R6 Greta: Cleaning Up, part 1 of 3

Greta took her seat on the battements and stewed all afternoon.  She kept her eyes on the enemy in the distance and fretted.  There did not seem to be much movement, not much to see, but they were still there.  They did not look to be leaving anytime soon, and that worried her.  She knew she should have been tending the wounded. That was her real job, not the Kairos’ job, it remained Greta’s job, but she felt bloated, and rotten like the weather, and drained from a day that seemed too long already.  She slept briefly in her chair, a cold afternoon nap, but woke up covered in blankets, a pillow on the ground, which she guessed had once been put behind her head.  Someone cared.

Pincushion made her eat some soup which was not hard because it tasted really good, and Greta had the good sense not to ask what was in it.  Then Pincushion, Karina and Snowflake went off to play with the children.  Greta got grumpy.  She missed her children.

Goldenrod and Oreona checked on her and told her Ulladon was sleeping in the deeps.  They were happy that things went so well, but Greta added, “so far,” and she did not feel sure how well things really went.  The reports she got in passing were a thousand defenders dead and a thousand who would be dead soon enough.  Darius told her there were as many as five hundred or so, a rough estimate, who might be saved if the Roman physicians and various tribal healers could hack off enough limbs before they got infected.  Greta knew in practice, more than half of them would die as well.

The rest of the men were in good spirits, her Father told her.  She listened. He said beyond their casualties, there were as many as a thousand more among the various groups of people who would survive and heal, but who were wounded seriously enough to where they would not be fighting much.  He said both Hans and Bragi fought well and she should be proud of her brothers.  He said he was glad Mother stayed with the children, far away from there.  Icechip, still riding on Father’s shoulder, picked up something of Greta’s distress.

“I never knew what war was like before.  I’m sorry so many had to die,” he said, and it sounded heart felt.

Greta sniffed and turned her back on them and Father left with a word that he would check on her again, later.  She missed her children.

Mavis went off with Hermes and Captain Ardacles’ troop to clean up the mess, as she called it.  Wagons went out over the field all afternoon collecting the dead and wounded.  By two o’clock, it began to drizzle softy and Rhiannon showed up.  She said nothing, but made something like a beach umbrella against the rain so Greta could continue to sit and stay dry.  It felt like Rhiannon wanted to say something, but she did not.  She looked sad when she disappeared into the misty rain.

Vedix and Bogus came and sat with her for a while. Neither said much, not even to each other, and after a time they quit the rain and went to find shelter. Alesander and Briana showed up moments later and Briana had an announcement.

“We want to get married.”

“And this is news?” Greta asked.

“Her father has given his blessing if it is all right with you,” Alesander said, and kissed Briana on the cheek.  She responded with a loving and happy face.

“I have said a thousand times, I will not be the decider of such things.”  Greta sounded angry, though she did not mean to be.  “You know what marriage is.  The union between one man and one woman is not to be entered into lightly, but if it is what you want, it is not my place to approve or object.  Personally, I wish you nothing but happiness, but you make your own decisions.”

“So, yes?” Briana asked.

“Yes.  Go on. Have fun.  Get fat.  Have babies. Scat.”  Greta snorted and looked across the field, though in the drizzle, she could hardly see the enemy.  She knew Briana and Alesander stood and kissed for a while, but she ignored them and paid no attention when they left, holding tight to each other and laughing at the rain.

It became four, or close enough.  The sky got ready to turn a dreary afternoon into the equivalent of an early night, when Greta thought she finally saw some movement in the distant camps.  She listened in her mind and caught words first from Longbow, the elf.

“The Scythian chief has convinced the others to make one last try.  He says they damaged the defenders in the first attacks and now the defenders are weak and ready to fall.  He says they would all be cowards if they ran away.  One good drive against the center, and the Romans will break and fall apart is what he says.  He knows the Legion in Porolissum is the only serious Roman presence in the whole province, and once they break through there will be nothing to stand in their way all the way to the Danube.  All of the outsider tribes are leery, but the Scythian has convinced half of the Sarmatians to lead the charge.  That is about five thousand lances.”

“The other tribes will follow,” Treeborn the fairy King interrupted.  “They are preparing as we speak.”

Lord Horns added one thought.  “Though they no longer feel the urging of Mithras, I think the Scythian chief is interested in what he calls the mountain of gold that the Romans have mined and guarded so carefully.”

“Don’t I know it,” Portent peeped, and Greta cut off the long-distance conversation.  Now she had a headache and was not sure if it would turn into a migraine.

Greta stood alone when she stood.  She looked over at the men’s side where Tribune Hadrianus had a tarp erected against the rain.  The constant drizzle actually stopped an hour earlier, but the sky remained as dark and dreary as it had been all day, and water continued to drip now and then off the edge of the tarp where the water had collected.

