The bogy beast was a small one. It was only about sixteen feet when it stood on its hind legs which it did as soon as it reached the first hut. It had to be on all fours to walk. The hair of the beast turned out to be more like shredded steel than hair. It was sharper than a porcupine and able to reject every bullet short of a direct hit. The snout was more like a wolf than a bear and it had some extra teeth. It was impossible to tell if it was a reptile or a mammal, but it was easy to see what it had in mind. The hut was torn to shreds and then it nosed around in the wreckage for any tasty morsels it might find. When it found nothing, flames came with a roar and crisped the remains of the hut.
“Fire!” Lockhart yelled and gunfire burst out from every corner. The beast was surrounded except for the avenue by which it arrived. Several bullets penetrated and the beast roared and turned. It reared up in the midst of the withering fire and swiped at the air with its great caws as if trying to tear the bullets from the air.
It roared again and spread fire in a circle around its body. The gunfire paused while people ducked behind their cover. Then the gunfire started again, but overall it had minimal effect until Lieutenant Harper had the idea of going for the eyes. She paused, but only long enough to clip her scope to the rifle. When she fired, she certainly struck something. The beast reared its head back, roared and shot a stream of flame straight into the sky.
With a final roar of protest, the beast returned to all fours, turned and galloped out of the village. It ran very close to Boston who wisely crouched down in the shadows and tried to become as invisible as possible. Then it was gone.
The people came pouring from their hiding places around the village and began to celebrate, but Lockhart knew better. “It is wounded now and that will make it more dangerous.”
“We must track it while we can,” Roland said.
“Unfortunately,” Mingus agreed, “And I will be here when you get back.”
“Won’t that be dangerous?” Alexis asked.
“Yes,” Lincoln said. “That is why you need to stay here with Boston, your father and Doctor Procter.” She kissed him, but Boston heard.
“Heck no,” she said. “I’m going. I’m good on a hunt. Probably better than you.”
“Lieutenant, you stay in case the beast doubles back,” Captain Decker commanded.
“Yes, sir,” Lieutenant Harper was quicker with the sir this time, but it was clear she was unhappy once again with the order.
“Okay redneck,” Lockhart smiled at Boston when that was settled. “You lead the way.”
Boston grabbed Roland and together they started out front. It was actually an easy trail. The purple puss that served for blood in the beast glowed a little, like neon. It was probably fire inspired. When they reached the edge of the woods, the broken branches and crushed saplings made the trail even easier.
“I don’t like this,” Boston whispered. She looked back. Lockhart and Lincoln were alert and trying to listen for what they could not see in the dark. Captain Decker had his night goggles on, but it was hard to see behind a tree. “This trail is too easy.”
Roland paused and looked at her. He knelt and she knelt beside him as the company came to a halt. “A bogy beast is clever, but like a fox, not a person,” he assured her before he turned to the group and spoke a bit louder. “It stopped here and I would guess it licked its wounds. The thing is, if it makes it until morning, it will rest underground and be all but healed in a day.”
“So we have to find it before it rests,” Lockhart said even as the beast reared up in front of them. One roar of fire and a backwards swipe of a claw caught all three who were standing there. Captain Decker was knocked to the ground while Lincoln and Lockhart crashed into the trees. All were temporarily knocked senseless. The beast looked down on the two still kneeling on the ground and roared fire again. Roland quickly hovered over Boston.
“I set a shield,” Roland shouted next to Boston’s ear. They still felt the heat and Roland’s back turned red, but the fire was deflected. All the same, Boston screamed. It was answered by a white light in the distance that raced toward them.
The bogy beast reared up, determined to let its claws do what the flame failed to do, but it also saw the streaking light and certainly sensed something. It began to turn away and let out a very different sound as the unicorn leapt over Roland and Boston and drove its horn deep into the beast’s chest. The beast let out a chilling noise as it clawed the unicorn and knocked it away. Then it stumbled as its putrid, flaming purple insides came pouring out of the gaping hole.
Decker was up by then and they began to blast away at the hole. The beast collapsed. It kept up that unnerving sound of pain and surprise until its body quit wiggling. Captain Decker shot out the eye Harper had missed as his way of making sure the beast was dead.
“My guess is the bogy could not see the unicorn out of the eye Lieutenant Harper shot until it was too late,” Roland surmised.
Lockhart came up limping and leaning on Lincoln, but he waved them off. He would be fine, shortly. Meanwhile, Boston had run to the unicorn. It was injured, terribly.
Keng chose that moment to come running up. “I missed it? I missed everything!” He was not happy, but the others smiled at the young man.
“Glen! Please help me.” Boston called.
“I – I can’t,” Keng said.
Then someone else showed up. She glowed in the night and Roland immediately fell to his knees. It took the others a bit longer to feel the awesome fear of this person. Then they joined the elf on their knees. It was not quite like the angel, but something in that direction.
“I go away for a few days and the whole place falls apart,” the woman complained.
Keng, of course, kept to his feet, and the woman gave him a curious look before she did something to tone down her glow. “Who are these people?” She asked Keng.
“These are friends of mine,” Keng said proudly, and to the woman’s stare he added, “What? I can have friends.” The woman said nothing, so Keng introduced the five who were there. “They have fallen back in time, but they are trying to get home. You could maybe help them.” He was not exactly asking.
The woman stepped up to Lockhart and looked down into the man’s eyes. Lockhart had to look away before she spoke again. “Three days is the most even the gods are permitted to bend time. It will not help these.”
“Yes, of course. I knew that,” Keng said. “Oh, yes, this is Nagi. She is the goddess of my village.” He remembered himself then and went to his knees, but Nagi just made a face before she smiled.
“A bit late for that,” she said and stepped in close for a look at the bogy beast. Then she stepped up to stand behind Boston who was wracked with tears and crying all over the unicorn. “A gift for defending my village,” she said and waved her hand. The unicorn was made whole, and as it stood, Boston’s tears turned from sorrow to joy. “The bogy does not belong here and neither does this creature. There are no unicorns in this part of the world at present so you must take your pet with you when you leave.” Boston simply nodded as the goddess turned her back and returned to the others. The unicorn bowed to the goddess in the way of horses. It touched its horn to the earth before it turned and bounded off into the woods.
The goddess did not seem concerned with that as she stepped up to Keng and made him stand once again. She walked once around him like a person might examine a prize animal. She began to glow again, but in a different sort of way. Every male eye became fastened to her like they were glued to her as she spoke her conclusion. “I think I could have use for this one.” She smiled at her own thoughts. “Yes, I will,” she said and vanished.
When they returned to the village and reported their success – without mentioning the goddess on Keng’s insistence, Mingus put a damper on their celebration.
“But that means the bogy man is still out there, somewhere, and he is not going to be happy.”
“We will burn that bridge when we come to it,” Captain Decker suggested.
“Meanwhile, get some sleep,” Lockhart ordered.
“I vote we stay here a couple of days to heal and help these people rebuild,” Alexis said as she laid hands on her brother to heal his scorched back.
“I think the goddess would rather see us move on in the morning,” Lincoln responded, and he told her, Mingus and Doctor Procter of their encounter.
Doctor Procter appeared thoughtful. “Perhaps we should move on tonight.”
Lockhart did not answer the man directly. All he said was “Get some rest.”