“Quiet,” Greta insisted. “Everybody just be quiet for a minute.” The little ones got quiet right away, and the humans followed after Briana finished her sentence. They heard a sound from the back room. A child was calling. Karina got up right away, and Mavis excused herself from Ulladon’s company to follow. A moment later, Karina returned, struggling to keep six-year-old Kurt up in her arms, her hands clasped beneath the boy’s butt and a look on her face which said how heavy the boy started getting. Mavis carried Padme, and they giggled. She sat down facing Ulladon, Padme in her lap, and Padme immediately protested.
“Let me see.”
Ulladon looked at Greta who shrugged, so Ulladon let her glamour drop and Padme clapped and reached for Ulladon’s horns. She giggled again when Ulladon stuck out her skinny and far too long forked tongue. Padme tried to grab the tongue, but her little hands were not fast enough. They played that game for a while and the rest of the group watched and smiled until Kurt woke up enough to look around and scream. He continued to scream after he shut his eye and Karina took him toward the door.
“No offence,” Karina said. “But he might never get back to sleep.”
“Rather a compliment,” Rotwood said with a big tooth-filled grin, and he tipped his hat to Karina and again to the boy, even if Kurt screamed in his face. Bragi got Karina’s cloak. Kurt stayed wrapped in his blanket, and mother and child went outside.
“Lady, I must protest again.” Bogus looked around the table and apologized to the newcomers before he spoke. “I have more than a thousand spirits in every shape and size waiting just south of the town. They are all volunteers from all over the province. You know, normally we want nothing to do with human conflict and human wars, as you have taught us. Some believe the world would be better off if the mortals just killed themselves off and were done with it. But in times of rebellion and invasion, the world becomes a dangerous place, even for us. People run everywhere through the woods and hills, and they tend to kill everything that moves. I am glad our friends from beyond the mountains are willing to help in this time of need, but you have people right here who are willing to help as well.” He dropped his voice to a mumble. “I was just waiting for a safe time to tell you.” He sat down.
Greta nodded, and she reviewed the actual numbers, or as close as the various little ones were willing to admit. “So that adds up to about four thousand extra arms,” Greta said, pleased that she added it all in her head without having to write it down.
“So, they only outnumber us two to one,” Darius whispered to Greta and Greta lost her smile, and doubly so when she had a thought.
“Wait a minute. Wait a minute.” Greta got everyone quiet again as she looked around the table. “Where is Willow and her troop of frost fairies?” People looked around the room and shrugged. “Chip?” she asked out loud. “Snowflake?” she asked more softly to the fairy on her shoulder. They did not know. They had not thought about it. They became worried.
“Why weren’t we warned this morning, or a couple of days ago come to think of it, when the new armies came in from the east and west?” Darius asked.
Greta stood and turned to face the kitchen, the only open space in the room, and she called. “Willow. Willow!” She had no response, and Rhiannon and Darius stood on each side of Greta for support while everyone else watched. Greta got worried because only the greatest of powers could block her ability to contact her little ones. Greta felt some urgency and grabbed Rhiannon’s hand for the extra power boost while she went away and let Danna, the Celtic mother goddess take her place. “Willow,” Danna commanded with that single word.
Danna’s voice sounded soft, but it had an intensity about it that reminded some of the roar of a hungry lion. It reverberated through everyone’s insides, like it searched their souls, and not finding what it was after, it went out into the town to echo down the streets and alleys. By the time it reached the Roman, and Celtic battle lines, it rumbled, like a belly ache deep inside a mountain about to go volcanic. It knocked down men and tents in the enemy lines where the earth itself shook, and men wondered if this invasion was really a good idea. The little ones in their camps looked up and felt encouraged and loved, and the millions of little ones who were insubstantial and invisible and working hard across the face of the wilderness, paused and said a little prayer to their goddess. In the wild places, the wolves of this world howled, the owls looked at the rising moon and hooted, while the great cats roared in echo to the roar of the queen. The startled deer ran while badgers, beavers, rabbits and songbirds kept their young ones close in the dark. Far away, in a secluded northern forest by the Muskva River, the Wolv who do not have a word for fear in their vocabulary, looked up and felt afraid.
Deep in a cave in the Carpathian Mountains, the call found its reason for being. A picture formed in the air of Bragi’s kitchen, and everyone saw poor Willow, beaten, broken, burned and in despair. She had been badly tortured, and everyone became furious, but Willow looked up and spoke.
“I never stopped believing. Lady, it is the Helios. The Sun-runner has held us captive for three days.” She stopped talking when she ran out of energy, and Danna pulled the window back to broaden the view. The whole troop of fairies was there, in cages, and the titanic demon was there as well, by a great fire in the middle of the cave. It turned to look at them. People screamed and looked away, not because he looked scary like a goblin, or detestable like an ogre, but because he looked like a nightmare, a demonic presence who bore more than the fires of the sun. The fires of Hell itself danced in his eyes, and at the sight of Danna’s distress, he looked ready to laugh and spit in her face.
Danna grabbed an apple off the table and heaved it. It went right through the window, which surprised the Titan, and it hit the demon right between those eyes, which caused him to stumble and raise his hands. Danna already started yelling.
“Rhiannon. Pull.” Willow came through the window, followed by two, then three, then the whole fairy troop. By the time the Titan found his angry face, Danna snapped her finger and the window vanished.
Willow flew to Danna’s worried face and hugged her. Snowflake and Icechip flew around the room, hugging their families and cousins and friends. The kitchen became full of flashing lights, but Fae wisely stood and opened the door. Clouds had pushed up from the south in the last half-hour and it began to drizzle, but most of the fairy troop went out into the cool of the evening and were glad to let the water drops cleanse them from the terror and pain of the last three days.
Greta came back to her own place and sat heavily in her seat. She put her hand to her belly and cooed for a second to her baby, but she spoke out loud to whomever listened. “See what we have to look forward to?”
Lord Crag and his goblins and trolls did their job in the night. They came up from the solid earth, out of sight from the enemy and their guards. They took any that wandered too far from the camps, and screams could he heard here and there throughout the night. Going against orders, Lord Crag and Rotwood formed several teams to race through various camps to burn the tents and scatter the men and equipment only to disappear again in the dark. They scared off plenty of horses, and though the horses did not wander too far, despite how frightened they were, some at least were stampeded through the camps, and the goblins found that great fun.
By dawn, the enemy had lost some good men and had little sleep, but their commanders offered their men no respite and plenty of men were angry enough to want revenge. By mid-morning, the Scythians were ready to charge. The Lazyges and Dacians on the left and the Capri, Costoboci and Roxolani on the right all sent a couple of hundred men as a token of support for the initial attack when the Scythians charged.