Darius, who spent the day watching her from a distance and feeling powerless to comfort her, noticed right away when she stood. Cecil saw and pointed.  Olaf, Venislav and Hadrianus all looked and genuine concern covered their faces.  “Darius,” Greta called, and he came to hear what she had to say.  The others followed out of curiosity,

“They are preparing for another attack.  The Scythian chief will not let them wait until the morning for fear they may desert in the night.  They believe the legion here is the only thing standing between them and the riches of Dacia.  They believe the legion is the only form of Roman power in the province. They are wrong.”  Greta scooted up to Darius and gave him a quick kiss with a word.  “Pardon me, my love.”  She went away, and Amphitrite, the one worshiped as Salacia by the Romans, the wife of Neptune, god of the sea, came to stand in her place.  Olaf, Cecil and Venislav all took a step back.  Hadrianus looked too stunned to move, but Darius grinned and hid his grin as Salacia shouted at the sky.

“Fluffer, Sprinkles, Bubbles, get ready for a wild ride.” Salacia raised her hands, reached into the sky and took hold of the clouds.  She caused a great wind to blow over her shoulder, and another to come pouring over the distant mountains.  They crashed over the enemy camps with hurricane force, and Salacia squeezed her hands.  Torrents of rain fell and whipped through the wind.  It drove the men back and some men drowned from the fury of the liquid assault. A number of tornados formed from the contrary winds, and men panicked.

Many men scattered and fell to the ground in fear, or were lifted by the winds and slammed again on the ground or blown for miles. Tents were ripped up and shredded. Horses stampeded.  Some men, horses, wagons and equipment got caught in the tornadoes and tossed away, sometimes landing on other men.  When Salacia really got things going, she began to dance with glee on the battlement.  The wind ripped up whole trees and threw around wagon-sized boulders. The rain came with hail the size of bowling balls and sleet that fell in whole sheets of sharp edges.  Then at once, Salacia decided it was enough, and it all stopped, instantly.

Salacia let her face appear on the clouds where she could look down on the devastation she caused and the survivors who cowered all over the ground.  They looked so puny and helpless, but Salacia thought there still might be something to say. She said two words.  “Go home,” and the words were not only heard and understood by all, but they reverberated for a moment inside thousands of minds. Then Salacia returned in her power to the battement on which she physically stood.

“Forgive me father, for I have sinned,” Salacia said, almost too softy to hear, but she grinned as she thought of Festuscato, and she frowned as she thought of all those ships and sailors who died at sea when her temper flared after Poseidon did something stupid.  Then she smiled again as she remembered her cult had always been one to care for the widows and orphans of the sea, a small payment for her guilt, and she thought of her friends and her own children, Triton, Proteus and Nyssa.  She frowned again when she remembered poor Orion, and how she lost him in a terrible accident, and even as a goddess, she could not do anything to save him.  She went away and let Greta return, and Greta reached up to Darius for another kiss, which Darius was happy to give.

“Sorry love,” she said, and with one hand on her belly and without another word, she turned and walked slowly back to Karina’s house where she had the best sleep she had in years.  When she woke up the next morning, there was not an enemy to be found, and she finished Salacia’s thought about children by admitting she missed her own.

R5 Greta: The End of the Day, part 3 of 3

They were in the tent with Darius who was lying down, recovering from his many small wounds from the battle.  Bragi was not present, but Salacia decided that would be just as well.  She let the first wave of forgetfulness pass by unhindered.  They forgot all about the guns.  But she protected them from the second wave.  Darius would have a place among the little ones and needed to know. Hans would marry one, though she had become fully human now.  And Berry could hardly be allowed to forget.  There would have been almost no Berry left if she forgot her little ones.

“Greta?”  Hans remembered.

“Yes,” she said.  “Amphitrite.”  She looked at Darius.  “Salacia.” She spoke to him.  She felt a bit anxious.  She did not know exactly how he might react and prying into his thoughts and heart would have been extremely improper.

Darius smiled and held out his hand.  “It’s all right,” he said.  “Berry explained it to me.”

Salacia took his hand but spoke honestly.  “I do not love you as she does, you know.  I still love my husband, though he is now gone from me.”

Darius seemed to think for a minute, but he got it. “I understand.” he said.  “I certainly would not be interested in any of the men you have been, either.”  He laughed, a little, almost.  “But seriously,” he went on.  “You must know how I feel.  I don’t suppose I could live without her at this point, but she has been so hot and cold. Does she really love me or not?”

Salacia smiled.  “But if I tell you that, I will be mad at myself for years.”  Darius thought again, but he did not quite understand what she meant.  “Let me say this,” she went on.  “You are not the problem.  In the past, her love sometimes got met with derision.  She does not think highly of herself, and especially the way she looks.”

