R5 Greta: The Way Things Are, part 1 of 3

Alesander explained things as they walked.  “Lord Darius said he saw you in a dream and was warned.  I don’t know about that, but when that man betrayed us and took fifty of your people with him, we were prepared.  We sent men secretly behind the ambush on the road.  We surprised them and thus came into Ravenshold.  After that, we got into a terrible, bloody battle in the city, but finally we broke through the siege on the fort.  Then, to our surprise, the enemy retired to the Temple Mount and left the city in our hands.

“Why would they do that?” Greta wondered.

“To avoid an even bloodier fight in the streets.  Apparently, their weapons are in the temple and they knew they would be safe there last night.  I see now, it was all that they needed.  Their Quadi allies began to arrive in the morning and already their tents stretch to the horizon.  They are camped outside the city on the far side of the Mount.”

“What of the legion?” Greta asked.

“Still three days out,” Alesander responded.

“Our numbers?” She asked to clarify her picture.

“We had three hundred Legionnaires and about an equal number of your people and auxiliaries when we left Boarshag.  Now, with the fort garrison and the city we have about six hundred Legionnaires, a thousand auxiliaries and maybe fifteen hundred Dacians.  I believe there are some who might have joined the rebellion but have come to our side to fight the Quadi.”

“Yes, I see,” Greta said.  “In many ways that was a wrong move on the part of the rebels.  Tell me about the weapons.”

“Well, as I said, they seem to be located in the Temple, but they are not the force I expected. There don’t seem to be very many of them, and they don’t use them much except to protect the Temple Mount.  So far, they have not really impacted the battle.”

“They are old.” Greta thought out loud.  “They were not well weather protected.  Most of the powder is bad and many of the guns are rusted.  They are probably a real disappointment to the rebels.”

“Maybe so,” Alesander said.  “But with the Quadi, they have ten to one numbers now, and even when the legion arrives, they will still have us better than two to one.”

“I figure you would think that was fair odds for you Romans.”  Greta smiled.

Alesander relaxed a little and that felt good.  She had to hit him with the important question.  “Lord Marcus send any captured weapons to Rome yet?”

“Yes.” Alesander got frank.  “Just this morning he sent two by courier, why?”

Greta stopped in the gate and almost closed her eyes before she realized Hobknot stood right beside her.

“Don’t worry.” Hobknot spoke in his invisible voice which only she could hear.  Bogus got them both, but he said it was more like twenty and a whole troop of guards.”

Greta heard Bogus in her own mind.  “And how come Hobknot’s getting paid?”

“Because he hasn’t jerked me around yet.”  Greta thought back, and Hobknot, who caught the thought, suddenly excused himself to attend to his duties.

“Are you all right?” Alesander asked.

Greta had a hand to her head and a sudden whopper headache.  “Yes, fine,” she said.  “Tell me about Darius.”  It really felt like the first thing she wanted to ask, but she thought she could slip it into the normal conversation so it would not appear too important.

Alesander did not get fooled.  “He has been beside himself all morning with worry.”  He said, and Greta felt her heart thump.  “He has been pacing around and driving everyone crazy, and as soon as the sun hit midday he wanted to take a troop into the forest to find you, but Marcus would not let him.”  Greta felt thrilled by what she heard, but she tried not to let on, even to herself. “All the same,” Alesander winked at her. “I am sure that would be how I would feel if my betrothed got lost in the Demon Woods, but if you tell him I told you all this, I will deny I said anything.”

“You stinker,” she said to him.  “You’re almost as bad as Marcus.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.  Now let’s see to those allies of yours.”

It did not take long to get everyone housed and settled into the tent camp at the outpost. Alesander said they should all stay in the city, behind the walls, but Fae and her people thought it best to stay as near the woods as possible, and Greta chose to stay with them.  She said that they were her particular responsibility, but in truth, the outpost was the forward position nearest the Temple Mount. That was where she had to be, though figuring out how she would get up the Mount, locate the guns and destroy them remained a problem.

Alesander gave up his command tent for the women.  He claimed he did not have much commanding to do at the outpost, anyway. The auxiliary tent next door was given to the three Celts.  They were appreciative, and Vilam most of all.  He had been on the hard end of several bargains with the Romans and he did not imagine they had a generous side.

Greta explained everything, more or less, to Alesander, only leaving out Hobknot, Danna and the little ones in general.  She told him all about Chobar including the assumption that he gave up the chase. She also assumed that the Celts would eventually send a body of men to the edge of the forest, but whether they would wait until the Romans, Dacians and Quadi devastated each other in order to take advantage of the aftermath, or whether they would come as allies, she could not say.

Then, Darius rode up, outpacing Marcus, Hersecles and a dozen others.  Greta stood in the doorway of the tent feeling the need for a bath.  She wanted to wash her hair, and maybe spruce herself up a bit.

“You look just fine,” Fae said from her bed in the corner.  She spoke as if she read Greta’s mind.

Darius jumped down and ran over.  He hugged her, hard, and held her as if not wanting to let her go.  Their lips touched, but then Greta found herself pulling back.

“I’m okay,” she said, and she turned away a little so he would not kiss her again.  “No need to make a fuss.  It’s not like we are already married.”

Darius took a half step back.  “I know,” he said, a bit too loud.  “I’m just glad you’re safe, that’s all.  Can’t I be glad you’re safe?”

“Of course.” Greta found her own voice rising. “And I’m glad you haven’t gotten yourself killed.  It wouldn’t be much of a wedding without you.”

“Or without you,” he said.

“So, fine,” she said.

“Fine.”

Greta felt in danger of turning color from frustration, anger, embarrassment, or who knew what.  She stomped her foot, spun around and walked back into the tent.

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