the root.  While it clawed at the root to get free, Lockhart came over and blasted it, twice.  He made sure the rest were dead even as the Wolv attacking the fort turned to attack the travelers.  Some semi-bright Wolv decided the travelers posed the bigger threat.  Between Decker, Katie, and Elder Stow, none of the Wolv made it as far as the screens.

The Romans and Parthians came out from the fort holding javelins and swords, and very few rifles.  They planned to make sure the Wolv were dead.  The Arabs and Persians wisely stayed behind the palisade.

“Elder Stow, the ship?”  Baba asked, and Elder Stow put down his weapon and pulled up his scanner.

“No sign of engines working.  I am guessing most, if not all of the systems have burned out.  They are probably repairable if the Wolv haven’t torn them apart.”  He paused before he added, “I see three Wolv still aboard.  Probably as near as they have to engineers.”

Baba nodded.  “’l will need you, Boffo, with Schaibo and Boston when they get here, to go invisible and clean the Wolv out of the ship, if you don’t mind.  I’m sure Boffo is disappointed at not using his iron bar.”

“Actually,” Boffo said.  “I am not like Schaibo.  I have no need to smash things.”

“Awe, come on,” Baba said, and patted the oversized dwarf on the arm.  “Hulk smash.  You need to practice that.”

###

When the others arrived, Ali Baba gave them a purse of gold and silver coins, mostly Parthian, but some Roman.  They volunteered to stay and help him repair the ship, but he turned them down. “I’m going to give it ten days,” he said.  “If I can get it in flight, I’ll take this crew to Moesia.  I have to gather the legions to face the main body of Wolv there, though I feel better about our chances now than I did before, knowing that we can short out their personal screens and their weapons.”

“What are the odds?” Boston asked.

“Four legions, with auxiliaries make about twenty-four thousand men against five or six thousand Wolv.  That may not be enough men.  But anyway, don’t dawdle.  You have ten days to reach the next time gate.  Don’t worry.  We will watch through Prince Ali’s tube.  I won’t leave and shift the time gate until you are gone.”

“See you next time,” Katie said, and everyone waved.

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

MONDAY

The travelers catch up to a friend of regular readers of this blog. They find Greta, Woman of thee Ways of the Dacian people, or she find them. The Wraith also finds them… Until then, Happy Reading

*

Avalon 7.5 Ali Baba and the 40 Guns, part 3 of 6

They moved an hour away before they made a camp in a hollow beside a hill.  Ali Baba sent Hussain back to his own camp with the word that he hoped to be there by noon tomorrow.  He made Schaibo stay with him, had Elder Stow put his full screens around the camp so the horses and mule would not wander, and he got down to examining the equipment before dark.

When supper arrived, Lord Baba and Elder Stow came to agree.  They imagined no remote way to short out the personal screens of the Wolv, having had only one afternoon to work on the problem; but they agreed an electromagnetic pulse would do the trick nicely, and short out the Wolv weapons besides.  The ships, with their stronger screens, would likely be shielded from the pulse, if their screens were activated.  That would be just as well.  Lord Baba planned to send the survivors, if any, back into space.  He acknowledged that the Wolv were not known to surrender, so all he could do was shrug.

“Where are we, exactly?” Katie asked, even as Lord Baba and Elder Stow came to the fire.  She and Lincoln had mostly figured it out, but they remained unsure.

“Wait,” Boston interrupted.  “What about Sukki?”

“Armenia.  Near the border of Osroene,” Baba answered Katie’s question, but looked at Boston and Sukki, showing some sense that he would address their questions in a minute.

“That does not explain much,” Lincoln said.  “We figured that out, but when?”

“Trajan died almost a year ago,” Baba said.  He put down the last piece of equipment he played with.  He had a small knife and tried to pry the thing open, but it was being stubborn.  “Hadrian is emperor now, and this is all Roman territory, but not for long.  Mesopotamia and Assyria will be traded back to the Parthians, if they aren’t already.”  He took a bite of supper and decided he better explain something.

“Trajan got guns.  He conquered all the way to the Persian Gulf and burned Susa, but we blew up his factory, cutting off his supplies, and effectively disarming him.  The Persians, Arabs and Parthians then combined to stop his progress.  The Arabs, under Lord Sasan, originally a Zoroastrian priest, sort of took over a very weakened Persia.  As usual, it is complicated, since they all still answered to the Parthian King of Kings, as he calls himself.”

