Berry thought about calling Greta by her given name. “Oh, no. I couldn’t do that.”
“I am Han’s sister,” she reminded her. “And if you marry Hans, that will make me your sister, too. Call me Greta.”
“You mean, I have your permission to marry Hans?” She got excited.
“I said “If,” Greta said, but then she had some insight as to how it would look. When Hans became a man of eighteen, Berry would still look thirteen. Even if Hans should live to be seventy, Berry would still only look fifteen or at most sixteen. She would have to think about that.
This time Berry got quiet, so Greta completed her earlier thought. “Calling me lady makes me feel so old. Call me Greta. I’m not that old. Or maybe Lady Greta, as I said.”
“Oh, Lady Greta.” Berry turned suddenly serious. “He loves you so very much. I wish Hans loved me like that.”
“Darius?” Greta asked. Berry nodded. “I wish.”
“But he does. I can tell,” Berry insisted.
“No sweet,” Greta countered. “He will do his duty to Marcus and Rome. He is a soldier. Marcus just wants to make sure my father stays loyal to Rome, that’s all. It is all political, and besides, I think he really loves someone else.”
“No way,” Berry said. “He looks at you with zombie eyes.”
“That’s what Mab calls it. It means he has no will of his own.”
Greta laughed at her own thought. She made a spooky face. “Resistance is futile,” she monotoned. Berry laughed, too, but Greta knew Berry had no idea to what she referred. They indulged a little in the breakfast sweets.
“The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, all on a summer’s day,” Greta said, absentmindedly.
“I know that story.” Berry perked up. “Were you the Queen of Hearts?”
Greta laughed again. “No, sweet,” she said. She remembered, though she was not sure which life she lived at the time. She decided it did not matter. “Aphrodite.” She named the Queen of Hearts. “She made them for Hephaestos on their two or three thousandth anniversary or something. Cupid stole them. Hephaestos found out, and let’s just say Cupid promised never to do that again.”
Berry’s eyes got big. “Lady goddess. You shouldn’t tell me stories like that if you want me to call you Greta.”
“Don’t worry,” Greta said. “Take me out of Usgard and the company of my little ones, and you will see. Even as the woman of the ways, I have very little real magic. Hardly any at all. You will see how human and mortal I really am, and it won’t be a problem calling me just plain Greta.”
“Hans called you Gretal once, like you were just a baby.” Berry giggled, and tried to picture Greta as a baby.
“Oh, he did, did he?” She pretended to be upset. “Hansel!” Berry giggled again, and Greta thought Berry had better grow up some. Sixty years of that little girl giggle would drive anyone crazy. “Time to go.’
“Oh, wait.” Berry got little and flew around the room, touched everything and did several back flips and fancy dives along the way. When she flew real fast, she even left a little fairy trail, though only light, without the sparkles. It appeared a meager thing, but a true sign of her quarter blood. Then she settled on her feet again.
“Mab was nice,” Berry said, and Greta knew they would never be the best of friends. “But she was not impressed until she found out I had a twin sister.” Greta nodded. Twins were a very special thing in the spirit world. “We looked at her twice in the Pool of Reys, and once in the Looking Glass, but she was always sleeping.” Greta nodded again.
“Time to go,” she repeated herself.
“But can we come back again?” Berry quickly asked.
“Someday,” Greta said, and then she tried to explain that two days and three nights had gone by on Usgard, while back home the same night they left just came to a close. Berry did not understand, so Greta concluded by saying, “That was why Fae was always sleeping when you spied on her.”
“We didn’t spy. Not really,” Berry said, even while she realized that spying was exactly what she had been doing.
“Well anyway,” Greta said. “It will all straighten out when we get there. I want you and Hans with a troop of guards to go over and visit Fae, and stay there.” Greta decided that if there was going to be a battle, they would be safest where they could hide in the woods if need be. It also seemed one way to keep them all out of her hair for a while. She would be busy.
Greta picked up her statuette and examined it closely. The dolphin had its’ mouth open to sing. The bear reared up and roaring. The cat had a roar of its’ own going, and the horse, standing on the rest, looked still. Greta pushed gently on the horse’s tail and the horse reared up and its’ nostrils flared. She opened the window. “All right.” She thought to the distant sprites, and four dashes of light penetrated each of the four animals. Greta thought to try the contraption once more. She pushed down. The horse reared up and a young fire sprite named Scorch stuck his head out of the horse’s nostrils and eyes.
“Fancy cigarette lighter.” Greta called it. “Be good. Be careful,” she told them all.
“All set.” The hollow echo of their voices came back.
The eastern horizon started getting bright at last. The sun looked moments from rising. Greta raised her hand, and the door appeared right there in the room. She opened it and saw Darius jump up from the floor. The guards he had posted, one Dacian and one Roman, stepped up, drew their swords and peeked around the door to be sure there were no more beasts in the other room.
Greta stepped through with the statue and Berry followed with a handful of tarts.
Returning from the rarefied atmosphere of Avalon is just the first step. Greta needs to find out how things are progressing. Where is the legion? How many germanic Quadi invaders have shown up? And what do the Romans plan to do about the rebels fortified on the temple mount? And what about the guns?… Monday, Connecting the Dots.
Until then, Happy Reading