Once again, Katie had to ask. “Why were you worried about Giovanni getting a hug?”
Leonora looked at Katie like she might not want to reveal her secret.
Katie clarified her thoughts. “I mean, it is obvious you love him, but I take it you two are not married.”
Leonora got teary eyed and spoke softly, like woman to woman. “Giovanni dallied a lot in the past. You know what I mean, dallied?” Katie nodded and Leonora continued. “He has been good since I joined the family—that is how circus people talk and think about each other. Baklovani and Titania, and Constantine our tightrope walker, oh, and Madigan the musician have been with him the longest. They were in the old circus before Giovanni’s father died. Don Giovanni is Sir Vincenzo Giovanni the third. His father was the second. His grandfather started the circus and got knighted by the Duke of Venezia…”
“You and Giovanni,” Katie reminded her, and Leonora sniffed before she continued.
“Anyway. Giovanni dallied a lot when he was young, but he has not strayed since I came. The ones who have known him since he was a child all say they never expected him to stop like that. They privately talk about him becoming a monk or maybe getting ready to explode. But he has a rule, and he is very strict. He does not get involved in that way with circus people. He does not get involved with family. He says that would be like incest, or something.” She let out a few tears.
Katie hugged the girl and Lockhart had a thought. “Did you ever think of quitting the circus?”
Leonora wiped her eyes and nodded. “But I have nowhere else to go,” she said. “These good people have become my family, and I cannot go home. That would be like a death sentence.”
“And you got concerned when Giovanni said he wanted to get her hug?” Katie asked, still sounding sympathetic.
“Curious?” Leonora tried, but Katie shook her head. “Okay, concerned. But I know his much older and much more important rule is he will never get involved with any of his little ones. He told me how the goddess Danna once made herself a fairy who did not remember that she was the goddess. She tried to talk to the fairies on their level and tried to keep them from making a terrible mistake. It sort of worked out, but in the meantime, she got involved with a fairy prince and had a son. And Giovanni says for the last four thousand years, Taliesin has been nothing but a pain in the butt.” Leonora smiled at her own mouth.
Boston came racing out of the inn when they reached the front door, and she hugged Leonora, much to her surprise. And she spoke. “Lockhart says I’m a pain in the butt sometimes, too.” Then she added a note Leonora did not know how to interpret. “I love you very much.”
Fortunately, Alexis followed Boston out the door and stepped up to Lincoln as she explained. “Don Giovanni must love you very much. You recognized Boston as an elf before anyone identified her as such. And Boston feels the love for you, and no doubt would protect you in whatever way she has to, though she might not exactly do what you ask.” Alexis gave her husband a peck on the lips. Katie took Lockhart’s arm. And Boston spoke again.
“That is exactly how I feel. Don Giovanni must love you very much.”
“It is just Giovanni, I think,” Lockhart said and looked to Leonora for confirmation, but Leonora was busy crying.
“Let’s go see what kind of swill this place serves for food,” Lincoln interrupted. “We kind of missed lunch.”
Giovanni came in the evening after supper. He found the travelers with Leonora sitting around telling jokes. Some of the jokes Leonora told were childish, like one might find in a riddle book for children, but they were fresh and new in that day and culture. Some were rather bawdy, but Decker matched her there, much to Nanette’s red-faced embarrassment.
When Giovanni came in, Leonora jumped up first, threw herself into his arms and planted a kiss right on his lips. He did not appear to object, but before he could say anything, she stepped aside and said, “Boston.” Boston hugged Giovanni hard and whispered in his ear.
“You should marry her.”
Giovanni backed up and shook an accusing finger, first at Boston. “You have been talking behind my back.” Then he turned his shaking finger on Leonora. “You planned this.”
Leonora grinned and leaned back until her hands touched the floor. She slowly raised one leg at a time over her head until she landed in front of her chair. She sat down and said, “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama. I still don’t know what that means.”
“From the future.” Katie grinned.
“The Kairos is usually careful about such things,” Lockhart said, and having everyone’s attention he added, “Standard watch tonight.” He looked around to make sure there were no objections and added another thought. “I think we need to get up on the wall around the main gate and keep our eyes open. And go armed.”
“I was just going to say that.” Decker said.
