“Bodies,” Decker reported what they could all see. The few men they saw looked shredded. The Wolv they saw appeared dead, or at least not moving.
“I don’t see movement in the fort.” Lockhart looked through Katie’s binoculars.
“I see… Thirty some Wolv in the trees by their ship,” Elder Stow said. “My guess is the EMP worked, and they are trying to figure out what to do about it, now that thy are vulnerable.”
“Visitors,” Boston said, and added the words, “Friendlies.” Katie sensed them and pushed up beside Boston to block the view in case Decker or Lockhart thought to shoot first and ask questions later.
Boffo, the dwarf came from the trees, holding tight to an iron bar. It looked like a duplicate of the one Schaibo carried, but it looked like it fit Boffo’s big hand. Maruf the cobbler led the three women out of the trees and on to the road. Princess Nuronnihar looked terribly frightened and confused. Almeria and Peribonou came holding hands, while Jasmine rode on Almeria’s shoulder and held tight to Almeria’s rich, black hair. Aemir the elf chief followed, while Cedar, still holding the EMP transmitter, fluttered up to Baba.
“We did just like you said,” Cedar reported. “We got here just before the Wolv charged, and Jasmine was very brave to press the button.” He handed the device back to Baba as Aemir took up the tale.
“We had their instruments fooled, but they must have picked up traces of the metal used in your guns. They found us by visual sighting. Sorry we couldn’t make the whole camp invisible.”
“Survivors?” Lockhart asked.
“Mostly,” Aemir answered.
“We got the women out while the Wolv danced,” Maruf said.
Baba explained. “When their personal screens burned out, they probably got a bad case of electrical shock.”
“Their charge did not go as expected,” Boffo said, and grinned.
“I got people left and right,” Aemir continued. “They won’t be able to flank the camp, if that is what they are thinking.”
“Right,” Baba said. “Almeria, take my horse—Tony’s horse.”
“And what are you thinking?” Almeria asked, sharply, as Baba gave her a quick kiss and showed her how to use the stirrup.
“Princess get up behind Boston. She will keep you in your seat. Peri get behind Sukki. You all need to ride back to the wagon. Peri, you need to talk to Alexis. She used to be an elf and became human to marry. I’ll get up behind Lockhart. Maruf with Decker. Aemir with Elder Stow. It is open ground, but if Elder Stow can manage a wall screen on our side, the rest of us can make a dash for the castellum.”
“Boss,” Boston protested.
“No arguments,” Lockhart said.
“Boston,” Baba continued. “You need to keep your senses flared in case a group of Wolv break away to follow you. You have your Beretta, and Sukki has the power in her hands to protect you, if that should be necessary.”
“I don’t think we have time for that,” Elder Stow interrupted the plan. “We have eight or nine sneaking up on our flank, and the rest, maybe twenty-six or twenty-seven look ready to charge the fort.
“Damn,” Baba said. “Maruf, take the rest of the horses back into the woods to keep them out of the line of fire. Cedar and Jasmine get big to help with the horses, please. Keep them calm and quiet… Well?” He looked at Boston, who all but growled at him.
“Come on,” Boston shouted, and led the women back the way they came.
Baba turned to the travelers. “Elder Stow?”
“Just a minute… There. The screens are set around us and the horses. The women have moved out of range, but we should be safe. They should not be able to get at us.”
“Good. Decker, Katie, and Elder Stow focus your fire on the ones charging the fort. Lockhart, Maruf, Aemir, and I will deal with the ones that come up to the screen.” He called and became clothed in the armor of the Kairos, sword over his shoulder and long knife across the small of his back. He left his helmet, shield, spear, and the cape of Athena on Avalon, but he could call to them if he needed them.
“And Elder Stow,” Lockhart added. “Please take the safety off your weapon this time.”
“Automatic,” Decker said, interrupting Elder Stow’s grumpy response. “Three round bursts,”
“Sir,” Katie acknowledged that she heard.
Baba and Maruf loaded their primitive rifles. They fired a good-sized mini ball with enough force to penetrate armor, though not nearly with the force of Lockhart’s shotgun. Aemir and Cedar got out their wands, but they were not sure what they could do, exactly.
The Wolv sneaking through the woods divided when they saw the horses ride out. Four came to the screened travelers, not knowing about the screens. Four chased the horses.
Boston rode at a fast trot, but did not push them to gallop, wary of their passengers. Peri enjoyed the ride behind Sukki, though the Princess screamed in Boston’s ear, shut her eyes, and held on to Boston for dear life. Almeria kept up on Tony’s horse, not because she was a great horsewoman, but because the horse stayed with the group. They got less than five minutes away when they saw two riders coming toward them. Lincoln and Nanette stopped in an open field as the others rode up.
“Tony and Alexis have the wagon,” Lincoln shouted.
