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Avalon, Season Four, Ghouls

Avalon, Season Four, Ghouls

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Avalon, Season Four, Ghouls

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473 pagine
7 ore
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Pubblicato:
Aug 2, 2020
ISBN:
9780463907016
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Descrizione

Brought from Avalon, through the Heart of Time, the Travelers come to the beginning of history on a rescue mission, but life gets complicated. In order to get home, the Travelers have to follow the amulet of Avalon that points the way to the next time gate. They move through time zones that center around the many lives of the Kairos, the Traveler in time, the Watcher over history, a person who never lives a quiet life.

They have unlimited vitamins and elf crackers for their health; and unlimited bullets, needed far too often. They ride mustangs brought back from the old west, and wear fairy weave clothing that can be shaped and changed so they can blend into the local culture. By a special gift of the Kairos, they can understand and be understood no matter the local language, which helps, especially when they deal with thieves, brigands, armies and empires, gods and monsters, spirits and creatures, space aliens, and the great unknown. They try hard not to disturb history. All they want is to get home in one piece, but they quickly learn that they are not the only ones lost in time.

Some years earlier, a demon-goddess captured the Heart of Time and used it to fill the time zones with all manner of evil, in the effort to make time turn out more to her liking. Thus, the travelers decided at the beginning to help the Kairos clean out the time zones, but as Doctor Procter explains in the pilot episode, “I would not worry about hunting unsavories. I don’t imagine it will take long before they start hunting us.”

Season 4 brings the travelers face to face with the ghouls on their home turf, where the demon-goddess dropped them from the future. Good luck with that. Each time zone has enough trouble of its own.

Look for the entire Avalon series, including The Prequel: Invasion of Memories, where the Kairos needs to face the alien Vordan that are preparing to invade. In The Pilot Episode, Seasons 1 Travelers, 2 Bokarus, and 3 Werewolf, the Travelers move through the days of myth and legend. In Seasons 4 Ghouls, 5 Djin, and 6 Witches & Outlaws, the Travelers journey through the days of ancient empires and the birth of great civilization. In Seasons 7, 8, and 9, the Travelers enter the modern era, where the dangers grow exponentially. Enjoy Season Four, Ghouls and Happy Reading. –MGK *

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Aug 2, 2020
ISBN:
9780463907016
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

I live, work, and dream in the southeast United States, where I occasionally wipe the dust from my shoes.My stories stretch back to the beginning of history and forward to the horizon of the future. They stretch out to other dimensions, other universes, other earths. They stretch up to the heights of human potential, and down to the depths of human depravity. And I always tell stories.Give me a cave, a bonfire in the night, the distant howl of a wolf under a full moon, and a listening, attentive ear, and I will tell you a story.Other than storytelling, I continue to walk with my family and friends, day by day, and only now and then wonder how long this road may be. I can't wait to see what happens next.--MichaelM. G. Kizzia

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Avalon, Season Four, Ghouls - M. G. Kizzia

Avalon

Season Four

Ghouls

M. G. Kizzia

Copyright 2016, 2020

MGK Books

(version 1.2)

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Table of Contents

Introduction

4.0 The Impossible Journey

After 2455 B.C. near the Tian Shan

Kairos Lifetime 46: Lin, Empress of the Hsia

4.1 A Time for War

After 2395 B.C. around the Aegean

Kairos 47: Mikos, Akos of Akoshia

4.2 The Storm Overhead

After 2335 B.C. On the Silk Road

Kairos 48: Devya, First Daughter of the Indus

4.3 Go Away

After 2277 B.C. Mekong Delta

Kairos 49: Ruan Zee, Queen of the Shemsu

4.4 Slave of Babylon

After 2219 B.C. Babylon

Kairos 50: Ulrik, The Slave General

4.5 Arameans

After 2162 B.C. Ur of the Chaldeans

Kairos 51: Rebecca

4.6 The Rule of One

After 2162 B.C. Gibel (Byblos)

