Cophu took Elder Stow down to the Elenar ship after lunch since he was the only other person who knew anything at all about advanced electronic systems. Boston and Katie came along out of curiosity, though Katie also came to keep one eye on the Gott-Druk.
“Elenar? No wonder everything is backwards. Primitive junk.” Elder Stow complained the whole time, but he did a good job checking the systems, especially since Cophu said he would be taking the Gott-Druk into space so he had better be sure everything worked.
“I can’t imagine the Gott-Druk systems you saw in the past were much better,” Boston groused right back at the Elder.
The Gott-Druk frowned before he nodded. “It is a wonder my ancestors dared to go into space with such junk.”
“Wonder or not, we need to check the screens,” Cophu interrupted. “I’m detecting some variation in the negatively charged ion screen.”
“Let’s see,” Elder Stow went to look.
“I would think the particle screen would be the important one,” Boston suggested.
“Not in deep space,” the Gott-Druk explained. “Well, yes, but you don’t want to arrive at your destination dead from radiation poisoning.”
“Don’t want to show up glowing in the dark,” Cophu said from beneath the panel. “Loose wire.”
“Good,” Elder Stow pronounced the patient cured.
“Scanners are good too as far as I can tell,” Katie stepped up to the group. “Still just fancy radar equipment to me.”
“About right,” Cophu agreed and lead the party back outside in time to see the gnomes coax the last of the horses into the cargo hold. He turned to Elder Stow. “Oh, I forgot to mention the travelers will be going with us as well.”
Elder Stow reacted as expected. He looked like he might have sabotaged something if he knew, but then he shrugged in a very human way. “I am not the suicide type. Besides, three of the tribe are still missing.”
Katie and Boston looked at each other, wide-eyed. “Good to know,” Katie said.
The evening went well enough. The Gott-Druk behaved himself. There were Little Ones – Dark elves posted to watch him and his things in the night, but he was allowed his tent which was good because certainly no one wanted to invite him in.
The Gott-Druk only made a passing stab at the deer Roland brought in for their supper. He liked the elf bread well enough, but found the local bread too gritty for his tastes. The others all told Ranna how much they liked it to make up for Elder Stow’s rudeness. That was good, considering Ranna spent the afternoon carefully grinding the grain between two well worn stones, without the need to touch the stones, of course.
The only difficult thing that evening was trying to keep the wolfman calm around the smell of blood, and to feed him. He wanted nothing to do with the greens or bread, and cried a little when he was offered cooked meat. Lockhart was the one who figured it out. He found the most undercooked portion of deer on the spit, added some raw, stringy guts tossed over on the fertilizer pile, and the wolfman ate it like a dog. Then they tied him for the night and set a troll to watch him. The troll gladly finished eating the guts the wolfman did not eat.
When the morning came, Cophu hurried everyone aboard the Elenar ship. They barely got the door closed and the engines warmed before he drove them straight up to the clouds. He raced them two miles from Jericho and his home and found a clear field to set them down. Then he spoke.
“I measured the wall of Chaos. It is like a ring, only eighty feet high. I don’t suppose she imagined we could fly to our freedom.”
Signs of understanding spread across the faces of the travelers and Elder Stow responded.
“Still, she is a power and we better move on while we can. As long as we are in her territory, she can always fetch us back.”
They stepped outside and any number of waiting Elenar drew their weapons on sight of the Gott-Druk. Lockhart, Katie and Roland immediately stepped between the weapons and Elder Stow. Lincoln and Boston went to retrieve the horses and Lincoln yelled first. The wolfman ran off into the woods.
“Damn it!” Lincoln swore. “Now we will never find him.”
Cophu came out and yelled second.
“Stop it! Put your weapons down. You and the Gott-Druk are allies against the Balok. Save your weapons for the serpent people.”
Several of the Elenar hesitated and lowered their guns while they looked at the pilot, their ranking officer. “It is true,” the pilot said as he holstered his weapon. “We have made an ill-advised alliance with the beast men against the serpents.”
“Gee, prejudiced much?” Boston asked as she and Lincoln brought out the horses. “Here, Stowy, you get Decker’s horse.”
“No, I,” The Gott-Druk started to back away. Cophu had to put a hand on Elder Stow’s shoulder and move him forward. He spoke while Boston shortened the stirrups.
“Use your knees. Your butt and legs will probably hurt for a week, but you will get used to it. Next time zone, I’ll try and borrow Wlvn and properly lay hands on you to pass along relevant horse care and riding information.”
“Why not now?” Lincoln asked.
Cophu shook his head. “That would attract too much attention. AhnYani and KimKeri and some others have the woman,you-know-who preoccupied for the moment, but you better ride fast to the time gate. Fool her once, shame on her. We won’t be able to fool her twice.”
“But what about you? Why didn’t you bring your family with you? You could have escaped, too.” Boston, Lincoln and Katie all had something to say.
Cophu shook his head. “I need to go back. I need to liberate my Shemsu people. We have a destiny in the Tigris-Euphrates valley turning Anenki’s towns into Sumarian Cities.”
“You mean go back behind the wall?” Katie asked.
Cophu nodded and turned to the Elenar for some final instructions. Lockhart saluted, whether Cophu saw or not, and rode. The others followed, at a gallop when the land allowed it. The sun was set and the last of the daylight was fading when they reached the next gate and paused.
“I hope all goes well for him,” Boston said as she looked back.
“So do I,” Elder Stow said to everyone’s surprise. He wanted to stretch the time they stopped to rub every muscle that hurt, which was every muscle.
Then they did something they had hoped never to do again. They went through the time gate into the dark.