In the impossibly far future, Greta would live two alien lifetimes. Gallena of Orlan, an exobiologist who could dissect the Wolv and name every part. More importantly, because of Gallena’s understanding of so many alien cultures and alien psychology in all of its rich variety, she might be able to predict Wolv behavior. Greta imagined that could be useful.
The other impossible life, Martok the Bospori, lived as a mathematical engineer who looked at the weapons and shields of the Wolv like Greta might look at late Neolithic stone-tipped spears. Martok could easily repair the Wolv craft and send them back out into space, if she could figure out how to get him close enough to do it. Greta shook her head at the idea of getting close to the Wolv ship and in her thoughts, took a step closer to her own time.
Still in the far future, she remembered the storyteller who kept track of all that went on in this and her many lifetimes, though to be honest, if he did not write down the names and things, he could get as confused as her. Still, he knew the history of Greta’s day and age, and in a broad way which Greta could not grasp because she sat in the midst of it, and in a sense stayed too close to the subject to see the forest from the trees. Greta grinned as she thought that, but then apologized to the storyteller because he hated clichés. Anyway, the storyteller knew what belonged in Greta’s day and what did not; and the Wolv definitely did not belong. I know that much, Greta thought.
Doctor Mishka came from the century before the storyteller, or at least the lifetime before. The good doctor taught her many things about healing that even Mother Hulda did not know. As bad as it felt at times to not be allowed into heaven, to be constantly forced into a new life, to have to live over and over and still not get it right, there were some advantages to having lived so many times. She reluctantly admitted that in her mind where she often refused to admit it in her heart.
Greta sighed and thought again. In the near future, there were two more lives that she seemed to be living at the same time as her own, though they quite obviously lived in their own time and place. Gerraint sadly learned all there was to know about battle, and Greta feared his expertise might be needed in her day before this all finished, and indeed, she had already used him in that capacity.
“I volunteered,” Festuscato spoke directly from the future into Greta’s head. Greta felt startled, and looked around to see if anyone else heard. She told herself to be quiet and continued with her not so private thoughts.
Festuscato had some talents at negotiation, especially in negotiating with pig-headed barbarians, if only he could restrain his glib tongue. At the moment, he still whispered in her head and reminding her that it was his turn next. Like a mom, Greta could only answer, “We’ll see,” and she backed her thoughts into the past.
In the near past, she lived as a Greek princess, gifted to the hunt by Artemis herself and master of more weapons than Greta could name. The princess did not have the strength and natural talents of an elect, like Briana, but she more than made up for it by her training and the spirit of Artemis that dwelled in her. The storyteller once put on his best Festuscato accent and quipped that she could track bedroom slippers across a field of linoleum, whatever that meant.
Greta smiled at that image, but turned her thoughts to Diogenes, chief of spies for Alexander the Great, sometimes called Alexander’s Eyes. Now, he was the consummate warrior and already knew enormous amounts about battle, but he also had a special talent which might be called the talent of a true rogue; rogue being a word which she thought would be nicer than thief. He could get in and out of a guarded room with whatever he went after, and before anyone noticed. The storyteller said he could spy out a party of dwarfs without their ever noticing. It was a bit of an exaggeration, Diogenes being only human and all, but not too far from the truth.
Greta shifted her seat as she remembered the gods she had been as her mind wandered into the deep past. She remembered that on four separate occasions she lived among the gods. Sometimes that memory made her more uncomfortable than the aliens, Martok and Gallena. But setting her personal discomfort aside, there were four gods that stood at the four corners of the earth, and the first she thought of was the nameless god.
Nameless, an earth god, grandson of Odin and a Prince of Aesgard. They presently traveled through territory that belonged to Nameless before the days of the dissolution of the gods, and that was perhaps why she thought of him first. Greta wondered why she even worried about Gerraint learning about battle, and Diogenes being trained in Macedonian school for war. Nameless’ father was Tyr, the Aesgard god of war, and his mother was Vrya, goddess of love and again, war. Nameless knew everything there was to know about war and battle, and maybe even invented some of it. It ran in his blood, but then Greta decided she did not want to think about that.
