The morning came quicker than Greta imagined. When they opened the door, the sun looked ready to rise, and even though the light remained very dim, it took Greta a moment to adjust.
“Come out,” Lady Brunhild commanded, and Greta stumbled out to see a girl barely older than herself. Instead of attacking her, though, the Lady surprised Greta by twirling around in her dress like an excited school girl, and asked, “How do I look?”
Greta frowned. The young Brunhild looked very beautiful, and Greta, by contrast, felt rather ordinary and plain looking. Then Thissle’s words came back about the need to outshine, and she could not help herself. “You have a zit.” Greta said. “On your nose there.” Greta pointed.
“What?” Brunhild went into an absolute panic. “Bring me a mirror,” she demanded. “Hurry!” Her finger went along her nose to try to feel it. When the brass came, Greta started snickering. Then the Lady surprised Greta again by genuinely laughing when she saw her clear skin. It seemed a pleasant laugh, too, and she did not appear to be mad at Greta at all.
“Too bad,” she said. “Under other circumstances, you with Darius and me with Marcus, I think we might have been friends. I reminded myself last night that you are no fool, and I would dearly love a friend who has a semblance of a brain, not to mention someone who knows what I am talking about when I mention India or China.”
“Too bad?” Greta asked, thinking she would no more be friends with this woman than she would with a succubus.
Brunhild nodded. “Too bad I have to kill you,” she said, sweetly.
“So, what shall we do?” Greta asked. “Pistols at ten paces?”
Brunhild genuinely laughed again. “A sense of humor, too,” she said. “It really is too bad.” She walked toward the back of the temple near the altar and statue of Odin, but where the wall looked clear and uncluttered. Everyone else followed. “First we see what is happening down below.” She waved her hand against the wall. A picture formed on the wall like a movie or a television picture, but it appeared like they looked from the Goodyear blimp. They zoomed down to the road where they could hear the noises and see the fortifications. Greta noted with glee that a morning attack would force the Quadi to ride near enough into the morning sun.
“Such a pitiful few horses the Romans have,” Brunhild said.
Greta did not think it looked that pitiful, but then she realized that Brunhild could not see the knights of the lance, though the way they gleamed at sunrise, they became almost all that Greta could see. And it looked like more than a hundred! Greta began to count, but before she could send a stern word to Sunstone, the scene shifted.
“But see?” Brunhild said as they zoomed over to the Quadi line. “Three thousand men in the first wave. They are expendables, really, designed only to break your lines.” The picture zoomed further back behind the first wave. “You see? Ten thousand warriors ready to ride in the second wave.”
“I see.” Greta said, and she thought Yin-mo saw as well, though she could not be sure. Brunhild looked at Greta as if sensing the subliminal message, but before she could speak they got distracted by the sound of drums. The Quadi also heard the drums, and their front line had a hard time holding their horses in check.
“What is this?” Lady Brunhild looked genuinely surprised. She zoomed over to the forest and tried to peer down between the trees. The drums, so many drums, sounded as if they were getting louder and louder. “I see.” The Lady said as she must have seen something. “Very clever. Outflank the Quadi. Who will win? But then, who cares. I will win.” She laughed, and this time Greta heard no pleasantry in her laughter. “All the same, it is exciting, isn’t it?” Brunhild touched Greta’s hand in girlish excitement, but Greta pulled her hand away, feeling that she might have to scrub her hand with a Brillo pad.
“It is not exciting,” Greta returned. She knew war too well. “What if Darius gets killed?” she asked.
“That should hardly matter to you at this point.” Brunhild shot at her, taking Greta’s snub, personally. Then she appeared to soften, like a snake. “But if it is any consolation, I will find someone nice for Darius’ bed. He will not be unhappy.”
“Aren’t you afraid Marcus may be killed?” Greta asked.
“Oh, no,” Brunhild said. “Marcus will not be fighting. I have seen him already, and he has promised to stay out of it.”
“No!” Greta leapt forward to get her hands around the woman’s throat. She wanted to break Brunhild’s neck before this went any further. Unfortunately, two men grabbed her and held her by the arms like the night before. They could do this easily enough because they were going after Greta, not her armor. Even so, Brunhild took no chances. One who grabbed her was Vasen the Priest. The other was Bragi, her brother. Both were deeply enchanted and Greta almost wondered how they could even see out of eyes so glazed.
“Bragi. What are you doing?” Greta asked and put what little she had into the question. Bragi did pause, but then answered firmly.
“I do what the Lady wants,” he said, and Lady Brunhild laughed again and made no effort to disguise the wickedness in her laughter.
Greta had to close her eyes for a minute. She found Thissle safe but not sure what to do. The rocket was already sticking straight up at the ready, where Bragi had set it the night before. Thissle, Greta thought. You will have to light the fuse when I tell you. Then run straight to Berry. Stay away from the fighting and horses, and stay invisible.”
“Yes, Lady,” Thissle said, and Greta felt sure this time that the little one heard her.