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Avalon, Season Six, Witches & Outlaws

Avalon, Season Six, Witches & Outlaws

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Avalon, Season Six, Witches & Outlaws

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487 pagine
7 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Aug 30, 2020
ISBN:
9781005385682
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Descrizione

The Avalon Series is designed to be a television show in written form. Like any good show, an episode or two should be enough to grasp who the characters are, how this all works, and follow along. It is not necessary to read it all in chronological order, so starting with season six should be fine. Of course, after the season, you may want to go back and power-read it from the beginning. I look forward to someday seeing this show filmed, or maybe animated. Who knows?

Avalon.
The travelers came instantly to the beginning of history on a rescue mission. Things did not go as planned. Now, to get home, the travelers must return the slow way, following the Amulet of Avalon that points the way from one time gate to the next. They must cross dangerous 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 they can shape and change with a word in order to blend into the local culture. By a special gift of the Kairos, they can understand and be understood no matter the local language. It 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 along the way.

To be sure, all they want is to get home in one piece, but they are not the only ones lost in time. Some people lost in time might want to follow them, or even go with them. But some people are not so friendly, and not everything lost in time is a person. Some want to fight the travelers. Some want to hunt them.

In season six, the Travelers pick up a professor in antiquities and his wife, who fell into the past from 1905. They are hunted by the necromancer, fight three cowboy-outlaws from 1875, and face a powerful witch—the evil replica of a woman from 1905 still living in the days of Julius Caesar. This is only added to the troubles they find in each time zone: alien Humanoids and Wolv, plagues, wars, struggles between people, and a couple of attempts to make guns and gunpowder before gunpowder is even invented.

Look for the entire Avalon series, including The Prequel: Invasion of Memories. Following the Pilot Episode are nine seasons of adventures through the days of myth and legend, ancient empires, the birth of great civilization, and into the modern era, where the dangers grow exponentially. Enjoy Season Six, Witches & Outlaws, and Happy Reading. –MGK *

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Aug 30, 2020
ISBN:
9781005385682
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 Six, Witches & Outlaws - M. G. Kizzia

Avalon

Season Six

Witches & Outlaws

M G Kizzia

Copyright 2020

MGK Books

(version 1.0)

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Table of Contents

Introduction

6.0 Monkey Brain Fever

After 939 B.C. La Venta Island

Kairos lifetime 72: Ozmatlan (Ozma)

6.1 Little Things,

After 882 B.C. Dandaka Forest

Kairos 73: Lakshme, not Sita

6.2 Sudden Encounter

After 821 B.C. Phoenicia

Kairos 74: Ibelam the Sailor

6.3 Stubborn

After 761 B.C. Before Rome

Kairos 75: Valencia, Mother Wolf

6.4 Stories

After 702 B.C. The Levant

Kairos 76: Tobaka, Nubian Prince of Egypt

6.5 Zombies, Murder, and Mayhem

After 643 B.C. Babylon

Kairos 77: Labash, Gardener

6.6 The Count

After 588 B.C. Babylon

Kairos 78: Xanthia, Sister of Cyrus the Great

6.7 Yeti

After 529 B.C. The Himalayas

Kairos 79: Rajish the Defender

6.8 Archidamian War’s End

After 467 B.C. Attica

Kairos 80: Ophelia, Spartan Princess

6.9 Rome

After 404 B.C. Latium

Kairos 81: Marcia Furi Camilla Diana

6.10 Alexander’s Eyes

After 357 B.C. Pella

Kairos 82: Diogenes, Alexander’s chief of spies

6.11 Shipwreck

After 323 B.C. Sicily

Kairos 83: Umma of Carthage

6.12 The Road Ahead

After 267 B.C. Qin

Kairos 84: Meng Shi and the First Emperor

End

Postscript

Avalon Season 6 Introduction

The travelers came instantly to the beginning of history on a rescue mission. Things did not go as planned. Now, to get home, the travelers must return the slow way, following the Amulet of Avalon that points the way from one time gate to the next. They must cross dangerous 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, 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 they can shape and change with a word in order to blend into the local culture. By a special gift of the Kairos, they can understand and be understood no matter the local language. It 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 along the way.

