“My lord.” Berry interrupted. “If you are going to marry my lady, it is important that I do what you say. That makes you our lord, and all of us need to pay attention to what you say.”
“All of us?” Darius asked. Greta took his arm again and turned him back toward the tents.
“I have a kind of special relationship with the little ones,” she said. “It is kind of hard to explain.” And she tried to explain as well as she could, doing everything in her power to avoid using the word, “goddess.” She ended by begging him not to tell anyone, especially Marcus. “I know you and Marcus grew up together and you are very close, but I would be so afraid that Marcus might take advantage of them and they might end up slaves, or worse.”
“Marcus wouldn’t,” he assured her. “But don’t worry. I won’t say a thing. This will be our little secret known only by you, me and Berry.”
They heard a wild party going on in the tent. Baggins beat the drums and Fidget stroked his fiddle. The visible Hobknot danced a jig and Fae clapped delightedly to the rhythm. Gaius stood by the door, also clapping, while Hersecles both clapped and tapped his feet. Vilam kept bobbing up and down, keeping time. Vedix and Cecil circled arm in arm like a couple of hicks at a square dance, while Marcus, worst of all, looked doubled up on the ground, laughing so hard he appeared to be in pain.
“Baggins!” The drums stopped beating. “Fidget!” The fiddler stopped fiddling. “Hobknot!” Greta did not sound happy. “Right here, right now!” The little ones vanished and reappeared instantly outside the tent. “You call that staying invisible?” Greta turned on Hobknot.
“They were just passing by,” Hobknot said. Even Darius rolled his eyes as he picked up on the fact that “Just passing by” was ten or twelve miles away. “And I figured one more wouldn’t matter,” Hobknot went on. “There’s plenty of humans that think we all look alike, anyway. Besides.” He played his hole card. “I haven’t been paid yet.”
“How would you like no teeth and have to mush the grain and take it through a straw?” she asked.
“Oh Lady, you wouldn’t,” Hobknot protested.
“Miss Fae is a frail, old woman,” Greta pleaded. “I need someone with a brain to watch over her and tell me if I am needed. You claim to have a brain.”
Hobknot quickly changed the subject. “Who’s the beef?”
“Lord Darius is my betrothed,” Greta said and reached for his hand though she did not really focus on Darius.
“Oh.” Hobknot got down on one knee and pulled the other two down with him. “Great Lord Darius, on behalf of all the little ones from the Great Trolls of the mountains to the littlest of smidgens, I hereby pledge our eternal loyalty and devotion ‘till death do us part. Your word is our command.”
Hobknot stood up again. “Of course, the odds are good we might not follow your commands, exactly, or even one for that matter. We are all natural liars, you know, and good for nothing thieves, besides. Hey! I didn’t intend to tell him that.”
“I think I knew that already,” Darius said, and eyed the dwarfish imp with a look that was not fooled and not going to be fooled.
“Miss Fae,” Greta said. “Or do I get someone else?” Greta knew he really wanted to be with her, but he just was not going to make it easy.
“It’s a dirty job watching over that old bat,” he said. “But I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else. I better do it myself.” He walked back into the tent.
“Baggins and Fidget!” Greta’s words thundered. “You two helped Ragwart and Gorse keep my poor brother prisoner for three days.” This did not come out as an allegation. The goddess knew the reality, and they knew that she knew. “Do you know what punishment they got?”
“Oh, no, Lady. Please not that,” Baggins began to weep. “The Mrs and the little ones. What will become of them? Anything but that.” Then Fidget hit him on the head.
“They didn’t get no punishment,” Fidget said. “In fact, the Lady gave them permission to steal some things.”
“That’s right,” Baggins suddenly perked up. “How did they get so lucky?”
“Oh, no, please.” Baggins started again so Fidget hit him again. “I mean, yes, please.” Baggins finished.
“Then here is what you must do,” Greta said. “Go over to the Quadi camp. Take as many other musicians as want to go. Throw a big party. Keep the Quadi up all night dancing and singing. Only one condition. I don’t want you or any of my little ones to get hurt. Do you understand? Party all you want, only no little ones get hurt.”
“Party, but no one gets hurt.” Baggins nodded.
Fidget stood and knocked Baggins on the shoulder to follow. “Yes, ma’am. Thank you ma’am.” Fidget said quickly. They bowed several times and vanished before Greta might change her mind. Only three words floated back to their ears. “We do weddings.”
Darius looked at her. “I’m afraid to ask what that means,” he said, and he laughed; but to Greta it sounded like nervous laughter.
“What will they do to the Quadi?” Marcus stood right there to ask.
“Probably not much,” Greta answered. “Despite the bravado, they really have no interest in humans or human affairs. They will party. I only hope it will keep enough of the Quadi up and prevent them from making a serious, full scale attack in the morning. Give you and Darius another day to argue.” Greta meant that as a joke, but Marcus looked serious and Darius looked at her with an uncertain eye. Greta stepped into the tent and found Gaius and Vedix already beginning the arguments.
“What’s with him?” Marcus did not really ask.
“I have a terrible headache,” Greta said, and she went back to where she, Darius and Berry had spoken privately. Damn it! It felt true enough. She did love him. And she had to cry about it because she felt sure he was lost to her.
Greta needs to think. The rebels have the guns and are fortified on the temple mount. The Roman numbers are small for the moment, and the legion is days away. And the Germanic Quadi invaders are arriving in their thousands. Greta needs to get away, to think. She will go to Avalon, her real home, the home of the Kairos, or as she calls it her her Dacian tongue, Usgard above Midgard…
Until then, Happy Reading