At four in the morning when people began to stir, Festuscato got his turn, and he did not gripe because at eight o’clock, Gerraint stepped in, which meant Festuscato still had the next turn. The sun was due to come up, not that they would see it through the fog. More important, the width and depth of the river changed overnight. In some places, there were obstructions in the river and the place of safe passage narrowed. Everyone needed to be awake and poles ready just in case they needed to fend off any rocks or other obstructions in the water. Gerraint felt confident that his water babies would guide them safely to the dock, but it would be better to be prepared, just in case.
Gerraint picked at breakfast, and at eight o’clock he traded places with Diogenes. Diogenes was not hungry, th-thank you. He sat in the middle of the deck, pulled his sword and laid it across his lap. Then he spent the next four hours making Lucius uncomfortable by staring at the man and trying to puzzle out just where the man’s loyalties lay.
At noon, Doctor Mishka took a turn. She was more animated than most and did not mind sharing lunch and several stories from the future about the very land they were traveling through. She kept her voice low, but she figured after all that snoring the night before, surely the Wolv knew where they were. Unless, as she hoped, they were checking out the Muskva River awaiting their arrival.
There came one moment when the boat came rushing around a corner as it turned to the east. The boat swayed and tilted heavily to starboard as it got caught in a side current. Hermes almost slipped and fell overboard, but Mavis grabbed him and they both tumbled to the deck, laughing. The rest of the group shouted Wee! and Aah! like they were on a log flume ride before the boat settled down in the new current. The boat then slipped into the calmer waters behind a jetty, which had been built out into the river. A short while later, they came around a second jetty, and there they came gently to the dock of a fine-looking village. They did not exactly stop perfectly. They felt a bit of a bump, but Vedix and Hermes jumped to the dock with the ropes and tied the boat fast.
“Where are we?” Alesander whispered, having spent the day without speaking at all. People looked up and all around as the fog lifted from their immediate vicinity. They could still see where it clearly covered the river downstream and back upstream, but after twenty-four hours, the fog started to feel a bit suffocating. People breathed, and looked all around.
The village where they docked had been carved out of the hills and short cliffs that penned in the river. They found several buildings by the docks that looked to be warehouse buildings, and a three-story tower about where the central village square ought to be. The houses looked odd, a style of building unfamiliar to both the Romans and the Celts, though to be fair, they had not gotten a good look at the houses of Samarvant. Mainly, there did not seem to be anyone around. There were no signs of life in that village.
Mishka kept back to see which way Lucius might be interested in going. He moved immediately to the left off the dock where the village actually ended at a kind of small fort. The fort looked shut up tight and showed no one on the walls, so Mishka assumed the fort was as empty as the rest of the place. True, she could not be sure about the dungeon. She saw another big building there beside the fort, like a great hall for meetings, but it also looked to be closed, and probably locked. That building stood beside what looked like a cave entrance that let people inside the hill itself. Lucius became self-conscious when he realized everyone followed him, and he said something to ease any suspicion the others might have had.
“I think we go this way. I think the cave should take us under the heart of the goddess.”
Greta came back, letting the good doctor Mishka return to the future. She looked at Mavis, but Mavis shook her head. The only thing Greta remembered saying was they had to go north. Neither Greta nor Mavis told anyone about the signs they had been following.
“Where is everyone? Where are the people?” Hermes interrupted.
“Deserted the village,” Alesander suggested. “Ran away, or headed downriver to get away.”
“At least there aren’t any half-chewed bodies in this place,” Vedix offered.
“Quiet,” Greta said, and they quieted and looked at her while Greta sighed at having to face her own cave. I would rather have a bridge to burn, she thought, but she said something else. “Alesander, Briana, stay out here and keep hidden. Be prepared for us to come racing back out in case the cave is full of Wolv. Bogus and Pincushion, see if there are any people around, but stay invisible. My guess is this is a Venedi village, so they may become friends. Mavis and Hermes, see if there are any horses here for the borrowing. From here on we follow the Road of Dreams. Lucius and Vedix, you go with me to check out Lucius’ cave.” Greta turned to Lucius. “After you.”
“Lady?” Mavis did not exactly protest, but Greta waved her off.
“It will be all right,” she said, as she stepped toward the darkness.
Lucius drew his sword, but Diogenes said in Greta’s head that it was for show. Lucius walked slowly up what appeared to be a wide and well-kept path, not unlike the back-door path in the village of the Dragon Clan. Vedix fingered his wristwatch shield, thinking worst case scenario. Greta found a stack of torches by the entrance and lit two with her little bit of flint. She handed one to Vedix while Lucius stared off into the dark.
They did not walk far before they reached a great chamber, like a massive entrance hall carved out of the dark. It looked like a smaller version of one of the great dwarf halls they saw in Movan Mountain, but this looked strictly human made, with great columns regularly spaced to support the ceiling. Greta saw the path continued up and out the back of the chamber, but first she became concerned to light the torches that she found spaced regularly around the walls. She figured this would be the way her group had to go, and guessed that they were beneath the Heart of the Goddess, whatever that was. She managed to only light the first torch before all the torches around the room came to life as if by magic.
Vedix growled like a true member of the Bear Clan as Greta’s eyes shot to the exit tunnel on the other side of the room. A small man in a long cloak and Phrygian cap stared right back at her.
Greta faces the second piece of Mithras, the Persian. Until next time, Happy Reading.