To be sure, all they want is to get home in one piece, but they are not the only ones lost in time. Some people lost in time might want to follow them, or even go with them. But some people are not so friendly, and not everything lost in time is a person. Some want to fight the travelers. Some want to hunt them.

In season six, the Travelers pick up a professor in antiquities and his wife, who fell into the past from 1905. They are hunted by the necromancer, fight three cowboy-outlaws from 1875, and face a powerful witch—the evil replica of a woman from 1905 still living in the days of Julius Caesar. This is only added to the troubles they find in each time zone: alien Humanoids and Wolv, plagues, wars, struggles between people, and a couple of attempts to make guns and gunpowder before gunpowder is even invented.

CAST

Robert Lockhart, a former police officer, now assistant director of the Men in Black. He was in charge of the rescue mission that left from 2010 in the common era and went to the beginning of history. He is now charged with leading this expedition through time though he has no idea how he is going to get everyone home alive.

Captain Katie Harper-Lockhart, 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 once used to kidnap Alexis.

Boston (Mary Riley), a Massachusetts redneck hunter, 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 insists the Kairos managed to grab him at the last minute and brought him back into the future.

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, Roland’s sister, who became human to marry Benjamin. She retained her healing magic when she became human, but magic has its limits. For example, it couldn’t make her father happy with her choices. She was the one who got kidnapped and dragged into the deep past where she needed to be rescued.

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

Sukki, a Gott-Druk from the before time, taken off planet to a new world at the time of the flood. She joined a small group determined to return to Earth. She is the sole survivor after thousands of years in cryogenic sleep. The travelers take her with them, knowing she cannot survive in the past, and she is learning that these travelers are now her new family.

Major Decker, a former navy seal, now a 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.

And introducing:

Evan Cecil Emerson, Assistant Professor of Antiquities in Latin and Greek. He got pulled into the past from 1905 and lived most of seven years with others in the days of Julius Caesar. He and his wife traveled back to the beginning of the Roman Republic, but he became trapped for six months as a slave to the Roman monarch. The travelers set him free.

Millie Emerson, also from 1905. She became separated from her husband in a time zone at war. She got forced back to the future zone but found friends there. She opted not to return to the Rome of Caesar but stayed instead in Babylon holding on to the thin hope that her husband might find her.

Plus, as always,

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

6.0 Monkey Brain Fever

After 939 B.C. La Venta Island

Kairos lifetime 72: Ozmatlan (Ozma)

Recording …

Boston and Sukki appeared in the village, having gone first through the time gate. The little people that lived in the village called for their friends and neighbors. Some applauded for the visitors. Some cheered. Lincoln and Alexis followed, and little children ran up with flowers for Alexis. Katie and Lockhart came next through the time gate, and the little people began to dance in their joy. By the time Major Decker and Elder Stow came through, the others were getting down to follow Boston and Sukki. Boston and Sukki walked across what appeared to be a village square. They went surrounded by cheering, happy little people, who led them to a platform where the village elders looked ready to welcome them all.

Decker cradled his rifle for the moment and Elder Stow put his things away before they followed. Lockhart whispered a comment to Katie.

If they start singing about lollypop kids, I’m leaving as fast as I can.

Katie grinned. It did sort of look that way.

Boston recognized most of the dwarfs, gnomes, and elves among the little people, though they dressed strangely and looked more tanned than she was accustomed to seeing. She also felt unaccustomed to seeing them living together, side by side. This is the new world, she mumbled, and looked at Sukki. Poor Sukki looked distressed, not the least from having so much attention focused on her. Boston took the girl’s hand both to offer comfort and keep Sukki quiet.

Welcome travelers from Avalon. One exceptionally small little person on the platform stepped in front of the others. Welcome friends of the Kairos. We have waited for you through these long five years. Welcome.

Five years? Sukki softly wondered.

How do you know we are the ones you are waiting for? Boston asked, nice and loud.

The small man spoke. Well, you are the elf with the flaming red hair. A very unusual color, you know.

A tall man stepped up. And Quetzalcoatl the giant stands with his wife, the blonde elect, the one-in-a-million warrior woman. Katie touched Lockhart’s arm and they shared a smile.

