Greta did not answer. She got busy helping Fae up the little hill. Berry also got preoccupied, back on Greta’s shoulder, sticking her head out behind and sticking her tongue out at the receding ogre.
“Fascinating,” Fae said. “Such a big and frightening brute.”
“Yes, I know,” Greta said. “I’m sorry.” As if she was personally responsible.
“And yet, very child-like in a way,” Fae concluded.
“In a way,” Greta agreed. “After a fashion. Oh, let’s face it, most ogres are not even the sharpest spoon in the drawer.”
“Fascinating,” Fae said again. “And I know what you say is true.”
When they reached more level ground, Greta ventured a question.
“Yes, I am,” Bogus said.
“He lies.” Fae got right on him. Greta, Berry and Bogus all looked at her.
“Well, no.” Bogus took a side step. “Actually, I am more like her great uncle.”
“He lies.” Fae said, and Bogus looked very uncomfortable. He looked inclined to say no more, but Greta felt curious. They all were.
“What, exactly is your relationship to Berry?” Greta asked.
“Yes, what?” Berry wanted to know.
“It is kind of complicated,” Bogus hedged.
“He—” That was all Fae could get out before Bogus yelled.
“All right! I’m her grandfather. Got it?”
Greta could tell this came as news to Berry. “You are her grandfather,” Greta confirmed.
“Yes, look. We need to stop here a minute.” Bogus quickly changed the subject. “You can rest and I will be back in a minute, I promise,” he said, and looked at Fae, pleading.
“He does not lie,” Fae said, so Greta nodded. She would not mind a minute’s rest. She felt sure Fae would not mind. Berry quickly jumped to Fae’s lap. She knew Greta had questions.
Berry shook her head, and then perked up. “Bogus has wings, but he never uses them. I don’t think they work right,” she said. She thought some more. “Bogus said his mother was a flyer.” She looked proud to have remembered that.
Greta nodded. It did not make sense to look at them, but it made perfect sense in the folded, convoluted universe of the little ones. She got ready to say something when Fae spoke.
“There is a chill in the air.” Greta felt the same, and it caused her to look around.
“It’s a bodiless.” Berry named it, and Greta shrieked as the ghost came out of the tree right beside her. She had to stand and scoot back to keep the ghost from walking right through her. It looked like a Roman, and an officer at that. They all saw him well enough, but oddly, he did not seem to see them.
“Roman,” Berry said. “I should have remembered this was his place. Roman!” She called to the ghost and the ghost stopped. At first the ghost looked around as if something did not quite penetrate. “Roman. Why are you here? You frightened us.”
“Little mistress?” The Roman communicated after a fashion.
“Where are you going, Roman?” Berry asked.
“Round and round. I do not know. I cannot find my way. It is so dark.” The ghost seemed to look at Greta, and then more nearly looked through Greta. “Do you know the way out?” he asked.
The Roman took off his helmet and appeared to put his hand through his hair. It appeared as only a slight wind. Berry flew back beside Fae. This seemed new to her.
The ghost smiled for a minute and they all caught the sense of home. Then the ghost vanished altogether.
“What did you do?” Berry asked, and leapt for the protection of Fae’s hair. “Where did he go?”
“She sent him home,” Fae answered, even as Bogus showed up.
“Back like I promised.” Bogus said, but he eyed Greta harder than ever. “You must be made of stronger stuff than most humans.”
“No,” Greta said. “Same stuff, just a little more experienced is all.”
“So, who are you?” he asked.
“A sister who wants her brother,” she answered. “You know the instructions of the goddess. Now, no more tricks.”
“Oh sure.” Bogus almost sneered as the sarcasm crept into his voice. “And I suppose you always do what your god tells you.”
Greta could not fairly answer that with Fae around. “All the same,” she said. “I want my brother back and the day is drawing on.”
“Little do you know,” Bogus chuckled and rubbed his hands.
“Bogus,” Greta got through fooling around. “You must take me to my brother, right now.” She compelled him.
“Well, if I must I must,” he said, and he started to walk. “Though my better nature asks why?” He mumbled again. “If I were in my right mind I wouldn’t do it. Not in a million years. So that’s it, then. I’ve gone completely bonkers. Lock me up and throw away the key. See, my feet are moving, and in the right direction, too. I must be mad. Well, here we are.”
Greta stepped up and saw Hans dancing with a woodwife while two little imps made wild music on a pipe and a drum. Several woodwives stood around, clapping and waiting to take their turn at the dance. Hans had been dancing for nearly three days and three nights.
“Greta.” Hans saw her. “I’m sorry I left the camp, but isn’t this wonderful?”
“Stop. Stop the music,” Greta insisted, and the music stopped. “And how long have you been dancing?”
“Not more than a few minutes,” Hans said. “I was about to come back.” He collapsed. Greta rushed up to put his head in her lap, but he had already fallen asleep.
“Hey Bogus.” Greta heard one of the imps. “What happened? It’s still today.”
“What? Not possible,” Bogus said. “I’ve been walking them in circles for days. It must be the day after tomorrow at least.”
“No, it’s still today, I tell you.”
“Ragwart.” Bogus called for a second opinion. “How many days since we left the river?”
“Same day,” Ragwart said. “Just like Gorse told you.” Gorse nodded and Bogus turned to face Greta but Greta spoke first.
“We need food,” she said. “Hans must be absolutely starving. And then I want to go straight back to the river without tricks. I want to be back in the village before dark.” She did not want to spend another night in the haunted woods. Gorse and Ragwart volunteered to fetch the food while Bogus tried one last time.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“The Kairos, the goddess,” Bogus said. “Pots and kranky bits!” He started to swear, though he had actually figured it out, but he stopped as Greta held up her hand, having more to say.
“More important,” she said. “Fae and Berry are both your granddaughters.”
“What?” Bogus jumped about four feet straight up.
“Not possible,” Fae said. “I am seventy years old and Berry can’t be more than thirteen.”
Greta shook her head while Berry spoke up. “I’m seventy,” Berry said.
“It’s true,” Greta said. “The little ones age much more slowly, but twins were born and Fae stayed with the humans while Berry was given to the fee.”
“Honkin beans!” Bogus yelled. “Great horned butt headed goblins and ogre snot! I’ll be the laughing stock of every spirit between here and Davy Jones.” His language got rather colorful after that as Ragwart returned.
“Eats is ready,” Ragwart said, having missed everything up to that point.
Playing with the sprites is all fine and well, but at some point, Greta has to return to reality. he has guns to deal with, and a rebellion getting out of hand in Ravenshold. Next week, Back to the World. Until then…