“Strangers. Where have you come from? Where are you going?” one big warrior stepped out from the crowd to address the travelers. Lockhart and Katie got down to answer. The others stayed in the saddle, but Mingus had a suggestion.
“Time to take off the glamours.”
Mingus and Boston let their elf nature free, and after a moment of thought, Elder Stow dropped his glamour of humanity. The Gott-Druk still looked more or less human, but as a Neanderthal, the emphasis was on less.
“We are just passing through,” Lockhart said, and he tried to not look threatening, though to the people he may have looked like a giant. The big man of the locals was a good three or four inches shorter. “We came to your land through a door in the sea, and we are going to a door on the other side of this island. Let us pass and wish us luck and we will leave you in peace.”
An old man dressed in leaves stepped to the front. He held a stick with a human skull upside-down on the end. He shook it and it rattled like a baby rattle, suggesting the skull had some pebbles inside. He spoke in a sharp and loud voice.
“You have disturbed the Eniwahs. The land rejects your intrusion. You must give gifts to make amends. We will take two of your beasts and sacrifice them to the spirits of the land.”
“The shaman,” Katie whispered. “Possibly the chief.”
Mingus got down with a sharp word for Boston. “Stay here.” He walked himself and his horse up to stand beside Katie and Lockhart. “We are the spirits,” he said. “The spirits of your land are hiding because you are so cruel and make too much war and killing. You must learn to be good to travelers and kind to the strangers among you.”
“You insult our ancestors,” the shaman yelled. “Now you must give us all of your beasts to satisfy the old ones.
“My turn,” Elder Stow said, with another word for Boston. “Stay here.” He stepped up to the others. “I am the old one. Your ancestors are ashamed of you because you treat outsiders badly. You must learn to treat outsiders like family, no matter how strange they may appear to you.”
“You don’t do the telling,” the old man screamed, and looked like he was going to give himself a coronary. “I have the power. You must do as I say. We will sacrifice all of your lives, you and your beasts, to satisfy Dienak and Shamoak.”
Alexis had stepped up by then, but she said nothing. She had her wand and gathered a pocket of air around her hand. She pointed at the man and the air hit him like a punch, knocking him over. The rattle flew out of his hand, and his leaf skirt became shredded. The warrior who spoke stared, first at the shaman, and then at Alexis. The crowd of warriors behind him that had been mumbling, now spoke up, loud and afraid.
Boston shouted from behind. “Can I move now?”
The earth began to shake. People feared an earthquake. Some locals looked to the mountains, afraid one of the volcanic peaks popped its top. Two men-like people, roughly twelve feet tall, stepped out from the woods, one from the jungle and one from the mangrove.
The shaman got his rattle. He ignored everything in his anger. Apparently he had some magic, because Alexis saw the magic come from the man like a counter-attack. It was pink, the color of a fine tropical sunset, but it stopped after a short way, and the man himself froze in place. Men ran screaming for the village. Some fell to the ground, covered their eyes, and trembled. The big warrior in front also looked petrified, and did not move.
“You called?” Dienak asked, and smiled.
“Thank you in advance,” Lockhart said, quickly.
“I really did not want to kill all of these people,” Decker mumbled.
“But, that would not have been a terrible thing,” Shamoak said.
“The little one is right. The little spirits hide because these people are cruel and like to eat everything that is not them,” Dienak explained.
“Extreme Daleks,” Boston said as she finally joined the others.
“Come,” Shamoak said. “I will take you out of the territory of the Tadek.”
“I will keep the people here so they do not follow you,” Dienak volunteered.
“Thanks,” Boston shouted up at the tree-man. He smiled.
“Quite all right, little one. My pleasure.”
“Tadek?” Katie asked right away.
“The small island off the coast. That is where this tribe came when they first arrived, and they have their main village there. But the island is too exposed to the ocean and the Typhoons, so they have come to settle in three places on this main island, and let the smaller island of Tadek act as a barrier to the wind and wave.”
“They settled peacefully?” Lockhart asked.
“No,” Shamoak said. “They drove away or ate the people who welcomed them ashore.”
“What?” Lincoln was listening in.
“There are still many alive,” Shamoak said. “I believe the main island is home to a half-dozen tribes. Fortunately, the mountains on the big island make contact between tribes rare enough, and the island is big enough to avoid competing for resources.”
“You sound well informed,” Alexis said.
“Yes. Feilo is a fine and bright fellow. He knows many things that I would not otherwise know.”
“Man or woman,” Lockhart agreed. “I have always found him to be honest and giving.”
Shamoak made the trees stand aside so the horses could come through safely. There was not anything he could do about the rain, and soon enough the journey became soggy and miserable. The horses moved, but with their heads lowered, and at best they shuffled forward. The people did not blame them. Shamoak did not seem to mind the weather
After three hours, they were well out of the area and not likely to be followed. Shamoak said goodbye, with a warning. “This rain is the leading edge of something. I would guess in two or three days and we will have a real blow. I think I will go and fasten down my roots.”
The travelers said good-bye and decided to camp where they were. It was dark from the rain clouds and the sun was setting, even if they could not see it. Shamoak had led them to a broad, elevated field where there was plenty of room for their tents and the horses. There was not anything handy to eat, but for one wet night, it was about as good as they were going to find.
Elder Stow put up his screens against intrusion, in case the blobs or people showed up, and he set the particle screen to block the rain without blocking the air. He could not do anything about the soggy ground, but the fairy weave tents could be built with waterproof floors, so it was not so bad. The horses would dry and there was plenty of grass for them to chew on, soggy though it might have been.
It took some effort for Boston to get a fire started with the wet wood. Mingus helped, but he reminded her that while he had fire at his fingertips, it was really his secondary strength. His main magic was mind magic. Boston was the fire girl. The Amazons called her Little Fire. So she started the fire, but Mingus helped. Then they did not have much to cook.
Alexis had some plantains to fry and a couple of those early avocados to share, but otherwise they had to make do with the last of their smoked tuna. Mingus thanked Alexis for her good cooking, and everyone, Alexis especially, wondered if he felt all right. Little spirits rarely got sick, but fevers were not unknown. Lincoln and Boston were the first to think that maybe, after all this time, just maybe Mingus was coming around.
Everyone huddled around the fire for most of the night. Everyone got some sleep, since now the rain was not falling on their heads. They all took their fairy weave blankets and rubbed the horses. Horses could get sick, so they gave them extra attention and covered them in the night. They hardly needed the blankets in a land where even with a cold night rain the temperature never got below seventy. In the daytime, the temperature would creep up to eighty-five or more, no matter how hard it might rain.
Lockhart and Katie flattened two fairy weave tents so they could lay their saddles out and keep them dry. Elder Stow kindly snored inside his tent, and Major Decker chose to sleep in his tent as well, but the rest laid out with their saddles, under the sky full of clouds and rain. Elder Stows screens not only kept out the rain and the blobs, it also kept out the rats, bats, lizards, birds, and innumerable insects, some of which could be pretty nasty.