One that looked to be all beard spoke next, sounding surprisingly like a woman. And the man who carries the future in a box stands with his dark-haired former elf wife. Alexis took Lincoln’s arm, but Lincoln looked surprised. He carried the database that held all of the vital historical information they depended on, but he wondered how these people knew that.

Then the bearded one beside the bearded woman, who might have been her twin, except he sounded male, spoke. And you travel with two elders of the earth, one female and one male. Sukki smiled, and Elder Stow raised his hand to identify himself, though he wore a glamour intended to make him appear human.

Finally, a brown-haired woman who might have passed for human, but for the bulbous nose, pointed at Major Decker. And the great warrior with skin as dark as a Shemsu watches over you all, and never lets go of his weapon.

Not to mention the horses were a bit of a giveaway, the tall one added.

Besides, Lockhart smiled as he spoke to Katie and to all. How many people have come through the time gate to appear in the middle of this village, like out of nowhere.

Um... the small man hedged.

What? Lincoln caught it, and he looked like he did not want to hear the answer.

The witch came through... the small man admitted, and thought.

A real wicked witch.

Bad news all around.

And the Necromancer... the small man continued. He appeared to be counting on his fingers.

He says there are plenty of dead people around, what with the fever and all.

But they rise-up still infected, so that is no good.

Then we had three men, outlaws, I believe, the small man rubbed his chin, though he had no beard. They rode horses like yours and had six-shooters, but claimed to be saving their bullets, whatever bullets might be...

They came through about a month ago and said they are looking for a place where they can make gunpowder and take over.

Some place worth taking over, they said.

The bearded lady spoke up. Don’t forget the wraith.

They said people, the small man insisted.

The wraith counts, one of the elders said.

But they didn’t ask about the creatures, the tall man said.

Can we eat now? the bearded man asked, totally changing the subject.

Yeah, the woman with the big nose interjected. We are supposed to feast the travelers.

Yeah, the little people liked the idea of eating, and they all cheered.

Someone started the bonfire which had already been set up in the middle of the town square. It waited there for five years, as far as the travelers could tell. In mere moments, corn and deer began to roast, while several little people started frying cornmeal bread. Alexis, Sukki, and Boston got out some elf bread crackers. They heated some water, and the crackers became hot, steaming loaves of the best fresh baked bread, which they promptly shared.

Lockhart, Decker, Katie and Elder Stow set up the tents where they were shown. They took some time with the horses, but found some of the little people knew horses well and volunteered to watch them and care for them.

Lincoln went to ask about the creatures that came through the time gate, if he could get a straight answer. He reminded Lockhart that the Kairos said if they could follow the travelers through the time gates, they had to treat them as a potential threat. Lockhart did not argue with that idea.

Alexis turned to acknowledge two dwarf wives as Sukki finally spoke her thoughts. These people all belong to the Kairos, Sukki decided, but it came out like a question.

Ozmatlan, Boston nodded. She is their goddess as she is mine. I can’t wait to meet her.

I think it is just Ozma, Alexis said, over her shoulder. To answer Boston’s curious look, she added, Think Wizard of Oz.

But that makes us... Boston thought for a minute. Hey! We’re not munchkins.

What are munchkins? Sukki asked.

Alexis shrugged, but smiled, as Elder Stow interrupted them. He came over with his glamour removed, so he looked like the Neanderthal he was, or as they call themselves in their own language, Gott-Druk.

You might as well remove your glamour, he said to Sukki. No point in going disguised when they see right through you.

Sukki looked at him and said, Yes, father. I forget that I have it on.

Elder Stow came into the past from a distant future where the Gott-Druk had long since mastered space flight and all sorts of technological wonders. Elder Stow and the travelers were all making their way slowly back toward the future. Sukki came from the deep past, and her thoughts and knowledge remained primitive. She slept in suspension for more than eight-thousand-years on an Agdaline slower-than-light ship before she made it back to earth. Elder Stow kindly adopted her as a daughter, and he started teaching her about modern Gott-Druk things. They were all teaching her things about life in the twenty-first century. She came across as a sweet but shy girl, especially in front of the humans, who she still thought of as stealing the Earth from her people. But she seemed to be slowly adjusting.

