“No. I said, no.”
“My lady.” Yin Mo began, but Greta put her hands to her ears.
“La, la, la,” she said. “I’m not listening.” But fortunately, she looked. “No!” She screamed. Marcus stayed his hand. He got ready to lift the visor on one of the Knights. “You don’t want to do that. You don’t ever want to do that.” She insisted, and with such vehemence, Marcus decided to believe her.
“Please.” Darius sounded like a child, and Greta hid her smile because it certainly seemed a case of elf overdose. He would adjust.
“This is not a please matter,” she said. “I am not going to risk harm to my little ones on a transient human event.”
“There is the matter of Sir Burns, Lord Madwick, young Scorch and the lovely Miss Spark,” Yin Mo said.
“No.” Madwick’s muffled voice came from the statue. “I think he’s got you there.” Greta quickly ran to the statue
“Shh!” She commanded and sheepishly grinned at the others. She was not about to reveal to Marcus that her intention was to try and destroy all the guns and gunpowder. “Oh, Pandora’s stupid box!” She swore. “All right. They can lead the charge, riding like a gaggle of geese in flight. They are the only ones I would trust to keep the shape. But they are not to strictly engage the enemy.”
“I know,” Yin Mo said. “Just cut like a hot knife through butter. They divide the enemy and push them toward the waiting archers. I heard. A thousand.”
It took a moment for Greta to understand, and when she did, she gasped. “Fifty at the most.”
“Five hundred at the least,’ Yin Mo said.
“A hundred and that is my final word. Let them cast lots or flip a coin or whatever, but if you say two hundred, I will hit you.” Yin Mo bit his tongue. Greta stepped to the three knights and spoke directly. “Is this agreed?” She did not have to ask, and of course they said nothing out loud, but Greta heard all the same. “Good,” She said, and without dramatics, she sent them back to Usgard or Avalon by letting them all fade away. Greta finally pulled Thissle from behind her legs and picked her up to her hip as she might have held a small child. Quill covered Thissle felt almost afraid for Greta at first, but then she realized her quills would not and could not hurt Greta. No little one could hurt her, even inadvertently.
“No, she’s always been our goddess.” Thissle said in her innocent, out of turn way. “Except she doesn’t like the “G” word, so she is our lady.”
“Only to my little ones.” Greta looked squarely at Marcus. “As far as the rest of the universe is concerned, I am simply a seventeen-year-old human female with a Mama and Papa and brothers, and I am going to be married to a fine man, whom I love. And we will grow old together. And, while I think of it, does anything get by you?”
“I don’t miss much.” Marcus admitted. “So that’s it, then. Our plans are set thanks to Gaius and the Lady who doesn’t like the “G” word.
“Ahem.” Hersecles cleared his throat.
“Yes, I almost forgot.” Greta handed Thissle to Darius with a word to stay out of trouble. Darius and Thissle looked at each other and wondered which one Greta was talking to.
“Hersecles is the only one who is right as far as it goes,” she said. “The Temple Mount is the key to everything, but even if the Legion were here and the Quadi were not, we would have insufficient strength to take it from determined, gun-toting defenders. I remember once facing a similar situation with regards to the heights overlooking Athens. The Princess had to deal with gun toting defenders then, too.
“When was that?” Marcus asked.
“Some three hundred and fifty years ago, give or take,” she said, deep in thought.
“What did she do?’ Gaius asked.
“I had my little ones tunnel up from the inside, beneath their positions. We took them completely by surprise.”
“What a marvelous idea,” Marcus said.
Greta shook her head. “There isn’t time, even as fast as some dig. And besides, it would not work. The Temple Mount is full of underground water and it is under enormous pressure. That is why the whole area is full of so many natural springs and bogs. You can’t dig through water. So that just leaves me, alone, to go up the hill with my graven idol.”
“Thank you, my Lord.” The female voice came from the dolphin while Greta and the others took their first real look at the statuette under the earthly sun. Greta saw that what looked a bit ostentatious in the Second Heavens, looked beyond reason under the first. It might have put the crown jewels of almost any nation to shame. Greta quickly covered it with the cloth she had brought, and she rebuked the fire sprites to keep silent one last time.
“Wait,” Gaius said. “You can’t go up to the Temple all alone.”
“I must go with you,” Hersecles said more directly what they were all thinking.
“No, Hersecles,” Marcus said. He stared at Greta but spoke to the others one by one. “You have to teach a bunch of berserker Dacians and stubborn Romans to ride in formation in one day. Gaius, you have fortifications to build. Gunwart, you need to take men and keep the Quadi off our backs. And Darius, you need to execute a couple of short and sweet sorties from the city. I, on the other hand.”
“You need to see Vilam and the others,” Greta interrupted. “The Celts will be coming through the forest soon enough. If they come to help, you need to organize that help so you can keep your thousand legionnaires in reserve instead of in the forest. But if they come to watch, you need to make an alliance and convince them to help, if you can.”
Marcus kicked the table. He knew she was right.
“But wait.” Darius put Thissle down and suddenly came to his senses. “You said you loved me.”
Greta turned and ran from the room, recovered statue in hand. It was true, though, and there no longer seemed any reason to deny it. She let her feelings run free for a moment and thought she might be on the verge of passion. If only he was not so Roman and she was not so Barbarian.
It turned out that Greta did not get allowed to leave the city until Marcus could escort her as far as the outpost. Once there, she pulled Hans and Hobknot aside at the first opportunity.
“You two are not allowed to fight,” she yelled, plainly. “If the fight comes to the outpost, I want you two to get Berry and Fae to safety, is that understood?”
“Wait.” Hans started to object, but Greta interrupted.
“I trust you will use your judgment, but I also trust you don’t want to see Fae and Berry hurt. The forest should provide some safety, and Hobknot knows the quick ways to avoid pursuit.”
Hans laughed. “Who would have thought of the haunted forest as a place of safety?”
“Lady, I have no intention of getting involved in this human squabble.” Hobknot folded his arms as he spoke.
“Then we are agreed.” Greta said. “And good thing because I’m hungry.” It felt like lunchtime.
Fae still lay in bed. She looked very old and frail. She claimed to need only a little extra rest, and Greta was good not to let on to Berry and the others, but both Fae and Greta were feeling that she might not be around much longer. Marcus, however, got completely taken by her, and she seemed suitably impressed with him.
“I never lie.” Marcus said to Greta. “But I do sometimes stretch the truth in order to shape reality. Fae has a wonderful talent, but there are times in political life when it would not be wise to have her around.” Greta understood.
By early afternoon they still heard no word on when the Celts might arrive, how many might come, and what their intentions might be when they got there. Vilam, Vedix and Cecil were firmly in the camp and would fight alongside the Dacians and Romans, but how their fellow Celts might behave was anyone’s guess. At last, it reached the point where Greta had to go.
“They will not shoot their woman of the ways,” she told the others. “I cannot guarantee anyone else’s safety, but I should be safe enough, at least to not be killed outright. I may become a prisoner, but I cannot imagine they will shoot their woman of the ways.” Greta exuded confidence, and she believed what she said sufficiently to keep Fae’s objections at bay. On the other hand, she thought Lady Brunhild might be looking for a chance to shoot Greta. Then it could truly be only Lady Brunhild’s ways. Besides, no telling what poison Brunhild spread among the rebels. It was not without fear that Greta approached the Temple Mount.
Greta has to brave the entrenched rebels alone. She figures anyone with her would be shot on the spot. She has to get her idol to where the guns and powder are stored. She has no idea how she might do that, but he has to try. Monday: The Temple Mount. Until then, Happy Reading