Boston woke up early. She felt young and strong, and very happy, and did not think even once about it being that time of the month. She was twenty five, but tasted enough of the apple of youth to be more like nineteen or eighteen again and thought maybe that was the cause of her good feelings. Then again, she was in love, and maybe it was hard to feel bad when she was in love. She took that love out from its place in her brain and examined it from every angle. It was real, she understood, and she put it back where it belonged. Roland was her heart, as a fairy would say. She stood and went to Honey, her horse, to be sure he was all right.
“And you have a place in my heart, too,” she told Honey, and kissed the horse on the nose
“Hello demon,” someone spoke and Boston spun around to face a hooper. Her jaw dropped, because it was the first time she heard a hooper say anything other than “hoop, hoop.” The hooper continued. “Nuwa said we are supposed to follow around you until you reach the next time gate, whatever that is.”
“Yes. Thank you.” Boston did not know what else to say. Then as the hooper bounced off, she wondered why the hooper called her a demon. “Wait,” she said, but not loud enough to stop the hooper. She wondered why the hooper told her what Nuwa said. Wasn’t Nuwa still with them. She paused. The thought of Nuwa leaving them made her want to cry.
Boston rushed to where Nuwa was sleeping and saw that she was gone. “Roland,” she called.
“What?” Elder Stow looked at her, and looked surprised.
“Thank goodness,” Alexis said. The others were all up as well, but they just stared at her.
“Where did Nuwa go?” Boston said in a sad, almost weepy voice.
“She was gone when we got up,” Lockhart said. “She must have snuck off in the night.”
“Why are you all staring at me?” Boston asked.
“You’ve changed,” Roland said as he walked up. “Alexis.” He looked at his sister and Alexis focused and waved her hand. A full length mirror appeared in front of Boston, and Boston’s hand immediately went to touch her own pointed ears. Then she made a comment.
“Wow, I have really lost weight.” That was followed by, “I still look like me. I like the ears. Won’t my mother be surprised,” and to Roland, “What do you think?” The mirror faded, while Roland could only grin. “Okay,” Boston said with a grin to match. She grabbed Roland’s hand and made him run back down the road. They ran at about sixty or seventy miles per hour.
“Pack up,” Lockhart said, and everyone else packed their things and got the horses ready to travel.
Boston spent the morning riding beside Roland, hearing all about elf life and about Avalon, a place that made her heart jump to think about it. “But it made my heart jump before,” she said. “So that’s not different.” She was comparing what was different about elf life from human life, and concluded that there was not much that was different, “Only elf life feels a lot cleaner. I don’t know if that is the right word.”
Boston spent the afternoon riding beside Alexis and heard all about life for an elf maid, which Boston was, though she said, “Not for long.” Alexis judged that Boston in her present age was about a hundred, maybe a hundred and ten or twenty, but no older. She also suggested Boston was acting like a fifty-year-old.
“But I suspect things will settle down soon enough.” Then she went on to tell Boston all about elf magic. “But you might not pick up any or much because you already have magic in your blood.”
“Oh.” Boston sounded disappointed.
“It takes practice, that’s all, and experience to see what you can really do.”
“That’s what Roland says,” Boston frowned and she looked very cute, as elf maidens do, and also zipped on to a new topic which removed the frown, in the blink of an eye, the way young elves do. “So my mind seems so clear, I can’t believe it. It is like I have these compartments in my brain, and every thought, and every memory has its place, and my memory is much better.”
“Yes. That took some getting used to,” Alexis admitted. “When I became human, everything in my mind jumbled together and got mixed up with everything else. I could not think anything without emotions creeping in and my feelings colored the whole world. It was strange for me, but after a while, I saw where that helped humans. Every decision had to be thorough and thought through on many levels. It made life much more complicated, but it made me much more careful in what I said and what I did.”
“I know a few women who have managed to disconnect that thoughtful part,” Boston said.
“Don’t name them. See? You were about to name them without thinking that maybe it would be best if I didn’t know. I mean, we will some day get home and I will have to work around those women.”
“Me, too.” Boston said, and tried to be thoughtful. “Roland too. Maybe I should not talk for a while. I can listen. My hearing is really good now. I can even hear the insects crawling around the nearby rocks, which I suppose is kind of creepy. And my eyes are great, I bet ten-ten vision, or better. And Roland was a good kisser before, but now I kind of taste him, if you know what I mean. He makes my toes curl up to my knees.”
“You are right,” Alexis interrupted. “You should listen and hold your tongue for a while.”
Boston stuck out her tongue and pinched it with her finger and thumb. She turned to Alexis and said, “Thust kidding.”
That afternoon, the travelers went up a steep trail as directed by the hoopers to a path along the top of the ridge. Decker and Elder Stow had to move in, and it was single file in places, but as Lockhart said, “At least they won’t be able to drop the ridge on us up here.”
“No,” Lincoln countered. “Just pull it out from beneath our feet.”
It was an hour before sundown, and they got word that they were being followed. They were not surprised, since they had to move so slowly all day. The hoopers said there were three hands worth of men behind them and one was in front of the others rushing to catch up.
“Sounds like Qinjong, and a scout sent ahead to pinpoint our location,” Lockhart suggested.
Lincoln disagreed. “Nuwa said the Qinjong were new to this business, just in the last few years. I would not imagine they have figured out things like scouts and such.”
Decker pointed at Lincoln. “What he said.”
“The one out front might be running away from the Qinjong,” Katie suggested, and she stared hard at Lockhart, so he put up no struggle.
“All right. We can wait, but he better hurry. It is going to be dark in an hour and this is not a good place to make camp.”
The travelers did not see anyone until sundown, and then they were sorry they waited.
“It’s Bob,” Katie said, and they all saw the naked, insane man howling and growling, running to catch them.
“And Qinjong on the lower road,” Alexis pointed.
Bob paused, and seemed to follow where they were pointing. He started down the ridge, and they caught a vague glimpse of his transformation to the wolf. No one doubted he was the full wolf by the time he arrived at the bottom. They heard the Qinjong and their ponies screaming as they rode off.
Lockhart kept them riding most of the night, and only let them walk their horses a few times. With sunrise, he let everyone sleep a few hours, but he knew the full moon functioned for three nights as far as the werewolf was concerned, and he wanted out of that time zone before the wolf caught them.
They found the time gate right near sunset. Boston and Roland lingered as the others went through. Boston was testing her senses, several of which she did not have as a human. She thought thank you to the hoopers, and knew her message was received. She searched back the way they had come, but sensed no trace of Mingus, so she spoke.
“Father Mingus, please hurry. Now that we have settled things, I want to marry your son.” She turned to Roland. “Will he get the message?”
Roland shrugged. “The message will linger for about a day before it fades, but he may be too far behind. Then again, he may have snuck around us at some point and be ahead of us. There is no way to tell as long as he keeps himself hidden.”
Boston nodded, and thought about being an elf, and smiled. “Let’s go home,” she said. “I hope the rest of your family likes me.”
Roland raised his eyebrows at a different thought. “I hope your mother likes me.” They went thought the gate, side by side.
Beginning next Monday, Avalon episode 3.8, where Boston learns a hard lesson about distrust between goblins and elves, and the travelers confront the human version of distrust when they visit the original “Pirate Cove.”