The Princess, dressed in her armor and weapons, the cloak of Athena streaming out behind, rode all the way from Tours on good, old Concord. Margueritte was well enough to ride, but her side still got sore when she rode far and fast. The Princess thought when this was over, the old horse needed to be put out to pasture and Margueritte should get a gentle mare for her age. She suggested the name Concordia. Margueritte said she would think about it.
When the Princess arrived on the hill overlooking the enemy camp, she called a halt while the men were still hidden by the rise. Walaric and Peppin went up the hill with her and Calista, and the four men assigned to keep Margueritte safe, no matter what she looked like. Other men held their horses, out of sight. Abdul Rahman just then left the camp, and the Princess saw that the camp would be minimally defended.
“You should have the element of surprise, and the men left in the camp are probably not the best, but watch out for special, well-trained troops he may have left around his own tents. You don’t need to kill them all, but you might. Just keep in mind, the main idea is to liberate their human captives and as much treasure as you can. When you hear the signal, you must return to the hills, so listen for it. The signal will mean our ruse is working and the enemy is returning to protect their treasure. Now, wait until I tell you to start. Go on.”
“What will you be doing?” Walaric asked.
“I have a date with a sorcerer,” she said. “Don’t worry. I will be in good hands.” As Walaric and Peppin walked back to join the men, Danna, the mother goddess of all the Celtic gods took the Princess’ place. “Melanie,” she called. The elf maiden Melanie appeared and fell to her knees.
“Great Lady,” she said, and lowered her eyes.
“You and Calista need to watch and protect us from any of the enemy that may be tempted to escape the camp and head for this hill.” Danna called in all her little ones from the hills on both sides of the camp. They were not allowed to enter the camp, but they were allowed to keep men from escaping the camp by going overland. “Gentlemen,” she turned on her four guards who trembled in her presence. “Focus on the enemy camp,” she compelled them. “Calista and Melanie may need you to back them up.”
Abdul Rahman finished exiting the camp, though it would be a couple of more minutes before all his men made it to the gentle tree covered rise that lead up to where the Franks were waiting. Danna used that time to call Odo and his horsemen. They came to her as surely as Melanie came. They appeared instantly and had no power to resist her call, and she turned to Odo and stilled his heart, because he was an old man, and she was afraid for him.
“My dear friend,” she said. “This was your idea. I thought you might like to be in on it.”
Duke Odo did not recognize the person talking to him, but he looked behind the hill and saw Peppin, Walaric and a thousand horsemen ready to ride, and he smiled. He saw the enemy camp and nodded.
“Boys,” Danna called again and clapped her hands. Pepin, Weldig Junior, Cotton and Martin appeared on foot, their horses in the hands of the men behind the hill. Martin immediately complained.
“Mom!” It did not matter that Danna was not exactly his mom. He knew who she was.
Danna let out a little smile. “I admire your courage,” she told the boys. “But at sixteen and seventeen years old, you may watch, but not participate. Squires only, and older.”
“Not fair,” Weldig Junior groused, but their feet got planted beside Margueritte’s four guardsmen, and they were not going anywhere. Danna gave the signal, and a thousand men of the Breton March attacked the Muslim camp, Walaric, Peppin and Duke Odo in front. Once they passed by, Danna called again and clapped once.
The sorcerer came, saw her, and screamed. He babbled. “I did not know. He lied to me. He said you were just a woman of the Franks.” The man looked so afraid, Danna thought he might die right there for fear of what she might do to him. In fact, she took away his magic, so he fell to his knees a wept, an ordinary human being. Then Danna let Margueritte return, and Margueritte spoke calmly, as Danna made sure Abd al-Makti’s ears were open, and he would hear.
“Long ago, a man named Julius Caesar came to conquer this land. The Gallic people of the land tried to fight, but only one king successfully stood up against the power of Rome. That was me,” she said, and took a deep breath. “In that day, in that lifetime, I was a man named Bodanagus. But I went to Caesar to talk peace because peace is always better than war. My love, Isoulde, was killed in the fighting, and I hardly had the strength to go on without her. But even as Caesar and I talked, we were interrupted by the gods of Aesgard. You see, the time for dissolution was near. The gods would be going over to the other side. But Odin wanted to defend his German and Scandinavian people so they would have time to become the people they are even now becoming, centuries later. It was Odin and Frig, Syn and even Loki who empowered Bodanagus to keep other men with other cultures and traditions from pouring over the border and ruining what Odin set in motion.” Margueritte paused. not sure how much Abd al-Makti, or anyone standing there understood. It did not matter. She felt compelled to finish the story.