Kairos 52: Sinuhe, Egyptian Physician

4.7 King after Melchizadek

After 2052 B.C. Salem

Kairos 53: Yadinel, King of the Elohim

4.8 Swords and the Sorcerer

After 1994 B.C. The Silk Road

Kairos 54: Thalia-Anath, the Sword

4.9 Tropical Paradise

After 1937 BC, The South Seas

Kairos 55: Feilo Broken

4.10 Into the Storm

After 1879 B.C. New England area

Kairos 56: Taregan, The Chief

4.11 Being Human

After 1820 B.C. Babylon of Hammurabi

Kairos 57: Ishtara, Reflection of Ishtar

4.12 The Way

After 1760 B.C. Kunlun Mountain

Kairos 58: Yu-Huang

END

Postscript

Avalon Season 4 Introduction

The travelers came, by way of the Heart of Time, to the beginning of history on a rescue mission. Now, in order to get home, two elves, two marines, one Gott-Druk (a Neanderthal from the far future) and three Men in Black follow the amulet of Avalon that points the way to the next time gate. They move through time zones that center around the many lives of the Kairos, the Traveler in time, the Watcher over history, a person who never lives a quiet life.

They have unlimited vitamins and elf crackers for their health; and unlimited bullets, which are needed far too often. They ride mustangs brought back from the old west, and wear fairy weave clothing that can be shaped and changed with a word, so they can blend into the local culture. By a special gift of the Kairos, they can understand and be understood no matter the local language, which helps, because inevitably they deal with thieves, brigands, armies and empires, gods and monsters, spirits and creatures, space aliens and the great unknown. They try hard not to disturb history. To be sure, all they want is to get home in one piece, but they are not the only ones lost in time.

Some years earlier, a demon-goddess captured the Heart of Time and used it to fill the time zones with all sorts of evil, in the effort to make time turn out more to her liking. Thus, the travelers decided at the beginning to help the Kairos clean out the time zones, but as Doctor Procter explained in the pilot episode, I would not worry about hunting unsavories. I don’t imagine it will take long before they start hunting us.

Season 4 brings the travelers face to face with the ghouls on their home turf, where the demon-goddess dropped them from the future. Good luck with that. Each time zone has enough trouble of its own.

CAST

Robert Lockhart, a former policeman, now assistant director of the Men in Black. He is charged with leading this expedition through time, though he has no idea how he is going to get everyone home, alive.

Boston (Mary Riley), a Massachusetts redneck, rodeo rider and technological genius who finished her PhD in electrical engineering at age 23. She carries the amulet of Avalon, a sophisticated combination electronic GPS and magical device that shows the way from one time gate to the next. She became an elf to marry Roland; but now Roland has disappeared, and may be dead, though she refuses to think that way.

Benjamin Lincoln, a former C. I. A. office geek who keeps the database and a record of their journey. He tends to worry and is not the bravest soul, but sometimes that is an asset. His wife, Alexis, was kidnapped by her own father Mingus and dragged back to the beginning of history. This prompted the rescue mission which got everyone stuck in the past with the time gates in the time zones as the only option to get home—the long way around, as they say.

Alexis Lincoln, an elf who became human to marry Benjamin. She survived when the Kairos jumped into the void before history began. But now, with the Kairos from the twenty-first century lost in time— somewhere in the Second Heavens, the travelers are stuck and can only get home across the time zones, by way of the time gates. Alexis retained her healing magic when she became human, but magic has its limits. For example, it can’t make her father happy with her choices.

Mingus, father of Alexis (and Roland, making Boston his daughter-in-law) is an elder elf. He ran the history department in Avalon for over 300 years. He knows the time zones and the lives of the Kairos but tends to keep his opinions to himself. And he believes his children are being ruined by so much human interaction. He kidnapped Alexis in the first place to save her from being corrupted by the human mortals and dying before her time.

