Lockhart and Katie got down in front of the inn where the guard in the gate directed them. At first, he was reluctant to let them into the city. He asked which side they were on. Lincoln stupidly said Persia, because it was the only coins they had, from back in Xanthia’s day. Rajish certainly had no coins to give them. But the old Persian coins were silver and gold, so the gate guard did not argue too much. He directed them to an inn where they did not ask questions. It did not appear to be in the best neighborhood.
“Boston, Sukki, Evan, and Millie, please stay with the horses,” Lockhart said.
“Alexis and I could stay,” Lincoln suggested.
“No mister Persia. You need to come and keep your mouth closed.”
“Good thing we came through when we did,” Katie said. “Not that many years ago, Persian coins would have gotten us in real trouble.”
Lincoln looked at the door. “That sounds like…” Decker, Katie, Lockhart, Alexis and Elder Stow all ran by him. Even Boston raced ahead. “…gunfire.” Lincoln followed.
The inn had a dining area, not necessarily expected. A man lay on the floor, bleeding out. A woman knelt beside him, weeping. Three other men and one older woman looked on in horror.
“Alexis,” Katie called. Alexis got down beside the man, and Lincoln got down with her.
“Who did this?” Lockhart asked the people, but they stood there with dumb looks on their faces.
Decker found the back door, but paused when Boston shouted from the window. “It’s one of the outlaws.” They heard a “Yip-yip,” and the sound of a horse ridden hard. Decker had to grab Boston to prevent her from jumping out the window to pursue the horse on foot. With some elf speed, she might have caught a horse hampered by city traffic, but then what would she do with the man?
“Come here,” Katie caught the old woman’s attention and brought her to a table. “Tell me what happened.”
That seemed to shake the men free of their stupor. They all began to spout at once.
“Decker. Lockhart. Help me get him up on the table,” Alexis insisted. Lincoln had the weeping young woman in a hug, to comfort her.
“Careful, careful.” They got him up. “Decker, cut the dress off him to expose the wound. You may have to hold him down.” Alexis dug into the medical pack that she carried like a purse. She pulled out a jar of something and checked for the green dot on the bottom before she managed to get some down the man’s throat. He moaned, and the young woman wanted to go to him, but Lincoln would not let her go.
“Boston,” Lockhart said. “Aren’t you supposed to be watching the horses?”
Boston shook her head. “Alexis might need my magic, or to cauterize the wound or something.”
Alexis reached to the bottom of her pack and pulled out a long, thin knife, the one she got back after the necromancer turned to dust. She said, “I had hoped I would never have to use this.” Then she added, “I wish Doctor Mishka was here. She is an actual doctor, and a surgeon with battlefield experience besides. I’m just a registered nurse.” She leaned over the man to cut into the wound, and added a word for whomever might be watching. “We have to get the bullet out if we want him to heal.”
Elder Stow interrupted her. He had the device with which he pulled out bullets before. Alexis gladly put her knife away while Elder Stow passed his device over the wound many times. It took a while, and Alexis interrupted several times to staunch the bleeding, but at last, the bullet came to the surface and came out of the wound.
Alexis had Boston put a hand on her shoulder, so she could draw on a touch of Boston’s fire magic. Then she placed her hands gently on the wound and a golden glow filled the area. Eventually, the wound closed up, and both Alexis and Boston took a deep breath.
Lockhart went to Katie where the old woman and the three men began to babble. It took almost as long to get a straight story from them as it did for Alexis to perform her healing.
Meanwhile, outside, Sukki got impatient. She finally told Evan and Millie that she was just going to check, and she would be right back. She no sooner stepped in the door when Millie got grabbed from behind.
“Don’t cry out,” the man said in English. He had a knife to Millie’s throat. “Billy, check him,” he said.
The young cowboy checked to make sure Evan had no weapons. He took the knife Evan had been given, but then balked. “I can’t frisk no lady.”
The other man rolled his eyes. “Come with us,” he said.
Evan stepped up beside Millie, and did not argue. Instead, he asked a serious question. “You are a red Indian?”
“Apache,” the man said. “Though I had a French grandfather. Juan Reynard, at your service.”
“I’m Billy Porter,” the young man said, with evident pride. “Me and my brother Tom robbed every bank on the Rio Grande. Maybe you heard of us. The Porter brothers.”
“Sorry,” Evan said. Millie shook her head as they came to a building across the way from the inn. “But if I was home, I might look you up.”
