Roland and Raini came to the river and paused. “I thought we would catch that werewolf,” Raini said with a quick look around.
“It must have run a different route. We were not following the wolf,” Roland said.
“Yes, but I imagined the wolf would pick up the spoor of the three men and young woman. I was thinking we might follow the wolf straight to them.”
“After you, it might have felt safer going after a deer,” Roland said, but he was not really in the conversation. He was examining the bank of the river and came to a conclusion. “They have a boat.”
“I don’t see it across the river,” Raini said as she extended her senses to take in the far side.
“They may have pulled it up on the bank and covered it with branches and leaves to make it hard to find,” Roland suggested.
“But that would imply they are intelligent.”
Roland almost smiled. “Not intelligent, but clever, perhaps.”
Raini returned the smile to the elf and then some. “So when are you going to tell this girl that you love her?” Roland paused to look at the woman. “I can’t help it,” she apologized. “My mother’s blood shows me things about love that others cannot see.”
Roland bowed his head to the demi-goddess before he responded with a word. “Never.”
“Oh, that would not do at all.” Raini was playing with him now.
Roland took a second to explain about his sister Alexis and Lincoln and how they ended up so far back in time. “I could never do that to my father.”
“Give love a chance,” Raini encouraged. “Your father is grown and can handle more than you think.” With that, she raced across the top of the water, hardly getting her feet wet in the process. After a moment, Roland did the same.
Thag held the boat while Bruten shoved Boston to the shore. “Grogor. You and Thag need to cover the boat with branches so it is not seen.” He shoved Boston and kept shoving her to keep her feet moving up the small hill. He only paused when he imagined a great splash on the other side of the river. He looked, but saw nothing in the dark and finally decided he was being paranoid.
By the time they started down the other side of the little hill, Thag and Grogor had caught up.
There was a flat rock at the bottom of the hill, something like a stone of sacrifice. Boston thought she saw some dried blood on the stone. She also thought that now she would add her blood as well. She was bleeding from any number of places and feeling weakened because of it. Bruten made her sit on the rock and hit her several times just because he could. She became dizzy and fell back. Her head struck the stone as she fell, but it was no harder than Bruten’s fist. Boston went unconscious for a time.
“Now we will take the source of her power,” Bruten said, and they pulled off Boston’s clothes, starting with her top. Bruten immediately took the amulet from around her neck and stepped into the clear to get a good look at it in the moonlight. Thag and Grogor finished undressing Boston, and got excited. Thag only paused and turned away when he thought he heard something.
“Father. I want her. Can I take her, Father? I want her. Please father.” The young man could hardly contain himself.
“What was that?” Thag spoke at the same time and took two steps toward the way they had come.
Bruten ignored them both, his eyes focused on the amulet as if staring at it might suddenly make him understand it. “Yes, son.” He spoke without thinking.
“No, please. Help me.” Boston said weakly as the young man got close and slapped both hands to her breasts. Then he appeared to stop. He turned away before he could do anything else, and Boston could not focus well enough to see what was happening.
Grogor faced his father, lifted a foot off the ground, a horn stuck right through his middle where it made a big hole in his chest. “Father,” he managed the word and Bruten looked on in horror as the unicorn tossed Grogor from his horn with a flip of its head. Grogor crashed into a bush like a rag doll. No one imagined he was still alive.
Thag might have done something then, but he was occupied by the snarling, drooling creature that came down the hill. The unicorn backed up to protect Boston while the werewolf paused to take in the scene. Thag panicked as the fear took him, and he turned and ran off into the wilderness. Bruten kept perfectly still and watched. The werewolf continued to stare at the unicorn for a moment. Then once again, whether it was by some inner knowledge that it was outmatched or because it saw Thag as easier prey, it ran after the man. Again, no one imagined that the wolf would not catch the man.
When the unicorn turned again to look, Bruten was climbing the hill as fast as he could, making for the boat. The unicorn let the man go and turned to Boston. It used its horn to toss Boston’s clothes back to her chest. The fairy weave clothing reformed around Boston’s body. It covered her in a dress from neck to ankles, and with long sleeves. She had ballet slippers on her feet, but hardly was aware enough to notice any of it. Then the unicorn got down on its front legs and Boston slipped off the rock and on to the unicorn’s back. It started out at a gentle walk, and carried her down along the river bank. All the while, the virtue of the creature seeped into Boston and began to heal her life as well as her body.
Faya arrived where Raini and Roland were searching and frustrated. “They had to take her downriver,” Raini said as Faya landed. “Faya!” Raini recognized her even in bird form. Faya quickly transformed back into a woman so she could hug her cousin who was really more like her sister.
“Boston?” Roland’s worry came out in the word as he dipped his head in honor of the two deim-goddesses.
“She is safe. I have seen her from above. She will be here shortly, only the one man has escaped in his boat and I must go after him.”
Roland relaxed and Raini smiled. “The good elf has pursued her with his whole heart,” she said. Both Roland and Faya looked at the woman. Raini apologized again. “I can’t help it.”
Faya just smiled, returned to her red owl form and took to the air.