It became several hours wait, and Greta had to cut Ardwyn before there was a successful delivery. Ardwyn stayed very brave, but the cut was small and better than a tear. She had a boy, and Greta immediately recited a litany of dos and don’ts. She especially emphasized that Ardwyn must eat plenty of greens against iron poor blood, and the baby must get plenty of sun, a precaution against jaundice. Once that got done, and they finished the tea, and the women and Gwydden were all cleaned up, they made for the feast. It had been dark for a couple of hours, but in the way such things go, the party just started getting into full swing.
“I must say, I never realized what it meant to give birth. It is far more complicated and dangerous a thing than I ever imagined.” Gwydden grinned like a proud father, which was just as well because Meloch became speechless. Ardwyn’s mother, aunt and cousins all showed up and threw Meloch out of the house altogether, and now Meloch plodded along trying to come to grips with the idea of having a baby.
“And painful,” Greta added. “You have no idea.”
“Painful,” Eofach agreed. “But let me add, if I was alone, I don’t know if Ardwyn and the baby would have survived. You claimed to have no miracles, but what you did to relieve the pressure inside where you could not see was as close to a miracle as I have ever seen.”
“The goddess surely has blessed you,” Gwydden added.
Greta looked at Mavis who just grinned, but Greta had something else in mind. She knew Mithrasis was not on her side. She caught that much when Nameless kissed the woman. So, which goddess were they talking about? For that matter, which goddess trained Briana to the sword?
They came into the light and Meloch ran off to tell his friends the good news. The elders of the Raven Clan came up to offer Greta a special seat, and Gwydden and Eofach sang Greta’s praises and said she deserved the best the clan had to offer, but Greta had something else in mind. She spied Briana seated with Alesander and the Sergeants and headed straight toward her.
“Which goddess?” She blurted out the question and threw her hands to her hips for emphasis. There were a few moments before Briana and the others figured out what she was asking. An elder of the Raven Clan gave the answer.
“Why, Rhiannon. Surely you knew. To us she is simply the goddess. She first appeared and saved us when we were driven from the land. She brought us here and has watched over us ever since.” The man spoke like this was something even the smallest of children knew. He got shocked by Greta’s reaction, and so was everyone else except Alesander, and Mavis of course.
“Rhiannon!” Greta called to the sky, and her voice sounded angry. “Rhiannon, show yourself here, now.” Greta stepped away from the bonfire. “Rhiannon, I mean it. You are a hundred and fifty years passed the time of dissolution and I need an explanation.”
“What do you know about such things?” A lovely woman asked as she appeared beside the fire.
Greta grinned beneath her frown. “I get the first crack at you, you naughty girl. I know you are not Talesin, but turn around.”
Rhiannon turned slightly red but before she could voice her objection, Greta went away and let Danna stand in her place. Greta considered the political implications of what she was doing. “Mother?” Rhiannon breathed as Danna made them disappear from the sight of the people so they could talk in private
“I said turn around.” Danna tapped her foot and Rhiannon turned, slowly. Danna stepped up and slapped the goddess sharply on the butt. “You naughty girl.”
Rhiannon squeaked and turned again with one hand rubbing away the sting. “Ouch,” she added.
“It wasn’t that hard,” Danna smiled for her. “I know you have work yet to do, but you need to stay away from my elect.” Danna pointed at Briana. “You may have some men to train in the future, but you have no business training women in force of arms.”
“But Mother. She was so alone and afraid of her natural gifts. I just showed her she had a purpose, a high calling to defend the women and children when the men were away at war.” Rhiannon stomped her foot. “I served on the Amazon High Council. That must be worth something.”
“I won’t quibble,” Danna said. Rhiannon served a couple of times when Pendaron was preoccupied. “But we have reached the age where the one-in-a-million warrior women have to work things out for themselves. Besides, the larger issue is this enclave of Celtic people you have built and hidden away. You know this cannot be sustained. All of this land belongs to the Germans and Greco-Romans. It is old German or Latin with a touch of Scythian or Slavic influence. Your people here will have to integrate or they will be wiped out.”
“If you must work and cannot join your brothers and sisters on the other side, go to Gaul, Amorica, the British Isles, maybe Galicia. That is your natural place, but not here and not now. The days when the Celts, and the Amazons for that matter, were used by the gods as a border people, a buffer between the jurisdictions of the various houses of the gods is passed. Work in your rightful place, but not for too long. The time of dissolution has passed and even I do not belong here.”
Danna stepped up and kissed the goddess on the cheek. “There now. All better. And now poor Greta will have some explaining to do.”
“Tell her Chobar of the Dog Clan has given himself to Mithras and is two days behind with many warriors, but there are others coming to go north with her so she must wait for them in the village of the Dragon Clan.” Rhiannon said no more.
“Cryptic as a Celtic goddess,” Danna said and Rhiannon let out her radiant smile.
“I dare not say more.” Rhiannon offered a small curtsey before she vanished.
Danna sighed. She would not search the location or the mind of the men of the Dog Clan, and would not hinder them. This was Greta’s life. Greta had to fight her own battles, and cross her own bridges, and Danna could not be sure if Rhiannon said too much saying anything at all. Danna made herself reappear behind the crowd and became Greta once again. She called softly knowing Mavis would hear and respond.
“Lady!” Mavis got enough attention as she pushed through the crowd so the crowd slowly turned around to see Greta standing there. Alesander, Briana, Dunova and the elders of the Raven Clan followed, but Greta asked a question as soon as they were able to hear.
“What just happened?” She really wanted to know what they saw and what they think happened, but if they got the impression that she did not know what happened, she would not dissuade them. “I came up here from Ardwyn’s house and then I found myself standing here behind the crowd.” Greta always stayed careful not to actually lie.
“I remember the story,” Dunova spoke with enough volume to announce it to the many who were present. “The mother goddess once possessed you and appeared in your place among the Bear Clan. That is a story the people will not easily forget. Well, it happened again.”
“Danna can be good in that way,” Greta admitted as she took Mavis’ hand and grabbed Briana’s hand and dragged them up to the platform that had been set up for her. She knew how this worked. They would seat her in the place of honor and promptly ignore her. She became determined to have some company. Either that, or she would sit down and fall asleep from exhaustion, not that the people would especially notice.
When they reached the platform and two more chairs were fetched so Mavis and Briana could sit on either side of her, Greta whispered. “But then, Danna won’t be helping us. She says we have to cross our own bridges. Grumble.” She turned to Briana and spoke up against the music. “So, what do you think?”
“That was Rhiannon, the goddess. I didn’t know she had a mother.”
Greta frowned. “More like her great-great grandmother, but Danna doesn’t like to think that way, so all her children and grandchildren and so on call her mother.” Briana bowed her head to the wisdom of her druid and did not question how she knew what she knew. That made Greta frown again.
After a time, Greta asked Mavis how she liked the music. Briana, who clapped along, called it wonderful, thinking Greta was talking to her. Mavis shook her head. “A bit flat,” she said, and then added, “I could call a few friends to come and liven it up a bit.”
“Don’t you dare.” Greta imagined a bunch of little ones, fiddlers, drummers and flautists enchanting everyone so they danced until they dropped.
A short while after that, Greta did what she feared and fell asleep in her chair.