Elder Stow, a space traveling, technologically advanced Gott-Druk (Neanderthal) from the future who got thrown back into the past and is forced to make a truce with these ‘humans’ to join them in their journey. He believes it is his only chance to get back to the future.

Captain Katie Harper, a marine and an elect—a one in a million-warrior woman, whose doctorate is in ancient and medieval cultures and technologies. She is torn between her duty to the marines and her desire to be part of this larger universe she is discovering. She now carries the prototype amulet that Mingus once used to kidnap Alexis.

Major Decker, a navy seal trained marine special operations officer who will do all he can to keep everyone alive, even if it means shooting his way back to the twenty-first century. He is a skeptic who does not believe half of what they experience—even if he does not know what else to believe.

The Kairos. But that is a different person in each time zone.

4.0 The Impossible Journey

After 2455 B.C. near the Tian Shan

Kairos Lifetime 46: Lin, Empress of the Hsia

Recording ...

Elder Stow rode in from the flank where the trees thinned out and the sun gave no mercy. He tugged on his fairy weave vest, a habit left over from when he wore his space suit. He bounced in the saddle like an old man on a trampoline. He had the appearance of an old man, so he completed the image, but the old man image was only a glamour designed to cover his normal Neanderthal look. The Kairos told him from this point forward in history, it would not do to have a Gott-Druk riding through the streets of wherever.

My Mother and Father. Elder Stow spoke to Lockhart and Katie, the two in charge of this expedition through time. Would it hurt anything if I were to forego the glamour at this time, out here in the wilderness?

Not in the daytime, Lockhart said, flatly. No telling where there might be eyes watching from a distance.

It’s not like they have binoculars, Katie looked at Lockhart before she spoke to the Elder. As long as your scanner doesn’t show anyone around, she said.

And as long as you make sure you are covered as soon as there is someone around, Lockhart interrupted with an unhappy look behind Katie’s back. His ex-wife contradicted him all the time, back when he was married.

But what is the matter with wearing a glamour? You should not even know that you have it on, Katie asked, because she felt Lockhart’s unhappiness even if she did not see his face.

I understand. I am sure I will get to a point where I don’t think about it. But right now, I feel it is stifling, like I can’t breathe, just knowing that I am walking around looking like a human.

I know what you mean, Boston shouted back from the front and put on a big elf grin.

Miss Riley. You must pay attention, Mingus said sharply to Boston. Never have I seen an elf maid so easily distracted.

Not true, Alexis spoke up from behind. You had me.

Mingus turned back his head. You were a handful at least until you were a hundred and fifty. And then, after two hundred, you lost it altogether and became human to marry a human. He turned his head a bit further to give Lincoln a hard stare. Lincoln put his hands up in surrender and kept his mouth closed.

Hey, I’m only twenty-five. And after that bite of golden apple, I’m probably more like eighteen or nineteen.

Nonsense. In elf years, I have judged you to be about one hundred and ten.

Hooray! Boston yelled. I have forty more years before I get to one-fifty, and have to be grown up. That’s what you said. Alexis was a handful until she was one-fifty.

Mingus looked back again as Alexis spoke. She is a mathematician and engineer.

But we are supposed to be working on making an acceptable fairy light, Mingus turned back to Boston where he could ignore the others.

Boston shook her head. Honey doesn’t like the fire and light.

You mean your horse? Mingus shook his head. Elves don’t name their horses.

I thought you named your horse, Horse, Alexis said.

You say, Horse come here, Horse go there, and Horse does it, Lincoln interjected, but softly.

Hey. Elder Stow, Boston shouted again. Have you decided on a name for your horse yet?

They won’t let me call it torture beast, Elder Stow said, as he bounced along.

Hey! I like My Little Pony, Boston still shouted.

There, see? Katie said.

Lockhart simply shook his head. After my time.

My favorite is Doctor Hooves, Boston added.

That’s a modern one, Katie shouted back, though she did not need to shout for Boston to hear with her good elf ears. I was talking about the original series.

