Greta took her seat on the battements and stewed all afternoon. She kept her eyes on the enemy in the distance and fretted. There did not seem to be much movement, not much to see, but they were still there. They did not look to be leaving anytime soon, and that worried her. She knew she should have been tending the wounded. That was her real job, not the Kairos’ job, it remained Greta’s job, but she felt bloated, and rotten like the weather, and drained from a day that seemed too long already. She slept briefly in her chair, a cold afternoon nap, but woke up covered in blankets, a pillow on the ground, which she guessed had once been put behind her head. Someone cared.
Pincushion made her eat some soup which was not hard because it tasted really good, and Greta had the good sense not to ask what was in it. Then Pincushion, Karina and Snowflake went off to play with the children. Greta got grumpy. She missed her children.
Goldenrod and Oreona checked on her and told her Ulladon was sleeping in the deeps. They were happy that things went so well, but Greta added, “so far,” and she did not feel sure how well things really went. The reports she got in passing were a thousand defenders dead and a thousand who would be dead soon enough. Darius told her there were as many as five hundred or so, a rough estimate, who might be saved if the Roman physicians and various tribal healers could hack off enough limbs before they got infected. Greta knew in practice, more than half of them would die as well.
The rest of the men were in good spirits, her Father told her. She listened. He said beyond their casualties, there were as many as a thousand more among the various groups of people who would survive and heal, but who were wounded seriously enough to where they would not be fighting much. He said both Hans and Bragi fought well and she should be proud of her brothers. He said he was glad Mother stayed with the children, far away from there. Icechip, still riding on Father’s shoulder, picked up something of Greta’s distress.
“I never knew what war was like before. I’m sorry so many had to die,” he said, and it sounded heart felt.
Greta sniffed and turned her back on them and Father left with a word that he would check on her again, later. She missed her children.
Mavis went off with Hermes and Captain Ardacles’ troop to clean up the mess, as she called it. Wagons went out over the field all afternoon collecting the dead and wounded. By two o’clock, it began to drizzle softy and Rhiannon showed up. She said nothing, but made something like a beach umbrella against the rain so Greta could continue to sit and stay dry. It felt like Rhiannon wanted to say something, but she did not. She looked sad when she disappeared into the misty rain.
Vedix and Bogus came and sat with her for a while. Neither said much, not even to each other, and after a time they quit the rain and went to find shelter. Alesander and Briana showed up moments later and Briana had an announcement.
“We want to get married.”
“And this is news?” Greta asked.
“Her father has given his blessing if it is all right with you,” Alesander said, and kissed Briana on the cheek. She responded with a loving and happy face.
“I have said a thousand times, I will not be the decider of such things.” Greta sounded angry, though she did not mean to be. “You know what marriage is. The union between one man and one woman is not to be entered into lightly, but if it is what you want, it is not my place to approve or object. Personally, I wish you nothing but happiness, but you make your own decisions.”
“Yes. Go on. Have fun. Get fat. Have babies. Scat.” Greta snorted and looked across the field, though in the drizzle, she could hardly see the enemy. She knew Briana and Alesander stood and kissed for a while, but she ignored them and paid no attention when they left, holding tight to each other and laughing at the rain.
It became four, or close enough. The sky got ready to turn a dreary afternoon into the equivalent of an early night, when Greta thought she finally saw some movement in the distant camps. She listened in her mind and caught words first from Longbow, the elf.
“The Scythian chief has convinced the others to make one last try. He says they damaged the defenders in the first attacks and now the defenders are weak and ready to fall. He says they would all be cowards if they ran away. One good drive against the center, and the Romans will break and fall apart is what he says. He knows the Legion in Porolissum is the only serious Roman presence in the whole province, and once they break through there will be nothing to stand in their way all the way to the Danube. All of the outsider tribes are leery, but the Scythian has convinced half of the Sarmatians to lead the charge. That is about five thousand lances.”
“The other tribes will follow,” Treeborn the fairy King interrupted. “They are preparing as we speak.”
Lord Horns added one thought. “Though they no longer feel the urging of Mithras, I think the Scythian chief is interested in what he calls the mountain of gold that the Romans have mined and guarded so carefully.”
“Don’t I know it,” Portent peeped, and Greta cut off the long-distance conversation. Now she had a headache and was not sure if it would turn into a migraine.
Greta stood alone when she stood. She looked over at the men’s side where Tribune Hadrianus had a tarp erected against the rain. The constant drizzle actually stopped an hour earlier, but the sky remained as dark and dreary as it had been all day, and water continued to drip now and then off the edge of the tarp where the water had collected.
Darius, who spent the day watching her from a distance and feeling powerless to comfort her, noticed right away when she stood. Cecil saw and pointed. Olaf, Venislav and Hadrianus all looked and genuine concern covered their faces. “Darius,” Greta called, and he came to hear what she had to say. The others followed out of curiosity,
“They are preparing for another attack. The Scythian chief will not let them wait until the morning for fear they may desert in the night. They believe the legion here is the only thing standing between them and the riches of Dacia. They believe the legion is the only form of Roman power in the province. They are wrong.” Greta scooted up to Darius and gave him a quick kiss with a word. “Pardon me, my love.” She went away, and Amphitrite, the one worshiped as Salacia by the Romans, the wife of Neptune, god of the sea, came to stand in her place. Olaf, Cecil and Venislav all took a step back. Hadrianus looked too stunned to move, but Darius grinned and hid his grin as Salacia shouted at the sky.
“Fluffer, Sprinkles, Bubbles, get ready for a wild ride.” Salacia raised her hands, reached into the sky and took hold of the clouds. She caused a great wind to blow over her shoulder, and another to come pouring over the distant mountains. They crashed over the enemy camps with hurricane force, and Salacia squeezed her hands. Torrents of rain fell and whipped through the wind. It drove the men back and some men drowned from the fury of the liquid assault. A number of tornados formed from the contrary winds, and men panicked.
Many men scattered and fell to the ground in fear, or were lifted by the winds and slammed again on the ground or blown for miles. Tents were ripped up and shredded. Horses stampeded. Some men, horses, wagons and equipment got caught in the tornadoes and tossed away, sometimes landing on other men. When Salacia really got things going, she began to dance with glee on the battlement. The wind ripped up whole trees and threw around wagon-sized boulders. The rain came with hail the size of bowling balls and sleet that fell in whole sheets of sharp edges. Then at once, Salacia decided it was enough, and it all stopped, instantly.
Salacia let her face appear on the clouds where she could look down on the devastation she caused and the survivors who cowered all over the ground. They looked so puny and helpless, but Salacia thought there still might be something to say. She said two words. “Go home,” and the words were not only heard and understood by all, but they reverberated for a moment inside thousands of minds. Then Salacia returned in her power to the battement on which she physically stood.
“Forgive me father, for I have sinned,” Salacia said, almost too softy to hear, but she grinned as she thought of Festuscato, and she frowned as she thought of all those ships and sailors who died at sea when her temper flared after Poseidon did something stupid. Then she smiled again as she remembered her cult had always been one to care for the widows and orphans of the sea, a small payment for her guilt, and she thought of her friends and her own children, Triton, Proteus and Nyssa. She frowned again when she remembered poor Orion, and how she lost him in a terrible accident, and even as a goddess, she could not do anything to save him. She went away and let Greta return, and Greta reached up to Darius for another kiss, which Darius was happy to give.
“Sorry love,” she said, and with one hand on her belly and without another word, she turned and walked slowly back to Karina’s house where she had the best sleep she had in years. When she woke up the next morning, there was not an enemy to be found, and she finished Salacia’s thought about children by admitting she missed her own.