Some fairies came from the woods and the lake with all sorts of things to cook on the fire and share for supper. Most of it was vegetables and fruit, but also some fish, well filleted. They had warm bread that steamed when broken open in the air, and a fine wine that Alesander called excellent. It seemed a good contrast to the hearty brew of the dwarfs and the light, amber ale of the elves.
Most of the fairies remained hidden, both in the evening and in the next morning, but a couple of fairies took on their big size to do the cooking. Greta thought that was good and she felt grateful because if she tried to cook that fine food, she determined that she would just mess it up. Hermes paid attention to what the fairies did to prepare the feast, and so Mavis paid attention, but the rest were content to wait, and more content when supper got served.
As the sun set, King Treeborn and Queen Goldenrod came in their big form to sit by the fire and talk. Young Prince, Waterborn had been put to bed, but Goldenrod admitted that he spied on them from the reeds. Lots of fee watched, especially the young ones. The travelers looked all around, but confessed if they were not told, they would have imagined they were alone beside the lake.
“In the morning, we will head out for the swamp.” Treeborn talked to Alesander and the other men, though around the campfire sort of got spoken to everyone. “That will be about two days the way you folks travel, even moving by secret ways, but we will watch all the way to insure your safe arrival.” Alesander thanked the king and the king grinned and nodded as if to say it was the least they could do.
Greta and Goldenrod talked about children with Mavis being all ears and Briana not wanting to miss what the men were saying, but interested in what the women were talking about.
“I never thought much about children before,” Briana confessed.
“And how many will you and young Alesander have?” Goldenrod asked, and Briana turned red. She could not disguise such a thing as love from a fairy.
“I think that is supposed to be a secret,” Mavis said, in a voice meant to be a whisper but loud enough for all of the women to hear.
Goldenrod looked down. “My apologies.”
“Think nothing of it,” Greta smiled for Briana as much as for Goldenrod. “They are not fooling anyone. Even us clunker humans can see it as plain as day.” She turned to Briana who only turned redder and would not look at her, and Greta explained. “Love in the fairy world is not the complicated mess we humans have made it. When a male and a female like each other, they are friends, plain and simple. Then one says, “You are my heart.” And the other says, “You are my heart,” and that is it. They marry and they usually have children, though to be sure, the little ones reproduce slowly.”
“So, what say you?” Mavis asked Briana the question that Greta would not touch.
Briana finally turned scarlet, but whispered, “He is my heart.”
“There,” Goldenrod smiled, and reached for Briana’s hand which Briana slowly gave as she looked up. “Doesn’t that feel better?”
“But what if I am not his heart?” Briana asked.
“Very sad,” Goldenrod said. “It is not unknown, and sometimes fairies pout for a whole day, even two whole days. But in this case, I can tell you that you have nothing to worry about. It is plain on his face that you are the only one he wants to be with.”
Briana took back her hand to touch her cheek. Her scarlet embarrassment turned to a true blush as her eyes wandered to the other side of the fire. “But you need to tell him,” Greta added.
“You’re an elect. You can beat him up if he gets stupid,” Bogus said as he dashed his wine on the fire to fill his cup with plain water.
“Bogus!” Greta, Mavis and Goldenrod all scolded him, but he merely shrugged.
“I have a bone or two to pick,” Bogus said, and he sat where he could take in both Greta and Goldenrod. He started right in. “You made me and mine give up the free space we had east of the Bear Clan River. It was only a little space between the river and the road, but you said the time for separate places was over. But here, we have been to a protected elf village, we are sitting in a protected fairy nest, and we are going to a swamp full of dark elves who I am sure have their own place as well. What gives?”
“Bogus.” Greta tried to keep the sharpness out of her voice. “I explained. This world belongs to the human race now. You were crowding the people of the Bear Clan and keeping them out of land that was rightfully theirs. Presently, men have not moved into the swampland, and won’t for some time. The goblins are keeping it from no one. Likewise, these fine fairies live in a very small and unobtrusive area. They are preventing no one from using the land or the lake. Then the elves live some distance from the nearest humans, but I imagine as the humans move up into the hills beneath the Carpathian Mountains, the elves will move further and further up the land until Miroven itself may be revived.”