Sukki removed her glamour, and Boston raised her eyebrows before she smiled. With the glamour on, Sukki looked like a big girl. Without it, the squat, muscular shape, brow ridges and sloped forehead of the Gott-Druk gave her quite a different appearance.

Why do you always raise your brows? Sukki asked Boston. She sounded a little put off.

It is always a surprise. You look so different, Boston admitted. Besides, you do the same thing.

I do not, Sukki insisted, and Boston removed her own glamour to show her skinny elf figure, pointed ears and all. Sukki’s eyebrows went up. Sukki paused to touch her own forehead. Yes, I do, she confessed, and they both laughed.

Katie and Lockhart walked up to the group holding hands. Decker followed, and it appeared as if he put his rifle in the holster for once, not expecting trouble in this peaceful village of good people. He looked naked without it, but no one said anything. Instead, Decker found a reason to say something. It came out in swear words, and he ran to retrieve the weapon.

Four humans, three men and one woman, came crashing through the bushes and into the village square. They looked bruised and bloodied from a thousand cuts. Alexis thought to help them, but the look in their eyes spoke of insanity. The drool from their snarling mouths made them appear hungry, and not particular about what they ate. They screamed unintelligible sounds. The little people just screamed and scattered to hide.

Two of the mad men rushed at the group around the bonfire. Boston, Alexis and Sukki screamed well enough. Lockhart, the former policeman, still had his police special by his side, and drew it quickly. Katie slipped the knife from the sheath that rested on Lockhart’s other hip. Lockhart shot one man. Katie cut the other across the hand and face. That man barely paused, but long enough for Elder Stow to reach up from behind, grab the man’s head and snap his neck.

The third man got distracted by Decker’s movement and followed him. The major had enough of a head start to reach his horse, pull his handgun, spin and fire three times. As the man fell, dead, Decker grabbed his top-of-the-line marine rifle, the one the Kairos assured him would never run out of bullets.

The insane woman rushed to the backside of the bonfire, where a deer roasted, half-cooked. She ripped off a chunk of the deer tartar, fell to her knees and began to chew, not unlike an animal. The travelers watched, uncertain about what to do. They once unwittingly helped a werewolf in the daytime. He appeared as a broken, cut and bruised man who left sanity so far behind, he could no longer form words. Of course, they did not know he was a werewolf, and he escaped. He got their scent. He then followed them through a couple of dozen time zones, often enough in wolf form, trying to kill and eat them.

We have to help her, if we can. Alexis finally spoke.

I don’t know if we can, Lincoln said, as he ran up from the other side.

The naked, bleeding woman grunted a couple of times, but mostly she howled, not like an animal, but like a person subject to constant, terrible, stabbing pain. She hit her head several times. She began to weep.

No one dared approach her.

She chewed until she screamed, dropped the deer meat and put both hands to her head. Her tears turned red with blood. Her ears began to bleed, and she fell over. People still feared to touch her. Decker and Alexis checked. She definitely died.

This man’s ears are bleeding, Katie and Elder Stow watched the blood drip, though the man already died.

Don’t touch him, Alexis said, nice and loud.

Don’t worry, Katie responded, and pulled her hand back a little further, though she realized both she and Elder Stow touched one of them.

Incoming, Decker shouted, and everyone looked up as a man with a long monkey tail appeared near the horses. The man lifted a hand toward the horses, like he tested something with his senses and needed to concentrate. He stepped toward the wary travelers, pausing only briefly at the four dead people. He lifted his hand toward the travelers, again, seeming to test something he had to think about. Then he spoke.

There is an aura of protection in this cursed place that spares you from the virus. Do not think it will spare you from the infected ones, though I can do nothing to harm you. Since you wear the protection of the gods, I would not dream of doing such a thing. But I take no responsibility for what the mad humans may do. The man grinned, his monkey tail whipped back and forth, and he vanished, and mercifully took the four dead bodies with him.

Everyone breathed.

The little people began to make sounds of relief all around, before they shouted She is here. She is here... The travelers watched a woman float through the air and come gently to the ground, only to be surrounded by happy, cheering little people.

Ozma? Boston ran, but stopped when she saw who it was. Maya. She remembered the name of the Corn Woman, the goddess she met in Otapec’s day, and then again at Katie and Lockhart’s wedding."

