“Woman.” Baran turned his wrath on the old woman. “I think age has finally caught up with you. She speaks crazy and you say it is the truth. I do not even understand what she is saying.”
Fae simply looked at the man until he backed down. “I understand little myself.” She said. “But what she says is truth. She does not lie.”
“Tell us about the wolf,” Vilam spoke up. “Tell us about Liam.”
“I killed the wolf.” Greta spoke plainly as she recognized that in a sense this became like a visionary moment for her. “He did not suffer. And I buried him twenty feet beneath the earth and solid rock. Do not dig him up lest you become infected like he was. Let him rest in peace.”
“You killed the wolf?” Baran only caught the first part of her answer.
“She speaks true.” Fae almost went unheard.
“But you said the Nameless god of the Yellow Hairs killed the wolf.” Vilam objected.
“The Nameless god did kill the wolf.” Greta said.
“But how could you both?” Vilam got confused.
“That doesn’t make sense.” Baran still protested.
“She does not lie!” Fae said, with sudden strength. Everyone looked at her. Greta also looked and saw that the old woman started looking at Greta in a very different way. She guessed that the quarter of Fae’s blood which belonged to her little ones saw something her human three quarters never dreamed possible.
“The Yellow Hairs will be made weak by the loss of their woman.” Baran wasted no more time. “Put her with the others. We will bring them to the bogie beast this very afternoon.”
“The bogie beast? The hag.” Greta understood. “That won’t be possible.” She spoke before they could grab her. “I killed the Hag. I baked her in her own oven.”
That really got their attention because they knew all about the chimney and, of course, the oven.
“She does not lie,” Fae said, and Baran looked astonished.
“That is why the smoke stopped,” Vedix said, as if confirming her story. He started looking at Greta with different eyes as well at that point, and not without some fear. Greta showed considerable restraint not to say anything especially since Salacia kept urging her to ask if Vedix would like to spend the rest of his life as a sea slug.
While Baran conferred with several of the men, Greta considered the stockade around the village. Such a structure could not ultimately keep out a hag, or bogie beast as they misnamed it. Such creatures returned to the same village, and often to the same house as their last feeding. But then, a regular flow of sacrifices might keep one at bay and even fix the beast on a new place for feeding.
Baran turned angrily and spoke without preliminaries. “Tie the woman in the swamp and leave her for the banshees.”
“I destroyed the banshees, the wyvern.” Greta spoke without hesitation, but lowered her eyes as if not wanting to remember what she saw. “They are no more.”
“She.” Fae began to speak, but Baran interrupted her.
“Old woman, I swear you are senile and don’t know what you are saying.” Then he turned his anger back to Greta. “I suppose you can prove it!” he demanded.
“I have a witness.” Greta answered, as calmly as she could in the face of the man’s storm. She had amazed even herself up to this point in the things that she said, but now, suddenly, she felt completely alone. She did not hear a peep throughout time, and she knew she had to do it herself, whatever that might be. In truth, she could only think of one thing to do. “Berry.” She called softly. She steadied herself and decided how things needed to be. “Berry.” She insisted. “On my shoulder.” And Berry got compelled to vanish from wherever she was and appear on Greta’s shoulder. “There, there.” Greta said immediately. “I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
Berry let out a little shriek and instantly hid in Greta’s hair, but not before everyone in that place saw her. Most just stood and stared, including Baran who appeared to be frozen with his mouth part way open. Fae, however, fell to her knees, placed her face in her hands and wept. It seemed as if seeing Berry became the fulfillment of her every hope and dream.
“Just talk to me.” Greta said. “Come and face me and speak up good and loud, Okay?”
Berry hesitated and shook her little head.
“You can put your back to all of the people so you don’t have to look at them.” Greta pointed out.
Berry thought about that and decided she could do that. She flitted out to hover and faced Greta, and Greta did not hesitate to get her talking instead of thinking about being on display.
“Did I go into the swamp yesterday morning?” Greta asked.
“Yesterday? I have to think.” She put her little finger to her temple and tapped. “Think, think. Oh, yes! You know you did and I almost stopped you, but Bogus the Skin said I was supposed to just watch.”
“And you followed me?” Greta made it a question.
“I watched like I was told. I do good what I’m told. So I fly from leaf to leaf and you don’t see me because I hide-ed.”
“I sure did. I do good what I’m told.”
“Then what happened?”
Berry flitted back and forth several times very fast before she settled down again. “I don’t like to think that part. The suckies came.”
“The banshees? The wyvern?” Greta suggested both the Celtic and Dacian names for the succubus.
“They been called that.” Berry said. “But you got the big god sword and POP! One is no more.”
Then you did something very brave.” Greta praised her, and Berry puffed up her chest in pride.