“So, where are we in this mess?” Lockhart asked.

“I figure you came in around Lake Van,” Baba answered.  “That river you crossed this morning was the Tigris.”

“Yesterday, Late afternoon,” Tony interjected.  He drove the wagon at the time.

Baba nodded.  “A Wolv scout-transport with fifty or so Wolv, and three or four small craft, like the three-man scout ship we encountered, is parked on the Chaboras River, a tributary of the Euphrates, this side of Edessa.  I figure the next time gate is on the other side of the actual Euphrates, somewhere on the road between Edessa and Antioch in Roman Syria.”

“Hadrian is Emperor,” Tony said.

“He was less into conquest and more into building walls and forts and making solid borders,” Katie explained to Lockhart, but so everyone could hear.

“I suppose,” Baba said. “Now that the weapons of Trajan, the guns, have been taken away, his options for conquest are greatly diminished.  Besides, he will have to contend with the Wolv, and probably see some of his legions decimated.  There is a full Wolv battle fleet parked on the corner of Superior Moesia and Inferior Moesia, and Thrace.  That is about six thousand Wolv, like a full-strength legion of Wolv.  By the way, I haven’t detailed that for the others, so I would appreciate you not saying anything about it, when we get there tomorrow.”

People agreed to keep their mouths shut, but Boston could not help interrupting.  “But what about Sukki?”

“Sukki,” Baba said, kindly, and reached for her hands.  She slowly took his hands, afraid of what her own hands could do.  “You have nothing to be afraid of.  The goddesses who were kind enough to make you human, all wanted to give you something to help you fit in with the human race, though I can’t understand how some of the gifts might help.”

“But I had something come from my hands.  That poor Wolv got blasted.  I’m not safe,” Sukki spouted.

Baba said, “Hush, hush… You can be sure the goddesses did not give you anything without also giving you the ability to control it.  That may take some learning, or practice, but you can control it.”

“But what has she got?” Boston said, excited.

Baba turned to look first at Nanette.  “And you are learning how to lift some things?”  Nanette also looked scared.  “Telekinesis, I think, not strictly magic, or maybe some magic.  It was hard to tell, judging from the evil twin.  Nothing to be afraid of, but the ability will come and go as the Other Earth phases in and out of conjunction and you move through time.  Learn what you can do when you can, because in 1905, or whenever you get home, you will have the ability for the rest of your life.”

Nanette nodded slowly, and turned to look at Alexis, who paused in her own thoughts to hug the girl.

“Now,” Baba returned to Sukki.  “Let me see if I can list things.  Athena, or Minerva, is the only one who stuck to the plan.  She gave you what she called a fundamental understanding of physics and astrophysics, if you should be tempted by space, and the math to go with it.  Knowing Athena, you probably have doctorate level understanding of those things.  At least you should be able to understand what Elder Stow and Boston talk about.”

“That’s great,” Boston shouted, while others congratulated her.  Sukki did not look so sure.

“Mother Bastet felt concerned that you not lose track with your roots.  She let you retain your Gott-Druk strength, and enhanced it a little, I am sure.  She also gave you a glamour, like the glamour you used to have that made you look human.  It works the same, only now you can look Gott-Druk anytime you wish.”

“You should try it,” Nanette said, before anyone else could say it.  She felt a bit shy at briefly having been the center of attention and wanted everyone to focus on Sukki instead.  She decided that perhaps she and Sukki were alike in that respect; not wanting people to focus on them.  The Romans said that made her all the more fetching and fascinating, but she could not help it.  She did not like being the center of attention. She looked at Decker, but he did not look at her.

Sukki put on her glamour and sat there for a minute looking like a perfect young Neanderthal girl, though she could not see herself, she saw Boston raise her eyebrows at the change.

“Here,” Schaibo said, and pulled out a mirror as tall as himself from a little pocket in his vest.  “I got used to carrying it around for my sister.  She is a little on the vain side.”  He turned the mirror to Sukki but turned it away again when Sukki began to cry.

“It is all right,” Elder Stow spoke to comfort her. “Now, you are truly my daughter.”

Sukki nodded and wiped her nose as she let go of her illusion of being Neanderthal.  Schaibo put that big mirror back in his little pocket, without a word.

“Okay?”  Baba asked, and she nodded before he continued.

