“Kartesh.” Roland figured it out, though Boston was about to say the same thing.
“Truscas,” Mingus introduced the centaur who bowed royally before the goddess.
“No need for that,” Kartesh waved him to stand. “You have my thanks for bringing my friends, but where are the others? Oh no!” She said it before Mingus could explain.
“Prisoners of the dance.”
“But that will kill them,” Kartesh said, and the centaur smiled for thinking he had been right. “The dance will go on until the next new moon, and they won’t stop to so much as eat or sleep for the full twenty-eight days. If they don’t collapse from the strain, they will starve to death.”
“But what can we do?” Boston asked the question she asked earlier in the day.
“I thought his Lordship might help,” Truscas said.
Kartesh looked back at the door. “You were right to bring them here. He is the only one who can help, but in his present condition.” She shook her head. “Listen, there is only one who might help us. Silenus. He may have some way of sobering up Saturn. I don’t know. All of my remedies are folk remedies of dubious value. Even Doctor Mishka has nothing to suggest in this time period.”
“Silenus?” Roland jumped.
“What. Are we supposed to just walk up and ask for his help?” Mingus asked.
“Oh, that might not be so easy,” Truscas admitted.
“Seriously. I would have to strip Brazil bare to get enough coffee, and then no guarantee he would drink it.” Kartesh said. “But I am sure you will work things out. You must if we hope to save Lockhart and the others. Meanwhile, I have to go. It isn’t safe to leave him alone for too long.” She vanished, and Mingus, Roland and Truscas looked at each other, dumbfounded. Boston did not know what to look at
Truscas argued hard for his idea and in the end, since the centaur would be doing most of the heavy labor, They thought it only fair to give it a try. Roland still had his sword, and though it was not designed to be used as an ax, it made it possible to cut through small and young trees. Turning them into logs, though and lashing them together into walls and a roof was not easy.
Truscas dragged the trees to the clearing. They did not want their work seen too near the clearing itself. Mingus found and used the vines to tie. It took the rest of the day. When they were at last satisfied they had pieced together a reasonable bottomless box that would not fall apart the minute it dropped, they propped up one end of the box with the most sturdy sapling they could find. They had a strong vine tied to the base of that sapling and cleverly hid it under leaves as they stretched it back to their camp.
“I used to catch rabbits that way when I was young,” Mingus said.
“Me, too,” Truscas said. His flanks were full of sweat, and when a centaurs sweats, it is something to see.
“I think we need better bait than carrots, though.” Roland was thoughtful as he nibbled on the deer they had for supper.
“Yes,” Mingus agreed. “But what kind of bait would be appropriate for a donkey-eared drunkard?”
“Speaking of which, don’t eat too many of those fermented grapes,” Boston pointed at the cluster in Roland’s hand, though she made a point of looking at all the men. “You’ll never catch anything if you get drunk yourselves.”
Roland smiled and set his down. Truscas swore the grass was sweet enough. He didn’t need any more grapes. “Yes, well.” Mingus frowned and put down the handful he was about to enjoy.
“Yip-Yip!” They had heard that all day, and though it gave them all headaches, they never caught sight of the old man until just then when they heard a loud voice. “Very interesting!” It came from the clearing with the box, and it echoed like someone was standing beneath the box.
“Quick!” Mingus yanked the rope and Roland pulled with him. They heard a great crashing sound and ran to the clearing. Truscas, still frozen in mid-chew at the sound of that voice was only a moment behind them. When Roland and Mingus arrived in the clearing, they saw the box was still standing, being supported by the sapling. They ran underneath to see if there was some defect in the box or the set-up. Of course, when Truscas arrived to join them, one of his big back hooves struck the sapling and the thing came down and trapped the three of them on the inside. Boston did not laugh too hard.
Someone whistled, and Boston looked to the side. Silenus was just dancing off into the bushes, wiggling his butt and his ears in rhythm to some unheard music. The trouble was, when Boston concentrated on the god’s ears, he looked remarkably like Bugs Bunny, but when she took in his belly and remembered the one glimpse of his face that she caught, he looked more like Elmer Fudd.
Boston yawned, said good night to the boys and went back to the camp. She found all of her things there, and everyone else’s as well. She assumed Kartesh must have managed that much, somehow. She called out for her, but got no answer. Still. She put a big log on the fire, got the fairy weave blanket she called her own and curled up beside the light while the men spent the next hour cutting a hole big enough in their box to escape.
Boston was asleep when the others came back to the camp, hot, tired, cranky and sweating more than ever.
Alexis and Katie danced all through that day and night, except when they ran from one Satyr or another. They were not Nymphs to give their sexual pleasure on a whim, and the Satyrs knew this and did not press themselves, but they had fun now and then chasing the women, and the women dutifully laughed and ran and hid.
Alexis found the dance of the fauns too complex for her taste. The dance of the centaurs was too stately and she felt dangerous for her lest she be stepped on. The dwarfs, on the other hand, simply wiggled and jumped like young children at a rock concert. My, how they enjoyed themselves. And Katie danced, often in circles like a prima ballerina. Alexis guessed Katie had studied ballet when she was young, and then she wondered where these stray thought were coming from. She wished she could get rid of them. They were interfering with her enjoyment of the dance.
Katie simply enjoyed, and all the more when the sun set and the stars came up and the thin sliver of a moon.
To be sure, Lockhart, Captain Decker and Lincoln did not spend all their time dancing, though they did not sleep or rest and did not eat anything other than grapes. The Nymphs corralled them early on and made them lay down on the grass so they could feed them the grapes and giggle. The more drunk the men got, the more the Nymphs giggled.
Lockhart was nagged from somewhere in the back of his mind that he ought to be doing something. He did not know what, but it was something. Unfortunately, he also did not care to think about it. He looked at Decker and Lincoln occasionally. At first he remembered something about them. By the end of the day, he was having trouble remembering their names. By the following morning, he was surprised that they actually let humans participate in the dance.