“Sabazios Dyeus, grant us wisdom and courage,” Greta spoke as she walked. “Zalmoxis, shine your light into our darkness. Artemis Bendi, defend the powerless on this day, and Selvanus, bring healing to all who do what is right.” At the end of the sanctuary, there stood a giant statue of a man. It looked like Odin, and Greta gasped to recognize him. It had been carved from a single granite block, and it stood over the altar as if keeping a watchful eye on all the proceedings.
Greta set her meager offering on the table. When she uncovered it, there were collective gasps and exclamations from the crowd. What the statue lacked in size, it more than made up for in priceless quality. It appeared a magnificently crafted work of art, and the fact that Greta knew it got made in only one day felt almost unbelievable.
“This was made by the people who live in the forest,” she explained, not specifically naming the Celts. “The lioness represents the Don, the Mother Goddess of the Gaelic people. The dolphin is for the Romans, for Neptune, and in particular Salacia, Queen of the sea, to remind us that the Romans came to us from across the sea. The bear is for the beloved grandson of the North, the Nameless god, the result of peace between the Vanir and Aesir. If the gods can make peace, can we do less?”
“And the horse?” Vasen asked while Kunther nodded as if to say he had the same question.
“Let the horse in the middle be for all of us, and let it be a symbol of unity and peace. When well treated, the horse is a strong, loyal and tireless servant, and so we should serve one another in the cause of peace. If there must be a fire, let it come from our unity, and let it be a fiery passion to defend our land, our loved ones, and our children who may yet harvest a legacy of peace and security for all.” She pressed down on the horse’s tail and the horse rose up and showed flame from the eyes, nose and mouth. When she let the horse down, the flame appeared to go out.
“Why, this is marvelous.” Vasen said, and he tried the horse for himself. Scorch behaved, but Greta hoped the Priest would not do that all night. Scorch would surely become sea sick.
Kunther walked once around the object. He looked reluctant to touch it and Greta supported those feelings. “This belongs to the temple, now,” she said. “It is an offering to the gods and ought to be touched only by the priests.”
“Very well. I see no harm in the trinket, but as for you.” He hit her in the mouth, knocked her down again and brought blood to her lip. “I am sure Mother will want a word with you. Put her in with the others,” he ordered. “And take the Priest, too.”
Greta’s jaw hurt, her nose also bled a little along with her lip, and she feared she might get a black eye, but she refused to cry and shook off Vasen’s attention as several of the men took them to a back room in the temple. When the door got shut and locked, Greta also knew that there were guards on duty.
The room itself seemed fairly large. It appeared to be a place where the priests could retire for a time of meditation and prayer, and it held many of the priestly vestments as well as many artifacts of their work. This was not a mere storage room, however, but rather a place for easy access to the sanctuary. On one side, a door lead to the priest’s quarters. It had been locked. At the back, an opening and a rather small balcony unfortunately overlooked a cliff of considerable size.
Greta already found two men in the room. They were the “others” Kunther had mentioned. One, a Dacian named Gregor, had been accused of speaking out against the rebellion, and Kunther, and specifically against making any deals with the Quadi. The only reason he stayed alive was because Kunther hoped to ferret out any others who might feel the same way, or cow those others into submission. The other man in the room was Finbear.
“Lady!” Finbear made a beeline for Greta. “I almost lost hope.”
“Finbear.” Greta hugged him, which raised the eyebrows of the other men in the room. She spoke for a moment in Gaelic which the others could not understand.
“Your father is in the Roman camp with Fae, Vedix the hunter and Cecil of the Eagle clan. They have allied with the Dacians and Romans in the field, but he does not know you are here. He thinks you have gone home to care for your mother.”
“Yes, they have a right to know what has happened to me,” Finbear said. “That is the only thing that kept me from jumping off the cliff. I do not think these people know what to make of me, but I think one recognized me as the son of the woodsman. I don’t know what your friend may have told them.”
“He is not my friend.” Greta decided and confessed. “I thought I was in love with him, once, but now I don’t think I even like him, and I assume he told them everything, about your people in the forest and everything.” She turned toward him and he noticed her bloody lip.
“But you are hurt,” he said. “I do not understand. Won’t the Don come now and set us free?”
“No, Finbear. It doesn’t work that way.”
“But the Don will come if you ask her,” he said, puzzled. “I saw how she came to the village. She revealed herself through you. It must be something to be possessed by a god, even if only for a short time.”
Greta almost laughed. It had to be about as interesting as a goddess being possessed by a Greta, she thought, but she said something else. “You know how the gods work. They put us in these impossible situations and somehow expect us to work our way out, all on our own.” Finbear looked downcast. He understood well enough. “But don’t worry,” Greta added. “We will find a way out. The answer may be at the door even as we speak.”
They paused, but heard nothing. That would have been too much to expect. She did not have the timing of the little ones. She was only human, after all. She patted Finbear’s hand in reassurance, turned to Gregor and found him very informative.