“You have the firepower to deal with the wolf, if necessary,” Barak explained.
“No silver bullets,” Decker complained.
“You mean like the X-men wolverine,” Boston said.
“Yes, but that ability is not absolute. Stick it with enough arrows and spears, and you will kill it. Just good luck sticking it before it sticks you. But in your case, you can turn your rifles to automatic and riddle the beast. There is no way it will survive that. And as far as I know, a shotgun blast at close range would still blow its brains out. No healing from that, though I would not recommend getting that close.”
The conversation petered out as people went to set up their tents and get ready for the night. Mingus was just wondering what was taking that boy so long when they heard the howl of the wolf.
“No. It must be regular wolves in these hills,” Lincoln suggested, but people were not sure.
Puzziya fell to his knees beside the fire and began to pray. Alexis held Boston. Katie looked to Lockhart to say something. The howl came again and Boston screamed.
Barak looked at Hebat, and for once she lost her smile. She shrugged as she spoke, like this was something new to her. “He is not anywhere I can sense. Like he is gone from the world altogether.”
“That is what I am getting,” Barak said, but he knew that explanation was not going to be good enough for Boston. He traded places through time with Junior and stretched his senses out for miles, but there was no trace. Finally, he stretched his mind through time and caught a scent of Roland in the future. As soon as there was a connection through time, Alice sent him many things before the time connection got severed.
Boston was weeping for her husband, and Mingus was right there while Alexis comforted her. Lincoln pulled his pistol and hovered over them, as they spotted the wolf racing up the hill. The people hardly had time to think. Eder Stow could not get a screen up quick enough. Decker opened fire, and Katie was moments behind. The wolf slowed but kept coming. At the last, Lockhart had to plug it with a shotgun blast when it got close, and the wolf collapsed. Decker was not content. He stepped up and continued to riddle the beast until his rifle got hot.
“Roland,” Boston yelled as only an elf can yell, to make herself heard by another elf, no matter how far away. Mingus raised his eyebrows to realize how strong the bond was between this girl and his son.
Junior took Hebat’s hand with the word, “Already married,” and for once Hebat looked at the ground, did not argue, and appeared submissive in the face of this god. They walked up to the others and Junior waved his hand. A hole twenty feet deep opened up in the ground, and Junior spoke.
“This world does not yet have the gene among the human population, so there is no danger of making another wolf, but it will have in time, so we play it safe.” The man, and in death he had turned most of the way back into a man, and all of his spilled blood lifted from the ground and went into the hole. A boulder appeared and plugged up the hole, and then dirt reformed over the grave. Last of all, two pieces of wood in a cross formed on top and Junior carved the name Francis in English on the cross piece.
“Francis?” Katie asked. “We called him Bob.” She wiped a tear from her eye.
“He was a priest from your time,” Junior said. “Father Francis was in the confessional when the wolf, a female came in and sought refuge in the confessional. She was bleeding from her own bullet holes and looking for a place to hide and heal. The men hunting the wolf came in and killed the wolf, but Francis was contaminated with the blood. No, the wolf did not have to bite him, though maybe it did. When Ashtoreth had control of the Heart of Time and was trying to change history, one thing she did was send a priest into the deep past, hoping it would ruin everything. She did not know he was the wolf, and in typical fashion, when he changed under the moon, the physical and mental change to the mind of the wolf drove him insane.”
“Father Francis?” Boston looked up.
“Consider it a mercy,” Junior said, and even Hebat nodded. “As for Roland. He is alive as I glimpsed him.”
“You know where he is?” Boston reached for Junior but did not touch him.
“I don’t suppose you will want to talk to me, but he was attacked, unaware. He was near dead when Alice snatched him up out of the past, and no, I cannot send you home. The heart of time in this day does not have a record of those future days to send you home to. But Roland is back in the future. Being an elf, Alice could reach him. Pray he survives his wounds.”
“Well,” Lockhart said. “We will just have to make sure Miss Boston gets back safely to her husband.”
“We will,” everyone agreed, and Junior spoke again.
