Flern woke up happy and wonderfully well rested. There was only one thing that caused ripples in the calm surface of her mind. “Am I home?” she asked.
“Yes.” Mother Vrya stood right there to assure her. “And I have something else for you.” She handed Flern a paper with the name Andronicus written on it. “The bronze maker.”
Flern gave Vrya a funny look. “But didn’t all the gods promise not to interfere with the Wicca?”
“I don’t make promises,” Vrya responded. “I learned that ages ago from someone very wise. Besides, a name is hardly interfering.”
Flern arrived in her good old dress, and she had a pocket where she put the paper, but first she had to hug the goddess and say, “Thank you.” And Vrya said something sweet to Flern’s ears.
“Just what Brmr would have said.”
It did not matter that Brmr had technically been Wlvn’s sister, not hers. She felt the joy of the statement and felt very happy for Brmr, for Wlvn, and for herself. “But my friends?”
They stood and Vrya informed her. “They left the village last night and are camped outside. It is early morning, but I believe they have eaten.”
“Oh?” Flern walked slowly to the cave entrance. Vrya disappeared at some point, but Flern did not notice. Her mind focused on Pinn, Vinnu and Thrud, and the boys, Vilder, Gunder and Tiren. She knew she had to remember Riah, but when she looked, she only looked for one person.
“Flern?” “Flern!” The girls stood when they saw her. The boys moved a little slower, but they also rose as Flern saw him. She ran, perhaps floated a bit, tackled Kined and landed on top of him.
“Yes,” she said. “Yes,” and she kissed his face. “Yes.”
Kined smiled well enough as he rolled her over and pushed up to look into her eyes. “But I haven’t—oh, I see. So will you marry me?”
“I already said yes.” Flern answered and thought of Andrea as she pulled his head down to kiss properly.
“I’m glad that’s settled,” Thrud said. At least Vinnu had the decency to sigh.
“You owe me,” Tiren said.
“Ha. Glad I didn’t bet this time,” Gunder grinned while Vilder rolled up his sleeve.
After a while, Kined stood. Flern’s face appeared full of curiosity, but Kined spoke honestly. “I have to.” He started getting too interested.
“Oh,” Flern felt it too and did not argue. “I suppose we need to keep moving while we can. Oh, I missed you all so much.” She hugged the girls each in turn and pulled out her paper and handed it to Pinn.
“What is this?”
“A gift from Mother Vrya.”
Pinn barely paused on Flern referring to the goddess as mother. She started adjusting. “But what is it?”
“Real paper. I don’t know how she managed that.” Flern rolled her eyes at Vinnu.
“No, I mean these marks on it.”
Pinn stared at it for another moment while Vilder came up to look over her shoulder and the others gathered around. Finally, Pinn spoke again. “But what does it write?”
Flern realized the problem and took the paper back. “It says Andronicus. Mother Vrya says that is the name of the bronze maker.”
“Andronicus,” Flern repeated as she put the paper back in her pocket.
Riah chose that moment to come up and bow. “Lady,” she said and kept her eyes lowered.
Flern reached out and took the girl’s hand. “It is still just me. You were very good to Wlvn me. I hope we can be friends, too.”
Riah smiled at that thought, but Kined had to ruin it.
“But poor Riah is now the only single person on the trip.
“Maybe we need to find someone for her,” Flern suggested, and she felt very grown-up as she slipped her arm around Kined’s waist. He grinned and put his arm over her shoulder.
“Oh, yes,” he said, “someone very nice.”
“Oh no, you wouldn’t, would you?”
Flern giggled. “You sound like your mother.” She poked her finger in Kined’s chest. “And you sound just like my wife.”
“Your,” Kined wrinkled his brow. “Wife?”
“Well, Wlvn’s wife.”
“Ah. He never mentioned it.”
“Later,” Flern said as she thought she better let go of him again. They needed to fetch their horses anyway. “But say, where is Bricklebrains? I was looking forward to seeing him with my own eyes.”
“Ah.” Vilder stepped up as he rubbed his upper arm. “He went back to Movan Mountain. He said his wife’s cooking called him, but he said you knew where to find him if you need him.”
“And I do,” Flern said. “Bricklebrains.” She called in a special way and the dwarf was obliged to appear before her. It looked like great magic, but in truth it was something perfectly natural to Flern since the gods collectively saddled the Kairos with oversight of the little ones. Bricklebrains showed up with his back to her and had something to say.
“Hey! I was almost half-way home.”
“Ahem,” Flern coughed to get the dwarf’s attention. Bricklebrains turned around, saw her, whipped off his hat and held his tongue. “I just wanted to thank you for taking such good care of Wlvn.” She bent down and kissed the dwarf on his receding hairline. “Say hello to Balken for us and give a special hug to Badl for me. Now go to Movan Mountain.”
Bricklebrains said nothing. His cheeks and forehead were scarlet from the kiss, but as Flern clapped her hands, Bricklebrains vanished.
“Amazing,” Kined said. Flern just looked up at him and smiled.