Snow covered the path up to the village, deep in places, and it made for slick going. Shana had to hold on tight, and Wlvn had to keep one eye on her at all times to be sure she did not slip. It made conversation difficult, and he only caught a glimpse of a couple of houses built by people who ventured down from the stockade to claim a bit of land for their own. Now that the whole world was not at war, it became safe to venture out, or anyway, safer.
“Lord, what do you expect to find here?” Laurel asked. She walked beside Wlvn, a bit wary perhaps in her words. Wlvn noticed she reverted to calling him Lord Wlvn or just Lord, and he dreaded the struggle Flern had to go through to get her to stop calling her “Lady.”
“I don’t know, exactly,” Wlvn admitted. “A rest from a bit of the winter, perhaps. Normally I imagine it is not such a good idea to return to a place where my grandchildren might still be running around, but in our case, there are not a lot of options.”
“Grandchildren?” The word came from Shana who listened in when she was not busy holding on.
Wlvn nodded. “According to the Storyteller’s estimate, Faya died in 4086 BC at the age of sixty. Faya’s cousin Raini would have been about fifty-six or so. Kartesh was born around the same year and also live sixty years. Then I was born around 4026 BC. That means Faya was alive here a bit less than eighty years ago. She could easily have grandchildren still around, or great-grandchildren anyway.”
“But Faya lived mostly with the Were, did she not? I was going to ask about Carolen,” Laurel said.
Wlvn nodded again. “Carolen is a grandson, but the Were have longer life spans. They generally live about 120 years to the human sixty.”
“And Raini, Faya’s cousin?”
“Vrya was honestly her mother. Raini, a beauty herself, also became a most capable warrior. I don’t know how long she lived, but she certainly had children. I met one of her descendants when I was in Flern’s time.”
“Kartesh?” Shana had a question that backed the conversation up a few steps. She did not keep up with all the nuances.
“Egyptian, originally,” Wlvn turned to her. “She helped the Agdaline, a people from space, return to the skies, and discovered dragons in the process.”
“Dragons?” Neither Shana nor Laurel knew the word.
Wlvn nodded once again. “A great and terrible flying worm that breathes fire. I believe there are a couple right now in Egypt and one or two somewhere in the Middle East or the Sinai. We barely escaped being eaten by one in Flern’s day. When they are small, they are a perfect defense for the slower-than-light ships of the Agdaline. Anyone attempting to board the ships will be eaten, while the Agdaline sleep peacefully in their cryogenic chambers. They were bred to respond to simple Agdaline commands, and when they are small, they are fascinating and obedient creatures if you speak the tongue. Of course, they live for maybe a thousand years, and when they get big, they are dangerous. Often, they develop enough minds of their own to ignore the command words. Even the Agdaline eject them from their ships when they reach a certain size and age.” Wlvn stopped talking. He clearly paused to think about the matter. He rejected the idea after a moment, because as big as dragons got, the big ones were too uncontrollable. Instead of attacking the Titan that they probably would not be able to defeat, they might take the easier route and just start eating the people and their horses. And then what would he do with them?
Laurel and Shana were meanwhile looking at each other. “I understood some of that,” Laurel said.
“Not much,” Shana admitted, and they both nodded like Wlvn.
By then they reached the gate in the stockade which stood open but guarded. They stopped, but when Thred stopped moving, Shana started to lose her seat. Wlvn caught her well enough, but that left Laurel to speak to the guards.
“Faya has come in the form of Wlvn to see if there are children or grandchildren he may visit,” she said. From anyone else it might have sounded ridiculous, but from the mouth of an elf it gave the guards something to think about. One whispered to another who ran off at top speed. Wlvn gave Laurel a stern look, but then he wanted to ask what the guard whispered, knowing full well that Laurel’s good elf ears heard. Laurel just smiled at him with her best elfish grin.
“Paybacks for threatening to find you a husband, huh?” Wlvn surmised. Laurel said nothing but kept grinning, broadly.
Some time passed before they saw people coming to the gate. An old woman came in the midst of the group and Wlvn could not believe his eyes. “Raini!” He shouted. She had to be nearly a hundred and forty years old.
“Faya?” The old woman looked up.
Wlvn took Shana’s hand and placed it in Laurel’s hand. Then he let himself slide into time so Faya could come and stand in his place. Faya flew through the gate, and no one dared to stop her. She hugged her old cousin who walked with a cane, helped by several gentlemen. She cried on Raini’s shoulder, and Raini cried as well. Everyone else backed away and the rest of Wlvn’s crew came up only to wait inside the gate.
When Raini could talk, and in her age, she had less tears than Faya, she asked a simple question. “So, what trouble have you brought us this time?”
“Oh, Raini. None I hope,” Faya responded as Raini started to hobble to the village center square. Faya helped her walk but knew the help was not entirely needed. Raini remained a demi-goddess after all, even if she got older than time.
“So you say, but trouble follows you as close as your little ones.”
“Not always. We had some quiet years,” Faya defended herself.
The old woman looked up at Faya as she walked. “Don’t get me wrong. I look forward to some trouble. I’ve been bored out of my mind these last forty years.”
“Mother thinks I need some peace and quiet in my age, but the boredom is what is killing me.”
They came to the square and Faya saw her perch just where it always sat, and the big copper bell hung beneath. Raini needed help to step up on the small platform, but she needed no help to grab the bell clapper and ring the bell with authority. People came running, and soon the square filled with curious faces. After a moment, Raini leaned on her cane and spoke loud for all to hear.
“Beauty has returned to our village,” she said, and she hardly had to point out Faya because her beauty was obvious. “We are forewarned. I hope we will have peace, but I expect trouble will not be far behind. We need to double the watch on the walls and see what comes.” She turned to Faya and spoke quietly. “Now let me see what you look like in this life.” Faya looked at the crowd and hesitated. That was one thing the Kairos normally did not like to do in front of a crowd of people because people talked and one day, they would begin to write down the stories they talked about. “Come, come.” Raini insisted. Faya leaned over and gave Raini a kiss on the cheek and then got out of the way so Wlvn could return to his place and time.
“Pushy,” Wlvn said it before Raini could smile. A number of people in the crowd gasped, but at least none fainted. Faya had been known to be a shape shifter, after all, the queen of the Were.
“This is what Faya looks like now,” Raini said. “You will listen to him as you would to Faya or myself, especially when the trouble comes.” Raini stopped speaking and immediately started to get off the platform. Wlvn had to jump to catch her and help her. “So, what trouble are you into now? I just want to have some idea what we might be facing.” Raini started them back toward the gate.
Wlvn shook his head, but Raini squeezed his hand. Wlvn had strength given from Thor himself, but Raini, being a demi-goddess, made Wlvn quickly extract his hand with an “Ouch. Okay. I’m supposed to kill a Titan, one I would guess the gods have promised not to injure.”
“And?” Raini wanted the full story.
“And Loki is supposed to be spying on the Titan, but everyone knows he has his own agenda, and that involves keeping the Titan alive.”
“And Eir is a prisoner of Loki, but one day Nameless will marry her, assuming things work out.”
“Faya’s reflection.” Raini knew who Nameless was, being his half-sister, both being children of Vrya. “And?”
“And that is it. Really.”
“Kill a Titan, deal with Loki, save the maiden. It is enough. I will think on this and meanwhile, let me meet your wife and friends.”