“What is wrong with the way she looks?”  Darius asked.  “I think she is beautiful.  I think she is perfect.”

“Perhaps she had better tell you.”  Salacia said and went back to her own time to let Greta stand awkwardly on her own two feet, still holding Darius’ hand.

“Well?”  Darius asked.

“Well,” Greta said and looked down at her too big feet. How could Amphitrite do this to her? Too late.  She did get mad at herself for having a big mouth, one the size of the Pacific!  “Well, its’ my eyes.  They are just ordinary brown, and my nose is too big and my hair is like wild straw, and there is too much of me, and I don’t want to talk about it.”  She paused to sniff so she wouldn’t cry.

Darius took her by the chin and lifted her face to his.  “I see golden hair and eyes to match, sparkling with life.  I see a small and dainty nose.  You should see the ones in Rome.  And lips, so full and red which I have kissed.  I would not trade them for all the gold in the world. And as for the rest.”  He paused to look.  “That will have to wait until we are married,” he teased.  Of course, she threw herself at him and he did nothing to resist.  After only a moment, though, they parted.  Hans and Berry were in the room, after all.

“I love you,” Greta said.

“I love you, too,” Darius returned.

They both grinned like fools until Greta had to turn and run from the tent.  Her feelings would not let her walk.  She found Hans standing by the tent door and Berry some distance away, sitting alone, looking sad, almost desperate.

“What is it, sweet?”  Greta asked, feeling oddly maternal in a strange way she never felt before.  She put her arms around the girl and hugged her.

“My tummy hurts.”  Berry said.  “And now I am bleeding a little.”  She reached over to hold on.  “Am I going to die?”

Greta laughed.  “No, sweet.  You are not going to die.  You are human.  That’s all.” And she sat and talked with Berry while the ripples of forgetfulness did their work.

At last, Greta knew she had to get back to Marcus. She stood and traded places once more with Amphitrite.  She gave Berry a quick kiss on the forehead and floated off, invisible to all the world. She let her consciousness search far beyond the battlefield.  The ripples had done the job.  But she spied Greta’s Papa on the road, and Mama came with him.

When she entered the room, Centurion Alesander was there with Sergeant Lucius, examining the men.

“What magic is this?”  Alesander asked.

“I don’t know.”  The sergeant answered.  “But I don’t like it.”

The goddess slowly let herself come into focus.

“Salacia.”  Alesander named her and fell to his knees.  He had worshiped in her shrine all of his life as had his mother and father, and she loved him for it; but Sergeant Lucius took a couple of steps back.

“Mithras defend me,” the sergeant said.

Salacia placed her hand on Alesander’s head and blessed him, and with a final thought she changed the writings of Marcus and General Pontius to reflect the new gunless and fairyless reality.  Then she looked up at the Sergeant and spoke sternly.

“I told someone just yesterday morning, Mithras does not come here.  It would be his life if he did.”  She waved her hand to set Marcus and General Pontius free and vanished, to appear again as Greta, just outside the door.

“General.”  The sergeant spoke.  “Salacia was here.  Probably drawn by the creation of the new lake and streams.”  Greta knew the General was another Mithrite.  She remembered the Roman army was full of that pretender’s disciples.

“Nonsense,” Marcus spoke, sternly.  “The gods, if they even exist, would not be drawn to these back woods no matter what happened here.  What is it, Greta?  I thought our business had finished.”  Marcus sounded cordial, but stiff.  The joy and play were gone from him.  He did not seem inclined to give in to any emotion, and Greta felt that reality like a cut to her heart.

“Papa and Mama will be here this afternoon,” she said.

“I know,” Marcus responded flatly.  “I sent for them as soon as I assessed the situation here.  I thought your father might end this trouble in a bloodless way, but that was before the Quadi showed up.  Been listening to my guards?”

“No,” Greta said.  “I saw them from above when my mind was in the clouds.”

Marcus grimaced.  “Of course,” he said.  “Wise woman talk.”  He looked down at his papers.

“But what right did you have calling him here when he should to be home, healing?” she asked.

“He is a man who knows his duty,” Marcus said as he gave Alesander a sharp look.  “But I would not expect a woman to understand that.”

Greta swallowed several things she wanted to say. She helped Alesander to his feet, and she still had enough of Salacia’s aura about her to make him respond.

“Did you see her?” Alesander asked.

“No,” Greta said, honestly enough.  She helped the Centurion to a place where he could have some solitude for a time, and then she hurried off.  She wanted to get back to Darius, but some soldiers stopped her on the way.  They reminded her of her duty to the wounded, and especially in the makeshift hospital she had made of the Roman fort.  She cursed, but for old time’s sake and for Berry’s sake, she could not help sticking her tongue out at Marcus, no matter how many rooms away he was at that point.  Women don’t understand doing one’s duty?  What an idiotic thing for Marcus to say!