“Mother Doris wasn’t sure what to give.  Honestly, she is probably least connected to the human world and human things.  She let you keep your lung capacity, and enhanced it some, like a dolphin, she said.  You can hold your breath a really long time; and then she thought to let your body handle the cold and pressure of the deep, and sudden changes in pressure, too.  That does not make you invulnerable.  Far from it.  You may be puncture resistant, but don’t think you can’t be shot by a bullet or an arrow.  You will feel the hit, too, if someone takes a swing at you and connects.  But the bullet or arrow might not penetrate far, and you should be pretty hard to crush.  Also, I imagine the snowy cold won’t be as bad as before.”

“I don’t see how that will help her fit into the human world,” Alexis said.

“Maybe the fish world,” Lincoln said before he could stop the words from coming out of his mouth.

“Amphitrite’s mother,” Katie reminded them all.  “Doris of the sea.”

People nodded that they understood, even if they could not see how it helped Sukki be more human.

“But what about the laser blast?” Boston said, and Sukki nodded.

“Yes.  Well.  The last two, mother Frya and not-my-mother Ishtar searched your heart.  They saw the things that you wished you could do and filled you with those things.  They are both, in their own way, goddesses of love and war.  They put a weapon in your hands.  I think you can turn it down to stun people and not have to turn them to dust and ashes.  And they filled your heart with love.  Mother Frya said the capacity for love is the only thing that truly makes us human.”

“I don’t feel any different in that way,” Sukki confessed, and looked to the side like one thinking really hard.

Lord Baba nodded.  “I honestly don’t know what filling your heart with love means.”

“You said things,” Katie pointed out.  “Is there more?”

Baba shrugged.  “I am not sure.  There may be more.  I know you are stronger than human, with extra lung capacity in a self-pressurizing and cold resistant body.  You have a powerful weapon in your fingers which you can learn to control with practice.  But you also have been given some human knowledge, a way to remember your roots, and a big capacity for human love.  If there is more, we shall see.”

People paused to consider Sukki.  She quickly felt on the spot and got up to check on the horses.  After a moment, Elder Stow and Boston got up to join her, and Alexis changed the subject.

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

MONDAY

The travelers are not out of the woods yet… I always wanted to say that. I saved it for years. Monday, the rest of the story. Until then. Happy Reading

*

Avalon 7.5 Ali Baba and the 40 Guns, part 2 of 6

Lincoln walked up from the wagon.  He had the database out and spoke as people got down from their horses.  “Apparently, the Wolv did to the Humanoids what the Androids once did to the Anazi.  They learned to be organized, developed a command structure, and learned enough to run the technology before they rebelled against their Humanoid masters.  Most… eventually all of the Humanoid houses will be torn down, and the Wolv will rampage, eating planet after planet for a thousand years before the equipment breaks beyond their ability to repair it.  They are not dumb beasts.  They are clever and capable soldiers.  But the physics of space flight, weapons and the rest, not to mention higher mathematics, is beyond them.”

“An F-15 might develop a fault and land in the desert,” Decker said.  “But it is not likely the pilot has the expertise to repair the plane and take off again.  Much less create a spare part for whatever broke.”

“A bit more complicated than that, I imagine,” Katie said.  “But probably the right idea.”

People looked at Lincoln.  He read a second longer before he answered.  “It is more like me and the microwave oven.  I use it, but if it broke, my only option is to throw it out and get a new one.  I have no idea what microwaves even are.”

“That’s easy,” Sukki said.  “They are on the short end of the radio spectrum.  These wrist communicators are microwave transmitters.”  She smiled at the one she got when Candace gave out presents.  It made her feel included, and that made her happy.  When she looked up, she saw the others staring at her.

“Way to go Sukki,” Boston praised her.

“Must come from you,” Sukki said, shyly.  “Doctor in electrical engineering and all.”  She looked away.

“There,” Elder Stow interrupted.  “The screens are up while we discuss what to do.” He got down from his horse.

“Decker screens?” Decker asked.

“Yes,” Elder stow answered with a sigh.  “Now that I have stretched this little screen device beyond all capacity, it is a small thing to make their activation one-sided, so to speak; though that is ship to ship technology on much better equipment than this toy.  Be that is it may, they should deploy that way automatically from now on.  Sadly, I have admitted that we often need to be protected when we end a threat to ourselves and to the innocent.”

