The travelers did not get very far in the morning. It quickly became too hot to travel. They sheltered the afternoon under a rock cliff that provided a little shade. The horses did not mind the rough grasses, but the people had nothing to eat other than elf bread crackers. Boston heated a cup of water in her hands in order to turn the crackers into bread. Lockhart asked Elder Stow about his sonic device and maybe heating up one of the rocks so they could cook something, if they found anything to cook; but Elder Stow nixed that idea.
“It is all volcanic rock of some sort and gets hot enough in this climate. The sonic device might heat them enough to make them pop or explode. Not a good idea.”
“How goes the screen device?” Alexis asked, changing the subject.
Elder Stow shook his head. “It is about ready for testing, but in this sandy environment, I have to be very careful.”
Mostly, people did not have much to say in the heat. Decker, Tony, and Lincoln all took siestas. The women passed some small talk and worried about the horses. Sukki and Nanette gave Ghost the mule some extra attention. The poor mule appeared to be suffering in the heat, though Katie suggested it was just a ploy to get attention. Lockhart worried about getting everyone safely back to the future and wondered how much longer this trip was going to take. Then the sun headed toward the horizon, and Lockhart got everyone up and moving. They traveled into the night, but only managed about twenty miles on that day.
The following morning, Decker saw a group of mountain goats and shot one. He feared he might have to climb the mountain to fetch it, but Elder Stow volunteered to fly up, and with an anti-gravity disc, he brought it down to be butchered. Alexis complained about no greens, and this time, Nanette joined her, but the meat at least gave them something to supplement the bread crackers. They could be sustained for a long time on just elf bread, but it did get boring.
After their long afternoon naps, Elder Stow used his scanning device to direct them to some surface water, which was a very small oasis not far off the caravan path they were following. They camped for the night in that place, having only moved roughly another twenty miles, but they felt drained from traveling through such intense dry heat. People were tempted to strip down to as little clothing as possible, but Alexis vetoed that idea. She got out the sunscreen and made sure that everyone got covered. Then she insisted on long pants and long sleeves, or something like long sleeve dresses with head coverings and face masks.
“You don’t see the Arabs riding around on their camels in short-shorts and tank tops,” she explained. “Besides, you will do better if you wear something to absorb the sweat. This is like being at sea and having the sun glare off the water, and the salt in the air drying you out. True, the desert has no salt, but the sand glares just as bad as the water, and the sand and heat will dry you out just as much, so don’t dress stupid.” That last, she told to Lincoln, but everyone got the message.
Several were surprised at how cold it got in the night. They did not feel it as much that first night when they were still moving through most of it. It did not get frost cold, but it got down close to it. Lockhart insisted on the regular watch, and the watchers huddled for warmth.
They camped a little way back from the water, where the land flattened out, and it looked like where others had camped. They found plenty of good grass there, being water fed. It appeared a bit camel chewed but seemed like gold for the horses. The travelers had a bit of the meat that had not yet turned in the heat, and mostly bread crackers. Boring. Then, in the night, the travelers got surprised by how many visitors came to the water.
They saw a couple of spotted animals, one of which was probably a leopard, but whatever they were, they kept their distance from the humans. At least two herds of grazing animals came. One looked like gazelles. The other looked a bit like cows, but with very long, straight spikes for horns. Lincoln was not awake at the time to identify them in the database. They saw what looked like cats and dogs, though the dogs may have been small wolves. Katie thought they were probably foxes. They also saw a white tailed something that looked especially small. They might have missed it, but it went for a swim.
The only trouble they faced, came when Decker and Elder Stow watched during the wee hours of the morning. Nanette got up, thirsty. They were all thirsty. She walked down to the water and ran into a half-dozen hyenas. The beasts were trying to sneak up on the horses. Nanette screamed. She tried to use her magic to make the hyenas back off, but nothing happened. She screamed louder as the gang of Hyenas growled at her and appeared to change their mind about the horses. This human seemed an easy meal.
Decker came running. He wounded one beast in the dark and killed one. Elder Stow turned on his light that could be seen for miles. The hyenas ran, including the one that had a bullet in its side. It ran dripping blood. The dead one went nowhere.
Decker grabbed his rope and looped it several times around the dead animal. He dragged it as far from the water and the camp as he could, guided by Elder Stow’s light, and then dropped it, retrieving his rope. When he got back to the camp, pretty much everyone was up. He had to pause, while Nanette threw herself into his arms and cried. All Decker could do was look at Lockhart and Lincoln and say, “Shut up.”
Eventually, he got to ask why Nanette did not use her magic to keep the hyenas away or escape herself.
“I tried,” she said, and turned to Alexis. “I honestly tried, but it is like I never had any magic—like it was all an illusion.”
Lincoln looked it up, since he would not be able to sleep any time soon. “The other earth went out of phase in 375 AD. That would have been when Bahati turned twenty. The record says she came to Arabia in her late twenties, so the magic energy, or I should call it, the creative and variable energy that leaks into this world from the other earth is currently diminished below the useable point for most people. You probably won’t get your magic back for another three hundred years.”
“What am I going to do?” Nanette fretted.
“Be our sister,” Boston said, and nudged Sukki, who nodded.
“Just be yourself,” Alexis said, and smiled.
“Be happy. You are safe among friends,” Tony said.
“Family,” Elder Stow corrected the word friends.
“Stick with Decker,” Lockhart said, and tried not to grin. “He will take care of you.” He had to turn and walk to his tent so Decker could only see his back. Katie took his arm to go with him, but she slapped that arm softly on the way.