The Dnapr River ran just far enough from the village to protect the houses when the floods came; but Wlvn led his troop back out the way they had come, away from the river. He made a wide circle around the village and nearly reached Flern’s small hill in the south before he headed back toward the water. He hoped when the night creatures came, they might follow the fresher trail and thus come to the river without passing through the village itself. That seemed about all he could do to save the people who had been so kind to feed them and shelter them for the night. Wlvn just started to try to decide how to cross the big river when a figure rose up in the middle of the water. She looked to be made of water, and she looked naked besides, though not exactly naked, more like skintight water that nevertheless covered certain places. She walked across the surface of the river and stood before them on the river’s edge.
“You wish to cross,” the woman said. It was a question but stated like a fact.
“Please,” Wlvn responded. “If the lovely naiad would be so kind as to make a way.”
“It has already been requested,” the naiad assured him. “And your little ones beg forgiveness. They say they failed you when the flood waters came.”
“Ah.” Wlvn thought it might have been them who made the request, but then he caught his swan friend swimming not far from the distant shore. “Tell them I understand. It is not possible for little ones to do much when the waters run so fast and furious. May I introduce Wlkn and Elleya?”
“The girl from the sea,” the naiad said.
“Badl and Moriah.”
“You have little ones of your own, I see, but they are not mine.” She nodded to them all.
“I am Wlvn.”
“I know who you are.”
Wlvn trade places with Flern. He disappeared from his own time so Flern could come to sit astride Thred in his place. “And I am Flern,” she introduced herself and the naiad looked surprised at the transformation. “Some five hundred and eighty-five or so years from now, my friends and I will need to cross the river in a hurry. I would be ever so grateful if you would let those pursuing us fall into your waters after we cross.”
“I will consider it,” the naiad said. “You make a fine-looking woman,” she decided.
“Thank you.” Flern looked down and patted Thred’s mane. “I can ask no more.” And she let Wlvn come back to his own time. Wlvn immediately turned his head to look upriver. A dozen or more men came from the village. They were armed, carrying a few spears, mostly farm implements, but armed all the same.
“Do not worry about these,” the naiad said. She waved her arm. The men from the village stopped where they were like they were frozen in place. “It is not your fault the god brought you here. I will tell them when the night creatures come, I will make a safe way across for them, and when the creatures move on, I will let them return to their homes.”
“Thank you.” Wlvn appreciated the gesture, literally. As the naiad stepped aside, there appeared to be a bridge of solid water across the whole river. “But one thing.” Wlvn let the naiad into his mind far enough to see that horses do not do well crossing moving water. They became afraid of falling and are inclined to panic.
“I see.” The naiad lifted her arms and sides grew up all along the bridge like very tall guardrails, and the bridge became colored with sand and some mud from the river bottom, so it almost looked like a real bridge.
“Thank you for everything.” Wlvn repeated himself, but the naiad said no more, so he crossed the river at that point and the others followed.
They traveled across country, moved southwest as fast as they could and dragged Elleya and Moriah along with them. Just because the naiad was gracious, that did not mean the night creatures would not find another way across the river. There were signs of snow littered here and there across the forested hills and wide valleys in which they traveled, but it did not threaten more from the sky. Wlvn felt grateful for that, too. Wlvn revised his thinking and figured it might be about November first by then, May first where Flern was concerned, and it just figured that she got all warmth and springtime while he froze his tail off.
That evening, the sky became clear as a bell. Sadly, Wlvn was not. He could not figure out what game the gods were playing, as Frigga called it; or rather the question seemed to be, why? Moriah sounded very clear about the game. She cooked and stared at him like he was the enemy, and at last she came straight out with it.
“I don’t like the gods deciding who I’m supposed to marry, and I don’t care who you kill.”
“Oh, I don’t mind.” Elleya put her thoughts in. “If my Wilken doesn’t mind.” She smiled for her Wilken who grimaced and looked away like a teenager. He wasn’t fooling anyone. He actually liked it when Elleya talked his ears off.
“Don’t worry.” Wlvn said. “I have no intention of getting married. I am going after the Titan because of my mother and father, because I have two brothers and a sister who deserve a life better than the slavery they are in, because the human race, for all its faults, does not deserve such a life.”
“You know, that Brmr is a smart little thing,” Wlkn said, as he pushed away Elleya’s attentions for the moment. Badl and Moriah looked over. “His sister,” Wlkn explained. “I had to watch them for six months, which reminds me, you never did explain where you were for all that time.”
Wlvn paused. How could he explain? Somehow, “I don’t know,” did not sound like the words of someone who knew what he was doing. He did not want the others to begin doubting this quest. He might have been better off going it alone, but then he would have been saddled with Moriah and Elleya by himself, so it was just as well Badl and Wlkn were along for the ride. Then again, the girls at least were there on the insistence of the gods. Somehow yelling and blaming the gods for unfairly stealing six months of his life probably would not have set well either, so he said nothing. He figured Elleya would pick up the slack, and she did.
“Well, I think it’s horrible what that giant is doing to your people, especially to the children. I hope you can kill it, even if it means I have to marry you…” She went on for a while—a long while. “…I mean, think of the children! I want to have a bunch of children. How about you?” She looked up at Wlvn before she turned and smiled and set her hand against Wlkn’s face.
“I want to get some air.” Wlvn stood up and started away from the campfire.
“Don’t blame you,” Badl said softly. “She just sucked all the air out of this place. Just about put the fire out, she did.” Moriah threw something at the dwarf. Probably food, and that prompted Badl to say something more. “Now, missy, a good-looking girl like you that can cook, I would say if you wasn’t pledged to the Lord I might marry you myself.”
Moriah said nothing. Her pointed ears just turned a little red.
Wlvn meets Eir’s parents and he gets saddled with another young woman. They push on, but it turns out the Gott-Druk have not forgotten them and are waiting in ambush. Until Monday…