“Can I stay and watch?” Vrya asked.
“Of course, mother,” Danna responded, and she clapped her hands. “Boys!” There were three who appeared. Two went straight to the body and hauled the ghost of Carthair out by his arms. He kicked and screamed and protested, but it did him no good. The third one went straight to Danna.
.“No, please,” Carthair protested. “It was Vorgen. He made me do it. I didn’t want to kill anybody. I was enchanted.”
“I was thinking the deepest pit for this one,” the man said to Danna.
Danna slapped the man hard on his cheek. “You were raised better than that. You do what is right, and nothing more and nothing less.”
“Ow.” The man put his hand to his cheek. “Mother!” he protested.
“I like that,” Vrya said. “Do the right thing.” Danna simply nodded.
“All right,” the man said. “But he did commit murder, and he was not enchanted so it won’t be easy on him.” He pointed to his compatriots and they all vanished along with Carthair’s ghost.
“Mother Vrya.” Danna turned to the goddess.
“I’ll meet your friends another time,” Vrya said and she vanished. So Danna also left that time, and Lucas instantly came back in her place, and it was just in time to be smothered by a young girl and her kisses. Lucas did not seem to mind, but when he could catch a breath, he yelled.
Boston nudged Roland with her head. “Is it safe now to uncover my eyes?”
The young girl giggled at Boston’s response and then spoke to Lucas like they did not have any visitors. “I was with Mother Vrya. We were making wedding plans.”
“Really? Who is getting married?”
The girl’s mouth opened wide in pretend shock. She slapped Lucas softly in his arm before she took the arm and turned at last to the travelers. “You are,” she said to the side.
“Oh,” Lucas pretended surprise. “To you, I suppose.”
“No one else,” the girl said and proceeded to introduce herself. “I’m Oneesis. I felt you all day walking down my mountainside. Sometimes it tickles.”
“The oread of the mountain,” Lincoln said.
“Lovely to meet you,” Alexis shook the girl’s hand.
Katie had a different thought and turned it on Lucas. “Do you ever marry a normal woman, human I mean.”
“Yes, yes. Normally. All the time.” His voice trailed off as a normal, human woman came into the blacksmith shop with two small children. The woman fell on Carthair’s body and began to weep. The children did not know what to do, so they stared at the travelers with weepy eyes. Men were coming in to take away the body, so Lucas thought it was wise to move everyone back outside.
“Maybe we should all go over to Bogart’s,” he said.
After that, it was mostly a liquid supper. The elf bread Alexis offered up did not help much. Elder Stow opted out of the refreshment. He found a place to set their camp and put up his tent to rest. For the others, there was plenty of laughter and good feelings until Decker could not hold back his question.
“So who did Carthair murder?”
The locals grew quiet so the travelers did the same. They looked at Lucas. Oneesis put an arms around him and gave him a squeeze of support. “My father,” Lucas answered. He took a deep breath before he told the story.
“I was just thirteen or so. My father was the worker in metals in our village on the other side of the mountains, you see, and when traders came over the mountains with bronze artifacts, we just had to find out how to make that metal. It took some convincing, but my older brother got the metal works and Father and I went back over the mountains with the traders.
“We spent almost two years here learning the craft of bronze making. Then we were ready to take our knowledge back to our people. Carthair was a helper in the shop, and he volunteered to go with us. He said he knew the way over the mountains and he could help once we got settled in back home. Father was agreeable.
“The first leg of the journey was the worst. It took a week going around, not through the goblin lair, to get to the stunted forest beside the glacier. We felt invigorated, because no part of the long journey to come would take us to so high an elevation. It was there that father let me hunt for something edible, as long as I didn’t wander too far. I found the goblin lair and made a request for some deer meat. You can imagine.
“Carthair took advantage of my absence to stab my father in the shoulder. Father knocked Carthair into a hole he had trouble getting out of, but then Father saw two men rushing up. They had followed all the way from the village. Father was bleeding badly, but he had no choice but to grab his bow and run.
“Father climbed the ice, thinking the men would not follow him there. He had a good head start and got way up on the glacier. The thing is, ice flows develop cracks as they move, especially when they are generally melting back, and it is. The last vestige of the last ice age. It may be gone in several thousand years. But anyway, he was losing blood and strength and knew they would catch him in time. He turned and shot Carthair in the belly. The men fired back, but it was Carthair’s arrow that pierced my father’s heart.
“Now Carthair was the one lagging behind and losing blood and strength. When he stepped over a crack in the ice and broke through, he plummeted into the ravine and got stuck down some twenty feet. He broke his leg. The other two men had no way to get him up, and anyway, already counted him dead, so they moved on.
“I returned to the camp. I saw the blood and pieced it together in my mind. I hid when the two men came though. They called Carthair no great loss, and said as a young boy I wouldn’t last three days in the wilderness this high up. I am ashamed to say it, but I let the goblins have the men. It was Aphrodite, of all people who found me, freezing, and took me to my father’s ghost. Then Hades showed up, but that is a very long story.”
The howl of a wolf sounded in the distance and echoed down the mountainside. The locals thought nothing of it since wolves were common in the alps. The travelers recognized the slightly human nuance in that sound, and Roland stepped out to confirm the full moon. They were about to discuss what measures to take when Elder Stow returned to the party.
“I set a screen around the village. The people will not be able to go out tonight, but the wolf should not be able to get in either.” He took a few discs out of a pocket in his belt. “Are there any unaccounted for villagers in the wilderness tonight?”
“By the way, Lucas,” Gunther looked over at the young man. “You did shut down the forge for the night, didn’t you?”
Lucas spilled his drink and jumped to his feet. “Damn!” He ran out. There was no telling what those dwarfs might be doing left to their own devices.