An hour before dawn, Greta heard a loud clank on the balcony. Mavis sprang up and got on the balcony in a flash. Greta took a bit longer, human that she was.
“It is the centurion. He wishes to know if we can climb down the rope,” Mavis reported.
Greta took a good look. They were only three stories up. She could probably fall from that height on to the cobblestones and survive well enough. “Tell him we will be coming down in armor, to be safe.” Mavis directed her voice so only the centurion would hear and then turned to see Greta in the armor of the Kairos, complete with fingerless gloves, boots to her knees, and the Greco-Roman looking helmet that she normally only wore in battle. She left off the weapons.
Greta wore fairy weave against her skin, under her leather, a miraculous material that could be shaped and colored at a word. Mavis only wore fairy weave, and immediately Greta touched Mavis’ dress and began to thicken the cloth to something more like her leather. Greta thought, too bad the material could not imitate the chain mail Greta had over her leather.
“Lady,” Mavis protested at Greta’s motherly attention, and Greta stepped back to let the elf do it herself. Mavis made tall boots and elbow length gloves much like her mistress, but her helmet looked like an American football helmet from the nineteen-thirties. Mavis left the luxuriously soft weave against her skin, but hardened and stiffened the outside of her outfit into hundreds of overlapping pieces. It felt like leather, or more like Kevlar, and would be hard for a javelin or arrow to penetrate. She kept it deep blue as opposed to the rich, deep brown, almost black Greta wore. She left off the cloak as Greta left off her own cloak.
Mavis took a small brush from some unknown pocket in her clothing and stepped into the room to look in the brass mirror. She painted her lips with a very soft imitation of the same rich blue of her outfit, the same color as her eyes, and then she turned with a smile. “Ready.”
“I don’t suppose you have pink,” Greta asked as she saw her own reflection.
“Yes, Lady,” Mavis said and pulled several things from her pocket. They spent the next ten minutes fixing Greta’s face before they went back to the balcony. Mavis scurried down and did not appear to seriously touch the rope. Greta, again, moved in a more human way. She checked to make sure the metal hook on the end stayed secure, and then she climbed down slowly, hand under hand.
Alesander paced, dressed in plain traveling clothes and a long flowing cape in hunter green. “Why does it always take you women so long to get ready?” he asked, but it sounded like a rhetorical question.
He started right out for a side gate in the fort and stuck to the shadows most of the way. The women followed quietly in his steps. Mavis changed her fairy weave helmet into a long cape of her own, complete with a soft hood, that she kept down around her shoulders. She colored it a darker blue than her armor to make a good contrast, though one could hardly tell in the dim light before dawn. Greta sent her own helmet back to Avalon and called for her cloak, the work of Athena herself, which proved proof against many things, including bullets, not that she expected that to be a problem a hundred and fifty-one years after Christ. She kept the black side out and pulled up her hood to cover her platinum locks which might reveal their position, even in the starlight.
Greta smelled the horses before she saw them. There were five, saddled and ready to ride, and a mule burdened down with all sorts of supplies. Alesanders’ sidekick, Sergeant Lucius stood there, no surprise, but Sergeant Hermes was unexpected.
“I let the men go in case Captain Ardacles was in a bad mood and decided to charge me with desertion,” Hermes explained. “But I also sent a reminder that he ordered me to stay with you at all costs. Those were his exact words, and so maybe he will allow that I am just following orders.”
Greta nodded and watched Mavis smile for the elderly Sergeant. It made her roll her eyes as she turned to Lucius. She felt something about Lucius that made her uncomfortable, but at the moment she had no time to puzzle it out.
“Me?” he said. “I figure I followed Centurion Alesander these last ten years and he always did right by me. I see no reason to change just because he resigned his commission.”
“Not what you think,” Alesander spoke softly. “My time of service finished up a year ago. It is not unusual for an officer to take some time before his tribune or general urges him to take another term of service.”
“In this case, I suspect General Pontius won’t be happy with you.”
“No,” Alesander admitted. “But I have some money on account in Ulpia Traiana, er, I should call it Ravenshold, and some in Rome. Maybe I’ll buy into a gold mine here. Maybe I’ll take a wife. I see it hasn’t hurt Lord Darius any.” Greta grinned at her thoughts. She really liked Alesander. He was truly a good and faithful friend. “We go north?” He knew enough to ask.
“North,” Sergeant Hermes said as he mounted his horse. “If we ride hard we can be in Potaissa before the General even knows we are missing.” Greta looked up at the man. It was two days through the hills and mountains to Potaissa. Greta felt sure the General would know of their escape by breakfast, or at least by lunchtime.
“I figured we were going north to fetch Miss Berry, your brother Hans, Miss Fae and that strange old fellow, Hobknot,” Alesander said as he also mounted his horse.
Greta looked at Mavis but she pleaded innocence. “No, Lady. I told no one.”
“Am I that transparent?” Greta groused as she joined them on horseback. “We go south,” she decided.
“South it is.” Alesander did not question her. He knew she had something in mind. Besides, the General would likely only look north, whether he believed she headed for Porolissum to visit her brother Bragi or further north to seek her younger brother, Hans. “Stay mounted and covered with your cloaks. The men at the gate think I am taking out a scouting party to seek out the reported Lazyges raiders.”
“How convenient,” Greta said.
Alesander waited a moment before he responded. “I was officer of the day, so I set the night watch.” He spurred up to lead the group. Greta made Mavis ride next to Lucius so she could ride next to Hermes.
“Tiberius. Open up.” Alesander raised his voice when they approached the gate.
“Sir.” The big Sergeant responded and the men dutifully opened the gate. Greta saw an Ichthys tattoo on the arm of the Sergeant and relaxed. The tattoo remained something he would keep covered in Rome, but out here in the hinterland, no one looked at it twice.
Once outside the gate, Alesander headed them toward the village. “Anything to fetch?”
Greta shook her head. She wanted to check on the innkeeper’s daughter but she dared not take the time. “Hermes,” she said. “Back the way we came.”
“Just follow the cobblestone road,” Hermes reported. The cobblestones would run out and turn to mud from the recent rain in about a mile, but meanwhile, Greta imagined it should have been a yellow brick road. Again, she hardly had time to puzzle out where that thought came from because they rode, hard.
Greta thought instead about her husband and children. Gerraint should marry, she decided. She did not know what to do about Festuscato. If only he was not such a cad.
Greta and her friends head for Celtic lands, and seek a guide in the village of the Eagle Clan. Until next time, Happy Reading.