The main group of travelers have discovered that Boston is missing, and Elder Stow as well. And the communicators are useless due to the interference in the air.
“Roland?” Lockhart turned to the expert.
Roland shook his head. “I don’t think I could find her in the dark and snow and smoke. We might try and just end up wandering for hours, and might get the rest of us separated.”
“I’m thinking Elder Stow left our company on purpose,” Lincoln said again.
“Possibly,” Lockhart agreed. “But that does not explain why Boston is missing.”
Katie said nothing. She was slouching a little in her saddle and Lockhart was concerned. “Boston has the amulet,” he said. “Can we move on a bit further and maybe find some shelter, or do you need to rest now?” He was really asking Katie.
“I can go for a bit more,” Katie said, and Roland turned to lead the party.
“I can stay to the same direction we were going and compensate for our sidesteps. It is true of the elves generally, but especially those gifted with the hunt.” Roland was certain about that.
“If we can get out in front of her and find a rise of some sort, we might catch her in the morning.
“Not on a rise,” Lincoln said. “Too many eyes in the air.”
Lockhart heard and nodded, but he was not going to lose Boston somewhere in the past.
The snow soon slackened and stopped and the clouds cleared off to reveal the moon and stars. The smoke in the air slowly became more of a mist than smoke, but that just made the forest appear enchanted in the moonlight. When they came to a clearing, it was a large opening in the woods. They quickly saw the signs of slash and burn agriculture and felt they were on the right path to something. It was not much further on before they saw a big two-room cabin in the opening.
“We can’t just march in there,” Lincoln insisted. He had Katie’s binoculars but saw nothing so passed them to Lockhart. “No sign of anyone home, and no sign of alien visitation either.”
“Gott-Druk and Elenar are not aliens,” Roland said. “They are Elders of the earth, what you call Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon.”
“I understand,” Lincoln said. “But the principle is the same. We look for burn marks from landing craft and other signs of advanced technology.”
“Yes, of course,” Roland said.
“We go,” Lockhart got up and caught the reins of his horse and Katie’s horse. Katie had felt it best not to get down. She feared she might not have been able to get back up. Of the many cuts she received, only a few had been significantly deep, and the healing machine used by Elder Stow was a miraculous help, but she lost a fair amount of blood and was still torn up on the inside. Continuing to walk and ride and walk and ride since then had taken its toll. She hated being the weak one, but she was going to have to stop and rest.
The cabin room was empty as expected. The other room appeared to be a big barn area, big enough for a dozen cows. It easily fit the horses. Most of the grain had been taken with the cows, wherever they went, but there was enough in the few bins and areas of the floor to put together a real tasty supper for the horses. There was even a water trough, and though the water in it was undrinkable. They emptied it and melted some fresh snow.
Both men and the elf cared for the horses while Katie stayed in the cabin. She was told to get into her sleeping bag and rest, but she tried to help out as much as she could. She spread the tent material they carried around the walls to block any cracks for the cold or the light, then she lit several lamps and spread out everyone’s bags. By the time the men came in, the inside was homey and warm.
“We need to keep this one,” Lincoln said.
“Yes we do,” Lockhart agreed.
They came at dawn. Roland and Lincoln were in the barn tending to the horses. Lockhart was failing to build a fire. Katie was still in the house when the ship landed out front. Three men came from the hatch, or at least they looked more like men than the Gott-Druk. Lockhart recognized them as Elenar, and he stood as they approached. He considered running, but he knew he could not get far enough. He also thought of escaping into the cabin or the barn, but those structures would not provide any protection from an energy weapon, so he just stood and spoke first when they got near.
“Good, can I borrow your heat ray? I can’t get this fire started.” He noticed two of the Elenar touched their side arms, and he smiled. “Welcome,” he added. “What can I do for you?”
“Where is the Gott-Druk?” The one out front did the talking.
“Gone,” Lockhart said honestly. “And I wish I knew where. I’m worried about him.” The same two touched their side arms again, but no weapons were drawn. “Mostly I am worried about the girl he took with him. Boston doesn’t know anything about being in the middle of a war.” The Elenar looked at each other before the front man spoke again.
“Why should you worry about the Gott-Druk?” the Elenar asked.
“Because he doesn’t belong here anymore than we do, and if he is lost he might never get home on his own.”
“And where does he belong?”
Lockhart stood up a little straighter. “Five thousand, six hundred years in the future,” he said without blinking. He could tell the Elenar were not expecting that answer. Katie came out while the Elenar turned to each other to discuss things among themselves. She had her rifle in her hands. Lincoln also stepped out of the barn door with his rifle. Lockhart guessed Roland was getting the horses ready for a quick getaway.
“You do not look like the corrupted men of the enemy, but this may be a new ploy. Can you offer any reason why we should not kill you?”
“Because you will have to answer to the Kairos, and for murder,” Lincoln spoke up.
“And because you will deprive yourself of help against the ones in the trees,” Katie said and pointed, and Lockhart realized she came out because she saw something in the distance, not because of the Elenar.
The Elenar out front put a finger to his ear to listen to something and then two things happened at once. The Elenar ship began to rise into the air and about a hundred fur-clad men came roaring out of the woods with a hundred little ones among them. The men looked starved and desperate and charged like their only hope was to kill and eat the ones by the cabin. The little ones looked worse in a way. They appeared twisted and distorted in their forms and features, but Lockhart guessed they were once elves, dwarfs and maybe a couple of ogres.
Avalon 2.6: Underground … Next Time