And another thing young lady, Mingus garnered Boston’s attention again. You now have ears that will hear many things you never heard before, and much better than a human. But it is not always wise to say what you hear, especially among humans. And it is not polite to butt into other people’s conversations.

Boston lowered her head and took her scolding graciously. Then she noticed her red hair was starting to get long, and she shook her head several times to see her hair move. You’re right Father Mingus, I’m sorry, she said, in case Mingus thought she was shaking her head in disagreement.

There, there. That is perfectly okay. You did not know. Everyone has to learn these things.

Hey! Alexis borrowed Boston’s word. She said no more, but the sour look on her face suggested Father Mingus never said nice things like that to her when she grew up and messed up.

Major Decker took that moment to ride in from the other flank. Anyone watching where we are going? Captain Harper?

Sorry sir. Katie sat up straight. We were just talking about childhood, growing up, unimportant things. Sorry sir.

I also apologize, Mingus said.

We were having a kind of family discussion, Boston said.

You must always make time for family, Elder Stow added with a smile and some volume.

I mean; I am not the hunter my son is. My senses are sharper than human senses, so it is right I should be out front, but I do not have my son’s instincts.

I miss him, Boston got very sad, very quickly, but when Alexis reached out to her, she jumped. He’s not dead. I know that. I would know if he was dead. He’s just 4500 years in the future, that’s all. I just want to get there as quick as we can, that’s all.

So, people, and especially those with sensors, Decker said, with a look at Elder Stow. What do you sense about three hundred paces in front of us?

Elder Stow took a quick look at his scanner. Everyone else looked at the caravan. There were twenty men, and a dozen heavily burdened donkeys standing in their path, waiting patiently for them to catch up. Obviously, the men decided that the travelers were peaceful people, since they paid so little attention to where they were going and what they were doing.

Glamours everyone, Lockhart raised his voice.

Now, Miss Riley, just like we practiced, Mingus said kindly to Boston. Boston made her glamour so she would look human. Yes. Very good. Good girl, Mingus added, and Boston smiled at the compliment.

Hey! Alexis said again, and this time Lincoln caught the sour expression on her face.

The men were dressed to look like Arabs, in long white robes and with scarves for their heads, but their Asian features suggested a more local origin. Boston put the amulet they used to find the time gates under her shirt, a natural precaution, while Lincoln pulled out the database.

It says here, the Kairos in this time zone is Lin, Empress and founder of the Hsian Dynasty in China. Before that, though, it says she fought off thieves and nomads and other murderers. The problem with this database is there is no telling at what point in Lin’s life we have arrived.

The Hsian Dynasty is still like mythology in our day, Katie whispered to Lockhart.

So, these could be peaceful merchants under the protection of the rulers, or they could be thieves and murderers, Decker said.

Pretty much, Lincoln agreed, but by then they were too close to discuss the matter, without consciously reverting to English.

Hello. Friend. Stranger on the road. One big man stepped forward and attempted a smile. Everyone understood him. The Kairos granted the travelers a gift when they began this impossible journey; to understand and be understood by the locals, whenever and wherever on earth they might find themselves.

Friend sounds like a good choice, Lockhart responded. But it would be more believable if your people there put down their bows.

Shuz, shuz, the big man spoke to the men behind him and waved at them to put the bows down. The men lowered their weapons, but did not put them away. We were just thinking of hunting for our meal, now especially with so many to feed. He excused his crew, even as his crew became excited and began to point some distance back the way the merchants had traveled. A small herd of deer wandered down the hillside, well out of bowshot range. They seemed headed slowly toward a stream the travelers had crossed, but the deer eyed the men and looked prepared to run at the slightest provocation.

Decker clipped on his scope, lifted his rifle, and squeezed the trigger while Katie pulled her rifle. The deer jumped at the sound, but they did not know enough to run. One at the back of the herd fell, but it would be a few breaths before the herd took flight. Both Decker and Katie managed kills before the cracking sound and collapsing deer finally caused the remaining deer to run.