“It is a sad world we live in,” Alexis said, as she and Nanette walked to the group.  “Tony has Ghost and the wagon,” she added for Lincoln.

“My dad is the best,” Sukki said, to encourage Elder Stow.  He smiled for his adopted daughter, as a stream of white light came from the edge of the woods and reflected off the screens.

People reacted by hurrying their horses to the wagon, which they used as a hitching post.  Sukki brought Elder Stow’s horse, while he stayed up front and analyzed the readouts on his scanner.  Decker went to one side, and Katie went to the other, right up to where they could feel the screens.  That tingling feeling prevented them from walking through the screens and then not being able to get back inside the protected area.

“They are in the grasses, left and right.  One is staying behind the trees up ahead.”

“I see mine,” Decker said.  He fired.  He did not miss, but the Wolv did not appear to be hit.  It stood and returned fire, though its handheld weapon had no chance of penetrating Elder Stow’s screens.  Decker fired again and nothing happened.  The Wolv got ready to charge.  Decker flipped to automatic and fired a three-round burst.  The Wolv stalled before the charge and staggered, but the bullets did not appear to penetrate.

“Try concentrated fire on the same spot,” Katie suggested.

“Just coming to that, Major,” Decker said, shortly.

“Sir,” Katie acknowledged him and turned to her own Wolv that had gotten up to charge the group.  Decker let his rifle rip, and roughly nine bullets in, something shorted out on the Wolv.  The Wolv seemed stung by the electrical discharge, but not for long as three more bullets put it down.

At the same time, the Wolv from the trees charged the group.  Elder Stow continued to fiddle with something on his scanner.  “They seem to have developed some personal screen technology,” Elder Stow said.  He pulled his weapon which Lockhart was glad to see.  Lockhart had his shotgun but figured the Wolv would have to be right up to the screen for it to be effective.  Boston also had her wand, but she could not shoot her flamethrower very far, either.

Elder Stow let the beast-person come really close before he pointed his weapon and nothing happened.  He said something like “Oops,” and fiddled with the weapon while Lockhart let off a shotgun blast and Boston sprayed it with fire.  Katie and Decker turned and added some automatic rifle fire.  Sukki put her hand up as if to ward off the claws and teeth of the beast, even if her head told her the beast could not get inside the screens.  Something came from Sukki’s hand.  A bright-white light, much stronger than the Wolv weapon.  It looked more like Elder Stow’s weapon.  The Wolv head turned instantly to dust and ash.

“What was that?” Sukki said, staring at her own hand.

“Wow,” Boston said, and added, “Let me see.”

Sukki held both hands out, a combination of curiosity and horror across her face.  People looked, not knowing what to say.  Fortunately, they got interrupted by a voice from overhead.

“Lockhart.  Not a good time to visit, as usual.  Elder Stow, please turn off your screens so we can land.”

The words sounded muffled, coming through the screens.  “Apologies,” Elder Stow said.  “I let the air circulate through the screen, the simple gaseous elements, but I minimized the circulation to muffle the growls and roars in our face.”  He worked a second longer before he added, “There.  Screen is down.”

“Ali Baba?” Lincoln called up, as the magic carpet came down to the ground.  No one answered right away as the three people who rode on the rug had to hang on until touchdown.  The driver looked like a sage, but one just thirty.  He would have to double that age before he had the expected long gray beard.  The dwarf looked like the smallest dwarf they had ever seen, but he appeared to make up for it by growing the long beard that he had to wrap around his shoulders.  He also looked like so many short people, that he did not take guff from anyone.

“Yes, Lincoln,” Ali Baba confirmed, as he stepped from the carpet, holding a primitive looking rifle.  He handed it to Decker to examine, who quickly passed it on to Katie.  “I have forty of these rifles for twenty Romans, ten Parthians and ten Arabs, some of whom are from Persia.

“Schaibo.  please make sure the Wolv are dead.  Thanks.”  He opened his arms.  “Boston.” And she rushed into the hug.  He kissed Boston’s head, like a father might hug a daughter, and turned to Sukki, but she backed away.

“No,” she said.  “It isn’t safe.”  She held up her hands covered in fairy weave gloves, to hold him off.

“Lord Baba,” Schaibo called.  “This one is missing his head.”  The dwarf held an iron club much too big for him, but he held it like one who knew how to use it.  The travelers watched the dwarf shrug and move on to the other Wolv in the grass.

