That evening, Babara and Malore did not come down to supper. Prudenza wondered if they had taken ill, but Francesa assured her they were fine. “Babara is very old. No telling how old. And the young one is her only support. I will take some food upstairs. They will not go without.”
“Fine,” Prudenza said, but paused when Francesa stiffened.
“Yes. Yes,” Francesa said, seemingly to the air. “I will send Divitia up right away.” Francesa smiled for Prudenza and stepped to the door to call Divitia. She and Sancta were playing in the snow with the dogs. She got ready to say something, but Sancta came to the door first. On seeing Prudenza, Sancta turned to her.
“Mother. Divitia does not feel well.”
Divitia came in holding her tummy. Francesa did not blink. “Divitia. You must take this upstairs immediately.”
“Now wait,” Prudenza interrupted. “She is not well.” She reached for the girl but someone in her head said, Wait! Prudenza did not fight it. She traded places with the Nameless god, one of her lives that she spoke with earlier. That is, Prudenza went to some safe place utterly beyond this world, and Nameless came through time from the deep past to stand in her place. He came dressed in the ancient armor of the Kairos with the sword Wyrd at his back and the long blade Defender across the small of his back. Yet, he kept up a glamour of Prudenza, so no one was the wiser. He looked and sounded like Prudenza. It was a simple thing for a god to do. He learned how from his Mother Frya, the Asgardian goddess of love, war, and magic.
Nameless immediately noticed a spiritual string connecting Divitia to something else, a string Prudenza would have gotten tangled up in. He cut that string. Divitia fainted and Sancta got down on the floor with her friend. A cry came from overhead, and a forty-year-old woman came staggering to the stairs and part way down. She shouted.
“Kairos. You have no power in this life. I made sure. I saw when you came inside.”
Nameless knew who it was and in Prudenza’s voice, he named the woman. “Malore.”
“I should have feasted on you yesterday. But Babara was reaching the end of her strength. I could not risk losing her before I had a new child in place. Now, I will feast on Divitia for the next twenty years. She will age, and I will stay young forever.”
“That is not going to happen,” Nameless said.
Malore laughed as she aged a little more. “You have no power. Mine is the power of the goddess Frigg, the queen of the gods herself. I will crush you and I will feed.”
“No,” he said. He saw tendrils of power snake out from Malore’s hands and reach for Divitia, but he put an Elder Stow-like screen around the girl and around Sancta so the witch’s power could not reach them. Malore screamed.
“What power do you have to defy Aesgard? Even now the men of the mountain are coming to kill you. The gods have all gone over to the other side. I will feast and live and you will die.”
“No,” Nameless said again, and as he dropped the glamour of Prudenza, he let out a touch of his glory and said simply, “I am Aesgard.” Tedesca and Carlo came to the kitchen door and had to look away. Francesa dropped her jaw before she closed her eyes, completely free now from the witch’s control. Sancta looked at Divitia who became bathed in the healing light of eternity. Malore screamed louder than before.
Nameless reached out his hand and the amulet and rings vacated Malore and appeared in his hands. The witch began to age rapidly, and still she screamed. She surpassed a hundred before her skin began to peel back and show the bones. In the end, she collapsed into a pile of dust to be swept out the door.
Nameless prepared to return to his own time and let Prudenza come home, but he heard gunfire outside and though it would not hurt to see. He quickly sent the amulet and rings to Avalon where they could be locked away for safe keeping, and where no mortal could ever get them again. Then he vanished from the Haus and appeared on the mountainside between the travelers and the mountain men, being careful to stay invisible for the moment and watch.
Nanette and Dagnanus were in a magical duel. Nameless had no doubt Nanette would win that one. Her magic had great potential. His magic was small. The mountain men had some bows and were mostly hunters, but they could hardly get close enough through the hail of bullets put out by the travelers. He saw the dwarfs sneaking around to come up behind the mountain men with their axes sharpened. Too bad they would have to be disappointed. He also saw Elder Stow with his weapon and Sukki with the power she carried inside her. They looked ready to fly overhead and bake the poor mountain men. Too bad. But at least Nameless knew Elder Stow and Sukki, unlike the dwarfs, would not be disappointed at being prevented from carrying out their plans.
