Wlvn woke up to find Mother Vrya bending over him. Shana sat close by his side when all of his missing memory rushed back into his head. That missing spring and summer got spent with the swan people. He married Shana in April. She sat, nearly eight months pregnant with their first, and she cried. He hugged her, and like Flern he had to reach around the baby to do it. Of course, that just made her cry all the harder, and Wlvn looked over her shoulder, but Vrya just smiled and shrugged.
“There are complications?” It became Wlvn’s first thought.
Mother Vrya shook her head. “Not so far, but the swan people and humans have not mated before. I just want to be sure. Don’t worry. Young Apollo has agreed to assist here on the edge of the world. He is over a hundred now and allowed out. Eir might help, but she is rather young and at present she is a little busy.”
Wlvn felt the anger rise up in his heart. It came mostly from Nameless, but not entirely. Wlvn, and every life he lived in time felt the anger because of Eir’s captivity to Loki and the Titan. They were outraged at the abject slavery of the people and determined to do something about it. Of course, Wlvn still felt afraid at the prospect of facing the Titan, but his determination to end things now became stronger than his fear. Wlvn wrenched his thoughts back from his feelings.
“What of my friends?”
“Here, but first you have to hear the truth of the matter.” Vrya put her fingers to her lips and let out a shrill whistle. Two people appeared, a young man and a young woman who did not look much more than a hundred themselves. Two hundred, perhaps, Wlvn thought as he smiled and recognized them. He turned to face them but left his arm around Shana’s shoulders to comfort and protect her in the face of the gods.
“Ares and Aphrodite,” Vrya introduced their guests, and Wlvn nodded. “And you have something to tell my son, even if he is not my son.”
Ares stepped up. “You seek the golden hind?”
Wlvn affirmed that with a nod and a word. “There is a Titan that is overdue to join his ancestors.”
“Father already burnt them all,” Ares shrugged.
“That’s him,” Aphrodite said, stepped up beside her brother and turned to Vrya. “These two are warm. Hot for each other.” Aphrodite smiled and the smile looked perfect on that perfect face. Mother Vrya just matched the smile.
“Sorry, kid.” Ares finished his thought as they all heard a banging sound begin outside the cave entrance. Wlvn smiled at who called who a kid, but he became too concerned about the sound to say anything. It sounded like someone hammering rocks to make gravel.
The gods moved to the cave entrance and Wlvn followed and held tight to Shana’s hand, so she came right beside him. What Wlvn saw shocked him for a second, but it did not really surprise him. A Cyclops, a giant about eighteen or so feet tall, had a club that looked like a tree ripped from its roots. And he yelled.
“Give me the red headed girl.” He said that several times and smashed his club against the rocks for emphasis. Wlvn saw that the horses had scattered across the field and his friends hunkered down in the rocks, except Boritz who kept sticking his head up while Andrea kept pulling him back down. The Cyclops had an arrow in his left cheek and another in his right shoulder, but he did not seem too bothered by them. And at least, after that bit of foolhardy courage, Moriah and Laurel appeared to be keeping their heads down with everyone else
Wlvn stopped. The gods looked at him, so he knew they were waiting for him to make the first move. He turned and shouted at the Cyclops. “Hey! Tub-o-lard. Yeah, you with the fat belly. Old one eye.” Shana stared at Wlvn like he had gone mad, but Aphrodite giggled, Vrya covered her smile and Ares let out a big guffaw.
“What?” the Cyclops turned to face the cave entrance when he realized he was being called.
“I hate picking on the defenseless,” Wlvn admitted to Vrya, and he shrugged in a way that indicated she would be welcome to intervene.
“What?” Ares did not catch what he said. “Your friends don’t appear to be damaged.”
“Don’t worry,” Vrya smiled for Wlvn. “We will send him home. Come on.” She took Ares by the arm, and they flew up to face the creature with the one eye.
“Husband?” Shana did not quite understand either.
“Aren’t you going with them?” Wlvn asked Aphrodite and pointed at Vrya and Ares. He imagined a moment alone with Shana.
“No,” she said. “I’ll just stay here and warm myself.” She stuck her hands out toward the couple and rubbed them gently. “Better than a cozy fire.”
“Oh?” Wlvn gave Shana a brief kiss and she looked like that would never be enough, but Wlvn had something in mind. “Excuse me,” he said, and left that place so Diogenes could be there. Diogenes turned to Aphrodite, caught her up in his arms and planted a passionate kiss smack on her luscious lips. Aphrodite did not resist. In fact, steam came out of her ears, almost cartoon-like. When he let go, he traded again so Wlvn could come home and kiss his wife.