Tony and Nanette got up. They had the sundown watch, from six to nine. When Nanette stood, she stared at Decker to let him know she was not entirely happy with his mouth. But then she leaned over and gave him a kiss, which he seemed to appreciate. She got Katie’s handgun and knife on the belt which she buckled around her hips like a gunslinger. She had her wand, but she was presently in a time zone where the other earth phased too far out of range to leak magic energy into our universe. It would be 1275 before her magic returned to her. Tony, of course, had his own M1911 handgun and trench knife. Everyone figured he would need them when he got home just in time for the start of World War I.
Alexis and Lincoln stayed up for the present. They had the nine to midnight shift and an hour nap before the shift always made Lincoln cranky. Instead, they tended to sleep between midnight and eight in the morning and were occasionally the last ones up in the morning. Nanette and Sukki took over the breakfast duty, and the travelers usually left the morning camp about nine. They traveled about four hours, took a lunch between one and two, and traveled another three or four hours in the afternoon, stopping about five or six depending on the time of year and their location on the planet.
The goal was thirty miles per day or about three to four miles per hour, which they rarely made. Even when the roads were good, twenty-five or so was about the best they could do. They walked the horses almost as often as they rode, and Ghost the mule had his limits.
Lockhart and Katie took the hard shift between midnight and three in the morning. They adjusted to a two- or three-hour nap before their shift and five or so hours after their shift. They were most often the last ones up in the morning.
Decker got up and went to bed fairly soon after Giovanni arrived. He imagined he would hear the details later. Elder Stow followed Decker upstairs soon after. He left his scanner on the table where an alarm would go off if it detected any Wolv within a hundred yards of the wall. They had the dark of the night shift from three to six, and Elder Stow could be particularly difficult to awaken at three in the morning.
Sukki and Boston had the sunrise shift. Out in the wilderness, Boston would start the fire and Sukki would get the breakfast going and the all-important tea-fake-coffee. That normally happened after they watched the sunrise, and people began to stagger out of their tents. The horses and Ghost got special attention in the morning before they started out. But that night, they got interrupted well before the morning shift.
Katie and Lockhart got up and got their rifles ready. Katie got her gun belt back. Nanette left it outside her door when she went to bed. Alexis and Lincoln were on duty and expecting Lockhart and Katie to walk down to the gate and relieve them when Elder Stow’s scanner alarm went off. It was loud. Lockhart called it loud enough to wake the dead. Neither knew how to turn it off. They figured, let it run until Elder Stow himself came downstairs and dealt with it. They took off for the gate.
Above the gate, up on the walkway, Alexis let out a Sukki worthy scream. She turned around and came face to face with a Wolv that had clawed its way to the top of the wall. Alexis dropped her wand, but she raised her hands and managed a great gust of wind which knocked the beast off the walkway and down into the street.
Lincoln ran when he heard the scream, but he did not dare shoot the beast for fear of hitting Alexis. He stopped suddenly when a second Wolv clambered over the wall and landed in front of him. He pulled the trigger several times, and the Wolv collapsed just before a third Wolv came up from behind and raked its claws across Lincoln’s back. Lincoln had thickened his fairy weave shirt and made it as leather-like as he could. All the same, the Wolv nails cut through and left three long streaks of blood. The claw pushed Lincoln forward where he fell on his face and could not get up right away.
The wolf down below killed three of the four gate guards, even with a spear stuck in its side. The fourth guard managed a spear thrust that cut something vital in the beast. The Wolv let out a howl, and Lincoln’s Wolv stopped drooling over Lincoln’s body and quickly jumped off the wall to land in the street below.
The fourth guard did not stand a chance, even as he picked up one of the fallen spears. He screamed as he faced the Wolv and got a good look in the eyes of the beast. He tried to fend off the claws with his longer reaching weapon, but the Wolv proved too agile and quick. It bit the man’s arm and yanked it off the man’s body as the man screamed again. Katie arrived with her rifle set to automatic. She riddled the Wolv with five rounds. When Lockhart got there, he blasted the Wolv with his shotgun. Then he blasted the other one just to be sure.
Lockhart and Katie ran up the gate stairs and looked hard over the ramparts to see if they could spy any more Wolv in the dark. Lockhart found the one Lincoln shot. It was not quite dead, so he blasted it as well. Katie found Alexis leaning over Lincoln, practicing her healing arts on his back and crying. Lincoln could only say ouch until the healing magic penetrated as deep as the cuts.
It looks like the Wolv are checking them out, and coming… Until Monday, Happy Reading.