They entered a valley of the Tiber river and the music cut off as soon as they got far enough down the hill to lose line of sight. They heard another sound, “Aye-Aye-Yip!” and the elves wondered what it was. “Yip-Yip!”
“Silenus,” the old centaur spoke. “Probably fermenting the grapes even while they are still on the vine.”
“As long as it is not hypnotic,” Roland used a word the centaur did not understand. He set Boston on the grass. She had passed out, and he had been carrying her. Meanwhile, Mingus approached the centaur.
“Mingus, my son Roland and Boston,” Mingus introduced everyone.
“Truscas,” the centaur gave his name. “And I owe you my thanks, elder elf. One more dance would have killed this poor old body.”
“Mine, too.” Mingus agreed, while the Centaur stepped over to Boston. He looked long and hard before he came to a conclusion.
“She is human.”
“Yes,” Roland confirmed as Boston opened her eyes and put a hand to her head.
“Splitting headache,” she said.
“I’m just glad you are alright,” Roland said. Boston sat up slowly. “Truscas,” Roland gave the Centaur’s name as Boston looked around.
“Where is the camp? Where is all of our stuff? Where are we?”
“A curious one,” Truscas noted.
“Yes,” Mingus agreed as Roland explained what happened.
“But what can we do?” She wanted to know.
“Nothing, for the moment,” Mingus answered. “They are trapped by the dance and the Satyrs and Nymphs that lead the dance are far more powerful than our meager elf magic. And Pan is a god. We cannot fight that.”
“Pan is a lesser god,” the centaur corrected. “But come, it is still dangerous as long as we remain on this side of the river.”
The centaur set out and the other fell in behind. “But father, I don’t know if Boston is strong enough to swim a river,” Roland said.
“Isola Tiberina sits in the center of the river and the river may be crossed there,” the centaur responded. With a turn of his head, he added a thought. “If it is too deep at the ford and she cannot swim, I can carry her.” Roland thought that might work.
“What is Isola Tiberina?” Boston wondered, just before she saw it. It was an island that split the river in two.
It was another hour before Truscas brought them to a gigantic hovel in the woods by the river. He explained nothing until they arrived. “If your friends are captive of Pan, as are my people, I believe the only way we may set them free is to visit the master of this land. Am I wrong? I judge if these other humans are as fragile as Miss Boston, we may need help to save their lives.”
Mingus looked down the side of the house. It appeared to be a single room dwelling.
Boston looked up at the door. It was ten times her height, at least.
Roland defended Boston. “These humans are far sturdier than many think. Boston was attacked four days ago and beaten close to death. You see how well she is recovered already.”
“I think you have the right idea,” Mingus turned to the centaur. “By the way, who lives here?”
Boston found a knocker on the door that she could just reach by standing on her toes. It was heavy, but it only needed to be struck once.
“Saturn.” Truscas got the word out before the sound of the knock rose in volume to prohibit further conversation. After a moment, they had to cover their ears against the sound. They, and perhaps the earth began to shake from the vibrations before the sound fell away again and they heard the door handle being turned.
Boston, Mingus and Roland fully expected to see a giant, but Boston discovered it was quite another thing to actually see one. Her mouth opened and she tried not to scream. The giant got on his knees, but finally had to lie down on his stomach and put his chin on the ground to see his visitors eye to eye. And such big eyes they were!
“Your pardon,” Mingus tried to speak but he seemed to have trouble forming words.
“Lord,” Roland managed that much when those eyes fell on him.
Boston said nothing. Her mouth would not close. The giant looked at her most closely and even closed one eye for an extra stare, like he was having trouble focusing. The centaur he hardly looked at before he smiled. It was a doofy smile, but everyone breathed. Then the giant opened his mouth and belched, loud and long.
Mingus, Roland and Boston were blown back a good ten feet and landed on their butts. Truscas managed to keep to his four hooves, but he backed up several steps and made a face, having caught the full aroma of that burp.
They heard a scraping sound from inside the house and saw a hand come out beside the face. Saturn tapped the centaur, and the centaur fell to his side. That way, all four visitors were knocked over like so many tin soldiers. With a self-satisfied smile, Saturn got up and closed the door.
“Saturn!” They heard a woman’s voice inside, complain. The next thing they knew, they were standing inside the house beside the woman. Saturn had gone back to sitting at the one chair at the big table, but the woman was not finished speaking. “These are friends come to visit. It is impolite to leave them standing outside in the cold.”
Saturn dropped his smile at the scolding. He raised a finger and studied it for a second before he spoke. “It’s not cold out.” His doofy smile returned, and he reached for the only thing on the table. It was a primitive bowl full of grapes. He grabbed a handful and stuffed them in his mouth and chewed, with his mouth open to be sure, grapes, seeds, stems and all.
“He’s plastered. Drunk out of his gourd,” Boston whispered.
“Am I?” Of course Saturn heard. “Is that what I am? Ish that a good thing? Issshhhh.” He laughed at himself.
“Lord,” the woman got Saturn’s attention. “These fine travelers need a chance to refresh themselves and rest from their travels. Let me take them to their rooms. Maybe they need a nap.”
“A nap!” Saturn perked up at the word. “What a wonderful…” He began to snore.
The woman snapped her fingers and they all found themselves outside again. They could still hear the snoring, and heard when it abruptly stopped. The big voice boomed. “I got rooms?” Then the snoring returned.