Sir Bertulf and the night watch arrived at the same time as Decker, Elder Stow, Sukki and Boston. The travelers did not appear to be fully awake, but Sir Bertulf and the men on the watch all gagged on seeing the shredded gate guards. Giovanni arrived moments later with one of the old men that went with him to check out the farm. The old man spoke first to Sir Bertulf.
“This is what we saw on the farm, though the family looked partly eaten. We ran as fast as the horses could run when a dozen of these Wolv came out of the woods.”
“I count two Wolv,” Giovanni said, and he leaned back and shouted up to the top of the wall. “Alexis. How many did you get up there?”
Lockhart’s voice answered. The man could not be well seen on the night shrouded walkway. “Lincoln shot one.”
“That is three,” Giovanni said, seemingly satisfied. He understood three-man—three-Wolv—three-person fighter/bomber craft became standard among space-faring people since the days of the Balok, some five thousand years earlier. That three-man or three-Wolv thinking translated into all sort of other circumstances. A three Wolv scout troop was what he expected.
“We saw at least a dozen at the farm,” the old man said, and added softly, “I didn’t stop to count them.”
Sir Bertulf stared at the Wolv by his feet when Giovanni said, “These were probably advanced scouts sent to check out the lay of the land.”
“There are more out there,” the old man said.
“You talk as if these Wolv think like an army.” Sir Bertulf tore his eyes away from staring at the beast.
“They have first rate military minds,” Giovanni answered. “Despite the fact that they look something like ordinary wolves, these Wolv are not dumb beasts. They talk, are organized, and make excellent soldiers, which is why one group of people used them as front-line troops in their days of conquest.”
“How many do you figure?” Decker asked.
“At least a company of forty. Maybe a whole brigade. That would be six hundred. Let us hope there are not more. Oberon!” Giovanni called.
“Right here, Lord,” the dwarf answered. He came out of the dark street followed by the half-ogre Sibelius and a very grumpy old woman named Madam Figiori. Madam Figiori was a very old, full blood elf whose magic allowed her glimpses of hidden things, including rare glimpses of the future. She ran the fortune teller’s booth, but at the moment, being a light elf, she wanted to be sleeping in the dark time.
Sibelius carried the stretcher Giovanni made with the hope they would never have to use it. Sadly, circus people sometimes had accidents and needed to be carried to a place where they could rest and recover from their injuries. In this case, Sibelius held up the stretcher with a question in his eyes. Immediately, Alexis shouted down from overhead.
“Benjamin got clawed. We need a way to get him back to the inn.”
“Come on, strongman,” Decker said and headed toward the stairs.
“I wondered why Madam Figiori said to bring this.” Sibelius smiled as he held up the stretcher and followed.
Katie came down first and saw that there was nothing Alexis could do for the gate guards. Sir Bertulf jumped when he saw Katie examining the men. He began giving orders to the watch. “Raise the city guard. I want torches on the wall in the night so we can see them coming. We have to man the whole wall. They could come over at any point, and I’ll flog any man who falls asleep on the watch.” He turned to Giovanni. “Are they afraid of fire?”
“Not in the least,” Giovanni answered. “You can’t think of them as dumb animals. If we make the wall too costly for them, they may try to set the wall on fire, or burrow under, or build siege engines like an army of men. They are ferocious, like berserkers, stronger and faster than ordinary men, but most of all they think. They are not dumb beasts.” Sir Bertulf nodded, even if the reality of that would take time to sink in. Giovanni added another note. “You need to consider manning the wall in shifts. They may be here before morning, or it could be days or even weeks before they turn in our direction.” A final nod from Sir Bertulf and he ran off followed by two watchmen.
Other watchmen started up the stairs as Decker and Sibelius brought Lincoln down as carefully as they could, with Alexis yelling at them to be careful. Lockhart followed, coming down the stair where he and Katie joined Elder Stow, Sukki, and Boston who had gathered around Giovanni. Giovanni was speaking to the dwarf.
“No, Lord,” Oberon said. “It looks like the six hundred you guessed. There are some good dwarfs, some string beans, flutter-byes, and dark ones all volunteering to help defend the town, but not many of each. Those Wolv are scarry just to look at.”
“Every bit helps, and I am sure your volunteers will do more than they should. Thank them for me.” Giovanni turned to the travelers, but Madam Figiori interrupted his thoughts.
“No telling if I can see rightly in the dark. It is unnatural to be awake and about at this time of the night. But it looks like you have an elect, a member of the elder race, a girl who is simply cracking with powers—the gods must have been generous to you, girl—and the red head is a full blood elf, a princess I would guess from the look of her.”