“I am the life in all of time that is the perfect genetic reflection, say, the perfect female version of King Bodanagus. As he was empowered to protect the Germanic people, so I reflect the gifts given to him. You see, I am not a witch. I simply reflect in a small way the gifts of the gods.”
Margueritte turned to where a dozen Muslims were trying to escape the bloodshed in the camp. As suspected, some made for the hills, and Calista and Melanie were running out of arrows. Margueritte raised her hands, and something like blue lightning poured from her eyes and fingers, but unlike the Taser effect it had on Franks, or even fellow Bretons, to knock them unconscious, this looked more like real lightning, and the dozen Muslims burned to ash and charred remains.
“And I simply reflect his gifts in a small way,” Margueritte confessed. Abd al-Makti wailed, trembled, and covered his eyes. “Iberia is full of Germanic Visigoths. North Africa is full of Germanic Vandals. I could sweep the land clean of Islamic usurpers, right up to the border of Egypt, and there are other things I could do in Egypt and the Middle East. But I won’t. Why? Because men need to fight their own battles. You claim Allah is the one true god and Mohamed is his prophet. I will show you what kind of men have taken up your cause. They are men filed with greed for riches, lust for power, covetousness for land, and hatred unto the death for anyone opposed to them—even the innocent, including women and children. Let me show you the kind of people you have.”
Margueritte called Larchmont and his men. She traded places again with Danna as she spoke to the fairies. “You must whisper in the ear of Abdul Rahman’s men and commanders that their camp is attacked, and they are losing their slaves and their riches. If they want to go home rich, they better come and defend their camp.” Danna made the fairies temporarily invisible and sent them on their way. “Greedy men,” she said. “And now the end.”
Abd al-Makti screamed again and threw his hands to his head. It felt like someone was walking around in his mind, and Danna was, before she mumbled. “He really isn’t that smart. He ran away when you sent men to assassinate Margueritte, and failed, but he neglected to remove the connection.” Danna raised her voice and called, more than she ever called before, and it was one word. “Abraxas.”
Danna’s voice roared through the Muslim camp like a whirlwind. It raced south, crossed the Pyrenees, and echoed throughout Iberia. People, especially of Celtic descent, looked up at the sky and wondered. The call crossed over at the straights of Gibraltar, bounced off the Maghreb, crossed the Nile and landed in Damascus, where Abraxas worked to save the Caliphate from the Abbasids. Abraxas vanished from there, and appeared on a hill south of Tours, and once he stood on Danna’s soil, he could not move.
Danna tuned out everyone else and stared hard at the goatee face. “Bastard son of Morrigu, my self-centered daughter-in-law,” she said. She glued his presence to that spot and went away so Amun Junior could take her place. You are hereby banished from Africa, Egypt, and the Middle East right through Persia and up to the Aral Sea and Lake Baikal. If you return to interfere with the people there, it will be your instant death. Amun has spoken,” he said, and went away so Amphitrite could take his place. Abraxas strained to get his feet free, and sweated, a little-known commodity among the gods.
Amphitrite imagined Abraxas might be cute to some girls, like Galatea, in a wicked, skinny, black hair, goatee sort of way. She could see Janus in him a little around the eyes—that two-faced moron and back stabber when he got drunk. “As Amphitrite, called Salacia in Rome, wife of Poseidon, called Neptune by his grandfather Saturn, I stand as the last of the Olympians, or near enough, and I banish you from all the lands of Olympus, and from the Mediterranean. In fact, I banish you from all my waters around the globe. Drink milk, wine, ale, tea, but let pure water, salt or salt-free, be poison to you, and to step on Olympian land will be instant death.”
“Please,” Abraxas started to cry. “I am fire and water. You cannot take the water from me, or I will burn and die.”
“Steam,” Amphitrite called it. “Also called hot air. So be it,” Amphitrite said, and Danna returned to have the final word. “Nameless gave you a chance when he banned you from the lands of Aesgard. You could return, which would be suicide, or you could find the courage to do what you should have done centuries ago. Give up this little bit of flesh and blood and go over to the other side. The time of dissolution is long past.
“Quiet. I have now taken from you every place on this planet where you might have staked a claim other than this land, the land of the Celts, the land of my children.”
“Please. I have nowhere else to go.”
“Why should I give you a third chance. Will you go over to the other side?”
“I will. I swear it.”
“In an elf’s eye,” Danna said. “But this is it. There will be no fourth chances.”