The boat floundered a little in the water. Bruten sat in the back, but he was loathe to set down the amulet in order to paddle. He was a little afraid to put the amulet around his neck, but in the end he did that in order to keep himself from drifting into the shore.
As soon as the boat stabilized, Faya came down in slow circles while her friends continued to circle above. She landed on the bow, out of reach of the paddle. Bruten stared at the owl and for some reason he did not dare do anything. When Faya changed back into a woman, Bruten shouted his fear and surprise.
“The red hair. I thought. But you cannot.” He dropped the paddle and fell to his face. “Please, mercy.”
Faya spoke without emotion. “These Neolithic days are brutal and you have certainly shown your worst. Now it will end.”
“Please do not kill me.” Bruten’s voice shook from his fear.
Faya simply stretched out her hand and the amulet vacated Bruten’s neck and flew to her. For some reason, and it may have been an unconscious reaction, Bruten made a grab for the amulet in mid air. It was too quick for him, but Faya lost all sense of mercy with that.
Bruten snatched his hand back with equal speed and begged again. “I am sorry. Please let me live.” Faya heard no sincerity in the man’s apology. And she spoke.
“You were driven out of your own village for raping and killing a young woman. You did the same in the village where you traded, and while you tried to cover your tracks, you were found out and had to flee for your lives. Now you have tried the same with my friend. It is clear to me if you did not learn after the first or second time, you will not learn after the third. You are a danger to yourself and others and in this age there is only one remedy.”
Bruten was not exactly listening, he was muttering, “Please, please, please and mercy.”
Faya raised her voice to unearthly proportions. “Bokarus!” The word echoed off the water, sounded through the forests, spread across the plains and bounced off the mountains, and the bokarus responded. It came in ghost fashion and stared at Faya who called it to come. “I have need of the boat,” Faya spoke in a normal voice. “You may have them man to satisfy your hunger and thirst, but then leave my friends alone and stop following them.”
The Bokarus circled the boat twice and twice few up to Faya’s face as if considering the proposition. It said nothing, but Bruten found himself standing and shoved over into the water. He had no time to scream before his mouth filled with water.
Faya called to her friends who came down to listen. “Bears,” She said, and the birds became bears and plopped into the water. She handed the rope to the lead bear with a word. You must bring this upriver to the place where I will be waiting. With that she resumed her owl form and grasped the amulet in her claw. She took off into the wind and arrived back with Raini and Roland about the same time Boston showed up.
Faya landed when the unicorn was still keeping its distance and pawing at the ground. Boston kissed the beast behind the ear and slipped off. She was not strong enough yet to stand, but she was awake enough to motion that she was alright.
Faya resumed her female form and smiled for the unicorn, though she knew better than to approach the beast. It would have nothing to do with her or Raini, being mothers as they were. The Unicorn did dip one leg as it had back in the days of Keng when it bowed to the goddess, Nagi. But then it turned and raced off into the distance and disappeared in the dark.
Roland ran forward, picked Boston’s head off the ground, and held her gently. She looked up at him and smiled since it did not hurt too much to do that. He looked ready to cry, but she was really feeling much better. She was fairly sure her ribs were healed and she no longer had that concussion. She imagined her nose might be fixed as well, though it felt like she still had the black eyes and plenty of bruises. Most important, she was no longer bleeding, even if the wounds were not completely healed.
“I knew you would come,” Boston said through her smile. Roland said nothing so she nudged him from behind and he bent closer until their lips met. Faya and Raini just watched and Raini smiled like Boston.
“There, that’s better,” Raini said.
“Poor Mingus,” Faya responded. “And you leave my children alone.”
Raini looked ready to protest, but changed her mind. “And mine,” she said. “There is nothing a child hates worse than having her mother fix her up with someone.”
“Don’t I know it,” Faya said, and the two women hugged again like sisters and waited for the boat to arrive. They would need it to get Boston across the river. Faya had imagined she might carry the girl across in bear form, but she had no way of gauging how badly Boston might still be hurt, and she could not surround the girl with healing power as she carried her the way the unicorn did.
Roland and the Were made a stretcher for Boston and all of them took turns carrying it back up to the mountain village. When they arrived, Faya found her husband, a big man, telling dirty jokes to Koren, Lockhart, Mingus, Lincoln and Captain Decker – and they were all laughing, and drinking beer. Alexis and Katie Harper escaped to the children with whom they appeared to be getting along well.
They were by the upper wall, the one that divided the village from the plateau and was as much to keep the villagers from infringing on the Highlands as it was to serve as a barrier to the wolves and others. It was the place where the villagers and the Were sometimes met to discuss matters of mutual concern. There were two campfires lit that night, and two guards to watch during the wolf moon.
“Boston!” Alexis was the first to notice and jump up to help her friend. She guided the stretcher to a place between the two fires where Boston could stay warm in the chill spring night and so she could have light to examine her.
“Alexis.” Faya spoke sternly after she thanked her friends and allowed them to run back up to the plateau. “You will only check her internal organs and for broken bones or a concussion. Her cuts and bruises must heal on their own in the old fashioned way.”
“Yes, Lady,” Alexis said, humbly. Faya’s voice was so commanding at the moment, Alexis hardly knew what else to say. This was the Kairos speaking, and she had been an elf far longer than she had been a mortal woman. Also, though not an actual goddess, this was a demi-goddess and more than worthy of respect for her father’s sake. With that, she got to work and Faya turned to Raini.
“If I let her, she will drain herself to exhaustion trying to heal every nook and cranny by her art.”
“I see that,” Raini said. “She is very full of love, though sometimes it interferes with her good sense.”
“Very true,” Lincoln nodded to the women and went to kneel beside his wife.
Raini watched them and sighed.
Faya turned toward her husband, and the look on her face was not so good.
“Don’t worry, dear. Nurse and Bain are both with the children. I expect by the time we get home, they will just about stop laughing. You know good old Bain.” He grinned for her, a real pleading bit of a grin.
Faya slowly let the smile cross her lips. “Don’t stay out late,” she said. “Children.” She clapped. “Back to the heights and then back to the hunt.”
The boys jumped up. “Yea!” The girls were a bit less enthusiastic. They were enjoying the adult conversation with Alexis and Katie, especially the fifteen-year-old. But when Faya returned to redbird form, they followed suit and soon all disappeared in the sky.
“Well,” Faya’s husband spoke softly. “She is a keeper, for sure. I knew that when I first saw her.”
“How many children have you got, if you don’t mind my asking,” Lockhart was curious.
“Eight, working on nine”
“Oh, you poor man,” Mingus commiserated and Captain Decker appeared to agree with him.