The storm pounded them, but Mingus, Alexis and Roland combined enough magic to keep them from being capsized or breaking apart. The waves rose twenty and thirty feet above them, but they moved like the proverbial cork on the water, rising up one mountain and free falling down the other side. The others bailed. They had to.
The ship spun around, first one way and then the other until they had no sense of direction at all. The only thing they could count on was the amulet, but Boston was afraid to get it out for fear it might be washed overboard. She clutched it with her hand over her shirt and kept it tight between her breasts. She jumped with every new stroke of lightning, but never let go.
Roland heard the scream first and looked up into the black sky. Mingus had to squeeze his son’s hand to bring his concentration back to task. The face of the Djin, still in cloud form came down like a dive bomber and buzzed the boat just above their heads.
“Focus,” Mingus roared against the storm and the thunder.
Alexis knew better than to look. Lincoln would have to scream for her, and he did. Boston also closed her eyes. Katie Harper and Captain Decker tried to concentrate on bailing. Lockhart growled.
The scream came a second time, this time from the other side. But when it reached the ship, Lockhart held up an oar in its face. The cloud face broke apart on the oar, but it simply reformed on the other side, and as it rose again into the storm, they heard the laughter – a real cackle of amusement. It was toying with them and they knew it and the Djin knew it, too.
The scream came a third time, but this time before it reached the ship it pulled up and let out a very different sound. It disappeared in the clouds and an old man appeared in the ship, or so it seemed.
The man glowed, not with the awesome light of the gods, but like a lantern or perhaps a lighthouse in a storm. It was a warm and welcoming glow, the kind ships would always look for in the dark of the night. The ship itself seemed to broaden so the man could sit comfortably in their midst. No one knew quite what to say as the rain softened and the water calmed around them. Outside of their little bubble, the storm still raged in its full ferocity, but within the bubble, all was suddenly calm and quiet.
“I must say,” the old man spoke first. “When Odelion asked me to keep an eye on your progress, I hardly expected it was a request worthy of note. Now I see what he meant.”
“I don’t think he knows about the Djin,” Katie said honestly.
“A bit more powerful than its cousins,” Lincoln added as he set down his hat, the only thing he could find to bail with.
“Like a Bokarus on steroids,” Lockhart said, and the man smiled and spoke again.
“When the wind comes up from the coast of, what does he call it? Oh yes, Africa, it often brings storms. Many a good fisherman has been blown to other shores by such storms and many, sadly have been lost.
“Lost?” Boston wondered. “Couldn’t you help them?”
The man shook his head. “No, dear Boston. I can help you because you don’t belong here in the first place, but for those who are, what is the word, native.” He shook his head again.
“It is the two commandments even the gods must follow,” Alexis spoke up. “One is that men die, and two is that even the gods must not change rule number one.”
“A fair statement, elf daughter.” The man nodded his head. “Now Boston, dear, where is this time gate of yours?”
Boston paused. That was twice the man called her dear and she never felt so special in her life. She just wanted to smile forever, but she remembered. “Oh.” She pulled out the amulet and pointed. “Only five miles. That storm certainly ate up the distance.”
“Very good,” the man said, and the ship, the whole bubble which included the water immediately beneath the ship, rose up into the storm and raced to the spot. “Sadly perhaps I cannot go with you to explore this other world. I will get there all in good time.”
“What do you mean you cannot?” Roland was confused.
“A fair restriction,” the man said. “Sometimes we must restrict ourselves and each other. When these gates were established, it was decided to bar all who were native to the time, even the gods. Perhaps especially the gods. I see though with some, such as yourselves, exceptions have been made. That is the decision of the source.”
“The –“ Katie started, but the man raised his hand and cut off her thoughts.
“I have said enough on that score and really only have one last thing to say. Captain Decker,” the man turned to the marine. “It will do you no good to continue to berate yourself and think of near failure. All turned out well in the end, didn’t it?”
The Captain was surprised by the words, but he nodded.
“There, so it would be best to put it out of your mind. Oh, but I see something else is bothering you. About young Odelion?”
Captain Decker looked straight at the man in the boat as he answered. “The poor man has four wives.” He shook his head and disguised nothing about the way he felt. He imagined that to be torture. The man in the boast smiled at first, but as he thought about it, he began to laugh. The laughter was contagious. Very soon everyone was laughing, even those among them who did not find the Captain’s attitude particularly funny. They could not help it.
“Well, you are here.” The man spoke again after a while. “Now all of you who don’t belong here need to go through the gate.” He vanished before Lockhart could speak.
“You don’t mean the Gott-Druk, too.”
“Or the werewolf.” Lincoln remembered.
“I just hope the Djin is of this time period,” Roland said as he picked up an oar. They were going to have to row through the gate which Boston said should be right in front of them.