It did not take long for the boys to get in position. Pan listened for the bird calls. Duba was last, as usual, but as soon as he was set, Pan put his fingers to his lips and let the whistle scream. It echoed from around the Shemashi camp, and then there was shouting, two tents collapsed and sticks on fire were tossed into the crowd gathered around Alexis. Several of the Shemashi panicked. They began to gather the children and run toward their own tents and shouted at each other which increased the confusion.
The boys ran through the crowd yelling “Fire!” in the Shemashi tongue. The shaman stuck his head out from his tent and frowned. Hog, Chodo and Shmee appeared to be frozen where they were, beside Alexis who stood and wiped off her clothes. Then the boys melted back into the woods and Pan said, “Go.”
Mingus, Roland and Lincoln walked toward the camp while Bluebell and Honeysuckle flew up to Alexis and spoke in English. “Come on, we have to go now.”
“I’m coming,” Alexis said as she picked up her medical bag. Shmee threw his hands over his eyes on sight of the Fee. Chodo dropped his jaw. Hog just looked angry, but he did nothing to interfere.
“Miss Bell,” Hog said, and Bluebell paused long enough to stick her little tongue out at the man.
Mingus, Roland and Lincoln stopped at ten yards and waited for Alexis. The rest stood just visible at the edge of the camp. They were armed, but looked relaxed, except Doctor Procter who stepped forward and pointed at the three men by the fire who had been their guests.
“Kill them,” Doctor Procter shrieked. “Quick. Now is your chance. Kill them all –“ The Doctor slammed his own hand against his mouth as Captain Decker and Lockhart both turned to stare at him. “I don’t know why I said that,” Doctor Procter spoke in all honesty. “I hate killing.” He shook his head.
The shaman came out to watch as Alexis stepped up to Mingus. “Father.” She spoke in Shemashi and kissed Mingus on the cheek. “Brother.” They touched fists. “Husband.” They kissed in a way that made Honeysuckle sigh while Bluebell made embarrassed noises and flew rapidly in circles and backflips.
Then it got dark, or as Mingus called it, goblin dark. There was a scream much worse than the whistles. Most of the people still in sight grabbed their ears and fell to the dirt. A frightening presence was felt in the pit of the stomach and a spirit like a ghost began to fly in circles around the camp. It quickly built up to a speed that called up a great wind and the sea began to rise.
“Bokarus!” The shaman identified the creature and began to chant and dance and rattle his necklace of claws and teeth. Honeysuckle, Bluebell and Alexis all got out their wands and began to zap at the sky, though the thing moved too fast to hit. The leaves in all the trees shook quite apart from the wind and the sea continued to rise.
Pan climbed up on a boulder and shouted. “Bokarus! No!” The thing stopped screaming and paused to face the boy. It had an ethereal, ghost-like quality that frightened everyone except Pan who was angry and Mingus who was at an angle to send out a zap of his own. Pan reached out to grab the creature, but Mingus’ ball of flame struck at the same time. The creature screamed again, this time from being struck, and it tumbled off among the trees to disappear in the wilderness.
“You almost singed my fingers,” Pan protested as he climbed back down. The wind stopped. The sea receded, and the oppressive air cleared and brightened.
After it was all over, Doctor Procter pulled his wand from his sleeve and looked at it like he hardly knew what it was.
“Big help,” Mingus scolded as he walked by.
“Honeysuckle. Bluebell.” Pan called and the fairies came right away. “You need to stay with our friends and escort them to the next gate,” he whispered. “Do what Lockhart tells you. Watch them along the sides as they walk and don’t let the Bokarus near them.”
“Oh, but that is scary,” Bluebell whispered in return.
“We will do it,” Honeysuckle spoke for them both, and Pan smiled and spun around to find his boys gathered nearby.
“Come on, boys. Back to the secret tree.” Pan yelled, and he ran off, followed by the others, Ramina hot on his heels and the Duba bringing up the rear.
