“What kind of a name is Puzziya?” Lincoln asked.
Puzziya spoke over his shoulder from where he was riding behind Lincoln, once they convinced him to get up on the beast. “Hattic?” he said, not sure what he was being asked.
Lockhart helped the man get down. Lincoln turned his head toward Katie and said, “Sounds Hittite?”
“Hattian,” Katie shook her head. “Though it sounds Luwian. The Hattians lived in this land long before the Hittites arrived. The Indo-European peoples are just now moving to the edge of the area, Hittites, Luwians, Hurrians, Mitanni and so on. The Hyskos are being pushed out of southern Syria and Lebanon, like dominoes, but that will all take the next five hundred years or so. The Hattians, or Hattic are the people already in the land, and they refuse to move, so they sort of get absorbed by the Hittites. Some believe the Hittites form a ruling class over top, but then the Luwian language becomes widespread in the south and west of Anatolia and—”
“We got the picture,” Decker interrupted. “And we got company.”
Men were coming from the huts and buildings on the high ground overlooking the endless poppy field. Puzziya went running to the men and told them all about the beast of Lelwani and the death of Hatusti. He pointed over and over at Alexis, Mingus, Elder Stow and the rest, and no doubt said something about people of power, which the travelers were getting used to.
The inevitable delegation of men came with questions. “Puzziya says you caused the beast of Lelwani to sleep among the poppies, but Puzziya may have been confused. Perhaps it was a simple beast of Inara, lady of Inar. Perhaps an ordinary, hungry wolf?”
“Inara, goddess of the wild animals,” Lincoln read from the database.
“It was neither a creature of Lelwani nor a beast of Inara,” Alexis said. “But a man, who for three nights when the moon is full, becomes a wild and ravenous wolf, driven to kill and eat men.”
“The full moon is tonight,” one of the men spouted, but the first speaker scoffed.
“You speak of a werewolf, but there are no such things, just stories to frighten children. And there are no Were people here.”
“But I saw with my own eyes,” Puzziya defended his story, but the man was not listening. He was already examining the horses and equipment the people carried with his own eyes.
“I am Ulwazzi,” the man said. “Come. The day is hot. You may eat and rest with us this evening, and sleep safe under the moon.” He laughed and led the way to the side of one of the bigger buildings where he suggested they make their camp. There was a pen beside the building which had several horses penned up.
“I don’t know if our big mustangs may hurt their ponies,” Decker said.
“Horse is not one to get along well with others,” Mingus agreed.
“Father, you named your horse?” Alexis asked.
“My horse’s name is horse. That’s it.” Mingus responded grumpily.
“Double watch tonight,” Lockhart decided. “One to watch for the wolf and the other to keep an eye on the horses.”
“Maybe triple watch,” Katie suggested. “The third to watch the camp and our equipment. I didn’t like the way Ulwazzi was looking at our things.”
“Mingus, Roland and Boston, keep your glamours up while we are here.”
Lockhart nodded to Katie. “Triple watch,” he said. “Mingus, Roland and Boston watch separately so we have your ears available all through the night.”
“Boss!” Boston objected and grabbed her husband like she did not want to let go.
“Elder Stow, please take the middle watch so we have your scanner available in the night.”
“Would you like me to set a screen around our camp that the wolf cannot break through.”
Lockhart shook his head. “But set one for quick activation, in case we need it.”
“Boss,” Boston came up with her eyes on her amulet. “We got way off track coming here,” she said. “We should be moving in that direction.” she pointed.
“I know. But I figure if this is the night of the moon, it isn’t a matter of if the wolf will come, but when. It has followed us through every time gate, but it has hunted Puzziya, and I imagine it will want to finish that hunt. Wolfy has his scent.”
“You mean Bob,” Boston said. Lockhart looked at Alexis
“Bob,” she said, as if everyone knew it.
“Bob,” Katie said and shrugged.
About an hour before sunset, Puzziya was sent to fetch the travelers for a supper made especially for the strangers.
“But I heard talking about your horses, and Ulwazzi was extra interested in the things you call sadlies.”
“Saddles,” Lincoln corrected the man.
Puzziya nodded. “They mean to have them, and I do not know what to do.”
Decker spoke up. “I think Mingus and I may stay and watch things here.”
“Perhaps I should stay,” Elder Stow suggested.
“Elder Stow,” Alexis got his attention. “This may be a chance to have some more vegetables, and a little less meat. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Yes, what are you suggesting?”
“Nothing, necessarily,” Lockhart said, “But my old police instincts are flaring, like some part of this operation may not be strictly legal.”
As they went inside, Roland asked Decker how Ulwazzi knew anything about saddles.
“Maybe he just saw them and judged their usefulness,” Decker said, and Roland offered a thought.
“We will have to watch that to not mess up history by introducing saddles too soon.”
Decker said nothing. He just checked his rifle.
Inside, Mingus went straight for the table that had been set up. He checked for Opiates by tasting everything. Alexis scolded him, but he said it was the only sure way. The meat and vegetables were fine, he said, but the coarse grained bread was soaked in the stuff. After Mingus tried it, he excused himself and went outside. Alexis got out her wand and a golden mist spread out around the table and settled on the bread.
“So, Ulwazzi, what is the idea?” Lockhart kept his voice calm, while Boston reached into her side pack, around her Beretta, to pull out some bread crackers.
Ulwazzi’s eyes were big on being discovered, and they got even bigger when Boston heated up some water in her hand to turn the crackers into fresh, steaming bread. “I do not understand such things you are doing?” Ulwazzi said, feigning innocence.
The travelers sat while Boston and Alexis made a big plate’s worth of food for Decker and Roland.
“What about Father?” Boston asked.
“He will be busy for a while,” Alexis said, and she tried not to grin. Outside, Mingus was singing away and trying hard to keep his feet from dancing. “Opiates have a strange affect on elves,” she explained. “It liberates that portion of the brain where the music is stored. He should be all right in a few hours.”
“I should have some of that,” Boston said with an elf grin.
“You don’t need it,” Alexis responded with a bit of a grin of her own. “Obviously, you have music in your head all the time without drugs, and dance and wiggle even when there is no music playing.”
“It wouldn’t be so bad,” Decker said. “If he could carry a tune.”
Alexis got snippy. “Despite the P. R., not all elves are happy-go-lucky little sprites who like to sing and dance at the drop of a hat.”
Roland wisely kept his mouth shut.
Tomorrow, the third post, bringing the first half of the story to a stopping point. Serious things happen in tomorrows post including the werewolf attack. Don’t miss it