Decker and Harper both tried to fire at the werewolf, but the guns just went click, click. The same nothing happened with Lockhart’s shotgun. Roland had an arrow, but Vanu stopped the elf.
“It won’t do you any good unless you have a silver tip.” The wolf moved slowly and paced back and forth, looking for the best way to approach this killing spree. As it moved the answer to why their guns did not work became apparent. The wolf was wearing the amulet.
“Oh that poor man,” Alexis breathed, thinking that surely the wolf killed the man. No one else was fooled. Clearly the wolf was the mad man in wolf form.
“Wait,” Vanu said. “I may be able to do something here.” He held his hand out and called to his stone. “The necklace was made and the stone cut and fashioned by my Little Ones. I may have some power over it. He concentrated, and the amulet moved. It did not fly off the wolf and return to Vanu like Thor’s hammer might fly back to the hand of its owner, but it did wiggle. And then it began to glow. The glow in the stone increased and it warmed.
“It is picking up the moonlight and amplifying it, like a laser,” Boston said.
At first, the wolf paused and appeared to enjoy basking in that glow, but the heat kept increasing, and after only a few moments, the wolf began to howl. It stood up on its hind legs, not like a dog exactly and not like a man. Clearly it could stand and be stable, and it could also use its front paws like hands. The heat still increased, and they began to catch the smell of burning hair and flesh. The wolf began to scream like no real wolf ever screamed and it pushed the chain away as it wriggled its long snout through the necklace.
The amulet fell to the ground. The wolf eyed them warily before it spun around, fell to all fours and darted back into the jungle. It left only a trail of the smell of burning flesh and hair for anyone to follow – not that anyone was so foolish. Vanu relaxed. He almost collapsed but Alexis and Boston caught him. Lockhart, Lincoln and Captain Decker all moved to retrieve the amulet, but there was a distant explosion that caused them to pause and shut their eyes.
The sudden flash of light left them seeing spots. Before anyone could clear their vision, two young men came crashing through the underbrush. They dove into the clearing, screaming. “Help! Save us!” They were being chased by a tiger. Curiously, the tiger stopped at the edge of the clearing and started licking its paw while the two young men crawled over to hide behind Vanu and Dayni.
“Dayus ordered me to eat them, you know.” The tiger spoke without moving its lips. Everyone heard clearly and no one doubted it was the tiger speaking.
“You are welcome to have them,” Vanu said. People paused to look at him and wonder before all eyes returned to the tiger.
“Can’t. The amulet,” the tiger said. “Anyway, I told you once. I don’t like human meat. Too stringy and distasteful.” The tiger made a face. Everyone saw the disgust just before the tiger vanished.
“Look! There it is!” One of the young men shouted and both made a dash for it as Lockhart, Decker and Lincoln all jumped. None got it, because a man in ragged clothes stooped down and picked it off the ground. The ragged man eyed the amulet with some concern on his face while Dayni and Vanu went to their knees. The others joined them, the two young men last of all. They made up for their tardiness in reacting by falling all the way to their faces.
“You know, you should really keep a better watch on this,” the ragged man said as he tossed the amulet back to Vanu. Vanu immediately handed it to Dayni who slipped it around her neck. Then the other man showed up.
“What have you done!” He yelled at the raggedy man.
“I returned the amulet to its rightful owners,” the ragged man said, calmly. “Should I have not done that?” He sounded innocent enough.
The new arrival got hot. In fact, they all felt the heat. He turned on the crowd and shouted again. “What are these still doing here?” He pointed at the two on their faces.
“Ah,” the ragged man spoke like this was a question he could answer. “I believe the tiger said he could not eat them because of the amulet.” Alexis at least thought she saw steam rise from the other man.
“And who the Hell are all these people?”
“Travelers,” the ragged man said. “They will be gone in the morning and out of our land before two days have passed.”
The other man paused while he looked around at the travelers. None of the travelers lifted their eyes. Then the man spoke to Lockhart, and Lockhart knew it even without looking. “Take these two with you,” the man said, and again Lockhart knew the man meant Vanu and Dayni even if it was not spelled out. Then the man left in a flash of light so bright it rivaled the sun. In fact, it was the sun, but fortunately the ragged man did something to prevent everyone from being burnt and blinded.
“You two.” the ragged man spoke while people once again lifted their heads, except the two on their faces who began to tremble. If you dare to touch that amulet again, I will be very angry. And so you understand, I am not like Dayus. I do not have to follow the rules in order to maintain my position. I have ten thousand eyes in the night sky. I am always watching. If you so much as touch it, you will regret it.”
“Lord Varuna,” Vanu lowered his head in a bow. He wanted to be sure the two young men knew who was speaking to them.
“For the rest of you,” Varuna spoke in a different, light and airy voice, and he smiled. “Get your rest. The wolf will not bother you again tonight. But understand, none of us are authorized to end its life. You travelers were kind to it after a fashion. You healed it and fed it and it now has your scent. It will no doubt follow you through your next time portal and beyond. At some point I do not doubt you will have to deal with the man wolf. May the gods in that place be able to do more than I am allowed.” And he vanished, and they were alone apart from the two young men who joined them.
“You see. It is a man wolf like I said.”
“A rose by any other name,” Alexis said.
“Not a help,” Lincoln countered. “Ghouls ahead of us, a werewolf following us.”
“Don’t forget the Bokarus,” Boston reminded everyone.
“I kind of hoped we lost that one and saw the last of it some time back,” Lincoln said.
“Don’t count on it,” Lockhart spoke quietly as he stood and brushed himself off to ready himself for bed.