Danna, great-great grandmother of Rhiannon, a fire goddess whose father Hephaestus lived and worked in the lava fields of Mount Etna. She carried the underground fires of the earth in her blood, but she also served as a fertility goddess, thanks to her mother Bast, the cat of Egypt. In fact, in Egypt, they called her Amonette, the serpent of the Nile, and considered her a goddess of creation, but that was a long story. Suffice to say, Danna gave birth to a whole pantheon of her own, and Rhiannon, her great-great grandchild or whatever, was ticking her off. Greta frowned and thought again.
Salacia or Amphitrite, the queen of the seven seas, having married Poseidon, the one called Neptune by the Romans. Her heart desired only to play with the little fishies in her streams and lakes and her lovely dolphins in the deep blue seas, but Greta remembered that Salacia had another side. Don’t piss her off or upset her, because her anger could easily rise to hurricane proportions. “But then everything feels so good and clean after the storm has passed.” Greta heard the words in her head, and shook her head to clear her thoughts.
Then she thought of Junior, a man Greta felt especially close to because of her recent access. Greta waited, but Junior kindly said nothing. Junior, a god of the air, and she thought that like Nameless, his mother Ishtar had been a goddess of both love and war, but unlike Nameless, Junior’s father was Amun, the one true ancient god of the Nile, the creator god who became the Ra, the king of the gods of Egypt. Amun Ra. This could be good, Greta thought, not the power part, but the creativity. Greta might need some real creative thinking to deal with the seven broken off pieces of Mithras, and Greta herself was not especially good in panic situations.
Greta shook her head again and put down her food. She stared at the city, and Vedix finally stole her attention when he spoke.
“It will be all right. We will find them and get them home, safe.” Vedix referred to Berry, Hans, Fae and Hobknot. He apparently reacted to the look on her face, but had no idea what she really worried about.
The lives among the gods that she lived in the past were usually unavailable, no matter what lifetime she lived and no matter what terrible thing she faced. She knew they were not there to step in and fix all her problems any more than she was there to fix all of the problems for her elves, fairies, gnomes and goblins. She knew it strongly related to the idea that she had to fight her own battles and cross her own bridges when she came to them, or burn those bridges, as the storyteller liked to say. But in this case, Nameless, Danna, Amphitrite and Junior were virtually tripping over themselves to come and help her out. That really worried her more than anything else. She supposed it was because she was due to start facing the godly, broken off pieces of Mithras, directly.
Mithrasis and the others failed to stop her by more indirect means, by threat, by general Pontius, by Chobar and his Dogs or the Lazyges. They failed with the initial hunters of the Wolv. They failed with the followers of Helios and the followers of the lion-headed Jupiter. But Greta knew she had no power in her small human self to face such things as gods or demi-gods or whatever the pieces of Mithras were. She felt grateful to her godly lives, but scared all the same. She said something out loud, though perhaps no one listened.
“Now it begins in earnest.”
“Lady.” Mavis got Greta’s attention as soon as they left the shelter of the swamp and headed out across the grass toward the city.
“What are we going to do about Stinky?” Hermes asked. “He might not fit through the tunnels, and even if he does, it is not likely we will find a boat big enough to take him downriver.”
Everyone heard and everyone stopped where they were. Alesander began to unload the mule. He made packages and divided them as evenly as he could between the members of the group so no one person would be overburdened. They would not let Greta carry any more than her medical pack. She protested, but got told bluntly that she had a baby to carry.
“I won’t even start showing for another month, at least,” she said, but it made no difference.
When everyone had been loaded down, Alesander’s final act was to remove Stinky’s reigns. “I can’t imagine he will survive long in this wilderness,” Alesander said.
Mavis and Hermes said good-bye to the beast. Greta stepped over to kiss the mule on the nose. Briana offered one last carrot, and Vedix offered a Celtic word of parting, though he said it in jest. The group turned for the city. Stinky followed them most of the way, but stopped short of the gate. It was like he sensed what was inside.