Immediately, the two men who held Greta’s arms jumped back. This proved good, because Greta needed to collapse to the floor and take a moment to herself, to recover from the brink of death, and fortunately, Lady Brunhild gave her that moment. The woman stared at her and seemed to be recovering a bit of her own strength as well, but outwardly she appeared to be examining the armor as if deciding what to do.
“I must tell you.” Greta breathed as she struggled to her feet. She would have appreciated the opportunity to pass out, but she was not about to stay prostrate before the woman. “The armor belongs to the Nameless god.” She spoke of the one with whom Brunhild and the men with her were most familiar. “Defender and the sword, Salvation, have a mind of their own. I do not want you to be hurt.”
Even as Greta finally got to her feet, Lady Brunhild spit in her face. “Strip her.” She ordered. The two who had been holding her arms stepped up and touched her. Greta cried out. She felt the power surge through her. It struck the two men like lightening and shot them twenty feet through the air where they crumpled, unconscious, if not dead.
Greta caught her breath again, but found it much easier this time, as if the armor protected her from more than just arrows. Lady Brunhild stared hard at her and began to pace, once again to decide what to do.
“Ruby slippers,” Greta said, and Brunhild squinted at her, not understanding.
“I saw these weapons and this armor in a dream.” Brunhild began to speak. “It was before Boarshag and it may be why you startled me so at the time. The great God, Mithras, bless his name, revealed to me that if I could take them from the one wearing them I would receive riches and power beyond counting.” She stopped in front of Greta’s face and Greta tried to smile for her, and it would have been a truly obnoxious smile if her cheeks were not hurting. “Give it to me, now!” The Lady said and threw her every ounce of compulsion behind the words.
This time, Greta hardly felt it, though she knew it had to be very draining for the Lady. She knew Lady Brunhild would sleep well that night, but for Greta, she merely smiled more broadly. The Lady, however, did not attack Greta. Greta remained as vulnerable and human as ever. But the Lady went after the armor of the Kairos, and as such she had zero chance of success. Greta watched the Lady’s face flush and she could almost taste the anger that rose up in the woman’s veins. By contrast, Greta stood very calm and resolute, and smiled as much as her cheeks allowed. Finally, the Lady grabbed the hilt of Salvation which stuck up over Greta’s shoulder. This time, the charge appeared sufficient to glue the Lady’s hands to the sword. The more the Lady tried to pull, the more she got drained, until a small surge kicked her free before she killed herself.
“I told you, you cannot have it,” Greta said, and something rose up in her from all the days in the ancient past. “And your Mithras will not help you. He has no given authority in this region, and he knows if he shows his face he will be killed for real, and this time I will not be there to bring him back.” Nameless got tired of the game, and he was a master game player, arguably second only to Loki among the northern gods of old. Indeed, some of the men thought they were hearing directly from the Nameless god, the reported owner of the armor, and they would not have been wrong in that assumption even though Greta remained where she stood.
Meanwhile, Lady Brunhild fainted in Kunther’s arms. “Watch her tonight,” she said and promptly passed out. They took Greta away at sword point because no one would touch her. To Greta’s disappointment, however, they did not return her to the room with the others. Instead, she got driven into a real storage closet which did not even have a window. When they shut the door, she sat in utter darkness.
The state of grace Greta had felt, left her with the light. She tried to reach out to Yin-mo. She tried to tell him it would be all right to plan for the morning attack, as he thought best, but please limit his and the knight’s contact with humans as much as possible. She felt he acknowledged her, but she could not be sure.
She searched for Thorn in her mind’s eye, but he seemed to be asleep. Thissle, on the other hand, seemed awake and curious. She and Bragi were half-way down the Mount on night watch. They had been busy. Thissle left the glamour that Lady Brunhild found. She left it to fool the guards when Bragi stole the real statue and took it to the diggings. After hiding the statue beside the powder, they talked to any number of men. Thissle tired from all of that. More than once she had to step up and break the spell Lady Brunhild had set like a glaze over the men’s eyes. That seemed the only way they could be sure about the men, and then Bragi went on duty with a rocket-like flare which would be the signal for all of the men to vacate the Temple.
“But in reality,” Bragi said. “I think Karina is so very beautiful, it has made her shy. She is shy around men and shy about outshining all of the women around her.”
“Silly boy.” Thissle yawned again. “Human women live to outshine each other. Why, for some, if they can’t outshine their neighbors, life is hardly worth living.”
Greta jumped back into her own skin. That felt like a strange experience, and now Greta had a monster headache on top of her hunger and all of her other pains. She did not expect to sleep.
She tried to reach out to Berry, to see how she was. She imagined her and Hans, Fae and Hobknot all sitting in Fae’s tent worrying about her. It seemed a sweet thought, but then, Greta felt sure it was only her imagination. Greta smiled at the thought and got struck with a vision, like the opening of a curtain on a scene that looked all too real.
She saw a young woman, screaming and terrified. She looked about Greta’s age, perhaps seventeen, but absolutely beautiful. Greta well understood her terror. A worm, a dragon hovered over her, looking at her like a tasty morsel.
Bragi stood there, yelling at the monster. Greta could not hear the words. But no, it was not Bragi. She heard the young woman.
It was Hans, but Bragi’s age.
“Berry!” Greta snapped out of it, shouted the word out loud. But how did she age so much in her big form? She should have still looked thirteen, even if Hans looked eighteen or nineteen. It seemed a mystery. She would have to puzzle it out somehow, but even as she began to think, she fell fast asleep.