Rhiannon looked away as she spoke, and Greta caught a glimpse of the idea that there might be something Rhiannon was not telling, but then what she said made sense. “Maybe the human war is not what you need to focus on.”
Greta wanted to ask what she meant and why she looked away, but they were at Hans and Berry’s door so she said, “Shh.”
Berry still lay in bed, sleeping on her face, her knees pulled up and her butt sticking up in the air. Greta whispered. “She used to sleep that way when she turned twelve and a wee winged little fairy.” Greta stepped up, but this time it took her whole hand to push and not simply her finger. Berry fell over and immediately protested.
“No, Mom. I’m still sleeping.”
“Time to get up sweetheart,” Greta boomed in her best mom voice. “Time for school. You don’t want to miss the school bus.”
Berry’s eyes opened and shot daggers as she crawled up to her pillows and pulled the covers over her head. “I can’t go to school today. I feel sicky.”
“Poor Hans. He is all alone.” Greta let out a big sigh and Rhiannon covered her giggle.
Berry pulled the covers off her face. “Cheater. But really, I feel sick. I have thrown up every morning for more than a week, not a lot, but every day.”
“Oh Berry.” Greta sat on the bed and helped Berry sit up. Rhiannon sat on Berry’s other side so she could not easily lie down again. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to have a baby?”
Rhiannon put her hand out to touch Berry’s belly, not that the goddess did not already know. “Definitely.”
“Me and Hans?”
“No, never,” Berry said. “Me and Hans.” She smiled a big smile for a second before she asked, “boy or girl?”
Greta stopped Rhiannon’s hand. “Do you want to know?”
Berry thought for a second and shook her head. She gave Greta’s oft used response. “Healthy and happy is what matters.” and Rhiannon and Greta hugged her and helped her stand.
“Good,” Greta said. “Now I can go back for more sausages. Maybe a sausage and egg sandwich.” Berry looked pale at the thought of food. “There are wafflies, and apple cinnamons,” Greta said to tempt her. “And sausage on the side.”
“What is with the sausages?” Rhiannon asked.
“I think my son is going to be a carnivore.”
“I think my baby is going to be skinny,” Berry said and turned pale again.
“I would like—” Rhiannon started the sentence, but Greta cut her off.
“Don’t even think it. You are not even supposed to be here, remember?”
After nearly a month, Greta could not wait any longer. Darius and Greta’s Father were in Porolissum, the main settlement on the northern border of Dacia, having made the long trip from Romula in the winter rather than waiting until the spring as planned. They brought up six hundred Roman Cavalry, and six hundred auxiliaries as their escort, only to have two hundred cavalry and a hundred auxiliaries rebel and try to take over the town. Darius sent out half the escort on arrival. They went out in groups of thirty to a hundred men to scour the mountains for the enemy and secure the passes that led to Roman land. The Mithrites turned half of the remaining men and acted as soon as they saw a chance for success. They raised the men of Porolissum and thought to turn them to their side, seeing that so many of them were branded rebels in the last rebellion; but the men of Porolissum remained loyal to their high chief and to the governor, Darius. Led by Drakka and Bragi, they put down the rebellion at no small cost. Now, they were working furiously hard in the snow and slush to fortify the town and the border against whatever might be coming in the spring.
Greta made a doorway between the Second Heavens and Earth. She said good-bye to Avalon, the sanctuary she made for all her little ones back four thousand years before Christ. It had become her sanctuary and place of peace against the storm that gathered on Earth, but she understood she could not put off her responsibilities any longer. She stepped out on to the Earth, dressed in her own ordinary dress and well-worn red cloak, and left her armor home in Avalon, just to make a point in her mind. She wanted to arrive quietly and unobserved and chose a spot next to her brother Bragi’s home, along the side of the house where the grass got tall, but the whole community was up in arms and in such a bustle of activity, there were plenty of people who stopped and watched Greta, Hans, Berry and a bunch of strangers step out of a hole in the air.
One of the watchers, Karina, Bragi’s wife, had her two children, Kurt and Padma with her. Karina opened her mouth until she recognized Greta and curtsied. “Mother Greta,” she called her. Greta frowned at the formality and hugged the woman.
“Just Greta,” she said. “Just Bragi’s little sister.”
Karina returned the hug, but had more to say. “And wife of the imperial governor. And the woman of the ways who saved so many lives from the headsman’s axe, and who consorts with spirits and powers beyond my reckoning, and who is able to appear out of nowhere, out of the very air itself.”
Greta took a step back and thought she better introduce her crew to give some familiarity, to counter Karina’s distress. Karina kept staring. “This is my friend Bogus,” she said. Bogus had on his glamour to make himself look like the old prospector. “He is grandfather to both Fae and Berry. Fae.” Fae stepped up disguised like an older woman, not nearly as old as she had looked when she lived as a human, but hardly young enough for Bogus to be her grandfather. “And her husband, Hobknot,” Greta added. Hobknot looked like an older man, but he kept tugging on the fairy weave clothes Fae made him wear, and he came across as very curmudgeonly. He grunted his Hello.
“Hans, of course,” Greta said, and Hans gave Karina a hug. “And Berry, and my good friend Rhiannon who is from the Celtic lands beyond the mountains.” Greta saw Berry and Rhiannon kneel and talk to six-year-old Kurt, with three-year-old Padma hidden behind her brother’s shoulder. The little girl kept grinning. Greta looked again at Karina. Karina had been the beauty of Boarshag, and Greta could not imagine how she ended up with her clunky, big brother. That happened before Father got elected High Chief of the Dacians, as Greta recalled, so Karina did not go for anything like money, power or position. And Karina truly appeared beautiful in every human way, but then Greta looked again at Berry and Rhiannon. Berry lost none of her beauty when she stopped being a fairy and became fully human. She remained fairy beautiful, and that went into another whole beauty category, far beyond human reach. And Rhiannon! She toned down her godly attributes to almost nothing so she could walk among the mortals, but she could not disguise her looks without real effort. Rhiannon looked goddess beautiful, and it appeared breathtaking, impossible to focus on, and almost too much for a human mind to take in and comprehend.