It’s too easy these days, Decker said quietly. The herds are wary of humans and keep their distance, but they have not yet learned to hide from humans.

Katie nodded and turned to Lincoln. Whose turn is it to butcher?

Lincoln got the database back out. Along with a library that catalogued all of human knowledge up to the twenty-first century, including an historical record far more thorough and accurate than any history book, being downloaded from the Heart of Time itself, plus all that information about alien species and the spiritual world that humanity knew nothing about, the database also included several more libraries, like a science library, a complete music library, and a note taking program that was actually easy to use and cross reference—what smart phones claim to have. The database had a scanner that would work well once paper was invented, but even before paper, it could scan stone and bone carvings and would produce something like photographs, but the database did not have a camera. It could not scan or take pictures of faces, and Lincoln figured that was on purpose. On the other hand, it was easy to find the butcher list.

When people agreed to take turns with that grizzly task, after exempting the more or less vegetarians Mingus and Elder Stow from the task, they formed three pairs. Lockhart and Katie worked well together. Lincoln and Alexis would have been a useless pair, so Alexis agreed to work with Major Decker, the navy seal turned marine for special embassy-type work, who could do most of the actual butchering, while she kept watch and occasionally offer some magical help. Lincoln watched for Boston who was raised with brothers and a father who were all hunters. She knew how to clean and cook deer, elk, bear and birds, and was getting good with cattle, goats, sheep and pigs. Boston also rode rodeo in her youth, and becoming an elf did not change any of that. She had her doctorate in electrical engineering, but Lockhart still called her a Massachusetts redneck now and then, and she was.

Lockhart interrupted before Lincoln could read from the list. We have friends, he said. How about letting them do some cutting and cooking? He got down from his horse and Katie followed his example. You have a name?

The big man waved, and a half-dozen young men rushed off to carry in the three deer. Shanjo, the man said, and looked up at Lockhart’s six feet in height with some concern, while he added, I see why you rode so uncaring through the wilderness. What man or beast would dare approach without permission?

Yes, Lockhart did not want to discourage that thinking. But we can be good friends, and for the record, we have no interest in your merchandise so you better not have any interest in our things. Lockhart offered a friendly smile. Shanjo slowly returned the smile and they shook hands after a fashion.

Lincoln, Alexis, and Elder Stow got down, the Elder with a mumbled prayer of thanksgiving, but Decker interrupted.

I suggest we move over to the base of that hill to make camp. Just because we are not interested in the merchandise, that doesn’t mean there are no others on the road. Katie agreed, so that was what they did.

###

Around ten o’clock the next morning, the travelers and merchants found the hills to their left started pushing them closer and closer to the desert sands on their right. They still had some green where they traveled, due to runoff from the mountains and hills, but the way began to get rough. Shanjo explained.

There are three places where the foothills of the Tian Shan press us toward the Taklimakan desert. The Lord Hsia explained this to us when we set out on this journey, that this might be the case. Even so, we were told there would be a way through, and it was so on our way to the edge of the world. It must also be so on our return; do you think?

He means we won’t have to go out across the dunes, Katie translated. Lockhart nodded, and smiled for her, though he understood well enough.

Hey Lockhart, Lincoln stepped up, his horse Cortez nudging his shoulder all the way. He spoke, now that Lockhart and Katie were leading and Mingus and Boston had been relegated to rear guard. I think the mountains to our left are the Tian Shan, and the desert is the Taklimakan. He read from the database.

I think we got that, Lockhart confessed.

But you know what that means? That means we are actually on the silk road, at last.

The northeastern tip of it, Katie nodded and grinned. Unlike Boston, who had her doctorate in electrical engineering, not always the most help in 2400 BC, Katie’s doctorate was in Ancient and Medieval cultures and technologies. Serving as a Captain in the Marine Corps, a family thing, she always felt her life split in two. The Pentagon had little use for someone with her expertise, until this job came up. Now, she lived ancient cultures and technologies, and she also had Lockhart, as soon as he got his own head together on forming a real relationship. She paused in her thoughts as Major Decker rode up from the flank.