It was late, but with Alexis’ insistence, the travelers opted to stay the night in the Shemashi camp rather than risk the Bokarus in the dark. It was something Alexis and the Shaman worked out. The people in the village kept their distance, but they appreciated the help rebuilding all the things knocked down by the boys and the wind, and they loved the bread.
“I think the bread-crackers are self replicating,” Alexis pointed out. “I used my whole pouch but now it is full again.”
“Like the bullets,” Captain Decker said, but he said it in a way which suggested he was sorry he had not used any yet.
“And the vitamins.” Alexis nodded as she handed them out. They had missed their daily dose in the morning.
“You know,” Doctor Procter spoke up. “A bokarus is not a greater spirit. I am not sure it even qualifies as a lesser spirit. I am surprised it has taken an interest in you humans, what with our traveling with the company.”
Mingus explained, as usual. “What he means is a bokarus is not beyond elf magic. We may pose a threat to it. But evidently, the bokarus has judged you people from the future to be a bigger threat to the environment so it is willing to take the risk to take you out.”
“Yes, I was wondering why it was following us,” Lockhart said. He was thinking it was the same bokarus from the last time zone, and that meant it could follow them from zone to zone. “But how do we take it out? You got a good shot at it, but it did not seem badly injured.”
Mingus shrugged, so Roland spoke. “They are nearly impossible to damage as long as they remain in their ghost form.”
Boston got out her database. “Bokarus or Green man is a defender of the primordial wilderness. It is catalogued here somewhere between little and lesser spirit.” She showed the chart, and Bluebell spoke from her shoulder.
“Yes, but they are scary.”
Lincoln thought what Bluebell thought but verbalized what Lockhart wondered. “But it seems to me the question is whether or not this bokarus is the same as the last one or if we just happened to run into two of them.”
“Yes,” Lockhart agreed.
“Can’t be the same,” Doctor Procter said quickly.
“It must be,” Captain Decker said at the same time.
“It might be, but not necessarily,” Mingus danced between the two opinions.
Boston stood in the silence that followed. “Well, while you argue about it, Katie and I and our new friends are going to get some sleep. I assume we will have to leave about dawn if we hope to reach the gate in daylight.” She looked at Doctor Procter who looked at his amulet. He only shook it once before he spoke.
“Yes. Er, yes.”
Lieutenant Harper stood and followed Boston while Honeysuckle zipped ahead to open the tent flap.
“But what about Pan?” Bluebell picked right up where she left off, which was very unusual for a Fee. “He is my heart.”
“I am sure he is,” Boston responded. “But maybe you just need to back up a little and give him a chance to grow up first.”
“That is what I have been telling her,” Honeysuckle said as they went inside the tent.
After that, the morning came quick. Hog and Shmee came back in their boat not expecting the village to still have visitors. They avoided the strangers as well as they could, but Chodo was pleased to point them out. None of the travelers felt obliged to confront the man. Instead, they concentrated on packing and preparing to leave.
They moved as quickly as they could through the wilderness. They took a few rests and stopped only briefly for lunch, eyes open the whole way. Bluebell and Honeysuckle watched their flank along the way, but they never caught wind of the bokarus until the end of the day as they approached the gate. Then they only heard a wailing in the distance. It was a mournful song, like the wail of a ghost in torment.
“I hope that thing isn’t the same one,” Captain Decker said.
“You see, Hon?” Alexis grinned at Lincoln. “You did not need to say it.”
“Sounds like you stepped on its toe pretty good,” Lockhart said to Mingus who merely nodded.
“Here it is.” Doctor Procter did not wait for them. Boston and Lieutenant Harper took a couple of minutes to make the fairies get big so they could properly hug them. It was no surprise that Honeysuckle appeared as a full grown woman and Bluebell appeared as a fourteen-year-old.
“I’m going to miss you, Katie,” Honeysuckle said.
“And I will miss you,” Lieutenant Harper admitted.
“Maybe we will see each other again?” Honeysuckle suggested. Lieutenant Harper looked at Boston who shook her head.
“Maybe,” Lieutenant Harper smiled and she and Boston went through the gate. Lockhart, Captain Decker and Mingus brought up the rear.