Her own thoughts turned to Gerraint and all the struggles around York. She saw too much blood and killing, and she willingly worked her fingers off, but it felt like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. Festuscato would be facing the same soon enough. Greta wondered what was wrong with the human race. So much blood would be spilled, and she thought of Darius and Marcus and Ravenshold. She dreaded what was to come.
Greta proved right. They arrived at the river crossing after only a short walk. Vilam stayed there, waiting as agreed. He quickly got to his feet and doffed his hat as he saw them coming. Finbear was not there, however. In his place stood an older man named Cecil, a member of the Eagle Clan. The first thing Cecil did was draw his sword and take two steps back. Thunderhead ignored the man since even that sharp steel could barely scratch his hide. Greta understood why ogre hunting never became the great sport that dragon and giant hunting once became. Thunderhead set Hans down gently as instructed and Greta let go of the tension she had not even realized she held. She felt ever so glad that Hans did not wake up in the ogre’s arms.
“Now, maybe you could help Bogus with his job,” she suggested and gave a few scratches on his itchy spots. Clearly, it felt more natural and came much easier for her having spent some time now among her little ones. This time, Thunderhead appreciated of her gift. He really was not a bad fellow for an ogre.
“I will. And I’ll do a good job. You’ll see.”
“There now.” She finished. “You better get along before this poor man falls over.”
Thunderhead did not even look at the man. He moved off through the forest a little happy and a little less itchy.
Vilam introduced his friend and Cecil came straight to the point. “If I had not seen it myself, I would have called any man a liar.”
“Well you saw.” Greta did not mean to sound uppity, but Hans remained too heavy for her. “Now, would you put that sharp thing away and help my brother to the raft.” She stilled herself. “Please,” she added, coming down from the heady experience of the last few hours. She might be the Woman of the Ways, but a mere mortal, human after all.
“I’ll help,” Berry said, but Greta let Cecil and Vilam carry the boy, and they managed to get him to the raft without waking him. In the end, he woke up all the same as the raft moved low in the water and his backside became soaked.
“Where are we going?” Hans asked.
“To the village of the Bear Clan.” Greta answered. “They are going to help us finish our journey to Ravenshold, but we have to pick up Drakka, Rolfus and Koren first.”
“Are they here?” Hans asked. He wanted to get excited, but the best he could manage was groggy. Greta pointed ahead as if to say they were in the village, but Hans looked back. Berry had her face hidden in Fae’s shoulder, and Greta thought she had to help Berry get over being so shy. It would be too irresistible for a boy like Hans.
When they came to the far bank, the men held the raft steady. Greta helped Hans and Berry helped Fae. When they came up to the gate, they found a bonfire out front. The other Clans were coming. Many were already present.
“Vilam.” Greta had a quick thought. “Is there another way into the village where we might not be seen? I need to get Hans into a real bed, and I don’t like the idea of Berry being surrounded by all of these men.” Of course, Vilam knew who Berry was, but at that moment Cecil stood in the gate shouting.
“They’re here! They’re here!” Vilam looked at Greta and shrugged, but Greta would not give up.
“Vilam, take Hans,” she said. “Berry, you go with them and stay with Hans. See that he gets to bed and gets a good night’s sleep. Look. He is falling asleep standing here.”
“Yes, Lady,” Berry curtsied and Greta reminded herself again that these were not her little ones. Human interactions were far more complicated.
“Do you mind?” she asked Vilam
“Not at all,” he answered. “Three days and three nights under fairy charms and it is a wonder he is still on his feet at all. No offence to the present company.”
“Does he mean me?” Berry had to ask, innocently, though she knew full well who he spoke of and who he stared at.
“Yes, sweet,” Greta said.
“Oh, no offense.” Berry replied. “Bogus the Skin would take that as a great compliment. I must tell Bogus, I mean, Grandfather the next time I see him.”
Vilam smiled, sort of, and they scooted along the stockade wall until they became lost in the dark. Fae and Greta staggered to where they were met by a group of men, escorted to the center square, sat in chairs in the most prominent place, and promptly ignored. Fae fell asleep almost as soon as they sat down. Greta felt unable to sleep as the men argued for hours, and sometimes it became rather heated.
It all sounded typically human as far as it went. Some believed none of the talk of gods and the Vee Villy. Some did not want to believe for the usual variety of personal reasons. Some, on the other hand, were true believers, and some, while they did not believe, they thought making peace with the Yellow Hairs and Romans was the right thing to do.
In the end, it came down to two sides. Chobar of the Dog Clan argued against change. He wanted to kill the outsiders, including Greta. Gowan of the Eagle Clan argued for change. He wanted to let them go and seek peace so they could join in the defense of the land, because while his village and many of the others were technically outside and west of the Roman province, they had the Lazyges thundering across the plains at their backs and they would likely ride right over the Celts to get at the gold and silver being mined out of the mountains under Roman control.
Baran finally called the meeting ended for the night. They needed to wait for all of the Clans to arrive and be represented before making a decision. Greta had to wake Fae, though she felt reluctant to wake her, only to be escorted to a place where they could sleep.
Greta found Berry and Hans fast asleep, entwined in each other’s arms. They were innocent, being fully clothed. Greta doubted if Hans even woke up. He lay face down in bed, and Berry’s face lay beside him and with her mouth a little bit open. She saw Berry swallow without waking, and saw Berry’s hand go up to rest in Han’s hair. She caught a glimpse of them when they were very much older, and she decided to leave them alone.
Then she could not sleep.
Drakka and the boys had left town almost as quickly as she had gone in search of Hans. They had taken Finbear to guide them which was why he had not been at the river. Finbear also made a rather dull knife, but she hoped he had enough sense not to trust the boys. That thought made her turn.
Drakka did not really care about her. He had not even left word for her. It finally penetrated her thick head, and now it seemed painfully obvious. He would never be with her. At least Darius would have left word, but that just meant he was polite. True, her view of the Romans had changed considerably in the last couple of weeks, but still! He had his tart waiting for him in Rome. Greta could not even be sure if Darius liked her, and here, they were going to end up stuck with each other, unless one of them got killed. She did not want to think about it. She turned again.
She wondered if Darius would look for her in the morning. She would probably be a day late. He probably would not even notice. She turned again and finally fell into a tense and not very restful sleep.
Greta and Hans, with a few extra passengers, finish the journey to Ravenshold. Greta fears what may be transpiring, since she became unavoidably delayed. She fears they may be fighting already. She fears for Marcus… and maybe Darius.
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