“I showed myself,” she said, and then added, “But not so brave. I knew you would save me, and you did. You powered them with more than magic, like fire and lightening herself, and they turned like fish bubbles and POP! POP! POP! They were no more.” Berry smiled and then frowned. “But four still chased you. They did not chase me so you could not power them. One got popped on the God sword, but three surrounded you and I was afraid for you.”
“You went into tomorrow or yesterday and the big man came. With the god sword and the long knife, you one, two, threed them and they were no more.” Berry thrilled at the memory of them being no more, and everyone present felt it. Berry did a back flip in mid-air and zoomed right up to hug Greta’s neck and kiss her cheek. Then she pulled back and looked serious as if she just remembered something very important.
“Oh, but Lady. I’m not supposed to be here. No, no! Bogus the Skin made a greement. The mortal, clumsy trompers get this side of the river and we get the other.”
Of course, it was nonsense. Greta knew that Berry and plenty more were over on the human side all of the time. They were in the grain, the trees, the flowers, the animals, but she supposed they always hide-ed. They had a comfortable freedom in being able to go about without always having to be invisible; but then those days were over since the dissolution. The days of dividing the land into separate realms was over. The earth was one, now, and it belonged to the lowly human race.
“And what was this agreement?” Greta asked. She was not entirely surprised to hear Baran answer.
“It would last until Danna herself, the Earth Goddess, the mother of all the Gods should end it herself, and what can you do about that?” Everything had gone so badly for him thus far, he wanted to mock her, as if that might still give him some power over events. Greta simply looked at the man without blinking. Then she went away into the winds of time, and Danna, herself came to take her place.
Some ran. Most hid. Some fell to their faces. Berry got big and got down on her knees beside Fae, but she could not contain herself. She slowly inched forward to where she could hug Danna’s knees, and Danna reached down and gently stroked Berry’s hair.
“All right.” Danna said. “The agreement is now ended.” And she made sure that Bogus the Skin and all of the little ones heard as well. “The whole forest now belongs to humanity which at present means the Celts, Dacians and Romans in equal measure.” She paused to let that sink in before she turned to the leader.
“Baran, you think if the Romans and Dacians fight each other it might weaken them and be to your advantage, perhaps even give you the opportunity to reclaim your land. Foolish man. The Northland is terribly overcrowded. Even now Germans of many tribes and nations are jostling each other and pushing against the soft side of the Roman Empire. Even as we speak, the Quadi stand poised to invade. If the Romans and Dacians weaken each other, only the Quadi and Samartins will gain, and the next invasion will not stop at the borders of the forest. For your own survival and for the sake of your children, I implore you to make yourselves known to the Romans and Yellow Hairs. You must join with them to strengthen and defend the border. There may yet be a hundred years of peace, but I leave that in your hands.” She paused again, but only to stroke Berry’s hair.
“Now Vedix.” Danna said, and Vedix appeared before her, instantly. A number of people gasped and several screamed. They were startled, but not surprised when Berry appeared earlier. They almost expected such things from the Vee Villy. But to think that it could happen to a man! “You kicked me this morning.” Danna said.
Vedix fell to his knees. His heart beat too fast, his palms sweating and he looked ready to pass out. Poor Danna had to tone down her nature to almost nothing at all, and even then Vedix barely eeked out a response.
“’Twasn’t you,” he said, and fell on his face.
“’Twas.” Danna responded in kind. “Not Danna me, but Greta me,” she said.
“Oah!” Vedix moaned.
“This is your punishment. Hear me!” Danna threw her arms out compelling attention and the sparks flew from her hands and eyes. Vedix certainly had to hear her because she had the power to send him to where a thousand years would barely begin his torment. All she did, however, was speak. “You must learn to treat others as you would wish to be treated if you were in their shoes.” She paused before adding, “No sea slug.” And she waved her hand once more and sent him back to the place where he had been trying to hide.
“I must go,” she said, and smiled, which suddenly warmed every heart present. Many people looked up, but only Berry had the presence to speak up.
“Must you?” she said and flitted to another thought. “Is it time for my Greta to come home?”
“Yes, sweet,” Danna said. “This is my Greta life, not my Danna life. Only, be good to her. You know my Greta is just as human, mortal, and fallible as Baran.” She paused for effect. “Well, perhaps not that fallible.” And she vanished into the winds of time, and Greta did come home, still speaking as if finishing Danna’s very thought. “Still, Baran, I would appreciate it if you would stop trying to sacrifice me to myself. That would be too strange, even for me. Now, I hope to make peace instead of war, but even if I fail at that, I must still destroy the weapons of Trajan.” Greta shook her head. These people had no idea what those weapons might be. “But first.” She looked down at Berry, “I’m going to fetch my brother Hans.”
R5 Greta goes in search of Hans, but he is in the territory of the Wee Willies, and they are not inclined to cooperate with mortal humans. As she really begins to learn her place, and what it means to say they are her little ones, it becomes a very heady experience. Sadly, she does need to return to the real world to finish her quest.
Until Monday, Happy Reading