“Hey! I wasn’t finished.” Aphrodite protested.
“Sorry,” Wlvn apologized to Shana, but she just grinned.
“I don’t mind. I did not marry Diogenes or any of the others. Just you.”
“Good,” Wlvn said, “Because me and my son only want to be with you.”
“And with you.”
Aphrodite stomped her foot. “Oh, kiss her already!” They were doing that very thing and Aphrodite grinned at them when Vrya and Ares returned, and the others vacated the rocks to run up.
“I think we better go,” Ares said as he took Aphrodite by the hand and dragged her off with her protesting.
“But I’m not finished.”
“Me too,” Mother Vrya said, and she gave both Wlvn and Shana a kiss on the cheek. “I have young ones to watch.”
“Gndr and Strn, are they behaving?” Wlvn asked quickly, though his eyes never left Shana’s happy face.
Vrya shrugged. “They are boys. But Brmr is very cute.” She vanished.
“Wlvn.” Wlkn became the first to name him.
“You’re back.” Moriah looked happy.
“Lord.” Badl tipped his hat.
Boritz’s eyes got big. “You look just like her, my Red I mean.”
“I had forgotten how much,” Andrea admitted.
Elleya said nothing and everyone paused to stare at her for a second to be sure she was all right. Laurel also said nothing. She just lowered her eyes.
“Laurel,” Wlvn spoke to her as if none of the others were present. “She is here, and here.” Wlvn touched his head and his heart. “And she says you will always be her friend and she can’t wait to see you again all grown up. Please don’t be sad.”
Laurel looked up and found a little tear in her eye, but she tried to smile.
“Everyone.” Wlvn turned his attention to the group. “This is my wife, Shana. And as you can see, we have been married for some time.” He placed a gentle hand on her tummy and the baby, and Shana let out her most satisfied smile.
Everyone said hello, welcome and congratulations, and then Elleya spoke. “You mean I don’t have to marry you?”
“No. I thought you were going to marry Skinny Wlkn.”
“Oh, yes, please.” She stepped up and grabbed the poor man and kissed him hard on the lips.
“Lost cause, that one,” Badl said only to find himself grabbed and put in a lip lock by Moriah. He did not seem to mind.
“Don’t look at me,” Andrea said. “I wasn’t going to marry you in the first place.” And she grabbed Boritz and dragged his head down to her lips.
Wlvn rubbed his chin and tried to look serious. “Yes, we will have to find someone for her, don’t you think? It should be someone nice.”
“Yes, very nice.”
Laurel took a step back and raised her hands like she might be warding off a curse. “You wouldn’t. Oh no, you couldn’t. I’m too young. I’m just a child. Oh no, you wouldn’t, would you?”
Wlvn did not answer because Thred trotted up at that moment. Wlvn reached for the horse, but Thred ignored Wlvn and nosed up to Shana. His wife treated the horse like a loyal puppy, and Wlvn thought if Thred had been a puppy, it would lick her face with kisses.
“Well, I don’t blame you,” he said to the horse. “Maybe we should round up the whole herd and go visit the village Boritz and Andrea wanted to visit.”
“We aren’t going on?” Andrea asked and Laurel and Badl looked confused by the question as well.
“No point,” Wlvn said. “The golden hind are a dead end. Nothing to do but go back to square one.” He lifted Shana gently up to Thred’s back and helped her sit as comfortable as possible, sidesaddle, without a saddle. He understood at eight months, honestly no position could be comfortable, but he did what he could, and she was kind enough not to complain.
When the others arrived, he set out walking and leading Thred by the reins, and they all fell in line. Mostly they whispered, though he heard Boritz ask how Wlvn could know his name since they never met. He smiled because he and Flern were properly connected again, and he realized what an empty hole that left in him when she became inaccessible.
Wlkn inched up beside him, Elleya dutifully on his heels. “But square one is where the Titan is.” Wlkn looked scared.
Wlvn shrugged. He felt scared too, likely frightened out of his mind, but he had to do something. Everyone kept depending on him. Exactly what to do about it was the problem. He shrugged it off for the moment and went back to his thoughts about Flern. Of course, he knew Boritz. He knew what Flern knew and now Flern knew what he knew as well.