Maya pushed through the little ones to give Boston a hug. You have certainly changed since the last time you were in my area.

Katie married, Boston said, as if the goddess needed reminding. Like a true little one, she showed utter joy at marriage before she dropped her head, sadly, and spoke. But I lost Roland. He got taken to the future. But I know he is alive. He has to be alive.

Maya gave Boston a second hug and an encouraging word. I have every good hope that you will see him again. She turned to Katie. So, now you are married, and to Quetzalcoatl. I had little time to do this at your wedding. She hugged Katie and looked at Lockhart. You are a very lucky man, to marry an elect. She apologized to Katie. I really am glad I could be there for you.

Me too, Katie said through her smile. Being hugged by a goddess is a remarkably wonderful thing.

And Lincoln, Maya said. I see you found your wife. The first time I met you, she went missing. Dear Alexis. Alexis lowered her eyes and curtsied, but Maya hugged her as well. And Elder Stow, I see you found a daughter of your own.

Sukki, she gave her name, smiled, uncertain, and looked at Elder Stow for reassurance.

Maya hugged her, too, and whispered in the girl’s ear. I saw you at the wedding. Now, you just take care of that old man, and all of your friends.

Sukki looked again at Elder Stow, and the others with a genuine smile and a word out loud, because Gott-Druk were not good at whispering. I will.

And finally, Major Decker, man of the eagle. You will be pleased to know that the Olmec representations of your head have become so stylized, they hardly look like you anymore.

Decker grunted but seemed pleased. He thought to speak. We had four visitors attack us when we arrived, and a god with a monkey tail that came to fetch them. I don’t suppose you would care to explain what is going on.

Maya frowned, took a couple of steps to where she could address them all, though she already had their full attention. The monkey god, she said. When my friend, the Kairos Kartesh, in the ancient times, reworked her Shemsu people to give them their unique telekinetic abilities as well as the math and engineering skill along with the Agdaline symbols and stellar coordinates, the monkey god got the idea that life was something to play with. Among his experiments, he designed this virus. My friend, the Kairos Ozma calls it monkey brain fever. It is deadly in over ninety percent of the cases.

Have we been infected? Alexis had to ask.

No, Maya insisted. The hedge of the gods protects you, and also I have made this place a protected area, just to be sure. However, it cannot stop infected people from coming into this place, and though they cannot spread the disease here, it cannot cure them by coming here. It has been five years. The disease has spread. Maya stepped up to Katie and asked to touch her thoughts, which felt very odd, to hear a goddess ask anything.

I don’t mind, Katie said, and shut her eyes while Maya touched her head.

I see, Maya said. I see. And the others got the idea that she somehow bypassed the hedge of the gods to retrieve some information. Then she spoke. The disease has spread from what will be Mexico City to El Salvador. It is virulent, and more than half of the human population will die in agony. But Ozma tells me the disease will eventually settle in the monkey population where it will remain dormant for many centuries. Pray that it be soon.

Ozma, Boston said, her face lit up. Can you take us to her?

I cannot, Maya responded, with a shake of her head. I am not really here. To do that, I would leave the City of Jade unprotected, even if only for a few brief moments. But I have made a way. There is a wide path, a protected road, between here and La Venta Island, where Ozma and her people remain trapped, but safe. Stay on the path. Beware those you meet along the way. They are infected, or they are dead, and doubly wrong. Beware the necromancer who carries the elixir of life. Stay on the path. It runs between the fields of maize. Do not put one foot to the left or right, lest the monkey god find a way to infect you. The image of Maya began to fade.

Wait. Boston reached out.

I will see you in the city, Maya said, and disappeared altogether.

The little people came out from hiding. They had their feast, with plenty of stories, songs, and good cheer, but it did not seem like the great celebration they planned. Lincoln explained as he read from the database. The world of the Olmec people was being all but destroyed by a disease more ruinous than the bubonic plague.

Katie and Lockhart sat beside the fire and whispered little to each other. Lincoln and Alexis sat near them and said nothing that evening. Decker stayed on watch, despite the promise of the little people, that they would keep their eyes and ears open for intruders. Elder Stow kept watch with his portable scanner and set it to put up an impenetrable particle screen as soon as his scanner picked up human life forms headed in their direction. Only Sukki and Boston clapped and danced with the little ones in the night before everyone had to get some sleep.