“Lord,” Boston got his attention.  “Sukki has something in her hand, like a Lockhart heat-ray.  She disintegrated the Wolv head.  You have to help her.  She scared herself.”

“It is nothing to be afraid of.  You can learn to control it,” Baba said.  “But first thing’s first.  Elder Stow, would you help me gather the Humanoid personal screens from the Wolv?”

“Yes, of course,” Elder Stow said.  “I am curious about them, myself.”

“Then we need to move on to where the scout craft came down in the woods.  I need to strip some of the equipment out of it, and we need to move on again before the Wolv send a recovery crew.  Hussain, you can pack your carpet in the wagon for the time being.” He turned on the first Wolv in the grass and briefly gagged.  Apparently, Schaibo’s version of making sure they were dead was to smash the head to a pulp.

“A real magic carpet?” Nanette asked, some awe in her voice, and Hussain nodded.

“Hussain?” Alexis asked.  Lincoln and Nanette looked at her as they walked to the wagon, so she explained, sort of.  “I read a thousand and one nights as a child.”

It did not take long to reach the scout ship.  Ali Baba went away so Martok the Bospori could come and take his place.  Being a life from the far future, Martok knew and understood the equipment even better than Elder Stow.  Between the two of them, they stripped certain systems from the inside of the ship.  They loaded up the wagon that poor Ghost would have to haul.  When Ali Baba returned to his own time and place, he got Elder Stow to turn his weapon on the ship, inside and out.

“Hopefully, the Wolv won’t realize anything was taken, or what was taken, or what might be done with what was taken.”  Lord Baba shrugged.

Avalon 7.5 Ali Baba and the 40 Guns, part 1 of 6

After 72 A.D. Syria

Kairos 90: Ali of Arabia

Recording …

“Baba,” Ahmed called and came running.  “Lord Baba.  Prince Ali has his tube working again.”  He stopped outside the tent.  “Ali Baba, are you there?”

Three women poked their heads through the tent flap.  Almeria, Ali Baba’s young wife smiled for Ahmed.  Princess Nuronnihar, Prince Ali’s wife, wondered what was happening.  Peribono, Ahmed’s own wife spoke.

“Husband.  The Lord is meditating in the woods.”  Peri stepped out to give her husband a kiss.  “He will be back shortly.”  Peribono used to be a fairy princess but became human to marry Ahmed.  She still referred to Ali Baba as her lord, though he claimed he no longer had that responsibility.  Ahmed did not mind, though.  He often called the rich, older man Lord Baba.  They all did.

Almeria spoke, a sharp tone in her words.  “He is praying that his first wife, Shayrin, not learn terrible ways from the cobbler’s wife while he is away.”

“Speaking of the cobbler…” Peri said, looking over Ahmed’s shoulder.

“Prince Ahmed,” Maruf the cobbler called.  “Your brother wants to know what is taking so long.”  He also ran to the tent.  “Antares, the Parthian and Scipio the Roman are looking at all the area around.  They have seen a strange group of people headed our way.”

Ahmed reluctantly let go of his wife to concentrate.  “Have they located the Wolv?”

“They are afraid to look in that direction,” Maruf admitted.  “Scipio says the strangers on their big horses are enough to worry about.”

“Strangers on big horses?”  A gray-bearded man of some forty-six years stepped from the nearby trees, followed by two dwarfs that had a Mutt and Jeff look about them.  The one with the extra-long beard, Schaibo, stood less than two feet tall.  The other, Boffo, looked more ogre sized, but bearded, and with a bulbous dwarf nose.  He walked hunched over, not because he had to, but because he felt embarrassed by the way he towered over his fellow dwarfs.

“Yes, Lord Baba,” Maruf said.  “Antares the Parthian says if they stop for the night, they will be only half a day away, and they are headed right toward us.”

Ali Baba sighed and walked to the meadow where the tube had been set up.  They all followed.  Prince Ali stared through the eyepiece.  Aemir the elf chief, Antares the Parthian, and Scipio the Roman all stepped back when Baba tapped Ali on the shoulder.  Ali looked, and stepped back while Baba raised the stand that held the tube to accommodate his five-foot, ten-inch height.  He turned the tube the opposite direction before he looked.