We have company, Decker shouted.

Katie grabbed her binoculars as she thought, sadly, on this job, her marine training was needed all too often.

Mount up, Lockhart yelled to his people

Arm yourselves, Shanjo shouted, and his people showed that this was not the first time this sort of thing came up.

Thirty men came yelling and screaming off the nearby hill. They had swords drawn, spears, and bows ready to shoot once they got within range. An ordinary merchant caravan of twenty men would have been caught and hard pressed to survive the onslaught. Decker and Katie got their rifles. Lincoln, Boston, and Lockhart had their pistols, while Mingus shot a fireball ahead of them all. It startled the enemy, but did not slow them. Alexis had her wand, but mumbled her usual, I’m a healer, not a wounder. Elder Stow had his sonic device out as he tried to save what charge he had in his weapon for when they might face some serious trouble.

Elder Stow let loose his sonic device. The enemy grabbed for their ears, and several fell to the ground, which probably saved their lives, because then the guns opened-up. Seven of the thirty went down rapidly, soon to be dead, if not already dead. The terrible cracking of those weapons was as bad, in its way, as the sonic device. The thirty, now eighteen, turned and fled before they ever got into bowshot range. Decker and Lockhart picked off the two that were a little slow to turn, and it hurried the others, but then Lockhart called a halt, and they watched sixteen men head back up the hill as fast as they could.

Alexis, Katie, Lincoln, and Mingus, see if any enemy wounded might be saved, Lockhart ordered. Decker, watch them. Elder Stow, see if your scanner can pick up any more in range, and let me know which way they head. Boston, with me.

People moved, and Lockhart lead Boston back to face Shanjo. His old police instincts were acting up. What exactly do you have in those bags of yours? The twelve donkeys had a double bag slung over their backs so they had one bag on each side for balance. Those twelve bags looked exactly alike. The travelers assumed they did not all have the same thing inside—but maybe they did.

Close your mouth, Boston began with a laugh. Shanjo and his men were staring with their mouths open at what just happened.

A powder, Shanjo said. It is a powerful medicine we are bringing on command of the Lord Hsia.

Lockhart opened one satchel and found dozens of smaller bags inside. He pulled one out, opened it and found it was indeed a rough ground powder, like some spice. He looked toward Alexis to identify it, but she was needed on the field if they hoped to save any of those men.

What is it? Boston leaned over Lockhart’s shoulder.

A powder made from a flower. That is all, Shanjo swore.

Lockhart licked his finger and took a small bit to touch it to his tongue, but it was rough and raw, and he could not identify it right away from smell and taste. Boston tried a small lick and began to sing.

Camptown ladies sing dis song...

Poppies. Opium, Lockhart named it immediately. He knew it had an odd effect on elves. They had been through this once before with Mingus but unlike Mingus, Boston was not the least embarrassed by it. When Mingus and Lincoln ran up to see what was the matter, Boston spread her arms, twirled around, and sang.

The hills are alive...

Opium, Mingus did not hesitate to name the substance, even without seeing it.

At least Boston can carry a tune, Lockhart nodded.

Lincoln looked around at the donkeys and their packs, and calculated. There must be a billion dollars-worth, street value in our day.

Lockhart, the former police man, nodded again.

Alexis came up and took a pinch. Once she heard and saw Boston singing, she also knew what it was. She added her pinch of raw, ground poppy seeds to a cup of water and offered a word. Two are dying more slowly than the others. You people were pretty thorough. This much may kill them, but at least they shouldn’t feel any pain.

Elder Stow?

There, Elder stow pointed generally at the hills in the direction they were headed. But they are at a distance that makes it hard to tell numbers, or really anything about them.

Not much help, Major Decker said. I better have a look. He stepped off to where he could sit quietly and meditate. His horse, Weber, followed him, but did not bother him, being content to munch on the scrub grass that covered the area.

