“We all set?” Lockhart interrupted. “Everybody clear on their assignments?”
People nodded, and Elder Stow touched the spot on his belt that made everyone invisible. They could still see each other, but no one else would be able see them. They all stood back and waited while Sukki went to the gate that had them locked in. The gate got tied on the outside with a rope around a nail. A simple but effective barrier.
Sukki stepped up and thought a minute. She put her palms out to face the gate, and flat-handed the right and left sides. The rope on her right puled the nail from the rock with it. The hinge on the left busted completely, and the gate fell flat to the ground. People silently indicated what a good job she did and how proud they were of her as they exited the cave. The guards came in, wondering what happened, but they saw no one.
Elder Stow, Alexis, and Nanette walked to the horses, just outside the cave. Boston, Sukki, and Tony ran ahead of them. The horses stood in a small fenced off area, still saddled and ready to ride, with the bags and equipment still tied up. Next to that area, a larger fenced in field easily held a hundred horses. Twenty more horses, still ready to ride, got tied to the outside of the big fence, up near the hut. Elder Stow figured they probably belonged to the men who rode into the camp with Chief Bobo—the servant of the Masters.
Boston, Sukki, and Tony found their own horses, and only startled them a little by being invisible. Fortunately, the horses responded to the familiar voices, and did not mind the riders, as the three got right up and got ready to ride.
Elder Stow offered a thought when the other three got to the gate. “The horses look untouched. The locals probably got instructed not to touch anything until the chief showed up.”
“Either that, or they were afraid,” Nanette said. “Who knows what they were told.”
“Or maybe the horses would not cooperate,” Alexis suggested. “I imagine Chestnut would be wary of being touched by strangers.”
When the three at the gate opened up, Boston, Sukki, and Tony slipped an invisibility disc under the front of the saddle, and the horses disappeared. Fortunately, the horses stayed calm, now being able to see their riders, who rode them through the gate, which Elder Stow and Nanette quickly closed.
Men ran around the camp. They shouted and made an atmosphere of near panic. Most looked for the travelers, but a group of five men came up to the fenced in area, and seeing horses still there, they relaxed. They did not count the horses, and that made the travelers relax. Elder Stow got the gate closed in time, before the five locals came to make sure it was still secure.
“Decker said, when they don’t find us in the camp, they will organize searches in the wilderness,” Nanette worried. “They will especially search the road.”
“I am sure they will,” Alexis whispered back. Elder Stow busied himself with his weapon.
Tony, Sukki, and Boston found the wagon off to the side of the fence. Like the horses, it looked untouched, though Ghost had been taken from the harness. The mule stayed by the wagon, a familiar anchor in a sea of strange men. It quietly chewed on the grass and tried to ignore everyone. Tony gave the wagon the once-over and checked the saddles and equipment in the back to be sure everything was there before he hitched up Ghost. Ghost moved to the sound of Tony’s voice, who talked softly to him the whole time as he put him back in the harness. Once secure, he attached a disc to the leather by Ghost’s shoulders. Ghost went invisible. The other two discs he carried got attached to the front and back end of the wagon to make it invisible as well.
Boston took the reins of Tony’s horse and started carefully down the hill. Sukki pulled up alongside Ghost to help guide the animal, while Tony got up on the buckboard. They wanted to get as far as they could before the locals discovered the wagon was missing. They wanted to get off the direct line to the road in case some men grabbed the waiting horses and rushed to the road, searching for them. Being invisible was a good thing, but it would not do to have horses slam into the back end of the invisible wagon. Besides, they could still be heard. The wagon was not exactly silent moving across the rough ground.
Boston led the way but stopped a second when she heard gunfire come from above. They all looked.
Lockhart, Katie, Lincoln, and Decker went to find their weapons. They rightly guessed the weapons got stored in the hut, away from the wind and rain. They fully expected to find the chief of the Masters and his local leaders there, and imagined him to be examining the weapons and maybe describing the basics to his lieutenants.
The hut appeared quiet, even as the men in the camp began to run around and shout, but they did not burst in the front door. They did not want to give themselves away, even being invisible. They walked once around the hut to check for windows. They found one window open out back by the cooking fires where women had a cow quartered and roasting. Some of the women stirred cauldrons and others made flatbread.
“Okay,” Decker whispered. “Now I’m hungry.”
