The man’s cap looked like a wizard’s cone hat, but bent so it flopped over in the front. It showed the image of a fingernail moon, while the man’s wizard cloak of the same color as the cap, a deep navy, almost black, looked studded with a thousand stars. The man himself looked richly tanned and stared at her with dark eyes beneath full and black brows.
“Persian,” Greta called him, and Vedix came up to stand beside her.
“Kairos.” The Persian returned a word to show that he certainly knew who she was. Greta looked for Lucius and found him standing back, quietly watching. Lucius had his sword put away and made no hostile move as the Persian talked and stepped toward the center of the room. “That was a beautiful trick, sharing false information. You have the Wolv all searching for you up river, but I saw through your clever ruse and now I stand between you and the Road of Dreams.”
Greta looked again at the Persian and understood what she had to do, dangerous as it might be. “Jupiter is dead,” she said with a smile. “He went over to the other side as all the gods should. And your pretend Jupiter, the lion-headed freak is dead as well.”
The Persian paused, uncertain how to respond. Greta assumed from his perspective there was so much wrong with what she said, he choked on where to begin. “He was not a pretend Jupiter,” the Persian spit out at last. “He was the true god.”
“No,” Greta interrupted, with a kind and friendly shake of her head. “If he was a true god he would have gone over to the other side some time ago with all the real gods.”
The Persian got flustered. “He was a real god.”
Greta shook her head. “Well, he was not exactly immortal. Why, he was no more a god than you are.” Greta forced a casual laugh. “What are you, a third-rate magician?”
“I – I…” The Persian stuttered before he threw his hands in her direction. “This should have been done a long time ago.”
Greta felt herself turning into a donkey and quickly went away so Junior could stand in her place. Junior was a true god of the Middle East as well as Egypt, and while he technically did not cover Persia, he had plenty of dealings there in ancient days and so imprinted his impression on the Persian people. Junior shook his finger at the Persian, like the Persian was a naughty boy, and Junior smiled as the Persian’s eyes filled with a touch of fear and he took a step back.
“You picked up a matter transformer from the Wolv,” Junior said, like he was Greta speaking, which in a way, he was. “Very impressive, but still just a trick.” He tossed a bit of dirt in the air and Greta came back to have the dirt fall on her. Immediately, the compulsion to become a jackass went away and she returned fully to her ordinary, human self.
“I have no matter trasfigurer, or whatever you said,” the Persian raised his voice.
“Sure,” Greta rolled her eyes. “I forgot. You are pretending to be a god.”
“But I am a god.” Greta just stared at the man like the man had a few loose screws. “But I am,” he repeated.
“I tell you what,” Greta said in a very casual voice. “I figure you have your tricks set up in this room so it would not be a good test. Let’s go back out by the river, into the sunlight and see what you are made of.” Greta grabbed Vedix’ hand and dragged him behind her. She walked quickly, and the Persian followed, still mumbling.
“But I am a god.”
Outside, Greta waved to Alesander and Briana who stood, concerned, but then curious to see what she was up to. When the Persian came into the light, and blinked at the sudden brightness, Briana drew her knife and growled like Vedix. Greta thought it must be a Celtic thing. She turned and faced the man only when she got near the docks. The lion-headed one had been a god of the sky, the air and lightning. The sun-runner, whichever that one was, appeared as a fire demon with a whip of fire. Mithrasis, the Nymphus stood for Venus, the water one. Greta wondered why women were always the water ones. It hardly seemed fair. But then the Roc flew over the beasts of the earth, quite literally from five thousand feet up, while the soldier stood over the human race, again of the earth, though it seemed like the Wolv were willing to play his game as well. That left the father figure, the Pater, but Greta figured he stayed above it all. And the Persian, over the moon and the stars, had to be over the fifth element, ether. That meant earth air water and fire were not his forte, so this might work.
“So, magician,” Greta turned and spoke up as soon as she reached the edge of the water by the ship and the dock. “Lets see what you got out here in broad daylight. I’ll be watching to see if I can figure out the trick.”
“It is not tricks.” The Persian turned from confusion and upset to anger. This became the dangerous point and Greta had to be careful. The Persian let his anger touch the sky and with a wave of his hand, dark, foreboding clouds moved in and lightning flashed between the clouds. The thunder echoed through the village, and Alesander and Briana grabbed each other while Vedix jumped. It began to rain, hard, but Greta laughed.
“That was very good.” Greta knew a compliment would be needed to soothe the Persian’s anger. “I did not see how you did that, at all. Excellent.” The Persian grinned. “But really.” Greta pointed to the sky. “Five-year-old children on Katawba Three can change the weather with a push of a button. Weather control is old hat.” The Persian looked deflated as Greta whistled for her air sprites and thought her instructions rather than speak out loud. The sprites began to push at the darkness and enlisted a couple of spirits of the winter winds to help. The thunder stopped and the rain slowly slackened and stopped as the sun returned to the dock.
Greta felt glad of one thing, the one advantage she had in this game of wits.
“The Persian has no wits?” Festuscato asked in Greta’s mind.
“That’s wit with a “t”,” Gerraint said, and after a very brief pause, he said, “Twit.”
No, Greta thought to herself along with the words, “shut up.” The Persian could not read her mind, thank God. Given her knowledge of the actual future, sometimes called the most dangerous knowledge in the universe, even the gods were prevented from reading her mind, and that prohibition included the Persian. He would have no way of knowing that matter transmutation was way beyond humanoid technology, so he could not have gotten a machine from the Wolv to do it. And it would be a thousand years in the future before the people on the planet of Katawba had the technical capacity to change the weather with the push of a button, but Greta was not going to be deterred by the details. What the Persian did not know, she would not tell him.
“Hey!” Greta shouted as she leaned over and wrung her hair out on the dock. “I may be willing to confess you are a real wizard and not just a magician with a bag of tricks. But if that is the case, where is your familiar? I thought all witches and wizards had a familiar.” Greta remembered there was something, like the lion-headed man had a serpent by his feet, but she could not exactly remember what the Persian had.
The Persian still looked angry as he watched his storm get pushed away, but soon enough, his expression turned to sly. “Indeed,” he said, and he did not even protest that he was a god, not a wizard. “You should meet my familiar.”