The travelers spent the next three days moving through the woods that Greta called the Brugh. They were mixed fir and pine at the higher elevations, but deciduous further down the slopes. It did not look like a forest of fire to anyone, especially when it rained on the second day. Much less did they expect to find a lake of gold.
“Believe me,” Bogus declared. “If there was a lake of gold, the dwarves would be mining it right now.”
On that first night, Greta finally sat down with Bogus and let him speak what stayed on his mind and in his heart. “I dearly love my granddaughter, Berry,” he said. “When she was just a baby, three-quarters human and all, so many of us worked so hard and with every ounce of magic we could muster to release the fairy within her. And we succeeded. She found her wings, and though she could not fly as fast or as far, or reach as high as a real fairy, like my mother could, and though she had no magic of her own to speak of, I loved her dearly and took the very best care of her I could. I did.”
“I know you did.”
Mavis and Nudd finished caring for Stinky and came to sit and listen while Vedix and Hermes tried to put together something edible without a fire.
“And her twin sister, Fae, though she found a small bit of magic in her one-quarter spirit blood and despite her three-quarters human blood, I kept the agreement and never sought her out, and never knew her at all. Berry was given to us and Fae was given to the humans, and I left Fae to her own people, though it broke my heart every day to know she was out there, but I would never know her”
“I know that is true.”
Lucius came in from the south and sat. He picked at a bit of dried beef that they brought from the village of the Dragon Clan and had left over from their time in Movan Mountain.
“But then, Lady, when you came along after seventy years, and Berry as a fairy was just a teenager of maybe thirteen or twelve human years in looks, and Fae as a human was a poor, old woman of the full seventy years, I thought something might be done, even if I could only have both of my granddaughters together for a short time. I was determined to be content to love them for however brief a time I had, but then you made a miracle, you did. Poor Fae, when she was struck by that arrow in the battle, she was sure to die, being as old and frail as she was. But you took all of Berry’s fairy blood and gave it to Fae, and filled Berry with Fae’s human blood, so Berry became a one hundred percent human, poor child, and Fae became half-fee, like her father. And then, as easy as a blink of your eye, you healed Fae and brought the fullness of her spirit blood out, so seventy was suddenly not so old, and Fae was a happy dwarf.”
“I know that she is happy.”
Alesander and Briana came in together from the north where they scouted out the land and saw no sign of the Wolv. They were not holding hands, but they might as well have been.
Bogus took off his hat and laid it gently in his lap before he continued. “I’ve never been so honest and straight-forward in all my whole life. Normally, for spirit folk it goes against every fiber to be pure honest, but I honestly don’t mind telling all of this to you. It is like a confession those humans talk about, and a great, life-long burden lifted from my heart.”
Vedix and Hermes joined them so everyone began to listen, and everyone had the good sense not to interrupt.
“Well, I can’t say I am happy that Fae has taken up with that old curmudgeon, Hobknot the Hobgoblin of the Hardwood, but Berry being married to your own brother I don’t mind at all. He is a fine young man, human though he is, and I will tell anyone the same.” Bogus paused and looked down at his hat. “It is not my place to question the way of the gods, but I don’t know what might have possessed you to let those four go off on such a daft errand.”
“They wanted to find their father,” Greta said quietly. “It is not my place to say what my little ones do. I can encourage, inspire, enthuse and ask, but I will not control. Ultimately, what you decide to do will be up to you. You make your own choices, and have to live with them.”
“But you have not spoken of their father, your son.”
Bogus nodded again and began to worry his hat. “Damn stubborn and stupid boy. He went off in search of his grandmother, my mother, and got himself trapped in the Land of the Lost. And now Berry and Fae have followed him into the same stupid place.”
“Softly,” Greta said, and she touched Bogus and calmed the hands on his poor imp hat.
“I loved her, you know. Sweet Clarissa. She was so young and vulnerable when the Romans came stomping into the forest. She was hurt and cried so softly, like a bird with a hurt wing. I hid her and cared for her as well as anyone could.”
“And you fell in love with her.”
Bogus paused at that stark statement. He stared at Greta before he looked down and began to worry his hat again. “I would have kept her, enchanted, you know, but she was so sweet and fragile I knew keeping her in a cage would kill her, so I let her go, knowing I could not go with her. She ran, I tell you. She ran into the arms of that man from the Eagle Clan, but she was with child, and the son she had was mine as he proved many times. Oren was a beautiful child. When he was older, he began to spend some time with me and some of the others, which I felt was only fair, him being half mine. He found out his grandfather was an old imp who ran off at the ripe old age of eight hundred and fifty-two, about the time Oren was born, and he cried for his grandfather, though he never met the old bastard. But when he found out his grandmother, my mother Willow, was the sweetest fairy of light this world has ever known, he became obsessed. There was no living with him. He began to range far and wide through the land, calling her name, even though he knew, some two hundred years earlier, her troop had migrated into the north and would not likely be found by any means.”
“I tried to stop him,” Bogus’ words burst out. “I tried to tell him not to go, but his younger brother, my Clarissa’s human son was old enough to help keep and raise the family, and he said he was free to go. Stupid and stubborn, I tell you.” Bogus let his words trail off and thought the rest quietly to himself. Greta felt glad for that. He did not need to say some of those words out loud.
“Fae and Berry found their father,” Greta took up the telling. “But they are all prisoners in the Land of the Lost. We have to go and set them free.” With that, she laid down, turned her back on them all and pulled her blanket up to her shoulder. She feigned sleep until sleep finally came for her, and she would not answer any questions, though she did hear some of the conversation. Lucius, of all people, got it right. They were headed right into the jaws of the Wolv and the home of the goddess.