The others looked inside. The chief sat with four other men, examining the weapons that they laid out on a big table. None of them touched the weapons except the chief, who turned a few over and mumbled. The Travelers understood that the servant of the Masters had another lifetime in the far future, where the masters lived and instructed him. There was no telling, however, how far in the future that lifetime might be. He might not be familiar with something as primitive as guns—projectile weapons from the early twenty-first century. He might have to examine them closely first, to understand how they worked and what they were capable of.
Lockhart spoke softly. “Katie and Lincoln. See if you can get inside by the window. Decker and I will go back around to the front door. I can see from here; the door has a simple rope latch. It should not be too difficult to kick in. Give me a peep on the watch when you are inside.”
They paused as the Chief spoke up. “Go and see what all that noise is about,” he said, and sent one of the men out of the hut.
Katie nodded, and hurried, when Lincoln pointed, as if to say, ladies first. Decker and Lockhart also hurried by the far side of the house, where the local horses were tied off. They saw Alexis and Nanette walk up to start untying one horse after another. They opted not to stop and ask what they had in mind. Alexis waved.
“When I bust the door,” Decker said, quickly, volunteering to do the deed. “You go right, and I’ll go left.”
Lockhart shrugged. “Okay.” He did this kind of thing plenty of times back when he served as military police, and then after he joined that Michigan police force.
Lincoln’s voice came through the watch communicator. “Peep.” He sounded like an electronic timer just went off. Lockhart breathed not aware he had been holding his breath. He worried they might make too much noise climbing through the window and be found out. Lockhart saw men coming to the hut, but he did not have to say, hurry. Decker did not give himself much of a running start. The door gave little resistance.
Everyone inside the hut shouted at once. Katie grabbed one man’s knife and stabbed him right in the middle. Lincoln grabbed another man’s knife, but the man turned into the touch, so Lincoln stabbed the man’s arm. The man fell but might survive. The third man in the room jumped up. Decker did not have time to look for weapons. He grabbed the man from behind, slipped his arm around the man’s neck, and used his other hand to grab the man’s chin. He snapped the man’s neck.
Lockhart went straight to the table. He grabbed the closest handgun which went invisible as soon as he picked it up. The Chief man grabbed a different handgun and began to look around. He saw no assailants as he fired three random shots around the room. Lockhart put three bullets in the man’s chest.
“Everyone okay?” Lockhart asked.
“My shoulder,” Lincoln said. “Just a scratch, but I think the man beside me is dead.”
“Should-a ducked,” Decker said, as he put on his gun belt and picked up his rifle. He turned to the door while the others grabbed their things. Men started running toward the hut. Decker flipped his rifle to automatic and sprayed the crowd with bullets. He put five on the ground, and the others scattered.
Lincoln grabbed Tony’s gun belt and Sukki’s belt that had only a knife, and they exited the hut as quickly as they could. They caught up with Alexis and Nanette, who finished untying the local horses. Elder Stow, floating about ten feet in the air, let his sonic device squeal. The travelers tried not to object. The local horses, already skittish because of the wild activity in the camp, scattered. Elder Stow floated closer and got them into a good run.
When the others reached the pen that their horses were in, they found five men by the gate. The men all lay on the ground, probably unconscious. No one saw any burn holes in the men, so they assumed Elder Stow turned his weapon to the stun setting.
“Take Mudd. I’ll catch up.” Elder Stow spoke through his communication device.
Nanette, Alexis, and Katie used the last three invisibility discs on their horses. Lockhart’s, Lincoln’s, Decker’s, and Eder Stow’s horses would have to remain visible. They did not wait, as Nanette took Mudd’s reins so the others could have their hands free for their weapons, and Alexis could pull her wand if needed.
The travelers stopped when they got down to the road. There were men on the road, but they were all on foot. The wagon had not been moved much further along. Lockhart imagined the wagon being half-way to the exit of the pass, but Tony opted to pull the wagon off the road and a short way across the grass where it would not be heard moving, and not be seen as long as it remained invisible.
Katie looked back at the red and orange of the sunset. The day was done. It would be dark soon enough. She thought, if they could get past the men walking the road, they might get away completely. Decker spoiled that as he pulled up his rifle and single-shot one of the men. Katie almost yelled, but they saw a sudden opening in the side of the hill, and some twenty dwarfs came pouring from the hill, axes swinging. Men screamed. About half of them got chopped up, but half ran right past the travelers, and did not look like they would stop running any time soon.