“Lady?” Laurel touched Flern’s arm gently and Flern closed her eyes for a minute. Laurel, Moriah and Badl all had their bows out and strung, and Flern knew there might be something she could do to gain the villagers the time they needed, but she felt reluctant, having so recently messed everything up with Wlvn. All the same, she let go of her place and time and let the Princess come to fill her armor, and the Princess first reached out with her mind and heart to any other little ones that might be within range of the village. She called to them to hurry and come. She knew how to do that much, even if Flern did not. Then she opened her eyes and pointed to some rocks off to the right.
“Badl and Moriah you need to take a position there. Laurel and I will stand in the trees to the left, but first we need some hunters from the village.” She turned and yelled. “I need six men good with the bow, right here. Right now!” Andrea did a double take on the person now wearing the armor.
“Ghouls have a very tough hide. They are hard to pierce. We will have to wait until they are close.” Laurel said. Moriah and the Princess nodded, even as three men and one woman came trotting out from the village. The Princess divided them, took the woman with herself, and instructed them in what they were to do, especially retreat to the village on her signal and without any arguments. Once that was settled, they barely got into position before the ghouls topped the rise. The Princess had a good hope of catching the creatures in a deadly crossfire by surprise; but of course, just then two more men came out from the village, and after some quick pointing, they ran, one to each side. Thus, their positions became completely compromised and the one who arrived by the Princess got told exactly how stupid he had been, and she minced no words. True, the worst of it was in a Greek language from so far in the future it could not be imagined, except by the elf maid, whose ears turned scarlet just to hear some of those words.
The ghouls hesitated when they were still out of range. The Princess had to remind herself how early the days were that she was in. This was around four thousand BC, and war and warfare were not exactly well known, yet. Then again, she had to remember that these ghouls were hunters, and being filled as she was with the spirit of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, she knew these creatures would not be utterly taken in. She breathed some relief when the ghouls started up again, to climb the hill to the village, but at the same time she felt certain that a few of them had slipped to the side to come up on their positions, hopefully affecting their own surprise on the human defenders. The Princess let Badl know in his mind what she thought, and felt him confirm the message, though it seriously risked a headache on her part, and that was something she could not afford.
The ghouls stopped again, short of what they imagined as human bowshot range, and one stepped forward. “We only want the red hair boy. The god said we could have him for the feasting.”
The Princess stepped out as well, their cover already being blown, and after a brief talk with Laurel concerning whatever weak spots these creatures might have. Laurel listed the neck under the chin and under the arms, not places easily reached with an arrow. “No red hair boy here,” she shouted back.
One anxious ghoul stepped forward, bow ready. He let an arrow fly in the Princess’ direction, and the Princess responded in kind. The ghoul’s arrow struck the Princess in the chest but bounced off her armor without any ill effect. The Princess’ arrow struck the speaker in the neck. He had started to laugh, believing himself to be out of range; at least the Princess thought it might be laughter, but at the last minute he tried to duck. Too late. Several ghouls scooted up to drag their fellow ghoul back, and they all backed up several paces.
The Princess stepped forward while the others came out from the trees and rocks and some came from the village barricade to support her. Then Flern insisted, as much to Flern’s surprise as anyone else, and she let the Princess go back to her own time and place while she came home. The ghouls noted the transformation, and the stupid ones were for rushing in, but the smarter ones kept them back. Flern shouted.
“Loki can go jump at himself. He has no say over my life, boy or otherwise. Go eat Loki in your feast for all I care.” She took a couple more steps forward before she stopped. “Go now, and I will let you live.” Several ghouls ducked, expecting the wrath of the god to fall at any moment. Clearly, they did not at all like the way this girl mocked the crooked one, and they did not know what to think about the fact that she seemed to be getting away with it.
One ghoul, a big, ugly brute with true incisor teeth hanging out from his drooling mouth stepped forward and carefully laid his bow down on the ground. He waved a big hand to invite Flern to do the same. Flern did, but she laid her bow close to hand where she could pick it up in a hurry if she needed it. The ghoul took a few steps closer, spread its hands as if to pretend it had no other weapons, and smiled. At least Flern imagined it was supposed to be a friendly smile. She felt wary, but she could not have prepared for the onslaught of force that came from the creature. It came in a blue streak, like lightning, and Flern felt the electrical charge as it tingled in her fingers and toes. After a few second, it finished, and the ghoul balked. Flern looked unmoved. The shield that Frigga had given Wlvn reflected in her enough, so she remained virtually untouched; but the unwarranted attack did accomplish one thing. She got mad.
Flern let herself float up about three feet from the ground which prompted sounds of amazement from ghouls and humans alike, and then she put all of her anger into her own small reflection of the gift from Odin. The big ghoul had no Frigga shield, and even the mere reflection of the Odin gift in her appeared stronger than any magic the ghouls possessed. The big, ugly ghoul did not get reduced to a charred carcass as it would have been in the first second under Wlvn’s attack, but it got electrocuted to the point of smoking. When Flern stopped the attack, the ghoul collapsed like a rag doll, and Flern felt a brief moment of guilt, afraid that she might have killed the creature. Again, ghouls had to rush forward and drag the big ghoul back beside the one with the arrow in its neck.
Flern let herself return to earth and shouted again. “Second and final warning. Go home and give up this foolish idea, and I will let you live.” Some ghouls looked ready to do that very thing, if she read their faces correctly, but she felt concerned that the others might talk them out of it. They picked up their wounded and trotted back down the hill to disappear into the woods. That did not mean they were gone.
Flern picked up her bow even as Badl, Laurel and Moriah caught up with her.
“That was magnificent!” Moriah praised her and Laurel felt the same, but Flern minced no words.
“They will wait until dark and attack when they think we are sleeping.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Badl confirmed.
When they walked up to the barricade and the village, there was not the celebration Flern expected. Boritz provided the explanation.
“I told the men here to set a small watch and rest up during the day. I think we are going to be very busy tonight.”
It is a busy night, and for the Valkyrie not the least, but then the ghouls are not the only trick Loki has up his sleeve. Until Monday, Happy Reading