“The main Wolv fleet is parked for the moment on the Oescus river.  I think that is what it is called.  They are on the triple corner of Thrace, Moesia inferior and Moesia superior.  They are no doubt waiting to see what their scouts report.”  Baba stood and looked around.  “Your lucky day, Antares.  The Romans, not Parthians will be bloodied.”  He paused and added, “Probably to the point of being a bloody mess.”  He sighed briefly imagining all that blood but spoke differently to the group.  “No telling how many scout ships or scout-transports they sent out.”  He looked again through the tube.  “The local transport has about fifty Wolv, and unlike in the past, these appear to have some weak sort of personal shields.  The shields are certainly strong enough to deflect arrows and swords.  How they will fare against the guns will be seen.”

“I saw the shredded Parthian soldiers, and the few remains of that village,” Antares said, and shivered at the memory.

“We are only forty,” Scipio said.  “Twenty Romans, ten Parthians and ten of you Arabs.  Even with forty guns.  You say they are fifty?”

“Estimate.  Based on typical transport ship size,” Baba said.

“You got us to help,” Schaibo the dwarf said, gruffly.

“How can we hope to defeat fifty of these Wolv creatures?” Antares asked.  “We should call out the army… armies.”

Scipio agreed.  “This is one where Romans and Parthians might work together.” 

“Not going to happen,” Baba said, and swung the tube the other way.  “But my friends may help.  Let’s see.  Look.  Boston and Sukki are riding back, yelling something.  Oh, shit.  A three Wolv fighter-craft just landed in their path.”  He stood and yelled.  “Hussain.”  He turned to Ali and Ahmed.  “Where’s your brother.  Hussain.”  He spoke to the rest.  “Schaibo, stick with me.  We need to get Hussain to drive his carpet.  It is an emergency.  Hussain!”

###

“Alexis did the math,” Katie said, as she and Lockhart rode in front of the line.  Alexis and Lincoln were presently driving the wagon.  Nanette and Tony stayed with them, talking about magical things.  Since entering the time zone, Nanette learned she could levitate some small things.  She got excited and scared at the same time.

Lockhart had his eyes on the flank where Colonel Decker rode.  He could not see Decker, but he thought he saw something in the sky.  He scanned the line of trees they headed toward and briefly glanced at the other flank where Elder Stow watched, before he turned to his wife.  “Sorry,” he said.  “I got distracted by… I don’t know what.  A flock of vultures, maybe.”

Katie repeated herself.  “Alexis did the math.  Christ ministered for three years before he was crucified, and we missed the whole thing.  That was eleven years before we came into the last time zone.”  Katie stopped her horse, so Lockhart stopped, and the others halted, but Lockhart did not stop the conversation.

“Probably on purpose,” Lockhart said.  “I know there are things the Kairos has kept hidden even from us, and no doubt for good reasons.  But this is one of those things where I imagine a higher power got involved.  One of my mother’s favorite expressions was we live by faith, not by sight… what?”  He finally noticed and asked.

“I’m not sure,” Katie responded. “I sense danger ahead.”

Boston and Sukki raced back from the point.  Elder Stow came riding in from the flank at the same time.  Lockhart looked, but saw no sign of Decker.  “Decker?” Lockhart spoke into his wristwatch communicator.  He got no answer before Boston arrived.

“A ship,” Boston reported.  “It landed right in our path.”

Sukki rode up.  “We did not stick around to see what kind,” Sukki confessed.

Elder Stow came from the side, his scanner barely clipped to his belt to keep it from bouncing while he rode.  “A ship,” he shouted, and when he arrived, he unclipped the scanner and turned his eyes to the screen.  “I would guess a three-man scout ship with fighter capabilities.”

Eyes turned as Decker appeared on the other flank, riding hard, though he did appear to slow a bit when he saw the group had stopped.  People waited to hear his report.

“Humanoid ship,” Decker said.  “I caught sight of two Wolv.  I didn’t see any Humanoids, but I didn’t stick around.”

Lockhart had to think.  “One thing about roads,” he said.  “While they don’t run in a straight line, they do make it possible to have a wagon, and are easier on the horses, in general.”

Katie nodded.  “But they also make it hard to detour without risking damage going across country.”

“Sukki and I could find a way through the woods,” Boston offered.

“What is the point?” Lockhart countered.  “I imagine they landed in front of us because they found us on their long-range scanner.”

“Well said,” Elder Stow offered the compliment before he confirmed the thought.  “I am sure they are studying us at a closer range.  Probably a scout ship.”