“Look out!” Nanette shouted and pointed. The Wolv were able to move fast enough through the woods to catch the horses. They came racing across the meadow, and people reacted. Lincoln and Boston pulled out their handguns and both managed to fire on the same Wolv. It ran out front. It eventually stumbled, and with enough bullets in it, it collapsed. Boston whipped out her wand and turned her flamethrower on the beast, just to be sure. Lincoln turned on the other two.
One attacked Sukki on the left side, and the other ran around to the right. Sukki screamed, not being able to turn her power in both directions. She did not know if she could turn the power on. She did not know what she was doing. She panicked, and the power came from her hands, outstretched to hold off the beast, much like it did before, only this time the whole mid-section of the beast turned to dust and ashes. The head and legs fell.
Nanette screamed. She had her wand but did not know what she was doing any more than Sukki. The Wolv to Sukki’s other side leapt. It kept going up, until it floated twenty feet in the air. It clawed and scratched at the air, and roared, but could not come back down. Lincoln fired, over and over, and Boston had to distract Nanette with a word of praise.
“All right, sister!”
“I panicked,” Nanette admitted, as the dead Wolv crashed to the ground.
“I panicked first,” Sukki said.
“No, I did, as soon as I saw them,” Nanette countered.
“No, as soon as we started riding to escape,” Sukki insisted.
“God,” Boston interrupted. “I love having sisters.”
The group turned and found the wagon not far away. They also found another Wolv body. Tony shouted to them. “Alexis held it back with her wind, and I shot it with all six bullets in my gun. Alexis told me there were more bullets, so I shot it three more times, and twice more after I got down to make sure it was dead. I checked. The gun is still fully loaded. What kind of magic can do that?”
Lincoln shrugged. “The gun will never run out of bullets. We have had that grace since the beginning, like Alexis’ never-ending vitamins and the never-ending bread crackers. Just keep in mind, the gun can still overheat and break if you abuse it.”
Tony nodded, looked at his handgun and said, “I wonder how the others are doing.”
The others, at that moment, were destroying the Wolv charge. Decker, Katie, and Elder Stow dropped one after another of the beasts as they raced across the field. Nothing came from the makeshift fort until the Wolv nearly arrived at the palisade. Then they heard the orders shouted. A volley from fifteen rifles put holes in about ten of the beasts.
“Second row. Ready. Fire.” They heard the echo through Elder Stow’s screens. A second volley of fifteen rifles fired, and the charge of the Wolv stalled before they could get their claws on the wooden stakes that made the palisade. The Wolv might have torn through that wood like paper. They heard, “Third row…” but it got interrupted by the sound of Lockhart’s shotgun, and the two rifles behind them. Baba shot a big hole in the middle of one. It would not live long. Maruf caught one in the face. Lockhart blasted a Wolv back to slam into a tree and added a second blast just to be sure.
Aemir managed to raise a root from the ground over which the last Wolv tripped. The Wolv slammed his face into Elder Stow’s screens, and found his foot tangled in the root. While it clawed at the root to get free, Lockhart came over and blasted it, twice. He made sure the rest were dead even as the Wolv attacking the fort turned to attack the travelers. Some semi-bright Wolv decided the travelers posed the bigger threat. Between Decker, Katie, and Elder Stow, none of the Wolv made it as far as the screens.
The Romans and Parthians came out from the fort holding javelins and swords, and very few rifles. They planned to make sure the Wolv were dead. The Arabs and Persians wisely stayed behind the palisade.
“Elder Stow, the ship?” Baba asked, and Elder Stow put down his weapon and pulled up his scanner.
“No sign of engines working. I am guessing most, if not all of the systems have burned out. They are probably repairable if the Wolv haven’t torn them apart.” He paused before he added, “I see three Wolv still aboard. Probably as near as they have to engineers.”
Baba nodded. “’l will need you, Boffo, with Schaibo and Boston when they get here, to go invisible and clean the Wolv out of the ship, if you don’t mind. I’m sure Boffo is disappointed at not using his iron bar.”
“Actually,” Boffo said. “I am not like Schaibo. I have no need to smash things.”
“Awe, come on,” Baba said, and patted the oversized dwarf on the arm. “Hulk smash. You need to practice that.”
When the others arrived, Ali Baba gave them a purse of gold and silver coins, mostly Parthian, but some Roman. They volunteered to stay and help him repair the ship, but he turned them down. “I’m going to give it ten days,” he said. “If I can get it in flight, I’ll take this crew to Moesia. I have to gather the legions to face the main body of Wolv there, though I feel better about our chances now than I did before, knowing that we can short out their personal screens and their weapons.”
“What are the odds?” Boston asked.
“Four legions, with auxiliaries make about twenty-four thousand men against five or six thousand Wolv. That may not be enough men. But anyway, don’t dawdle. You have ten days to reach the next time gate. Don’t worry. We will watch through Prince Ali’s tube. I won’t leave and shift the time gate until you are gone.”
“See you next time,” Katie said, and everyone waved.
The travelers catch up to a friend of regular readers of this blog. They find Greta, Woman of thee Ways of the Dacian people, or she find them. The Wraith also finds them… Until then, Happy Reading