The cool, open evening drew in around them into a dark, taught night. Finally, squeezed beyond their ability to bear, the clouds opened and it was in a freezing rain that the travelers huddled. Some of Enoch's men were asleep, but the four friends and the queen were wide awake, hands stretched out underneath Enoch's shield, which now covered the fire.
"That's three dents," remarked Enoch merrily. "Not sure how many Trisha's armor turned. I think that last one would have made for a bad day, though. Thanks for the help, Belian."
"No problem; just sorry you didn't save any more for me."
"Looking for ways to advance your chivalrous standing?" Grizzly Bear teased in a shivering voice.
"Why not? Nothing else to do around here," Belian scooted closer to the fire.
"He thinks it would be great to tell somebody he's been knighted," Benjamin joked. "Oh, that's right, the French are all about chivalry, weren't they? I bet you're right; she'll really like that."
"Don't know what you're talking about," but Belian was almost smiling.
"It's been," said Grizzly, his voice sober now, "two years since we last thought we might really be able to get home."
"About time, huh?" laughed Enoch.
"It should work!" Benjamin gushed. "We've got the spice; it has to be the key. I just wonder exactly what we're going to do with it."
"Take it back to Chulsey and make burritos," Belian grumbled.
"I don't see what else we would do," replied Benjamin, "but that seems a little...unlikely, anyway."
"So, queen Chastagne," said Grizzly to the queen, who huddled silently between Belian and Benjamin, glowering daintily into the fire, "I'm awfully sorry about this. We're not exactly kidnappers...ok, ok, I guess we are...but we certainly aren't going to hurt you. It was just that you had seen us with the spice, and we couldn't have them knowing about it any earlier than possible. We'll be letting you go just as soon as we can."
Chastagne did not acknowledge him.
"About our conversation earlier," Enoch's voice never lost its merry edge. "I do know what you've done; a pretty good job of being a princess, I guess. You rule a lot of happy people. But why not share the spice with them? I don't buy all this 'just dues of rank' dung."
She turned a bitter face towards him, lower lip slightly twisted, "Read it."
"Read the spice."
Grizzly took it from his sack, unwrapped it, and held it under the cauldron lid so that it was illuminated in the flickering orange light. Gold lettering shone, etched in the white ivory.
"That's not nutrition facts," said Belian.
Grizzly read aloud, slowly, as he made out the words:
"To he who does not have, having
To he who has, lacking.
Thus through not, much
Thus through much, emptiness.
So to the wise, peace to others,
So to the fool, justice."
"A riddle!" said Benjamin.
"Taste it," she said, "and..."
"Somebody's here," said Belian, jumping to his feet.
"Listen." leaning away from the fire, they heard muffled gasps and a buzzing sound through the sound of falling rain.
"Wake up! Get'cher swords!" Belian darted over to Enoch's wounded man and took his sword while the others climbed to their feet, confused.
"Oh!" Benjamin's clouded expression cleared as he pulled on his sword-glove, "That's what you were doing while we set up camp.
"Yup. Good thing, huh?"
The watch slipped into the firelight. "Three or four. One of them is in pain. A strange sound I do not know.
"It's the generator," Belian explained to Enoch and Grizzly, "I stretched a wire around the camp and charged it. Perfect security system.
Putting pots over torches, the travelers slipped into the dark towards the source of the groanings, which had redoubled. Tossing the pots away, they found two men holding onto a humming metallic wire, twitching and moaning. The sounds of two others were fading away into the distance. The archers shot after them and there was a loud cry and a thump.
"That'uns mine, I should think," cried Chester Burley.
"Nonsense," slender Tomas murmured. "Twas my shaft or a weeks wages to you."
"Let's find out!"
"Careful! Step over the wire. Don't touch it." Belian ran off into the dark, "Got to shut down the generator."
A few moments later the buzzing stopped and the two men collapsed to the ground, gasping as if they had run a marathon, bright burns on their hands. "Mercy, mercy!" they gasped, as Enoch's men bound them.
"Wounded another," said Tomas, walking in front of Chester Burley, who had a man slung over his back and looked like someone who had just lost a week's pay on a bet.
"What does that make, five prisoners?" said Benjamin.
"Maybe these will be able to talk," said Grizzly.
"Heh," Enoch laughed, "it's not my fault that one put his jaw on my mace. I would have been glad to hit him somewhere else."
"Somehow I feel like you could have managed..." Grizzly shook his head and swung up his lute and sang as they walked back to the light of the campfire.
Enoch the Red, knocks 'em dead!
Enoch the Red, the Warrior!
Swings his mace, with a bushy red face!
Adventures like Tom Sawyer!
Got a toothache? Or a heartache?
He'll work on your jaw, or sweettalk...to y'all?
"...anyway," Grizzly chuckled to himself.
Belian was waiting for them in the camp. "She's gone; she took a horse," he said.
Where the queen had been there were only a few pieces of rope.
"She took the spice."