(Note from the author and editor – it appears that if you do not have an ad-block on your computer, you will get links to ad-sense in the body ot the text of this chapter. If you are foolish enough to click on such spam, you deserve what you get. I hope our readers are much more intelligent than that.)
I thought and slept for the next seven days. Most of my waking hours were spent absorbing and sorting out what Gus (I had to name the thing in my head to keep thinking straight) had been feeding me. The experience was both exhilarating and traumatic at the same time. I was learning about a part of Earth’s history that turned my own world view on its head. I had also gained knowledge of the solar system and how it worked that was light years ahead of my contemporaries.
On the outside, when I talked and ate with my men, I had to consciously revert to my old manner of speech. This was becoming more and more difficult and I did slip occasionally. Fortunately, I don’t think anybody caught on. I watched Actius very closely to see if he noticed the slips, but he acted oblivious to any goofs on my part. If he was acting, it was a damned good job.
The big spoiler in my new memory was the realization that my original mission had gone belly up. My men and I were now trapped in a war we had known nothing about when we started out on this little junket. One thing was for sure. Going home right away was definitely not an option. For one thing, I doubted that, under the present circumstances, we would even be able to make it back alive. If we did, what might we bring back with us to the destruction of everything we knew and loved?
Also, there was Actius. I had to find out where his loyalties lay. Was he a traitor waiting for the right moment to do us in, or had he somehow gotten himself trapped in a conspiracy he didn’t dare talk about? I had to find out which was which. Fast!
Then there was Merlyn and his unspoken agenda. Why had he given me this storehouse of information so freely? He had to have known the consequences to me of such an action. I might not be able to go back to Rome at all. Not with what I had in my head. My people were nowhere nearly capable enough to handle what I now knew.
With that came one of my biggest griefs. I would never see Tiny again. That seared a burning hole to the center of my heart. Damnit! I would get back home to Tiny and Little Brother, and not all of Hades would prevent me from doing so! With that thought, the soldier in me took control. Right now though I had other priorities to deal with. Tiny, Caesar, and Rome would have to wait. I had a monster of a mystery sitting on my shoulders and I was damned well going to solve it.
So I kept on thinking, and planning. The more I thought about things, the worse things got. There was a piece missing somewhere that I couldn’t find because I didn’t have the whole picture. I’d have to go back to Merlyn for more of the pieces. And, of course, there was Actius.
I sat by the fire pit for long hours musing and my men were smart enough to know my mood and stay away. I drank, ate and gabbed with them at meal time but, otherwise, kept pretty much to myself. Then the next surprise fell in my lap.
On about the eighth day after our arrival in Avanwy, I had just woke up and was getting dressed when a ruckus broke out outside my tent. I went outside to see what the matter was and was greeted by a very unexpected sight. In the open space, close to the fire pit, my men were staring slack jawed at a very impressive sight. At least twenty armored figures stood there in disciplined formation led by the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Even from a distance I could see that she was at least as tall as Lucifer. She even looked like one of his close kin. One major difference was, where Lucifer’s hair was midnight black, hers was a bright, almost blinding, red. In contrast to her hair, her skin was a dark golden hue similar to Merlyn’s. More mysteries. As I drew closer, I could see that her exposed skin was absolutely flawless. No blemishes whatsoever. Her eyes were slanted in the oriental style, and her lips made me ache. Through Gus (that little spoiler) I already knew who and what she was. Amara, A captain of the Cherubim, and Merlyn’s favorite messenger (the old pervert).
It was pretty obvious she was here for me, although I couldn’t fathom a reason for the escort. She saw me approach and turned to meet me. She really WAS tall. My face came up to her chest which, under normal circumstances, would have been a supreme joy indeed. However, all I could think about at that moment was that I was going to get a sore neck if I got much closer. I wasn’t used to looking up at someone’s face. I stopped my approach and tried to say hello.
She beat me to it. Her voice was low and musical with a tonal quality that made every Legionnaire within earshot stop as though petrified. I was entranced. Leading me by the arm, we headed over to the fire pit and sat down. Meanwhile her escort had not even twitched a muscle that I could see.
“Greetings General Varus. I trust you are well and pleased with our accommodations?”
I stared into her emerald green eyes like an idiot and was barely able to pull myself back to reality.
“Uh . . . yes. Quite comfortable actually. Thank you for asking.”
Her lips curved upward in an amused smile.
“I’m sorry. I forget the effect my . . . presence . . . has on non-Eldethi. Please pull yourself together so we may have an intelligent conversation.”
Her words had the same effect as splashing cold water in my face. I focused with a start. WOW. Her ‘effect’ was an understatement. I’d never before behaved like that in the presence of a woman. Any woman. Once again Gus jumped in and explained that my reaction to Amara was caused by Cherubim ‘Glamour’. It was a built in defense used to confuse a foe long enough for the Cherubim to win the fight. The Cherubim women had more than their fair share of the effect, and seldom turned it off. Knowing this, I focused on Amara and our conversation. She apparently had seen my pause and knew that I was being brought up to date. Her next words confirmed it.
“Your crystal is keeping pace I see. Good. I won’t have to break things down for you. I’m here to take you back to Merlyn. We’d best get moving. He doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
I jerked a thumb in the direction of her escort.
“Why all the Muscle? Afraid I might try to escape or something?”
She actually looked worried.
“It’s for your Protection. There have been . . . incidents.”
Now I was beginning to get worried. Incidents? What in Hades did she mean by that? When I broached the question, she looked even more unsettled.
“I’m not supposed to tell you this but you have the right to know. In the past three days, twenty-two Eldethi have been found . . . murdered. My squad is here to make sure you reach Merlyn alive.”
Holy &%$#!! Twenty-two murders? And me apparently on the hit list? More questions damnit! Also, why was Amara not supposed to tell me? I was going to get to the bottom of this once and for all. The first task, however, was to reach Merlyn in one piece.