Greta sat at the breakfast table and fretted. Her whole world started falling apart and she felt powerless to do anything about it. The Sun-runner and the Soldier were back on earth, gathering an army to invade Dacia. The Roman legion, the one supposed to defend Dacia, under General Pontius’ leadership, might very well help the Scythians. Greta managed to send word to Darius and her father, but some of the very men who escorted them around the province were Mithrites and could not be trusted. Rome had become a mess, in far more danger from inside the ranks of her vaunted armies than she ever was from outside pressures.
“Greta.” Greta looked up. Hans woke up for breakfast. Berry was missing. Fae and Hobknot were also missing. They disappeared almost immediately on their arrival. Hobknot took her to see the sights and wonders of Avalon, and for the past week, Bogus paced and made grouchy faces and noises. Willow was wonderful, but she and Thumbelin had lots of catching up to do, so Greta did not see much of her.
“What?” Greta answered her brother and had a thought. “You haven’t had thirds yet. You don’t want Missus Kettleblack to be insulted.” Missus Kettleblack was the kindly old dwarf woman who ran the kitchen in the castle.
“I can’t eat like I used to,” Hans said. “I just spent the last two years with nothing to do but eat and sleep and get fat.”
“Great Lady,” Hans offered a bow. She might not have been a goddess for the Dacians, but she was certainly a goddess. “Maybe you can answer my questions since I can’t seem to get my sister out of her sausages,” he said.
“And what questions might those be?” Rhiannon asked, but then she read his mind and answered without waiting for the questions to be verbalized. “You know one of the crossed swords very well. Excalibur. I understand you carried it over the last two years.”
“I didn’t hardly get a chance to use it,” Hans griped.
“How fortunate for you,” Greta returned the gripe.
“Ahem,” Rhiannon cleared her throat. “Excalibur was made for Diogenes, a young man who fought beside Alexander the Great. The other sword is a bit smaller and thinner. It is the sister sword, Caliburn, and it was made about a hundred years later for the Princess. You have met her,” Rhiannon pointed out and Hans squinted and tried to remember. He felt sure he must have met her.
“And that is some of the finest work the elves of the mountain ever produced,” Lord Branworth spoke up from the accountants table. “Priceless artifacts.”
“Same crew that made Thor’s hammer,” Lord Deepwell of the dark elves said.
“Or their descendants,” Lord Darkvein of the goblins added.
“I am sure all of these weapons have fascinating stories,” Hans interrupted the background commentary. “That is what I was asking Greta.”
“Indeed,” Rhiannon said. “But not all of these belonged to the Kairos, at least in the sense that they were mostly used by others. This great spear that hangs over all, for example, is the Seig of Lug, sometimes called the Lance of Lieu, or Slaughter. It came from the deep south to Britain, Wales, and eventually Ireland. They say no battle was ever won against it and it always hit its mark.”
“Rhiannon,” Greta interrupted this time. “We need to leave the Celtic treasures where they lay. The old ways have gone and the new ways have come. And while I am sure you will do a wonderful job when you find a young man to train in the martial arts, I wish you would not encourage Hans. He’ll just get himself hurt.”
“Greta!” Hans protested. “There is no harm in hearing the story of the Lance of Lugh. Who was Lugh, anyway?”
“He was a great sun god.” Lord Sunstone the elf wizard stood and walked toward Hans who was standing at the back wall, looking up at all the treasures hung around the fireplace. “Lugh infused the lance with the very power of the sun.”
Greta rolled her eyes, took Rhiannon’s hand and pulled her into the hallway. “Hans has too much time on his hands. We need to find his wife to distract him.”
“Young Berry,” Rhiannon named her. “But I feel as if there is something else you wish to tell me.” Rhiannon could not read Greta’s mind.
Greta shook her head to say no even as she spoke. “I feel guilty staying here as long as we have. The world out there is massing for war and I can’t think of any way to stop it. I can imagine ten thousand Scythians gathered by now, preparing for all-out war, and if they bring in the Lazyges, Capri, Sarmatians and others, that number could easily top twenty, even thirty thousand. And what is there to stand in their way? Will a few thousand Goths and Slavs take up the sword against such odds? I doubt it. One look and I would turn my little army around. And even if the Roman legion raised all the auxiliaries within reach, they would still be outnumbered two or three to one at least. But it is worse than that. Half of the legionnaires are probably Mithrites and would fight for the other side.”
“Not half,” Rhiannon said. “Not more than ten percent, but do not underestimate the power of Rome and the pride of the Romans. Even if they are Mithrites, many will still fight for Rome.”
“I hope,” Greta said. “But I can’t think of any way to stop it. And the Mithrites not only have the numbers, they have Mars and the Sun-runner still living and active and driving them forward to victory in a way that only the gods can do so well. And the Pater. I guess Mithras himself is the father figure. I’ve been thinking that the Pater was just another aspect of the old man, like Mithras had seven small pieces break off from his person, like seven of his fingers; but now I think he broke completely apart, into seven whole pieces, and the one I was calling Mithras is in reality just another piece of the whole, no more than any of the others. I guess Mithras is the head, but why the head should trap me into killing off the other parts of his own body, I have no idea. Who can guess what game he is playing?”