Two days later, Wlvn explained to Raini about Kartesh, the life that came after Faya and before him. He talked about the dragons since Shana brought it up again, and the alarm sounded. Something came trudging up from below and Raini hardly needed a glimpse before she announced what it was. “An ice giant.” The ice giants were lesser Titans in the way Kartesh got made into a lesser goddess and charged with overseeing the relationship between humanity and the space faring Agdaline. A lesser Titan would not be a threat to a true god, but a demi-goddess, in particular an ancient one, and even a lesser goddess like Kartesh might be in trouble. And this one stood tall enough to look over the stockade. It looked bigger than the Cyclops, and it did not look nearly as friendly.
Wlvn cried out. “Carpasis and Sylvan, I need you.” He did not imagine the oreads would bother with him, but to his surprise they both showed up in an instant. They hugged Raini besides, as they were old friends. “Thank you Carpasis for being so kind to come, and Sylvan, thank you especially for the use of your chamber and your bed.” Raini raised an eyebrow at that, but Shana understood as did the oread. Wlvn gave Shana a peck on the lips, and she spoke.
“Who is it this time?”
Wlvn disappeared and Kartesh showed up because she had an idea. “Talk to it,” she said. “Just stall it for a bit and I will bring a pet for the lovely oreads to keep.”
Sylvan had her hand stretched out toward Kartesh and mouthed the words, “lesser goddess.”
Carpasis got more to the point. “A pet for me?”
“Yes, but one you will have to be careful with. They can be very dangerous.”
Carpasis smiled ever so slightly and looked at Raini. “No boredom in a little danger,” she said.
“I’ll be back,” Kartesh shared the smile and vanished from that place.
She arrived in Egypt in the mountains that sheltered the Great River from the worst of the desert storms. She let her senses fan out and soon found what she came for. She knew something of the story when Wlvn talked about her to Shana and Laurel. She remembered more when Wlvn talked to Raini. It happened in her last days, when Egypt became no longer a safe place for her to be. It remained unsafe. Set still hated her, but she hoped to fetch her prize and be on her way before Set discovered her presence.
Kartesh vanished again and appeared in some long-abandoned troll caves. She found a main chamber near the surface, and there she found the beast. The dragon was eating its mother, saved for last no doubt. Kartesh knew that the people nearby, with the help of the gods, killed the mother and all of her babies, but they missed one—one that had now turned nearly two hundred years old. That became old enough to be hard to control, but still young enough to be controlled with the right words and maybe with repetition it might yet be trained.
“Child,” Kartesh spoke sharply in the Agdaline tongue. “Attend me. No fire. Do no harm.” The creature left off eating for a minute and turned its head 180 degrees to stare at the lesser goddess. “Come. I have work for you,” Kartesh said, and the dragon left its mother and slithered up to face Kartesh. Kartesh felt pleased. The dragon appeared to be a big brute.
“I see,” someone said. “It is the words of the creatures from space that control it.” Set appeared and Kartesh took an involuntary step back.
“How did you find me, and so quickly?”
“You did not think you could come into my land without my knowing it. Curious, though, I heard you were dead.”
“I did die, some years ago. But I do get around in time, and as far as it goes, it is not your land. This land belongs to your brother, Osiris.” Kartesh stalled, though maybe it was not so wise to bring up the reason Set hated her. Still, she did not know what else to do. She feared she might die again when Set got done with her, but then it turned out he was not the only one who noticed her arrival.
“Amun!” Set said the word as he looked over Kartesh’s shoulder. Kartesh merely felt the presence.
“Go, my daughter.” Amun said. “I will hold this one in check for the moment.”
“Papi Amun,” Kartesh got the word out and even a little curtsey before she vanished and took the dragon with her.
When Kartesh and the dragon arrived, she saw Sylvan and Carpasis had called up several great slabs of stone to brace the stockade against the ice giant. He pounded on the stockade and whole logs were being ripped away. He roared. Raini roared right back and stabbed out at him with a long spear, but it looked like a bee stinging a bear. The ice giant hardly felt it. He also felt none of the arrows of Moriah and Laurel. They just bounced off his icy skin. Boritz had his club, and Badl had his ax at the ready in case the giant broke in. Wlkn had the women back from the action. In all, it looked like a real battle, but one that would be over as soon as the ice giant finished breaking in.
Both Kartesh and her dragon took to the air, and Kartesh gave explicit instructions. “Attack with fire and claw and when you are done, come back to me.” The dragon responded like a faithful puppy dog, albeit a pit bull, and on the first burst of flame, the ice giant’s face began to melt. It knew this was a real threat. It raised its hands and icicles sprayed the dragon. They crashed and shattered against the dragon’s armored chest without penetrating. A couple put holes in the dragon’s wings, but that just made the worm angry.
A second spray of fire got followed by a frontal assault. The worm’s stunted claws went for the giant’s face while its mouth snapped at the shoulder. Kartesh knew from the future that a dragon’s teeth and jaws could snap a steel lance in two. No surprise when the dragon came away with the ice giant’s arm.
The ice giant turned, but that just presented its back to the fire. It took a few more breaths, but in the end, the terrible giant got reduced to a puddle of water. The dragon only looked sorry that after all that work, he had nothing left to eat. It came back to Kartesh and whined while it settled in to wait. Kartesh reached her mind into the wilderness, found a nice fat, wild cow and gave it to the dragon for a treat. Then she tried to speak quickly because she knew the beast would not wait long.
“It is magnificent,” Sylvan agreed. “I get a turn.” She looked at her sister.
“But what is it?” Raini floated down from her position by the wall to join them.
“Listen.” Kartesh insisted on their attention. “It is a dragon and almost too old to train. You must guide it every day until it becomes used to your voice and your commands. It is still young enough to respond to simple commands in the Agdaline tongue.” And she thought through many of the Agdaline commands in a way where Carpasis and Sylvan could catch the words from her mind. “Now, don’t let it up on the Were plateau. Feed it only deer and other animals of the forest. If it is let loose, it will seek out sheep and even men to eat. Better if it never tastes men so it never recognizes them as a food source. Give it a deep cave and fill it with nuggets of copper, tin, gold, and silver, and precious stones. That is how they nest, on the hard, shiny metal. Treat it well and it should live another eight hundred years at least.”
“Child,’ Kartesh turned to the dragon. “These are your mothers now. Listen to them.” She moved Carpasis and Sylvan to the front so the dragon could stick its head out to sniff them while they petted its head and scratched behind the ears which the dragon apparently loved. Then the three of them vanished and Kartesh vanished as well when Wlvn came home. Raini immediately reached out to hug him.
“Oh, thank you,” she said. “That was wonderful even if it did not last long.” She wept for joy, but Wlvn felt relief.
“The ice giant could only have been sent by Loki. No way he can blame the Titan for that one.”
“Quite right.” They heard the voice behind them only this time it was not Set. Vrya appeared, and she hugged her daughter Raini. No one who did not know would imagine the young one was the mother and the ancient one was her daughter. Raini just cried all the more as her joy became full and Vrya did her best to offer her comfort and not cry over a daughter she knew she would soon lose.
The conclusion of Wlvn’s story. The confession of the gods and the final showdown with the Titan. Until then, Happy Reading.