She led them a short way down the hill to some open space broken by an old stump that she could sit on. For some reason, she felt like she might have to sit down for this, though to be sure, the boys were probably going to need to sit as well.
“Take my hands,” Flern said.
Kined took one readily, but Vilder had to speak as he acquiesced. He looked around and obviously did not see anything out of the ordinary. “Well?”
“Just listen first.” Flern was not sure how to explain all of this, and none of her other lives really knew how to explain it either. It was something that had to be seen to be believed. “I’ve lived before and I will live again after this life, in the future.”
“The goddess told you this?” Kined looked honestly willing to go along with her and try to understand.
Though the move got harder to see in the lessening light, Flern shook her head, even as her mouth said, “It doesn’t matter. Anyway, I have recently learned that I can trade places with those lives when the need is appropriate.”
“Trade places?” Vilder also tried to understand. She gave him credit for that much.
“I mean I go away into the past or future or where—whenever, and my other life comes here, to be with you guys.”
“What, in your mind?” Kined suddenly sounded worried, like Flern might be losing a grip on her sanity, but again, Flern shook her head.
“I mean actually, physically and everything, and what I want you to do is hold my hands when I do it and promise you will not let go no matter what.”
“You mean you actually become a different person?” Kined wondered.
“No. It will still be me, but it will be who I was in a past life, or in this case, in a future life. I am going to trade places with the Princess because she knows everything there is to know about hunting and tracking and sneaking up on an enemy encampment.” To be sure, she probably should have traded places with Diogenes, the spy, but she figured the male-female thing might be a bit much for these boys.
“Promise you won’t let go. It is tradition,” Flern insisted and squeezed both of the hands she held to emphasize her words.
“I promise.” Kined simply agreed.
“I promise.” Vilder easily agreed because he sounded as if he was certain nothing would happen. It only took a second and very light golden-brown hair replaced red hair, blue eyes replaced brown eyes, and though Flern was very pretty, the Princess looked absolutely beautiful. Both men let go. Kined fell down in shock and landed hard on his butt. Vilder snatched his hand back like he feared he might catch fire or something. When the Princess stood, she proved a good three inches taller than Flern as well, being almost as tall as Kined’s five-eight and Vilder’s maybe five-nine.
“So? How do I look?” the Princess asked, being careful to speak in Flern’s language with as little Greek accent as possible. She turned in a circle once, even as Flern had modeled the armor earlier. “Speechless?” She teased because neither boy said anything. “So, here is the plan. You two are going with me to fetch Pinn, Vinnu, Thrud and Elluin while the rest of the crew stays here. Then you are going to escort Flern south and over the mountains to fetch bronze weapons and raise an army on the way.” The Princess paused only to tap a finger on her chin. “I don’t know how that is going to work out, but that is the assignment. Clear?” On hearing no objection, she continued. “Now, you have to follow my instructions in the village without question and I will kick the first one of you that makes an improper sound.”
Just then they heard the sound of a twig snapping behind them. The Princess had her long knife in the air in no time and it sunk into a tree beside a man’s head. “Come out of there and show yourselves before I have to fetch you,” she said, without seriously raising her voice, which made her sound cold and very sure of herself, and which was probably more effective than a shout. Besides, she had her sword in her hand and at the ready, so she made an imposing sight in the dim light. The man stepped into the small clearing slowly, followed by another man and a woman. Drud, Bunder and Elluin came into the light, and the Princess sighed. “Elluin, I’m so glad you are safe.” She spoke this as an old friend, even though she knew the girl would not know her at all. She put her sword away and stretched out her hand. The long knife vacated the tree and jumped back to her waiting palm, at which point she put it away as well. “A virtue of its making,” she explained. “The same makers as Thor’s hammer.” She paused. She was not entirely sure they had made Thor’s hammer yet.
“Goddess.” Elluin went to her knees at this display of power. Drud and Bunder just stared, open mouthed.
“No.” Kined laughed, nervously. “It’s just Flern.”
The Princess shook her head. “You three, up the hill with the others and wait until we come back, is that clear?” She had underlined the word, “Wait.”
Drud nodded. “But if you are taking these two mortals down there.” He pointed toward the village. “You will probably get them killed. We had a hell of a time getting Elluin out, and Bunder had to kill a man.”
“Bunder, I’m so sorry.” The Princess sounded sympathetic. The young man just stood there, dull faced as usual. Though the Princess had killed more men than she dared count, a friend named Leodis constantly reminded her how hard it could be, even in war, and especially a first kill.
“We will wait.” Elluin got off her knees, but her attitude still said, goddess. As usual, she did not quite get it, and neither Kined, Vilder, nor the Princess had the time to explain it to her. She led the two boys up the hill, but once beyond the trees, Vilder grabbed the Princess by the arm and turned her to face him.
“Flern.” He started to speak to her.
“Princess,” the Princess interrupted. “Flern is who I was, or will be, but right now I am the Princess.”
“Princess. What does it mean?” Kined asked, accepting her hand to help him up. He asked because Flern’s language had no such word, so she used the Greek word.
“Chief over many chiefs.” The Princess explained. “Are we ready?” Vilder shook his head. He just could not grasp it all. The Princess said something to help steady him. “After we get the girls and some horses, I will be depending on you and Pinn to lead everyone safely to the bronze. You know Flern is no leader and does not want to be the leader. You and Pinn need to lead, only right now we need to fetch Pinn first. Okay?”
Vilder nodded slowly. Getting Pinn to safety came foremost in his mind, too. The Princess, knowing exactly where they were, led the boys to the horses.
“I was going to say the horses are this way,” Kined said, “But you knew.”
The Princess pinched the young man’s cheek. “And anything you tell me, Flern will hear as well.” She felt it only fair to warn them.
Flern needs to get her friends safely out of town, They need the horses and need to escape, to get far enough away so the Jaccar cannot follow Until Monday…