I am not equipped for such an expedition, Elder Stow sounded defensive. I have only such small things as an officer carries, including my weapon. This scanner is practically a child’s toy.

Don’t let it bother you, Lockhart said. You are doing fine and have been a great help so far. He considered giving the elder a reassuring pat on the shoulder, but got interrupted. Lincoln plugged into the database music library and turned on Born to be Wild. He turned it up, and Boston sang along, and danced like a wild woman as well. The opium compelled her to sing until it worked out of her system. It did not necessarily compel her to dance, but she did not let that stop her. She was always one with too much excess energy. Becoming an elf and gaining elf metabolism only exacerbated that problem. Lockhart expected her to start running up and down the road at about fifty miles an hour any minute. He saw Decker move further away for some quiet.

It is used for medicinal purposes, Alexis explained over lunch. It at least numbs the pain. If Lin, the Lord Hsia, is still fighting battles with nomads and such, she was probably willing to risk a small side bar of history to bring her people some relief.

Nuwa did tell us the Silk Road was used mostly for drugs, slaves, and occasional armies, Lincoln added.

Not much of a road, Boston interjected. Her voice sounded a little rough, but at least she did not have to sing it.

Mine is not the first expedition to retrieve the seeds of the poppy, Shanjo offered. But most of the others never returned.

And I can see why, Lockhart said.

Katie had a thought. I would bet the brigands burned the first stuff and got hooked on the smoke.

Lockhart nodded. Something like that, and I would guess we haven’t seen the last of them. He paused as Decker walked up and grabbed a piece of deer. It was beginning to turn in the heat, but Shanjo had men smoking what they could to save for later. The evening meal would be something like deer jerky.

We got bigger troubles than thieves, Decker reported. My eagle totem showed me three groups in the wilderness. The thieves are camped above a valley, about a thousand of them, and they are keeping a sharp watch on the people down in the valley. It looks like a small army, about two hundred men, with dragon flags and other banners. They are camped along the edge of a big lake. Very Chinese looking men and banners. I would guess our friends here need to make it to the protection of the army group, though the thieves have them outnumbered at least five to one, so that might not help.

And the third group? Elder Stow wondered.

Right in our path, on the edge of the desert, in the next place where it gets narrow, about where we should stop for the night. A good place for an ambush, Decker said, and when he had everyone’s attention, he said, Ghouls. He took a big bite of deer meat, and added, I am guessing the next ten. That got everyone talking at once, but eventually, talking led to planning.

As far as I know, Mingus said. The ghoul’s ability to see through a good glamour is no better than humans.

The database confirms that, Lincoln said without looking up from his reading. It specifically states that while they are masters of making others see things that are not really there, and can cast glamours over their enemies to make them appear and sound like someone else, their own ability to see through glamours is surprisingly stunted.

The dragon is the emblem of Gingsu, the governor of the far west and defender of the border, Shanjo said, not really keeping up with the rest of the conversation. I am sure if we can get there, he will grant us safe passage the rest of the way, though I worry that he is so far from the border. There are many weeks yet to travel with the army before we can be truly safe.

One problem at a time, Lockhart said.

Let me take Alexis and Miss Riley, Mingus pressed his suggestion. We can disguise ourselves to look like these merchants, and our horses to appear as shaggy ponies, and walk beneath their noses. And we should have enough firepower between us to hold back the brigands, should they try another attack.

And the rest of us can circle around and come up behind the unsuspecting ghouls and pick them off from the rear, Katie understood what Mingus was suggesting.

For the record, I don’t like it. I don’t like dividing us up, Lockhart said.

We still have these wrist communicators, Lincoln pointed out, and raised his wrist to show the watch. Everyone else simply looked at Lockhart.

But I can’t think of anything better, Lockhart said. We go with it, provided Mingus gives the prototype amulet he took from Avalon to Katie, in case we get seriously separated.

