“Lockhart,” Boston shook the man. He was too tired to wake and having pleasant dreams.
“Boston, go pick on some other old man,” he said before he sprang awake, eyes wide open. “Why is it still dark out? Why is it so cold?”
“The sun didn’t come up today,” Boston said.
“What?” Lockhart shouted.
“What?” Lincoln echoed as he sat up straight.
“Bread?” Boston held it out and grinned.
Lockhart took a piece, but not without comment. “You are spending too much time with that elf.
“Okay,” Boston said. “Roland Katie and Elder Stow are down by the beach, away from the hillside. Elder Stow has his equipment and is examining the stars. In fact, they were coming into the cave as she spoke, arguing in the normal human way.
“Can’t be,” Katie said.
“Must be, but we shall see,” Elder Stow countered.
“We will see,” Katie said, skeptically.
“What?” Lockhart and Boston asked at the same time. Lincoln had bread in his mouth.
“It is eight in the morning,” Katie said with a look at her watch.
“Your timepiece is correct?” The Elder asked.
“It is correct,” Roland said. “Internal clock cannot be fooled by light and dark, at least not for many days.”
“Elder Stow claims it is summer and the stars we saw were winter stars which we could only see if the sun is not there.”
“We will look again, eight this evening,” Elder Stow said. “We should see the summer night stars then.”
“But the sun has to be there!” Katie protested.
“But it is not.”
Lockhart left the argument behind as he stepped out of the mouth of the cave. The sea was calmed, but still thundering enough against the rocks to fill his ears. And it remained as dark as the night. He looked up at the stars in the sky, but he did not look long. “Everyone,” he shouted as he turned back to the others. “Saddle up, we ride as fast as is safe in the dark.”
Oh, not that torturous beast again,” Elder Stow complained.
“Katie, I figure without the warmth of the sun the temperature is going to drop rapidly, and keep dropping.”
“Best to stay close to the water. Water is slower to lose heat,” Boston shouted as she went for her horse.
“Best to thicken up your fairy weave clothes,” Katie added.
“Lockhart,” Roland got his attention. “We can use the fairy weave tents like medieval blankets for the horses.”
“Good idea,” Lockhart agreed before Elder Stow spoke up. The Gott-Druk had a pitiful look on his face which reminded Lockhart how human this Neanderthal really was.
“If I had my things, I could keep up well without having to ride that beast again.”
Seeing that look nudged Lockhart to give a serious answer. “First you must prove yourself a good son who means no harm to the tribe.”
The Gott-Druk looked surprised before he lowered his eyes in a sign of submission. “My father,” he said and bravely went to mount his horse which Lincoln had ready and waiting.
As fast as they could in the dark was not very fast. There were not many journeys inland to get around breaks in the shoreline, but they just could not move fast without light. The lamps helped a bit, but Lockhart was concerned by noon and ordered three lamps only, one with each pair of riders. The other two he turned off to save what battery life they might have. They would all need time in the sun to recharge.
It was not much further before they came to a fishing village that was built along a gray beach. It was about that same time it began to snow. The villagers were afraid of them, which was to be expected as it was likely their first experience with horse riders. What was not expected was the immediate reception by three elders who cried out to them.
“Help us, help us.”
They all heard the scream in the distance. They dismounted, drew their weapons and marched toward the sound, escorted by the elders. Lincoln and Elder Stow gladly stayed with the horses.
Something flew out from one of the huts, like a specter in the dark with just enough glow to be visible.
“Alexis?” Lincoln thought he recognized the ghost, but Katie spoke at the same time.
The elders cowered, squatted down, turned their faces to the dirt and cried. The specter circled around the newcomers several times before it flew off and disappeared into the dark sky.
“What was that?” Lockhart asked, not expecting an answer.
“Succubus, or near enough,” Roland answered.
“Not Alexis?” Lincoln had to be sure.
“Not Alexis, though it may appear to you that way. Or your father, Lieutenant. It will appear in whatever way necessary to get close enough to suck out your life force.”
“On that happy thought, what say we stop for lunch.”
“Indoors?” Boston asked.
Lockhart picked one of the local elders off the ground. “Indoors,” he did not ask.
The snow flurries became a constant downfall by the time they finished eating what they and the village had. “And now we shall all die,” the elder said. “My wife was drained of life before my eyes, and I have but two daughters left to me in my age. I was angry at the loss of my wife, but she has eaten the food of the dead and cannot return. Now, I feel as if the spirit showed mercy to take her life.” The old man pulled his cloak tighter around his body, but it was thin, and even with all the heated rocks it was not enough.
“Don’t give up,” Katie encouraged. “If we can find our boss, there may yet be hope.”
“Our boss?” Lockhart asked.
Katie just smiled. “You don’t think after all this I could go back to just being a marine, do you?”
“I don’t think we will get back to anything if this situation continues much longer.”
Roland, Lincoln and Elder Stow were off checking on the rest of the village, heating all the rocks they could find and drag inside the homes. They were lucky none of the straw and bamboo huts caught fire, though at least that would have provided some light and heat against the cold darkness.
“I have faith,” Katie said with a look in Lockhart’s eyes.
“I am not sure you and Elder Stow will make it to the eight o’clock evening stars,” Lockhart countered.
Avalon 2.3: To Warm the Heart … Next Time