When Flern awoke, she found herself dressed in the same armor and weapons that Wlvn had been wearing. She thought of it as Diogenes’ armor, at least that was what she called it, but then that did not make much sense since Diogenes lived so far away in the future. It must belong to me, she thought again, to the Kairos I mean, all of my lifetimes throughout history; and that meant since this was her lifetime, it belonged to her. That felt good because she thought she might need the protection, even if she did not know what to do with the weapons. Flern sat up and felt for the long knife that rested across the small of her back. The knife poked her and woke her, though the sword sort of felt like sleeping on a metal rod. “Hey!” Flern shouted and pulled that long knife from its sheath. She looked at it closely and tried not to cut herself in the process. Bronze, she thought, and too bad she did not have a hundred of these. She put it back carefully in its sheath and checked the time. The sun looked about ready to set.
Flern stood, brushed herself off and thought that the armor felt remarkably light and soft. She reached carefully beneath her sleeve and confirmed that something came between her and the leather so wonderfully covered in chain mail. She touched her undergarment. She had a brief vision of elves spinning with spider webs and morning dew and she could not be sure what all else, but it made the garment extremely comfortable. The boots felt comfortable, too, as comfortable as her own ultra-soft winter moccasin boots, but with a hard sole and what she imagined as something like a steel toe. Of course, it isn’t steel yet. She knew that much.
Flern smiled and wished she had a mirror. She just started craning her neck to try and see herself from the back side when she heard a sound and stopped still. Voices, male voices sounded like they were coming up the hill. Flern panicked, afraid that she would surely be caught. She ran to the rugged side of the clearing where it became impossible to climb up or down the hill because of all the loose rocks and bramble bushes. She scrunched down to wait and see.
The first man she saw enter the clearing, Strawhead Trell, got followed in order by Vilder, Gunder, Tiren, Kined, Fat Fritt, and last of all, Tird, the skinny. “It is Flern’s horse, I tell you.” Kined spoke. “She must be here.”
“Flern.” Fritt called out, but not too loud lest his words echo off the cliff and reach some enemy ears. “Flern.” Others called, too.
Flern wanted to giggle, she felt so happy not to be alone, but then she could not resist a good tease. She lowered her voice as dramatically as she could and spoke into her cupped hands. “Who calls for Flern, the Elven Queen? Speak, or feel her wrath.”
Tird jumped, but the others recognized her voice despite her best efforts to disguise it. They mostly remained unsure of her location, except for Vilder and Tiren who looked straight in her direction.
“Not funny, Flern,” Tiren said.
“You could get in real trouble if the elves hear you,” Tird added.
Flern stood up and sighed. “Help me,” she said, unsure of her footing. Vilder and Tiren each grabbed a gloved hand and hauled her free of the brambles. “I didn’t know who might be coming. I was afraid it might be the Jaccar. What?” She asked what because no one said anything. They just stared at her in the light of the setting sun.
Flern understood, smiled, and spun once in a slow circle to model her armor. She asked, “Do you like it?”
“Yeah.” Three voices spoke at once, and three others spoke at nearly the same time.
“Is that a real sword?”
“What is it made of?”
“Nice legs.” That last word came from Strawhead Trell.
Flern’s leather skirt fell to just above her knees, and the boots that came up almost to her knees were form fitting. Normally, girls wore dresses that fell to the ground, so for Flern, this felt a bit risqué.
“We’re going to fight the Jaccar.” Fritt interrupted them all and wanted to get Flern’s attention back from Trell’s comment on her anatomy.
“What? The six of you and Tird against a thousand Jaccar warriors?” Flern scoffed.
“Hey!” Tird objected. He might not want to fight, but he would if he had to.
“We are waiting for darkness and plan to sneak in after the Jaccar are asleep.” Gunder gave the whole plan and Flern heard something else in the words. She touched the big man’s angry arm and reassured him.
“I am sure Vinnu is fine for now.” She broadened her assurances. “And Thrud, Pinn and Elluin. At least I did not see their heads up on poles.”
“What?” The boys all turned toward the village, still discernible in the dwindling light, and more visible in spots where the camp and home fires burned.
“What are you talking about?” Tiren asked because he was not sure he wanted to accept her plain words. “Heads on poles?”
Flern nodded and looked away as she felt the tears well up inside of her at the thought. “Some of the men have had their heads chopped off and they have been set up on poles in the village center.”
“What?” Both Trell and Fritt looked ready to tear down the hill and ride back to the village right then, but Gunder and Vilder stopped them. Then Vilder stepped up and took over asking the questions.
“How do you know there are heads on poles? We got as close as we dared, and we did not see anything like that.”
“Mother Vrya helped me see,” Flern admitted, and she saw no reason to hide that fact. “I have been up here all afternoon and I did not even know the Jaccar had come until she came and pointed it out.”
“Mother Vrya?” Kined asked. The smart one always got allowed to interject a question, even if the leader had the floor. Just to be sure, though, Vilder repeated the question.
Flern nodded. “The goddess,” she clarified.
“And I suppose these are her clothes and weapons. Fit for a fight by the look of them.” Vilder said.
Tird tapped Vilder on the shoulder and Vilder looked at him as if giving a kind of permission to speak. “They say that Vrya is as quick with her sword as she is with her kiss.” Tird said, but now Flern shook her head again.
“No, actually, these are mine.” She touched her waist and chest. “Mother Vrya has her own, and very fine it is, too, I am sure.”
Flern nodded again. “Vilder and Kined, I need to see you privately for a minute. I have something to show you before you make your mad dash into the village.” She tried to think of a way to keep the boys from committing suicide, and she felt sure that would be the outcome of any attack on the Jaccar at this point, even if they waited until it got really dark.
“All right.” Kined seemed game, but Vilder looked reluctant.
“No. You just need to stay here where you are safe. We will come for you later if we can.”
“Vilder.” Flern would not accept that. “I am not asking. You must come and see first, and then if you want to follow through with your madness, that will be up to you.”
“Come on,” Kined encouraged. Vilder frowned, but he made a general announcement.