Berry became enchanted by the softest lawn, the brightest stars and most glorious moon she ever knew. The trauma of the last few minutes went completely from her mind. Greta turned to the knight who was in truth a knight, like something out of the latter Middle Ages, in full plate armor so that no flesh or anything else showed. She knew immediately that the knights of the lance never spoke, so she voiced her thought. “Thank you.” And then she realized that she knew a lot of things that Greta never knew.
Greta looked up toward the castle on the hill. It was her tradition to enter the castle across the lawn and through the main gate to give the little ones inside time to prepare. “Huh!” She said to herself, but it felt like a comfortable word, not a curious one. She felt more herself than she ever felt before, and she decided that in Usgard, she became more the Kairos, her true self that lived again and again, than any individual, given life, even though she remained the Traveler Greta more than any other Traveler. “Huh!” She said again, and she called for Branworth.
Branworth appeared nearby as she began to walk toward the castle, Berry in her train, and escorted by the remounted knight.
“Lady Kairos.” Branworth bowed. “The knights of the lance have made wonderful progress in guarding the borders, but as you see, even they have not been entirely successful.”
“I would not call the front lawn before the Castle successful at all,” Greta said.
“No, my lady. You are right,” Branworth admitted. “But the knights are not nearly as numerous as the ways in and out of the land and the isles. Since the cracks developed in the days of young Lydia’s difficulties, at the time of dissolution of the gods, even their sleepless vigil is not enough to guard all ways at all times.”
“So I see,” she said. And she did see. She did not condemn the effort being made. Rather, Greta sounded grateful, and felt rather inadequate to guard even her small charge; to give the little ones a safe haven from the world. “We will work on it, Master Branworth,” she said. “We will figure something out.”
Greta stepped up to the castle gate and felt overawed by the enormous size and complexity of the structure, even if she knew it as a small thing compared to the Great Hall of Valhallah, the Hall of Odin, or the home of her mother, the goddess Vrya. That is to say, Nameless’ mother.
“Lady Kairos.” Thimbelin arrived and she curtsied slightly. Greta greeted her friend with a hug and a yawn. She passed pleasantries with the Queen of the Fairies before she excused herself for the night. She apologized to the fire sprites, Madwick and Burns, and said their concerns would have to wait until morning. Then she led Berry to her own rooms where the mistress elves had already made up two scrumptious beds. They had fairy cloth laid out, and Greta slipped into hers, grew it with a thought to a full-length nightgown and colored it pink before changing it to blue.
Berry spent a great deal of time in front of the full-length mirror, stretching and shaping her own clothes. She changed the colors and tried dozens of patterns before she ended up very much where she began. “It’s just no good,” she complained. “I don’t have any shape. No matter what I do, I still look like a stick.”
“You’ll have shape soon enough.” Greta laughed as she curled up in bed, while Berry curled up on the window sill. “Don’t stay up,” she said. “Tomorrow will be a busy day.”
“But I want to have as much of the land of wonder as I can before we go home.” Berry said.
“Don’t worry.” Greta yawned once again. “There is time enough. There is time.” And she fell fast asleep.
Time under the second heavens, like everything else, is a relative matter. They stayed two days and three nights in Usgard and Greta insisted that when they went home it would be the very next morning of the night they left, as she more or less promised Darius. From the first morning, however, Greta felt rested and refreshed, like she came home at last. She imagined no other word for it.
At some point in the night, Berry curled her small self up on the pillow next to Greta’s pillow and completely ignored the bed which had been made up just for her. Presently, she was lying on her face with her knees pulled up and her little butt sticking straight up. Greta could not resist taking her finger and knocking her over. Berry sat up. Her wings fluttered while she rubbed her eyes.
“I’m not awake yet,” she protested. “Do I have to get up?”
“Yes, sweet,” Greta said. “It’s time for school.”
“School?” Berry’s eyes got big for a second before she snuggled down deep into the pillow. “I can’t go to school today,” she said. “I feel sicky.” She pretended to sleep some more, while Greta got up and looked in the mirror. She needed that bath and the time to wash and dry her hair; but then she did not want to keep Mrs. Kettleblack and all of the others waiting, especially on the first morning. The sun had already gotten up and that seemed late enough.
Greta went to the mirror and shaped her fairy cloth into a plain brown dress such as she might have worn at home. Then she decided that she was only seventeen, so she shortened the dress to knee length, then shorter, and got it as short as pixie length, and almost as tight.
“Too muchy,” Berry said, and made a face. Greta sighed. She made plain shorts and a simple T, with sandals for her feet.
“Ready for breakfast?” She asked quickly before Berry made her wear something ultra-boring.
“Breakfast?” Berry fluttered up and hovered about two feet above the pillow. “I thought we were going back.”
“Not just yet,” Greta said. “I think we will stay a while.”
Berry zipped around the room in excitement and then followed Greta out the door.