“Where is home?” Reynard asked.
“The United States, 1905.” He added the date, because the others showed him that not everyone came from the same year.
“1875,” Reynard said. “Inside.”
They went in, and Millie spouted, “Nanette.”
“Yes, Millie. Good to see you. And Evan, you are looking well.”
“What is this about?” Evan asked, not concerned about propriety.
“Why so suspicious, or do you not trust a darkie? But look. My palm is as white as any white woman. It is light and bright. The back of my hand is dark. See? Light and dark. Look at my hand. Light and dark… Light and dark… Light and dark… Now, when I count to three, you will close your eyes. Light and dark… One… two… three.”
Millie and Evan closed their eyes.
“You will not remember seeing me or talking to me, or seeing these cowboys. But there is one thing you must do.” She explained, that they must wait until the others were asleep and bring all of their weapons to her, but in the next time zone. “Now, when I say go, I want you to return to your horses, and touch your horse. When you touch your horse, you will wake, and remember nothing of our conversation, except you will remember to do your job in the next time zone. Now, go.” Millie and Evan turned and walked back to the horses.
“Why the next time zone?” Reynard asked.
“Because the space monsters have come into this place. We will have to ride hard up the west coast to avoid them.”
“Maybe the space monsters will eat the travelers so we won’t have to worry about them,” Reynard suggested.
Nanette rolled her eyes and stepped up to Billy. “Billy, you are not to bring me anyone’s weapons. You will wake up, remember what was said here, and make a sound like a chicken.” She slapped Billy. “Wake up.”
Billy said, “Cluck, cluck.”
The travelers sat around the table, feasting. Dionysios, the wounded man, stayed upstairs, resting, but Helene, his young wife stayed with the travelers, grateful for their saving her husband’s life. The old woman who ran the inn loaded them up with food. These people had gold, and the war over the last ten years really hurt the business.
“Tell me, Helene.” Millie spoke kindly. “How old is your husband?”
“Dion is thirty-six, but he is such a nice man.”
“My age, poor fellow,” Decker said, to everyone’s surprise. “And how old are you?” He asked in a way that suggested the answer meant nothing to him, personally.
“How old do I look to you?”
Decker shrugged. “Twenty-one?” Helene smiled at the answer.
“Not more than eighteen,” Lockhart tried, and Katie tugged on his sleeve to quiet him.
Helene lifted her chin in pride. “I am just sixteen, but that is more than old enough to be a good wife, and young enough to have many children.”
“Start with one,” Alexis suggested. “Then see how you feel about it.”
“You should listen to my wife,” Lincoln said. “She is old and wise. Me? I’m sixty-eight, though I don’t feel a day over thirty. Maybe twenty-eight. She is much older than I am.”
“How could that be?” Helene scoffed. “She can’t be older than twenty-four. Maybe twenty-one as the Egyptian said.
“Last I counted, she is two hundred and thirty-eight years old.”
Alexis slapped Lincoln’s arm for telling, even as Decker spoke up again. “So, I am an Egyptian now? Good to know.”
“You’re not?” Helene looked surprised. “I thought all dark-skinned men were Egyptians.”
Decker got ready to explain, but stopped when Boston stood and knocked over her chair. “You might as well show yourselves. Do you have word from Ophelia?”
Bergeron the dwarf and two other dwarfs with him dropped their glamour of invisibility. Bergeron introduced himself, said he knew who they were, and said, “Yes and no. You see, it is like this, Miss Boston. An alien transport landed up the coast in the village of Isthmia, and right now you got three Humanoids and twenty Wolv looking over the city walls, and the Lady won’t let us get in between. We been watching these humans fight each other for ten years, and the lady would not let us help, even when she got taken captive and spent the last four years in prison. Well, I got buckets full of dwarfs that are just itching for a fight, but the lady says the humans have to fight their own fights.”
“I’m human,” Decker said, and reached for his rifle, which was never out of reach.
“I was hoping you would say that,” Bergeron said. “We wouldn’t have to fight, just sort of protect the women folk, if you know what I mean.”
“What do you mean?” Lincoln asked.
“I mean if the women are in danger, we might have to attack the Wolvs, just defensively, you know.”
Boston grinned. Katie spoke. “Your logic is so flawed, I don’t know where to begin.”
“Thank you, Captain.” Bergeron tipped his helmet. “I take that as a great compliment.”
The groups clash and try to find a solution that does not cost too much blood…
Until then, Happy Reading.