“I thought they all died,” Sukki said as she got down from her horse. “There should not be any more Wolv.”
“Not a chance,” Boston said, as Nanette and Titania came up to join them. “They just got stranded on whatever planet they were on when their Humanoid ships busted beyond what they could fix.”
Elder Stow came up staring at his scanner. He ostensibly came to help the women move their horses off the road. The circus people were still bringing in the wagon loads from where they parked in a field outside the town palisade. The others all went to help.
“Actually,” Elder Stow spoke to the women. “Even in my day, a thousand years in the future, there are a half-dozen or so worlds where packs of Wolv still roam around. You see, on some worlds the people were made extinct before the Wolv returned to space. Some fought off the invasion as Earth did a thousand years ago in the days of Ali Baba. But eventually the Humanoid technology broke as Boston said, and the Wolv became trapped on that world. Again, some local people defeated the Wolv, and if they were advanced enough to do it, they also got an introduction to Humanoid technology and space travel. I suspect the Flesh Eaters, and maybe the Apes fall into that category. But on some worlds, the Wolv won and now own at least a half-dozen worlds in my day.”
‘You mean, they might learn how to fix things and come back here at any time?” Sukki worried.
“No, daughter.” Elder Stow gave her a reassuring smile. “The Wolv everywhere have reverted to their natural pack and tribal state; what modern people would call a Neolithic existence. They can learn. They can be taught, as the Humanoids taught them how to use their equipment, but it will be thousands of years before they learn enough to build their own spaceships, and it is possible that will never happen.”
“But they are here,” Nanette said, sounding nearly as nervous as Sukki. “How did they get here?”
“Over here,” Alexis shouted. She and Tony had the wagon in a side street, and Alexis had hers and Lincoln’s horses. The others each grabbed the reigns of two horses that were otherwise just standing around, and they followed the wagon, while Elder Stow said one more thing.
“That is the question. They had to be brought here. Who brought them?”
Decker and Lincoln went to help pack and bring in the last of the circus wagons. The town watch and soldiers were anxious to get the gate closed, though they had not yet seen a Wolv. If they had, they might have slammed the gate already and let those outside the palisade fend for themselves. Decker did not have the heart to tell the locals a wooden palisade wall would hardly be sufficient against the Wolv. It would not keep out an army, but the town could surrender to an army. If they surrendered to the Wolv, the Wolv would just eat them or tear them to shreds just for fun. The palisade might keep out a company of men attached to a distant army. It would at least make the company think twice before attacking, so Decker supposed it was not a totally useless wall.
Meanwhile, Lockhart and Katie met with Don Giovanni and Leonora, and two older men who went out to one of the outlying farms to see what the madman kept screaming about. They tried to explain things to the local Baron, his three knights, and the four town elders. At least one of the knights, Sir Bertulf seemed to understand what they were talking about, or maybe he believed them. The others all wanted to deny reality or interpret it in a way that did not appear so threatening.
“So, a pack of wolves attacked the man’s farm,” the Baron said with a haughty laugh. “Nothing a couple of good hunters can’t take care of. It happens all the time.” He walked off and two of his knights went with him, laughing about the panic.
“No. You don’t understand,” Otto, one of the old men started to speak but paused when Giovanni put his hand out.
“He will believe it when he sees it,” Giovanni said. “Let us hope it is not the last thing he sees.”
“How can we help?” Lockhart asked.
“Actually, for once you can stick around and get your rifles ready,” Giovanni answered as he turned to the town elders. “Besides, it isn’t safe out there to be traveling right now.” He spoke to the elders. “Do you understand what is going on here?”
The head of the little group looked at his fellows before he answered. “I am with the Baron. A pack of wild wolves I understand. I don’t know these Wolvs you speak of.”
“Just as long as you open the gates for the people to come behind the shelter of the wall.”
“We will not keep anyone out,” he responded, and they left.
“Sir Bertulf?” one of the older men asked, wondering what the last knight present thought.
Sir Bertulf pulled a little on his beard. “You say and all agree these are not natural or normal wolves. They think, are clever and cunning, and have a language all their own with which they communicate with each other even as we talk with one another. Are they demons, then, who have taken the form of wolves? I know their master goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. I do not doubt that his servants may take the form of wolves and be equally hungry.”
The old men looked at Don Giovanni as Lockhart began to speak. “That is not exactly right.”
“But close enough,” Giovanni said. “And if that line of thinking helps the people mount a reasonable defense, then let’s go with it.”
“We will spread the word among the people,” one of the old men said.
“And I will see to the soldiers and the night watch on the wall.” Sir Bertulf agreed.
As they left, Leonora grabbed Giovanni. “Tell me about these friends of yours. You never mentioned them.”
“I never think of them until they arrive, or mostly,” he said.
“They have an elf with them.” Leonora smiled.
“And a member of the elder race, two witches, and Katie here is an elect. We will meet them all later, but that is not important now.” Giovanni turned at the door and looked to see the gate closing. His circus wagons stretched the whole length of the street from the gate almost to the Baron’s residence at the far end. The Baron lived in a mansion and had a strong stone tower as a fallback position. He also had his own wall around his very big piece of property. It was an improvement over the town wall because the bottom four feet or so was stone.
“I hope we don’t end up stuffing as many people as possible into the baron’s tower as a last resort. That would not be good.”
Leonora tugged on Giovanni’s sleeve. “So, where do these Wolvs come from?” she asked.
“Wolv,” he corrected her. “It is like sheep. Wolv covers the singular and the plural.” The couple looked eye to eye in silence for a moment, and Katie smiled and nudged Lockhart who imagined he knew what she was nudging about.
Giovanni put an arm around Leonora’s shoulder. She quieted and let out her smile. He pointed to the sky and said, “You know in the night when all the stars come out? Generally, in that direction. You know, they are all suns very, very far away. There is a world, like the earth, that goes around one of those suns. They come from there, and how they got here is a question.”
Leonora sighed and laid her head against Giovanni’s shoulder. Katie had to say something.
“Surely, the Humanoid ships are not still functioning.”
“No,” Giovanni said. “And don’t call me Shirley.” He smiled. “But seriously, they had to have been brought here. The question is by who and for what purpose.”
Lincoln called as he walked up to the town hall. “Lockhart. Katie. We found an inn and got five rooms before they filled up with circus people. The horses and wagon are in the barn.” He stepped up and smiled for what he took to be two couples. Giovanni quickly let go of Leonora and asked her a question.
“Would you mind going with the travelers to help them get settled in? I need to settle the train and get the tents up in the street, I guess. Tell Boston I haven’t forgotten. I’ll be along later to get her hug.” Leonora backed up and looked at him. He explained. “It is just tradition. She is the elf.”
“Oh,” Leonora said and seemed to understand something. “Come on,” she waved to Katie and Lockhart as she and Lincoln led the way down the side street. “The Frauenhaus,” she named the inn. “Not the best in town, but acceptable.”