Elder Stow became unnaturally verbal and asked questions about his people and another people called the Elenar at that point in history. After being assured that they should be allies and not fighting each other, the Gott-Druk decided to take a short side trip. Unfortunately, in the snow storm, Boston unwittingly followed and then loses sight of the Elder whereupon she finds herself alone, in the dark, in the snow, in the middle of a war zone.
“Hello?” Boston called out several times, but the smoke from the fires and the falling snow conspired to deaden her every sound. Boston got down and got out her Beretta, belt and all. She buckled the belt around her hips and added her hunting knife to the ensemble, just in case. She checked to be sure the gun came easily to her hand and patted her horse’s neck.
“Don’t worry, Honey,” she said. “We will find them again, soon.” Honey simply blew out a great puff of white air in answer while Boston got out her fairy weave tent. It took some time and serious adjustments to the fairy weave, but soon she had Honey covered in a late medieval style blanket that had holes for the horse’s head and tail and fit snugly around the saddle. It fell to six inches from the ground and warmed the horse nicely. “Of course one virtue of the fairy weave is I can command it to shorten to uncover your legs if we need to ride out of a bad situation.” Honey simply nodded his head.
One more reassuring pat on the horse’s neck and Boston stepped to the nose and took the reins. She checked the amulet to get her direction. She knew Roland would stay true to the direction even in the worst of the storm, but they might move on as much as a mile before they noticed she was missing. She checked the ground, but whatever prints Elder Stow may have made with Decker’s horse were long since wiped out by the snow and wind.
“Better move,” she said and they started to walk. Boston felt reasonably certain that she could parallel the group and if she could find a rise or hilltop, she might be able to see them in the wilderness. It was a long shot, but then she had the amulet. The better chance was for her to find the Kairos, Tetamon and let him help her find the others
The snow slacked off as she walked, and the wind dropped down to where it only became rough in the occasional gusts that made her turn her head to one side or the other. It was terribly dark in the woods, but there were more clearings, fields and meadows than before so it gave the illusion that she was getting somewhere. “It is getting very cold,” Boston admitted, but she kept walking. She knew Honey was terribly hungry as was she, but she walked to not overtax her poor horse. There was no telling when she might have to move quickly.
Boston stopped before they entered a particularly dark and thick copse of trees. She wondered if she could do what she had seen Roland, Mingus and Alexis do. This magic business was all so new to her. She never imagined doing such things before. She understood what the Sybil said back in Zoe’s world. By the time she got old enough to begin to show some signs of power she had already convinced herself that such things were impossible. She wondered briefly how many people back in her own day would never know what they were capable of because the world said it was impossible.
Honey nudged Boston with his nose and Boston grinned. “Alright, just give me a minute.” She focused on her open palm. A light began to grow over her palm which almost went out when she got excited. She quickly stuffed down her excitement and stayed focused until the light strengthened. When it was about as bright as she reasonably felt she could make it, she let it float up into the air. It was trickier than she thought. She had to keep part of her mind trained on it now and then to keep it lit and floating, and it took something out of her to do that.
Finally, she managed to set the light a few feet above her head and a few feet out front, and she began to walk into the dark trees. Honey snorted and followed. It was only fifteen minutes through that little section of dark, but that was enough and about all Boston could handle. Roland said the more she did, the more strength she would build, like exercising a muscle, but Boston could already see that she would never be in the same league with someone like Alexis or the elves. That was fine. She was amazed she could do anything at all.
There was an open field on the other side of the dark woods. Boston checked her amulet once more and climbed up on Honey’s back. She was tired before. Now she was exhausted. That was something else about magic she never understood before. It was not free. It took something out of the magician.
The open field proved to not be as big as Boston hoped, but by the time she got to the other side the snow had stopped and the clouds had begun to clear off. The moon was still up and a great help to see since she was finally far enough from the fires to where they were no help at all. When she entered the woods on the other side she was glad she did not have to make another fairy light.
“Hello, witch.” Boston heard a voice by her right shoulder and jumped before she spurred Honey to a run. She ducked down flat, held Honey around the neck and let the horse avoid the trees and other obstacles, which horses will do for a short way. Rather quickly, Honey slowed again to a walk and Boston caught her breath. She strained her ears and heard some huffing and puffing catching up. She pulled her gun.
