“Thissle!” Greta saw the little one and wondered what she was doing there. She was invisible, so in no immediate danger from the men in the room, but still…
“Gods you’re beautiful,” Darius said. It took a moment for Greta to realize he was talking about her.
“I am not,” she said. “Have you been here all night?”
“Yes he has. Just about,” Thissle said.
Darius recovered himself. “Nice outfit.”
“What, this old thing?” Greta joked, but when he laughed she rebuked herself. She was not going to play lovers games with him. “All right, Thissle.” She turned her back on Darius. “What is this all about? Why are you here?”
“You see?” Greta heard Darius interrupt.
“I see, but I don’t believe it.” The Roman guard answered in Greek.
“Agreed.” The Dacian also knew some Greek.
Greta knew what they were talking about. Thissle stayed invisible after all. “Do you want to see?”
“No Mother.” The Dacian responded quickly and in Dacian.
The Roman sounded more thoughtful. “If Lord Darius has not been talking to himself all night, I really do not want to know it.” Berry laughed and started to hand him a tart.
“No!” Greta jumped. “That’s fairy food,” and to the Dacian she said, “Food of the elves.” The Roman politely said, “No thank you,” and stepped back while Greta closed the door to Usgard above Midgard, and let it dissipate and disappear. Darius asked the guards if they would rather wait outside, and they readily agreed. But Berry had not finished. She offered a tart to Darius who examined it carefully, and sniffed it.
“Is it safe?” Darius asked.
“It’s too late for you,” Greta answered. “You might as well enjoy it.” At which point he took a bite and lost himself in contented munching sounds. “Well?” Greta turned again to Thissle, confident that this time she would not be interrupted.
“Well, Lady.” Thissle curtsied. “Thorn and I were awakened around sundown by the sound of a whole army setting up to camp beside the road.”
“Thorn?” Greta asked.
“Yes, it’s just Thorn, now, if you please,” Thissle said. “And, well, we did not know if they were goods or bads, so we thought we had better come and warn you. He knows all the ways, you know. Forwards and backs and overs and unders. We got here around midnight, I guess, and my Thorn found us all the way to your room.”
“The legion is still a day and a half away,” Darius interjected.
“My Lord thinks so, but Thorn and I think it is more like two days the way they move so slow and all,” Thissle continued. “But then when we got here, you were not here, but the door was, so we figured out where you were.”
“You figured it out, Miss Thissle,” Darius said. “I heard you say she’s gone to Avalon.”
Thissle reddened a bit and turned to Darius. “It was a lucky guess, is all,” she said. “But then came the real surprise. You saw us plain as day, you did.” She turned back to Greta. “Thorn said to stand still and quiet and maybe he just saw a glimpse or heard something like the wind, but he walked right up to us and he said we had better come right in and tell him who we were, he said, “My lady will want to know why you have come, but she won’t be back until morning.”
“I could go fetch her,” Thorn said, but my lord blocked his way.
“No, she said I was the only one to fetch her if she needed to be fetched.” And as the doorway was closed, there wasn’t much else we could do except sit down and explain ourselves. Lord Darius caught on real quick. He knew we were invisible to the guards, but he just ignored them and talked free as if he did not care if they thought he was crazy. We told him all about the army and he figured out from some of the things we said that it was his seventh legion. So he got a paper and wrote some words, and then took Thorn to wake up his friend Marcus so Marcus could put his seal on the paper. Then Thorn is up and gone to take this message to General Pontius, and my Lord is back here to keep me company all night.” Greta looked at Darius and she did not give him a soft look.
“I outlined the situation here with a note that we might be able to hold them for a day, but once they broke into the city, they would be fortified and able to mount a real defense. Then it would be impossible to dislodge them except at great expense.”
“How could you do that to Thorn?” she asked. “He will be in as much danger with you Romans as he would be with the Quadi. Do you trust this General not to stick him in a cage and do—who knows what?” Out of deference to Thissle, she did not suggest that the General might roast him for supper.
Darius nodded thoughtfully. “General Pontius is a true believer. He would not dare hurt Thorn, especially since Marcus wrote at the top of the letter, if you hurt one quill on my little friend, I will have you crucified.” Darius seemed to think that would answer everything.
“My Lady.” Thissle spoke innocently, but out of turn. “You must love him very much for him to have such authority to see us invisible and all. And here, you are only betrothed and not even properly married and all.”
Greta felt embarrassed, and with her fair skin that became easy to see. It made her freckles stand out and that felt even more embarrassing. “I don’t,” she lied. “This wedding was not my idea.”
“Well it wasn’t mine, either.” Darius shot right back.
“But you’re a soldier, and a loyal Roman,” she said, sharply. “What do you want with a wife?”
“Look at you, wise woman.” He also returned her tone. “With all of your little ones and every man and woman of the Dacians doting on your every word, what need do you have for a husband? What am I? Just some burden you have to bear.”
“What do the Dacians matter? I suppose you will want to live in Rome.”
“I thought about it,” he answered honestly.
“Well, you can forget it. I’ll never be your submissive, obedient little wife to stay at home with the servants, cooking and cleaning your villa so you can run off to your Roman lover.”
Darius gave her a hard look. “That’s not fair. I never asked you to cook or clean. You never asked what I want, so don’t start putting words in my mouth.”
“You said yourself that you wanted that Roman woman.”
“That’s not fair, either. I haven’t even thought of her for almost a month. But what about that lover boy of yours?”
“He’s a jerk,” Greta said, in all honestly, and with a bit more softness in her voice.
“And she never answered any of my letters.” He also softened his response. “It was all one sided. She may even be married by now.”
“So, where does that leave us?” Greta asked.
“Where we started, I guess,” he answered.
“Ahem!” Berry interrupted. “My Lord Darius, I mean, Darius, would you make an escort for me and Hans to visit my sister, Fae?”
“I can do that, Berry,” Darius said. He still looked at Greta but took Berry’s hand.
“Wait.” Greta stopped them. She stood on her toes and planted a quick kiss on Darius’ lips. Then she stepped away and looked down. “I’ll see you in the hall.” She could not tell the expression on his face. She could not bring herself to look up at him.
“I’ll see you at breakfast.” He touched her hair, but she still would not look at him. She did hear Berry, however, as they left.
“I hope me and Hans don’t have to say those things. I could never ‘member all that.”
Greta looked at Thissle and almost laughed. “You love him and he loves you,” Thissle said. “You humans are the strangest creatures in all creation.”
Greta did laugh, and she also cried, smiled and sniffed. “I do love him, you know. I tried calling him the enemy and the oppressor of my people and whatever awful thing I could think of, but he is all I can think of no matter what I do.”
“Not like my Thorn,” Thissle said. “We spent a hundred years, hardly able to touch each other, praying that we would find you, and praying that you would help us when we did. And you did help us. But then there is you. Lady, all you need to do is help yourself. He is already as much yours as anyone can be.”
Could she really give up her friends, her family, her home? Could she really be a Roman wife and not feel a traitor to her own people? “But if I help myself, I might be…” She started to speak her thoughts but they all sounded hollow and foolish.
“Might be what?” Thissle asked rhetorically. “Might be happy? Yes, you might.” She answered herself.
“Hear hear!” An echo came from the statuette. Greta had forgotten about Madwick and the others, covered as they were under the cloth she brought, but they had been privy to everything. Greta pulled down the cloth. “Please to make your acquaintance, Miss Thissle.” Lord Burns popped his head out. Greta had to introduce them all, but then she reminded them that they were supposed to be a dead idol, and she covered them again, picked them up carefully and headed toward the Great Hall.