Boston pulled herself into Lockhart’s arms, sure they were going to die. She looked up into his eyes as he held her close and the strangest thought crossed her mind. She did not want to die without knowing, so she kissed him, full and firm on the lips, and he kissed her back. When they separated, they looked each other in the eyes, momentarily oblivious to their impending doom. They shook their heads at the same time and the same word escaped their lips. “No,” and they almost smiled.
The fog began to lift and Boston saw two things at once. She saw Roland right beside them, still. She was not sure what all he saw, but she was sure he saw something. She was overwhelmed with the need to tell him she was sorry and that she didn’t mean it. But she said nothing as the faces became clear not too many yards away. Those faces looked twisted and distorted. Some hardly looked human. She turned her own face and buried it in Lockhart’s chest. She tried to get away from the sight, but it was too late. Those images were burned into her retinas and her brain. Alexis screamed. Katie Harper also screamed, but it was words.
“Decker, no! We can’t kill them. That will just set them free.”
Doctor Procter jumped forward, straight toward the faces. He turned and walked backwards in the direction of the demonized people as a smile spread across his own face. Everyone else saw the tears form in his eyes as he spoke gleefully. “Kill them. Kill them all and have your supper.” He pointed at his companions, tripped over a root and fell straight to his back. He began to struggle, but he could not get up. What is more, the demonized people appeared to be unmoving. They were frozen in place, and the travelers could only stare at them in return.
Doctor Procter screamed this time. They heard the horse before they saw it. It was indeed a medieval-looking knight from the High Middle Ages, covered head to toe in dazzling armor. The lance was long and looked deadly, but there was something of grace, perhaps chivalry in the knights demeanor. He said nothing and simply walked his well trained steed until he stood beside the Doctor. Then he lowered his lance and touched Doctor Procter gently on the chest where the heart was. A brilliant white light spread slowly all of the way around the Doctor until he was bathed in it.
Now the Doctor truly screamed and writhed, or something was writhing. It looked devoid of all light, not simply dark or black. It looked like the enemy of light, but it was no match for the lance. The darkness slowly separated from the doctor and began to squirm like a wounded snake. It tried to lash out again and again, but the light from the lance contained it. At last, the darkness began to dissipate. It was outmatched and had nowhere to go. It became like smoke from and extinguished fire. It turned pale gray and vanished at last like that smoke in a strong gust of wind.
Still without a word spoken, the Knight of the Lance turned his horse around and step by step he became insubstantial until he disappeared, not behind a tree, but simply in the air. The travelers all stepped up to the Doctor’s side. They were heedless of the others at the moment. Doctor Procter was smiling and glowing a little with residual light.
He began with one word. “Free.” Then he pulled the amulet from beneath his shirt. “Boston. You must take this. You understand it better than the others, and I trust you will guide everyone safely home.” He took it from around his neck and held it out. Boston accepted it, but her eyes were quickly too full of tears to see it properly. “Alexis. I am glad you are safe. I still remember you scampering around the workplace, and Roland, you were worse.”
“Eh?” Roland glanced at his sister before he looked down at the man.
“Yes. Always breaking things, isn’t that right, Mingus?” Mingus nodded, but he could not answer. “Anyway, I think Mister Lincoln is a fine man so you leave them alone. And Mister Lockhart, I am sorry I never really got to know you properly.” He paused to look around at his surroundings and gave the impression in his eyes that this was the first he was seeing of it. “I am more sorry that all those years of study will now be missed, eh Mingus? I would dearly love to actually see and experience the lives of the Traveler.” He began to have trouble breathing and Alexis and Katie Harper both began to reach for him, but in a flash of light that made everyone blink and throw their hands toward their eyes, he vanished utterly from the world.
“God rest his soul,” Lockhart breathed. The elves did not object since after all, Doctor Procter was half-human.
“We better move before these others come around,” Captain Decker said. He nudged Lockhart. Lockhart looked at Boston and it took her a second to remember and check the amulet. She pointed, and they walked around the mass of men and a few women who were still frozen in place. The time gate was barely a hundred yards away. Boston slipped the amulet around her neck as they hurried through. They heard the demons behind them begin to stir.