“Who are you? Who is there? Show yourself.”
“That is some speedy horse you’ve got,” the voice said right next to her and Boston barely kept her finger from pulling the trigger.
“Who are you and what do you want?” She demanded an answer and added, “And why can’t I see you?”
“I’m a pookah, I don’t want to eat you or anything like that if you are worried, and I’m invisible.”
“So what do you want?” Boston tried to relax.
“Nothing,” the pookah said and added, “Witch.”
Boston got Honey walking again as the horse seemed oblivious to it all. “I am not a witch,” she protested.
“Well, you are certainly no sorceress,” the pookah said and Boston kept silent. The pookah, which appeared content to walk beside her, finally spoke again. “You’re not from around here,” it said and added, “Come here often?” Boston thought she heard the thing laugh.
“Ha, ha!” Boston was not laughing. “I’m from further away than you can imagine.”
“Um, twenty-first century AD, whatever that is, near Washington DC, but grew up near Boston which is why most people call you Boston.”
Boston thought for a second. “You read minds?”
“A little,” the pookah said, and Boston realized there was no point in hiding the matter. She pulled out her amulet and checked the direction, and the pookah made an interesting remark. “Part of what I do is mislead travelers in the dark, but I see that will be pointless with you. That amulet is covered by a magic far stronger than mine.”
“From the castle of the Kairos,” Boston said. She felt it was pointless to try and hid it from a mind reader.
“I understand,” the pookah said. They walked in silence for a minute before the pookah spoke again. “I am not with Domnu and her brood if you were wondering. I would rather be neutral, but since the gods themselves have taken sides it is kind of hard to stay out of it.”
“What is happening here? I don’t understand this war. What is this all about?” The questions that built up in Boston’s mind since entering that world all tumbled out at once. It seemed to her that the pookah took a moment to project a sense of peace in her direction, and it also seemed that such a thing was very unusual. Boston was grateful and quieted, and the pookah talked as they walked.
“Not long ago, Queen Nerthus willingly gave up her life and went over to the other side. There was peace then between Aesgard and Vanheim, but the Queen knew there could not be two leaders. She gave her authority to Odin and moved on. Now Aesgard claims the west, but Olympus and Karnak both claim large sections of the same territory, so things are not exactly settled.
“Meanwhile, from long ago, the Queen’s sister Domnu ruled over the islands in her own right. She bowed to her sister as long as Queen Nerthus was alive, but now she wants to claim all of the ancient lands of Vanheim for her own. She has brought men to the continent along with many rebellious little spirits including goblins, trolls ogres and others. Now she has exploited the natural animosity between the elder races and taken the Gott-Druk for her allies, leaving the Elenar to fight for the other side. So it is Gott-Druk against Elenar, Men against men, spirits against spirits and ultimately gods against gods because Domnu has many children.”
“Wait, goblins, ogres and trolls? Don’t they belong to the Kairos?”
“Yes, and that is one of the things that makes all this so complicated. You see, the Kairos is leading the fight against Domnu.”
“And some Little Ones are fighting against their own god?”
“And do you always do what your god tells you?”
“Point taken,” Boston said.
“I would rather stay out of it altogether, but that is not really possible. And here we are.” They came to the edge of the woods where another small clearing stretched out in front of them.
“Where?” Boston asked as she pulled out her amulet to check again. She calculated. “Why you pookah. You did get me off track, but only a little.”
It seemed like she could feel the pookah smile. “Where your Kairos is, Now, only one last thing to do,” the pookah said and Boston heard it walk away toward the back of her horse. She turned her head to say good-bye and heard a shocking “Boo” next to her. She screamed.
“Now, that tasted good,” the pookah said. “Witch fright always has a little extra kick to it. Thanks for the snack,” and the pookah vanished for real as several goblins with long spears and a terribly hungry looking troll came up and surrounded her.
Boston had put her gun away, and she thought to get down slowly from Honey’s back so as not to make any sudden moves. Then she swallowed her fear, looked at these creatures of the dark and said what she always wanted to say. “Take me to your leader.”