###

In the morning, all the little ones turned out to shout good-bye and good luck. Many reminded them to stay between the fields of corn. Katie waved, and Lockhart confided to her, If Lincoln or Decker start singing about follow the yellow corn road, I’m going to hit them. Boston heard with her good elf ears, and hummed through the morning, but she did manage to keep her mouth from singing the words.

Since he could not ride out on the flank, Decker took the point. Often enough, he rode back to Lockhart and Katie at the front of the group to double-check his take on turns in the road where the corn became less evident.

Lincoln and Alexis took the center and appeared to take up Lockhart and Katie’s idea of whispering to each other every now and then. Boston and Sukki straggled in the rear, with Elder Stow acting as rear guard. He only looked up every now and then, and generally only when a deer or other large animal could be seen or heard out among the corn rows. For the most part, he kept his eyes glued to his scanner. It acted as their main version of an early warning system. Boston, with her elf senses, could tell when humans came near. Katie, with her elect intuition, could sense when something or someone got near that might pose a danger to the group. Still, the scanner could plot one to several miles distance on a grid, and track whatever might be in the area.

Lunch became a somber affair. They had plenty of food, gifts from the little people for their journey; but no one felt much like talking until Lincoln broke the ice.

This journey seems spooky for a change.

Decker and Lockhart laughed at the for a change comment, but Alexis responded kindly. It does feel a bit like a funeral procession.

Elder Stow nodded. Good thing we have not come across any villages.

Especially ones full of dead bodies, Alexis agreed, and people paused to think about it.

That necromancer sounds creepy, Boston said. Maybe, in that village, the dead bodies will be walking around.

I don’t like that idea, Sukki said, and shivered.

I prefer not to think about that possibility, Lincoln commiserated.

So, explain something, Lockhart wanted to change the subject. If this disease has been rampaging around the countryside for five years, who has been around to plant these cornfields?

Katie spoke up. I assume Maya has kept the corn growing in season. I imagine she is spread rather thin, trying to hold things together.

Maya said, only half of the human population will die, Elder Stow said.

Over half, Lincoln corrected him.

Still, Elder Stow continued. The other half has to be around somewhere.

Alexis shook her head. Probably got infected and sick, even if they did not die from the disease. We have no way of knowing what shape they may be in. They might not be able to plant, and Maya might be keeping them alive by growing the corn for them.

Decker offered a thought. Probably ran away to escape being eaten by the diseased half.

Stop, Sukki raised her voice, looked down at her lap and shut her eyes. Elder Stow took her hand.

There, there... He gave it his fatherly best. We will be all right.

I know just how you feel, Boston, the empathic elf looked at her with exceptionally big eyes.

An hour down the road, they came across a crow that hopped back and forth on the road, and apparently, had been doing so for some time, since they saw a clear, visible line indent in the road. Decker stopped to watch, and when the others came up behind him, they all watched.

What is it doing? Sukki asked.

Ask him, Decker said with a grin.

The crow stopped and faced the travelers. Then it spoke. I’m pacing, trying to decide which way to go. I found this great path through the wilderness. I have been turned into a crow, in case you didn’t notice. I need help, only I can’t go both ways.

Boston pushed up front. We’re going to the Emerald City to see the wizard—the wizardess of Oz. Maybe she could help.

City of Jade, Lincoln corrected her.

Still green, Boston said, and gave her best elf grin to Lockhart, who rolled his eyes.

Why don’t you fly there? Katie wondered.

Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, the crow responded. Besides, I’m new to this flying business. I’m not sure it would be safe.

I guess you better come with us, Lockhart decided, with a hard look at Boston.

The crow thought about it before Alexis interrupted with a question. How did you get turned into a crow?

It was the monkey god, the crow said. He said I was immune to his disease and that was not allowed. He changed me, probably thinking I would be eaten by a predator soon enough. I found this path first thing in the morning.

You survived so far, Katie praised the bird.

I had some immature corn last night, the crow said. It was okay. But then this morning, all my pacing dug up a couple of worms. I found that disgusting, but they tasted pretty good...