“Maybe we could talk to them, and see what they want,” Katie suggested.

“Lunch,” Decker responded.

“They want to eat us,” Sukki agreed.  “They are just being careful first.”

Avalon 6.8 Archidamian War’s End, part 6 of 6

On the edge of town, three Wolv jumped them.  They got blown back by the screens Elder Stow set around the group.  The Wolv did their best with tooth and claw, but that did nothing to impede the steady progress of the group.

When they entered the village square, where the Humanoid ship faced them at the far end of the open space, a dozen Wolv opened fire with their handguns.  It did nothing.  The Wolv soon stopped and backed away.  The patrol-transport ship screamed and produced one burst of its main gun before the gun appeared to shut down.  Patrol ships got outfitted with some of the most powerful Humanoid weaponry.  Those ships tended to be engines, weapons, and some reasonable screen capabilities against intruders.  Crew quarters and work spaces were cramped, and they had minimal navigation, limited life-support, and limited other systems interstellar ships had.  They were not made to leave the solar system.  But they had weapons, and Elder Stow remarked as he considered his readout.

“Impressive.  They have found a new energy source and improved on the old Anazi technology.”  Of course, the shot hardly registered visibly on Elder Stow’s screens.  Elder Stow only had a small, handheld screen device such as a ship’s officer might carry, but such was the technological difference between the younger races, like the Humanoids, and the elder races, like the Gott-Druk.  Elder Stow said no more as the Humanoid commander came out of the ship, followed by three more Humanoids and a dozen Wolv as guards.

As the Humanoids marched to face their visitors, a lovely young woman showed up, and gave Ophelia a big hug. “Galatea,” Ophelia named her.  “I thought I might see you.”

Galatea nodded.  “I had to figure out how to slip inside Elder Stow’s screens. Even though the gods know how to do that, now.  It isn’t easy.  I had to really think about it.  I may get a headache…”

“Good for you, now, hush.” Ophelia smiled for the woman before she turned with a serious face to the approaching Humanoids.

“Your Amph… Salacia husband wants to help,” Galatia whispered.

“Yes.  Hush,” Ophelia said.  “Zeuxides.”

Zeuxides stepped forward with the blanket.  He whispered as he laid it out on the ground, revealing the six heads.  “I don’t know why we didn’t take some Wolv heads.  That might have put a bit of fear in the beasts.”

“First of all, they are people, not beasts,” Ophelia said.  “They walk and talk, and as you have seen, they follow orders.  But second of all, they have no word for fear.  They do not even understand the concept.  The closest they have for the word fear is their word for indigestion.”

“Then, if one wants to eat me, I hope I can give it indigestion,” Zeuxides whispered as he stood.

“What?” the Humanoid Captain yelled the word as he came to face his visitors, though his eyes fastened on the six Humanoid heads.  By the grace of the gods, probably Proteus, because Galatea would not think of it, Ophelia and Zeuxides could understand and communicate with the Humanoids. Ophelia had imagined using Elder Stow as a translator.

“The troops you sent to scout the area are all dead.  We brought you these so you can perform the proper rituals.  Understand.  This is not a sanctuary planet for you or your people.  This is a Genesis planet, and as such is off limits to you and your people.  You have no business being here, and I know it is marked on your charts as a no-go zone.”

“Aaaah!” The Captain shouted and threw his hands in the air in a very human act of frustration and anger. Ophelia looked closely and judged him to be a young lord from a noble Humanoid house.  “I don’t even know what that means…”

One of the Humanoid commanders leaned forward and asked.  “What is a Genesis planet?”

Ophelia only paused briefly before answering.  “It is one of a dozen or so worlds in this whole galaxy where intelligent life spawns or is created.  At some point in the development of the species, the powers of the universe spread the life forms among the stars.  Most of the people you have come into contact with during your age of exploration among the stars had their beginning here, on Earth, or on the Pendratti world, which is now barren.”  She pointed to Elder Stow and his glamour of humanity fell away to reveal his Neanderthal nature.  “The Gott-Druk and the Elenar, both of whom I know you have in your records, began on this world.”  She pointed to Zeuxides.  “This world presently belongs to the Homo Sapiens, who you dare not underestimate, though their technology appears primitive to your eyes.  The very powers of the universe will fight to protect this world, and its residents.  You are being given a chance to leave before you are utterly destroyed.”