Mingus paused, smiled and pulled the amulet out from an inner pocket. It is not as sophisticated as the other, and harder to read accurately, he said. It had a gold chain that fell to the ground as he held it. Lincoln spoke as Mingus handed the amulet to Katie.

Captain Harper has the brains to figure it out while the rest of us stand around and look at it, dumbly.

Those are your words, Mingus said with a grin, as Katie slipped the chain around her neck.

###

I’m not making myself look like a man, Boston protested.

I’m not worried about that, Mingus responded. You can make yourself appear human easily enough, as I have seen, but in this case, you need to show oriental features and change your red head to dark brown.

Like this, Alexis showed her own features. She still looked like Alexis, but the Chinese version. Boston tried to copy her work, and also came out looking like a Chinese version of Alexis.

I don’t have a mirror, Boston complained, as Alexis put her hand over her mouth to hold back her laugh.

It will do, Mingus said. Now the clothes. That was easy enough, since they were all wearing fairy weave which they could shape and color with a thought. Alexis, being human, had to speak out loud to get her fairy weave to change, but it all came out fine since they could see what they were doing. And now the horses, Mingus added.

I don’t have that kind of power, Boston protested, as she turned her robe to a light blue, just to be different.

None of us do, alone, Alexis said, and took her father’s hand. Boston touched his shoulder so they could both give him their magic. He took it and immediately cast his hand over the horses, flinging a bit of sand in their direction to make the magic work. At once, all three horses looked like shaggy Black Sea ponies, with blankets and small packs in place of their saddles. Honey and Horse did not bat an eye at the change, but Alexis’ horse, Misty Gray, bucked a little, once.

We are ready, Mingus turned to Shanjo, who again stared, dumbfounded at what just happened.

Close your mouth, Boston repeated her earlier statement along with her laugh.

Shanjo shook his head. I recognize the fire headed voice, but you do not look like the woman.

Still me, Boston said as she stepped over and grabbed Alexis’ arm. But now I look more like my sister, she said.

Sisters? Shanjo was curious. I see, like twins.

And I am the father of two daughters, Mingus interrupted. Who plans to get them safely to the protection of the army camp as soon as possible. Can we go?

Of course, of course, Shanjo said, Shuz, shuz, and they started walking.

They stopped early that evening, well before the ghoul ambush, so they did not get very far that day. Alexis and Boston shared a tent while Mingus slept out by the fire. The women did not get much sleep as they stayed up late, talking about being an elf and growing up an elf maid.

I haven’t practiced much with my bow and arrows, Boston admitted. I mean, I practiced with a hunting bow when I was growing up. It was part of my redneck training. She grinned. I know where it is, in my own personal slip. I mean I haven’t gotten it out to practice since I became an elf.

Don’t let father push you into learning to kill, Alexis said. Some elf maids are bloodthirsty, warriors, who can fire two or three arrows with deadly accuracy in the time it takes a human to fire one, but most are not. Some are weavers, true artists, like the makers of this fairy weave. Some care for the spiritual creatures left in the world. In our day, in the future, there are elf maids that care for the remaining unicorns of the world. Mirowen, Doctor Robert’s mate back home, was a hundred years a unicorn maid before she got tangled up with Emile. I, actually worked for the science department on Avalon. I had my hands on a laptop computer almost fifty years before they appeared in the human world.

I know, Boston said. I’m impressed.

Don’t be. I was a secretary and file clerk, about what I still do to this day for the Men in Black, truth be told.

Still. Who would have thought the elves of Avalon would even have a science department? I mean, we are spiritual creatures, are we not?

Alexis nodded. Spiritual people, but not necessarily ignorant ones. Swords and knives and bows and arrows in our day are an affectation, you know.

Boston nodded and said, Tell me about growing up, about Father Mingus and about your and Roland’s mother, please. I never hear about your mother, much.

Alexis did, but it quickly became stories of her childhood and youth, covering the first hundred to hundred and fifty years or so of her life,

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