“Miroven.” King Treeborn raised his voice from the other side of the fire. “There is a name of legend.”
“Indeed,” Goldenrod said. “But I wonder, young Bogus, who might your mother be?”
Bogus paused. He did not expect that question. “Willow,” he said, and wisely listened. It took some time to figure out which Willow, because Goldenrod knew three of them, but at last, it got determined Bogus’ Willow went with the snow fairies that moved up to the Ural Mountains more than a hundred years ago and now lived in the land of the Lavars, whom King Treeborn called a brutal and savage people. The fairies had very nice things to say about Bogus’ mother, and Bogus sat quietly for the rest of the night.
“So, who are these Lavars?” Hermes asked.
“People that Rome does not know,” Greta answered. She grinned at her own thoughts, but as usual she had to explain. “The Germanic tribes are moving west. Already the emperor is having a hard time holding the Rhine, the western border of the Empire. It is only going to get worse in the next couple of hundred years, but meanwhile, other people have moved into the east here, to fill the empty spaces. All the many tribes of Scythians like the Lazyges and Samartians have moved into the plains above the Danube and around the Mountains of Dacia, which Rome currently holds as an enclave in Scythian land. But the northern half of those old German lands, the old lands of Aesgard, are being filled with Slavs, pouring out of the east and Siberia, and eventually they will settle down to farm and build towns and villages.”
“What are Slahbs?” Alesander asked.
“Lucius is a slob,” Greta said, and did not explain. “But the Slavic people are Indo-European remnants from the east around the Caspian and west of the Aral Sea, kind of a loosely defined people, and right now, like King Treeborn described them, they are savage and brutal. They have pushed from the Ural Mountains to the Baltic Sea and into Belarus. They are leaking into Poland and will one-day push down to the Danube, but for now, the Scythian-Iranian stock own the Ukraine. The Scythians won’t be pushed out until there is a back-up at the Rhine and South becomes the escape valve for the Goths and others.”
No one spoke for a moment because they were not sure they understood all she said, but then Alesander grasped at something. “Are you saying the Germanic Goths will one day push to the Danube and into Dacia?”
“They will swallow Dacia whole, but not for a couple hundred years.”
“Sounds like a game my brothers used to play when we were young,” Nudd said. “We would set up bricks in lines and knock the first one down which knocked down the next and the next until the whole line got knocked down.”
“What was the point of that?” Lucius asked.
Nudd shrugged. “Fun?”
“Dominoes,” Greta called it. “That image is used for more than a thousand years, and not a bad image. The Scythians push the Germans, the Slavs push them both. The Germans get backed up by the Roman wall at the Rhine and curve south to where they push back at the Scythians. But then the Huns will come out of the Caucasus Mountains and overrun everybody, but that won’t be for a long time.”
“And to think, we get to go into the middle of all this pushing and shoving,” Briana said.
“Expect everyone we meet to be on enemy thinking unless we can prove friendship in some way.” Alesander nodded.
“Like running the gauntlet,” Hermes said, and Lucius laughed at that thought for some reason.
“I’m more worried about the Wolv,” Nudd said.
“They won’t come here,” King Treeborn insisted. “This area is covered by a magical dome that makes all who are inside invisible.”
“The Wolv found their way into Movan Mountain,” Hermes pointed out and Mavis nodded vigorously.
“They have air ships,” Greta explained for the fairies. “And there is no telling what natural magic their instruments might penetrate from the air. My only hope is this group is about the size of a typical Scythian or Dacian or German hunting group and so the Wolv might have a time trying to figure out which group is ours.”
“Slim hope,” Lucius popped that balloon, and everyone sat and sulked for a minute.
“Well, at least the humans won’t come here with all their pushing and shoving,” King Treeborn spoke into the silence, and Alesander added a thought.
“Get some rest. We have a long day tomorrow through enemy territory.”
Greta and her friends pick up another traveler as they move on to the swamp of sorrows.
Until then, Happy Reading.