Nameless became visible as he waved his hand and said, “Stop.” Everything on the mountainside stopped, even the birds in flight and the bullets half-way to their target. He first set the mountain men free of their compulsion to kill and told them to go home to their wives and families, which they were more than willing to do. With their chief gone and the compulsion of Dagnanus lifted, some wondered what they were doing there in the first place.
“Sorry for your losses,” Nameless said, as he waved his hand again and all the bullets spent in that area gathered together. He sent them all to Avalon, to his island in the sea of eternity that held all the things misplaced in time that he found and removed from the Earth. It made a regular museum. Then he set the travelers free so they could watch as he called Dagnanus to face him. He took Dagnanus’ magic away and the man fell to his knees.
“Please, Lord. The Masters are torturing my future life.”
Nameless nodded, waved his hand again and Dagnanus went away to be replaced by a man who looked similar but not exactly the same. The man cried and folded his hands as in prayer. Nameless killed him painlessly and sent him back into the future so Dagnanus could come home. Dagnanus cried, just like his other life, and Nameless spoke softly.
“If I let you go home, will you be good and stay away from the pope and the first men of the renaissance?”
“Yes, Lord. I promise. I will be good. You will see…” Nameless waved and the man vanished.
“Where is home?” Katie wondered out loud as she and Lockhart stepped up to see.
“He really has a home in Pisa, and a family, so not everything he said was a lie. Sadly, Pisa is due for demolition by the plague if it has not already begun.” Nameless smiled for the couple but shouted to be sure he was heard. “Dwarfs, go home. The war is over. And take that stinky, ugly ogre with you.” He let the birds fly again, the animals run, and the plants blow in the cold breeze of the first of November. Then he let Prudenza come home to her own time and place. She also began to weep and hugged Lockhart, and hugged Katie. She made a special point of hugging Sukki but said nothing about missing Boston.
Prudenza sat on a chair and waved to the travelers as they headed off in the morning. She did not want to hurry them, but they wanted to get to the other side of the mountains before the winter truly came. The early snowfall was just a brief indication of what was to come.
Prudenza told them if the gate was in or around Milan, it should remain there. She and her family and friends were headed off the main road. The village nestled in a hollow between two peaks stood eight miles away. Francesa arranged for them to take an empty house to winter. She said it was her old family home, but all three sisters had their own houses now and the house sat empty. Prudenza said, “Thank you,” but Francesa said, “No, I thank you.”
Sancta came up, holding her puppy, Rosso. The two girl puppies, Blu and Verde would be staying at the way station. Sancta wanted her mother’s attention, but Prudenza’s mind was wandering.
“We will stay in the village until spring, late March or early May. Then we will find my brother and my son and come back this way as soon as we can. But in any case, the time gate location should remain stable for some time.”
“You know, the plague will dog you in France, if it doesn’t get ahead of you,” Katie said.
“Yes, I know. There is no escaping it. It is like the Masters. They seem to be everywhere trying to change history to their liking.” She sighed. “But in this case, at least I know what we are facing now, and I can take some precautions against this pestilence. You are lucky. According to Lincoln, Milan is one of the few areas in all of Europe that is not impacted by the pestilence or is minimally impacted.”
“And you? Will you be all right?”
“We will be fine. This is where I live, remember? You are the people who belong in 2010, or whatever year it is by the time you get back there.” Prudenza smiled and Katie nodded. “Meanwhile, I understand some alpine villages escape the plague as well. I don’t know if where we are going is one of them, but it is better than nothing.”
Prudenza let go of her thoughts and hugged her daughter, and the puppy. “Now, what is it?”
“Divitia,” Sancta said. “I like her well enough, but she won’t stop talking. I can’t get a word in.”
Prudenza laughed as Tedesca came to sit with her. They watched the travelers vanish in the distance. Then Tedesca unloaded.
“The Nameless. Will he help us? And Nina. Must she be gone?” Tedesca did not know how to say what she wanted to ask.
“The ancient gods have gone away, and no. Nina is gone to us in this world. Even for the gods there were two rules. Rule one is people die. Rule two is even the gods are not allowed to change rule one.” Prudenza found the tears in her eyes as she thought of the millions that would die. Tedesca and Sancta joined her in a good cry.
MONDAY Episode 9.1 Johanne
The travelers find themselves in northern France and the name that keeps coming up is Joan of Arc. Until then, Happy Reading