Lakshme and Rama stopped early because they wanted to come upon the Rakshasa sometime in the morning, and not in the dark. Pokara and Salipsa made sure the screens around the group remained strong, so the insects and spiders would not get to them. They had three elves at a time watch the camp and project the screens for several hours. Then they needed to sleep while three others took over.
“Will my lady sleep here by the fire?” Libra asked.
Lakshme looked at her and nodded.
“My lady should change first. It is not good to sleep in your dress after a long, hot day.”
Lakshme looked at Rama, and called to her armor. He had seen her in it before, so he did not get startled.
“Fairy weave under it all,” Lakshme said. “It absorbs the sweat and pushes it away from the body, keeping one cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It is a remarkable material that can be freshened, everyday clean and new, with only a thought. It is very comfortable, and I hardly feel the chain mail.”
Rama nodded, and smiled. “I believe Valmiki may be right. You are a goddess, of time. The Kairos.”
“Greek word. Like the chain mail. It refers to event time, like maybe the watcher over history. I have been called the Traveler, like the traveler in time. You know, like when I go away and Doctor Mishka shows up to make her medicines.”
“From the future.”
“Well, yes. But don’t make more of that than you see. A couple of women struggling along with the rest of the human race.”
“The Macedonian? Also from the future, but not nearly as far as Doctor Mishka. He says thank you for the blessing, by the way.”
Rama smiled. “I bless everyone who saves my life.”
“A lucky shot.”
“I doubt it.”
Lakshme sort of nodded, as she took Athena’s cape and wrapped herself for the night. She lay down to sleep and hoped she did not have Rakshasa nightmares.
In the middle of the night, Billy Porter banged his nose against Elder Stow’s screen. He could not find a way around the invisible barrier, so he went back to tell the others.
“I couldn’t get close enough to get a look, see. Like maybe they got some magic, too.”
Tom Porter and Juan Reynard looked at the witch. She stood and reached out with one hand. After a moment, she began to shake and growl. Then she quit.
“I do not understand it. They have something that shields them even from my eyes.”
Tom Porter, the older brother, spit. “So, we go with plan B,” he said.
“I don’t like people with horses following us,” Juan agreed.
“Do you think maybe it is the sheriff?” Billy asked, genuinely concerned.
“In the Before Christos?” Juan scoffed.
The witch just looked hard at the simpleton, but Billy’s brother Tom had to comment.
Four groups met in the morning. Rama, Lakshme, and their band of merry men found the village and cave of the Rakshasa. The men and women brought the daily victims to the cave. The Rakshasa seemed to like human flesh. Most of the victims appeared to be stunned and near death from multiple bites from both spiders and insects. The people serving had no such bites.
“If we can find out what these people are using for insect repellent, it would help a lot,” Lakshme said.
Rama looked at her, like he had not thought of that.
Roughly one mile away, the travelers mounted up, and after they were assured by Elder Stow that no insects or spiders were in the general area, they moved into the trees. Elder Stow’s equipment proved capable of warning them, even in the jungle. Besides, the insects came in a mass, easily detected, and the spiders were the size of a fist, so easily shot. Elder Stow, the afternoon before, fired his weapon once and cleaned spiders off an entire riverbank.
They moved slowly, but soon, up ahead, they saw an exceptionally dark bit of jungle. Alexis got ready to say that patch looked supernaturally dark when a gun went off, and a bullet came screaming through the trees. Boston screamed in response.
“Ouch. Roland! Alexis!” She got down and pulled her horse, Honey, behind a tree. Her leg bled, though it looked like only a scrape. “Why is it always me?” she asked the sky, oblivious to what happened around her.
The travelers got down and got behind trees before the other side opened up with gunfire. Whoever they were, they appeared to be careful not to waste bullets. Alexis struggled to get to Boston. Decker signaled Katie with his hands. Lockhart spoke to his wife.
“You have to teach me marine sign language.”
A ball of fire came from the darkness. Alexis batted it away with a gust of wind when she reached Boston. Boston had another idea. She grabbed Alexis’ hand and her wand, and let out a stream of flame, like a flamethrower that lit up the darkness. She heard a young man scream
Decker and Katie stepped out from their trees and fired several rounds of automatic fire into the forest as soon as Boston’s flamethrower stopped. The young man screamed again, and Decker and Katie got back in time.
“They got a damn Gatling gun,” That young voice screamed, as the wind started to blow and quickly became violent. A small tornado formed, and picked up whoever it was, including what looked like horses, and moved rapidly out of sight in a northeasterly direction.
Boston said, “ouch,” and put her hand to her bleeding leg.
Alexis stared at the tornado. “I don’t have any power like that.”
“Me neither,” Boston said, along with, “Ouch, ouch.”