“But we have nowhere else to go,” the captain still shouted, only now he sounded desperate.   Ophelia caught a word from one of her lifetimes, far in the future.  She decided to go with that thought.

“Your father threw you out.”  She said it like a statement, not a question. “And how many ships do you have in orbit?”

The captain said nothing.  He just steamed, but the Humanoid commander spoke frankly.  “Seven. Two war ships, three transports carrying several thousand people, no Wolv, and two more patrol boats, one being a patrol-transport.”

The captain interrupted.  “But you heard.  We have nowhere else to go.”  This time, his words were softly spoken and he sounded like one resigned to his fate.

The sky turned dark.  Thunder echoed through the village.  Stroke after stroke of lightning struck the fields near the beach.  A giant rose out of the water and headed straight toward them.  He only needed a few steps to reach the edge of the village, at which point he stood only twenty or so feet tall, as he shrank when he neared. When he came around a barn to reach the main street, only the top of his gray head could be seen.  When he arrived where the group of people stood, he looked human enough, though still bigger than Zeuxides, who stood an imposing six feet tall in his generally smaller world.

“I can help with that,” the man said. “I know a planet in an untouched system that should sustain you.  The world is bigger than earth, but not like double.  There is an atmosphere and animal life there, after a fashion, so an edible food source.  The star gives about half the heat and light of the sun, but the planet is closer.  It goes around in about two hundred and maybe thirty days.  The weather stays cool and dreary, but it is livable, about thirty some of your light years out in the Gott-Druk direction. In fact, I know several systems, if you are willing to travel up to fifty light years.”

“You will take us there?” the Humanoid commander asked, not waiting for his captain to speak up.

The man shook his head.  “I am not my wife to travel all over the sky; but with a kiss from my wife, and maybe if I can borrow Martok, he can put the information in your, er, navigation system.”  He grinned for remembering what the system was called.

Ophelia dropped her jaw.  “Taking liberties, I see.”  She turned to the others.  “Elder Stow, I’ll be back.  Zeuxides, close your eyes.”  She turned again to the man.  “Both parties are agreeable,” she said, speaking of Amphitrite and Martok.  “Especially since the alternative would involve several atomic explosions in the upper atmosphere.”  Ophelia traded places through time with Amphitrite, the goddess, who stepped eagerly into her husband Poseidon’s arms.  After a moment, those two, the Humanoids, the Wolvs, and the patrol ship all vanished.

Proteus and Galatea also vanished, so that left Elder Stow, who restored his glamour so he looked human again, and Zeuxides, who didn’t close his eyes, but wished he had.  He asked, “So where did Ophelia go?”

Elder Stow shrugged as they walked back up the hill.  “Somewhere into the past, or the future, or somewhere in between.”

“Who was that who came and stood in her place?”

“Amphitrite, I believe.”

Zeuxides swallowed.  “So that giant was…”

“Poseidon.”

Zeuxides nodded.  “So, when Ophelia said Proteus and Galatea, she meant Proteus and Galatea.”

“I would say, yes.”

Zeuxides nodded and swallowed again. “And are you human?”

“Certainly,” Elder Stow said with some force in his voice.  “Homo Neanderthal, not Homo Sapiens, but that still qualifies as human.  In fact, we are close enough on the genesis tree, we can even mate with each other, as disgusting as that sounds.”

Zeuxides said nothing the rest of the way up the hill.

“So, where did they go?” Lockhart asked the same question Zeuxides asked.

“They went to visit the ruins of Malvas,” Elder Stow said, with a nod.

“Where’s Malvas?” Lincoln asked.

“There are ruins on Malvas?” Katie asked at the same time.

Elder Stow pointed to the sky as he spoke.  “An orange star.  It became unstable about two thousand years ago, my time.  It kicked a habitable planet about three times its original distance from the star, according to the reconstructed theory.  The survey team found a city, but determined it had been abandoned a hundred years before the star bloomed.  The star has returned to its more stable condition since, but now there are ruins on the ice rock that was probably once an earth-like planet.”

“So why would they go to a place that has ruins?” Decker wanted to know.

“It doesn’t have ruins yet,” Elder Stow responded, and looked up at the sky as the sun sank to the horizon.

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MONDAY

The travelers head toward Rome, and the Kairos, Marcia Furi Camilla Diana; but first, they have to get past the witch.  Until then, Happy Reading.

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