Here, Alexis said. You can ride in Misty’s mane.

Your very big animal?

My horse, yes. Misty won’t mind as long as you hold his hair and not scratch him with your claws. She started to get down to pick up the crow, but he flew up to settle on Misty Gray’s neck, so Alexis kept her seat. The horse nodded twice, to shift the bird to a more comfortable spot. Then they rode, and the crow said his name was something like Wexalottle, or it sounded like that. It seemed hard to pronounce with a bird beak and tongue. They settled for calling him Mister Crow.

Another hour down the road, and Elder Stow’s scanner started making that annoying alarm sound. People coming, he shouted from the rear. Boston and Katie both looked in that direction, like they sensed the people, and sensed they were hostile. Lockhart directed everyone to the opposite side of the road, and Mister Crow returned from overhead, once Elder Stow turned off the alarm.

I see them, Mister Crow said. They are running straight at us.

I have them on the grid, Elder Stow added. They will arrive any minute. No time to put up a screen to halt their progress.

Arm up, Decker yelled as he arrived from the point and got down from his horse. It was not Decker’s place to say that, but Lockhart was not going to argue with that assessment. Seconds later, faces appeared in the corn rows. Clearly, they were diseased faces. Seconds after that, guns began to fire, and in only a minute, ten bodies stretched across the road. Less than a minute later, Alexis cried out.

They are children. She wept. The eldest looked maybe fifteen. Everyone but Decker and Lockhart found some tears. Lockhart, the former policeman, remained stoic. Major Decker remained a marine.

Mister Crow returned from overhead. He got angry. Why have the gods permitted this?

The gods have done this, Katie said. I assume the monkey god is not working alone.

Probably why Maya couldn’t leave the city long enough to bring us there the easy way, Boston suggested, and Sukki and Katie agreed.

Keep moving, Lockhart interjected. Walk ‘em. He moved them out of the area as quickly as possible. Lincoln did what he could to comfort Alexis. Mister Crow sat on Alexis’ saddle and cawed a couple of times. Sukki, Boston, and Elder Stow followed along behind, heads lowered like people in mourning.

As the sun began to set, the travelers came upon a forest. The road left the corn fields and moved in among the trees. They had not been warned about the change in their surroundings, but clearly the road went among the trees for some distance.

I think we still need to stay to the road, Lockhart said. People agreed, and settled down to eat something before bed. Regular watch, Lockhart insisted. That put Alexis and Lincoln up first, from six to nine in the evening. Katie, her elect senses stretched into the wilderness, and Lockhart with his police instincts got the nine to midnight shift. Decker, the marine, and Elder Stow with his scanner took the wee hours, which left Sukki and Boston with her elf senses in the early morning, to watch the sun come up.

###

Everyone got some sleep, and no one bothered them in the night, which made them all feel better over breakfast.

I don’t know why the monkey god, and whoever is with him, would want to wipe out all the humans in their jurisdiction, Alexis began the conversation.

Chaotic god? Decker suggested.

More of a trickster, Lincoln said, pulling out the database. Sort of like Loki, I suppose.

It happened elsewhere, Katie spoke up. Domnu once wiped out all the earliest people in the British Isles. Sekhmet, Katie said, paused and turned to Lockhart with a smile. She almost wiped out everyone in Egypt and would have if Amun Junior had not gotten her stinking drunk.

She still complains about the hangover, Lockhart nodded.

In the middle east, the gods once complained the humans were making too much noise. It was Enki, or Enlil, I forget who saved the humans there, Katie finished.

Lockhart nodded again. God himself once wiped out everyone except Noah and his family.

I know that story, Elder Stow said, and watched Sukki nod. At that same time, the Gott-Druk, and other early human-like peoples were taken elsewhere. In the case of the Gott-Druk, we went into space, with Agdaline help, to make a new home on another world.

But why here and now? Alexis did not feel satisfied. She still felt terrible about killing all those children. What is the point? What are they gaining?

No way of knowing, Katie answered.

Boston said what she had heard many times on their journey. Who can fathom the way of the gods?

Mister Crow fluttered down from the branch of the nearest tree where he spent the night. He offered a

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