“Boston,” Giovanni smiled. “You need to visit with Madam Figiori while you are here.” he turned to the old elf. “Consider Boston like the daughter you never had.”
Madam Figiori harumphed and walked once around Boston like she needed to see the girl from all the angles. Then she spoke. “She is a fiery wild child. Brilliant, but a disobedient, stubborn girl who can drive everyone crazy around her.” Boston did not object, but she looked sad to think this elder elf did not like her. Madam Figiori surprised her when she let out a little smile. “She is exactly the kind of daughter I would have had if I had one.” She turned again to Giovanni. “Nothing I can see right now. These Wolv are just exploring for the present and their minds are too wild to make sense.” She shrugged. “I will sleep on it. Come, girl,” she said and walked off with Boston following. “What kind of a name is Boston? Well, you used to be human.”
“Ugh,” Boston protested. “How did you know that?”
“I know too much. Elves frown on soothsaying and fortune telling. It got me kicked out of my woodland home, but that happened a long, long time ago…”
That was all the travelers heard before Lockhart turned to Giovanni and asked, “Where do you want us?”
“Available,” Giovanni said. “I would prefer you on the road to the next time gate, but that would not be safe right now. I guess for now you can stay around the main gate on the main road. The south road gate is next to the Baron’s residence. Hopefully the man is not a complete fool, or Sir Bertulf may double the guard there. Later, maybe when everyone is up in the daytime, you might hang around with me by the town hall. That is the center of town. We can run from there to the wall, wherever we may be needed. Elder Stow?”
Elder Stow took one more look at his scanner. “I have expanded the alarm to a half-mile all around. That takes in the town and should give us more advanced warning if there are Wolv in the area.” He handed Giovanni a disc. “Here. It is tuned to the scanner and will relay the alarm, should it go off.” Giovanni thanked him and put the disc in his pocket.
Giovanni said, “I suppose it won’t do any good to ask Decker to take his eagle totem in a fly around in the morning. As I recall, he can’t see much under the trees. Still, he might luck out and catch a glimpse of whatever ship brought the Wolv here.”
“Agreed,” Elder Stow said. “But for now, we need to rest while we can. It also won’t do any good being exhausted when the Wolv come in force.”
Everyone agreed with that and went their separate ways. Lockhart and Kate climbed to the walkway up on the wall where they had a turn watching for the Wolv, while men came to man the gate and clean up the mess of bodies below.
Giovanni had a fine breakfast prepared in the town hall. The travelers had already eaten at the inn, but they did not mind nibbling on the food. Decker meditated and sent up his eagle totem. He saw nothing to speak of under the forest canopy and could not confirm the glistening something he saw in the distance, well beyond his range.
“It might be a ship, a big ship, or two ships,” he said. “It might be a refection off the next big town over.”
“Stuttgart,” Lincoln named it. “On the Necker River.”
Decker said, “It might be the river.”
Elder Stow added a note. “I am seeing movement in the woods, but it could be a herd of deer or something.” His uncertainty did not reassure anyone. He picked up on that and defended himself. “This is just a toy. It is not a real scanner. I am doing my best.”
“I can’t eat anything,” Sukki said. “All I can picture is the Wolv eating the whole town.”
Nanette nudged her. “Good thing you had a big breakfast before coming here.”
Sukki nodded. “I wasn’t thinking about the Wolv then.”
Sir Bertulf and some of his men were there along with the two old men from the farm. One of the other knights, Sir Radbod was also present. He came around after he saw the bodies of the shredded gate guards. No telling where Sir Aldabert and the Baron Fredrick stood at that point, but at least now Sir Bertulf did not need to watch both ends of the town at the same time.
Any number of circus people were present as well, including Oberon the dwarf, Sibelius the strongman, Titania, the bearded fat lady, and Leonora decked out in her harlequin costume, who complained that they had an adventure in the night without her.
“That is what Boston usually says,” Sukki told her when Boston and Madam Figiori came in laughing about something. Boston took the madam to introduce her adopted sisters Sukki and Nanette. Madam Figiori was just revealing the impression she got of both of them, impressions that were uncanny in their accuracy, when Elder Stow’s alarm went off.
“I guess that is not a herd of deer,” he said.
Oberon nodded. “It looks like the full six hundred, and they are straight out in the woods from this point, about half-way between the north and south gates.
“God help us,” Sukki said, and even the disguised little ones present did not object to that idea.