“Come.” He lead them up the hill to where he had the things Alice sent him. “I have gifts for you all.” He started by pulling out fairy weave for Elder Stow. “The time for walking around in a space suit is over. You must pack it up and wear human clothes, and then we will see what you look like.”
“But,” Elder Stow started to object, but in the face of a genuine power in the universe, he dropped his eyes and went into his tent to change.
“Major Decker, Captain Harper, Benjamin Lincoln, and Director Lockhart.” He handed each of them a sword. “Patton Sabers,” he called them. “Fit swords for light cavalry, but seriously strong metal to withstand the baddest medieval broadsword, when you get there. I recommend some lessons before you do.”
“I don’t want one of those killers,” Alexis said.
“Careful, lest you fate yourself into a position you don’t want to be in.” Junior scolded her and handed her a long straight knife. “I hope you never need to use this, especially as a surgical instrument.”
Alexis was inclined to turn down the gift until he mentioned surgery. “I am an RN, not a medical doctor. I pray surgery will never be necessary.” She took the gift and said, “Thank you.”
“Boston,” Junior commanded her attention. She looked up at him and adored him, and wiped her eyes. She would cry later. He handed her a bow, just like Roland’s, and a quiver full of arrows. She started to cry again.
“Hush,” Alexis tried.
“A corrected oversight,” Junior said. “The quiver will always have arrows in it.”
“So,” Elder Stow came out of his tent. “How foolish do I look?”
Everyone said he looked great, but they all suggested a bit of a glamour might help him not appear so Neanderthal. Junior took him aside and reshaped his look. Then he let the Gott-Druk take hold of his own glamour so he could put it on or off as he pleased. “Just don’t ever misuse this gift,” Junior warned without further explanation, and he went away to let Wlvn come from the deep past. Wllvn was sometimes mistakenly called the god of horses, because he was given a gift to connect horses to riders and to pass on basic horse care and information by the laying on of hands. And he had one thing to say first to Hebat.
“Married with children.” Hebat just grinned.
A horse stepped out of the shadows. It was another mustang from the old west, and already saddled to travel.
“No, please,” Elder Stow protested, but got down for the laying on of hands. When Wlvn was finished, Barak came back, and Boston protested.
“But you haven’t given anything to Father Mingus.”
Barak smiled. “When you get older, you realize you don’t need many things, but in this case I give Mingus the most precious thing in the universe. I give him you as a daughter. Mingus, take good care of her until you find your son.” He reached out and put Boston’s free hand in Mingus’ hand. Mingus looked at the ground and would not look at Barak or Boston, but his head seemed to nod.
In the morning, Barak went to his camel. Katie, Alexis and Boston all met him there, and Katie asked the question that was on her mind. “Hebat. She was not named after the goddess, was she?”
“Hebat has been after me since Anenki.” Barak said. “I really got to find that girl a husband, but not anyone will do, you know? He will have to be really special. She is such a maverick. Taming of the shrew, that sort of thing.” He got his camel to stand and walk. “ But why am I talking here? I’ve got a heroine ring to stop.” He started out and whistled. “Okay, Hebat. You can stop listening in now, we are leaving. Good luck.” He moved off down the hill.
“He has a job to do,” Katie understood.
“I think he works too hard sometimes,” Aexis said, and Boston nodded as they went to gather their horses. Boston would bring Roland’s horse beside her, and she would pray for him.
“I understand this beast. I have done this before,” Elder Stow said. “Barak said I could not call my horse torture beast. I’ll have to think what to call him.”
Mingus and Boston started out front. Lockhart and Katie brought up the rear, with Lincoln and Alexis in the middle. Decker and Eder Stow still watched the flanks, but Elder Stow did so more through his instruments than visually. All seemed right with the world until Boston checked her amulet and reported back to the others that they probably would not get to see Barak’s city of Urudu.
“What city?” Katie asked.
END of Avalon, Season Three
Look for 13 episodes of Avalon, Season 4 to begin posting after the New Year, beginning with episode 4.0, The Impossible Journey.
Beginning next Monday, until January, look for a middle grade Halloween story filled with magic and mayhem, and maybe something special for the days before Christmas.