Greta opened her eyes and saw lady Brunhild’s hand stretched toward her like one warming themselves at a fire.
“There is more in you than appears, but I perceive you cannot sustain it. I do not know what you were trying to do, but it will not help you.” She dropped her hand and curiosity crossed her face. It happens when you can’t read minds. “One thing puzzles me,” she said. “What did you hope to gain by coming here?”
“I plan to destroy the weapons of Trajan,” Greta said, seeing no reason to disguise her intention at that point. “They don’t belong here. They should not even be invented for another thousand years.
Lady Brunhild laughed again, and it was becoming annoying. “But be my guest,” she said. “They are old and broken and mostly useless. They do not matter. I know the formula for the powder and how to fabricate the weapons. That is my confidence that I will rule the world.”
“So Trajan thought,” Greta said, urged by Ali. “Does the name “Masters” mean anything to you?”
“Why, no. Lord Mithras, bless him, is my only master. Why?”
“No reason,” Greta said, and small consolation, she thought.
They were interrupted then by men who came in from the front of the Temple. One man walked slowly, helped by another man, and there were two more with them.
“Ah!” Lady Brunhild perked right up. “My Lord Eldegard. How good of you to come for this elegant occasion.”
“Lady Brunhild,” Eldegard said with a sideways glance at Greta. “Kunther has taken the men to attack the outpost as you commanded. But now that the battle is about to begin I must see to the defense of the Temple. Why have you demanded that I attend you at this time?”
Greta could see that Eldegard was not bewitched. Bewitched men generally did not fight well. Even so, Greta thought Eldegard would be a man very hard to bewitch and it gave her hope that Marcus might be in his right mind as well. At the same time, she saw that Eldegard walked in very bad shape. His left leg looked like it had cracked and after a week, it did not heal very well. He limped, badly, and his left arm hung at his side. He was also missing his right eye, and it seemed a wonder that the man was still alive.
“Because I know your heart, my dear Eldegard. You are beginning to doubt and that troubles me.” She cozied up to Eldegard like a woman who cozies up to a man with whom she has been intimate. Eldegard stayed reserved. Whatever may have happened in the past, Brunhild was now a beautiful young woman, younger than his daughter, and Greta could see that Eldegard did not entirely feel comfortable with that. She remembered that Papa had chosen Eldegard because the man straddled the fence. Apparently, having fallen off one side, he now got back up on the fence again.
“The way you talk, aren’t you afraid of angering the gods?” Greta asked.
Lady Brunhild looked surprised. “My dear Greta. And from you?” It came as a question. “You know for certain that the gods have all gone away. Only my dearest Lord Mithras has stayed to begin anew. Don’t you see? After I have brought the whole world under the divine god Mithras, and after I have given Marcus sons to rule after him, I shall become a goddess and bear the children of Mithras. Do you not see? I shall be the divine Mother of the new gods.”
“Now I know the gods are angry for your arrogance and presumption.” Greta said, and she saw that Eldegard felt the same way.
Lady Brunhild shook her head. “I told you. The old gods have all gone away.” she said, and she made a show for Eldegard. “I invoke the mighty Zalmoxis. Great Zeus, come and bring your wisdom to this council. Do you see? The statue has not moved. It is merely stone.” She laughed and went on. “I invoke mighty Dayus the horseman to bring judgment to this gathering.” She looked at Greta. “I invoke your Nameless god. Come now, O Light of Heroes, Lord of the Valkyra. Strengthen our arms for battle in the name of Selvanus, Lord of the Forest, and strengthen our hearts in purity and nobility under the name Epona and Bendi the Huntress. Come, Nameless one. Even now, come.” Lady Brunhild laughed aloud one last time, but Greta heard a word.
“Don’t mind if I do.”
Greta vanished from that place, but no one knew, because as Nameless came to take her place, he made a glamour far stronger than the one Thissle could make. It showed an illusion of Greta that Brunhild could have no hope of penetrating.
“Stand there.” Brunhild turned on what she thought was Greta and commanded her. “Stand there. Don’t move. Don’t speak.” Braggi and Vasen let go, and Nameless played the part well, but of course, he felt nothing. It would have been easier if Brunhild had tried to tell the galaxy to stop spinning.
“You see.” The Lady spoke to Eldegard again. “No one has come. The gods have all gone away. That is why we must give our allegiance to the one living god, Mithras, bless his name, who died and was raised to rule the world.”
“How about Abraxas?” Nameless said in Greta’s voice, and then he thought, “Oops!” as he remembered that he was not supposed to be able to speak.
“Silence!” Lady Brunhild yelled, her face turned ugly and distorted. “Even if he should turn half the world to hags, that pretender will not survive the onslaught of the one, true god,” she said, and let her steam dissipate, slowly. “But now, I take too long. Enough of this foolishness.” Her voice sounded cruelly wicked. All semblance of girlish playfulness had gone. Indeed, she sounded very much like the Lady Brunhild that Greta first knew and despised.
“At first I thought you would make a good lap dog, only now I think a jackass would be more appropriate. You can bear my burdens for the rest of your days, but do not fret, you will never know it. You will never remember being human at all. Your transformation will be thorough and complete.” Brunhild waved her hand, but it all appeared to be in slow motion to the nameless god. Nameless could actually see the magic form and leave Brunhild’s fingers like so many sparkles of light or specks of gold dust. Of course, the magic would have had no effect on him, but all the same, he put up a magic mirror, which let Brunhild pass judgment on herself. It was actually a very easy thing to do, even if he had not been a god.
“Let this woman who would lead the people in the wrong direction be shown for the jackass she really is.” Brunhild spoke for Eldegard, but in fact, Brunhild pronounced her own fate.
“Yes, Lord.” Thissle said, and took only a moment to curtsy out of respect for one of the true gods of the little ones.
“Good girl,” Nameless said. “Stay invisible and be careful.”
Lady Brunhild’s own magic hit her squarely and immediately her ears began to grow and her hands began to turn into hooves. Poetic justice, Nameless thought, and he dropped the guise of Greta.