Years later, Darius thanked Greta one night while they sat before the hearth in the governor’s mansion.  He said because of all the magic and wonder that surrounded her life, it saved him from becoming an emotionless statue, like Marcus.

“Was it just the magic?” she asked, and he showed her that it was not.

************************

MONDAY

It would not be right to leave you without some thoughts concerning what is to come for Greta, Berry, Hans, Fae, and Hobknot.  As I said, the work of the Kairos never seems to be over.  There is always some witch, creature, or monstrosity knocking on her door…especially on Halloween.  Until Monday, Happy Reading.

 

*

R5 Greta: The End of the Day, part 2 of 3

“Anything else?”  Greta stood.

“No.  I need to finish these correspondences now.  I want the couriers to leave for Rome in the morning,” he said.

“I suppose I had better go prepare myself to go to Rome,” she said.  “To meet Darius’ father, and probably your father, too.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Marcus said. He looked up one last time.  “A sweet barbarian girl like you with all of your special talents.  Lady goddess.”  He smiled and half saluted in Greta’s direction.

Greta returned his smile.  “Big oaf.”  And she returned his half salute before she stepped into the hallway.  She heard Marcus ask the General.  “What is an oaf?”  She almost felt the General shrug as she traded places through time with Salacia and Salacia caused the two men to freeze where they stood.  She felt sorry for what she had to do, but it got decided the day before when Greta had to call on the good Doctor Mishka to dig a few bullets out of the wounded.  She felt especially sorry for Marcus.  He had become so human, so alive in these back woods.  She felt sure it would kill him.

Salacia floated out over the battlefield.  A full day later, and there were still bodies littered all around.  Nearly a thousand men had been killed in the battle.  That number would triple, perhaps quadruple in the days and weeks ahead. Salacia was not authorized to simply heal everyone.  Generally, sparing people from the consequences of their actions was the worst thing a goddess could do.  There were rare exceptions, but this was not one of them, and Salacia felt sorry for that as well.

Salacia floated to earth and materialized beside the main stream which flowed out of the remains of the mount.  She supposed her appearance looked like the appearance of Glinda, the good witch of the north.  She did not mean for it to be that way, but she did not really pay attention.  She imagined some men saw her appear and fell to their faces.  She felt sorry to ignore them, too.

Her attention stayed riveted on the top part of the great statue of Odin.  The head, one arm upraised in blessing, and the chest were planted firmly in the mud beside the new stream.  It looked very much like the top of the statue of liberty at the end of the original Planet of the Apes movie.

Vasen stood there, staring at the statue, weeping softly.  Apparently, Marcus decided to leave the Priest alone.  When Salacia walked up beside the man, she became fully manifest but had toned down her awesome nature to near human levels.  She might have passed for an ordinary lady out for a stroll apart from being so inhumanly beautiful and attractive.

Vasen looked up.  “It’s all gone, you know.”  He spoke through his tears.

“Nonsense,” she said.  “It has not yet begun.”  With a mere thought, she pushed the edges of the mount into the deep until it truly became a large lake, fed by underground springs.  Her mind followed the stream as it ran through the forest, and she only altered the course slightly to make it meet the Sylvan River at the swamps.  She wanted the stream to clean out some of the horrors of that area, and she made it so.

Vasen stood up.  He watched her, curious.  She lifted her arms.  All of the guns, the bullets and everything that did not belong in that time floated up in the air, and in a wink, she sent it to Avalon.  They were museum pieces now.

“Excuse me, my Lady,” Vasen spoke.  “Do I know you?”

“After a fashion,” she said.  “My name is Amphitrite, but the Romans call me Salacia in their tongue.”

“I’m sorry?”  Vasen looked confused.  “But a fine lady such as yourself should not be out here on the battlefield.  There are still things about that a lady should not see.”

“Nonsense,” Salacia said again.  “But I really came only to say goodbye to Granfather Woden.” She blew a gentle kiss to the statue, and the statue quietly crumbled to so much gravel.  She made the gravel line the bed of the new stream.

Vasen went to his knees.  He began to weep again.  “goddess.”  He called her rightly.  “Why did the temple have to be destroyed?  It is all gone now.”

“Hush,” she said and brushed his hair with her hand. “I told you once already.  Men will come, from the Greeks, the Macedonians, from Byzantium and the East, and they will be clothed in power from the Most-High.  They will speak of the one who was raised up on the third day, and all of the people will be drawn to them, to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” Salacia kissed the top of Vasen’s head, and he forgot all about the weapons of Trajan.  An earthquake released the water from below and that destroyed both the temple and the mount.  The people were in plain rebellion, but the Romans and the people with them won the day, and turned back the invasion of the Quadi, besides.  She let that thought ripple out from that place like one stone thrown into a calm pool.  The circle of forgetfulness spread until it reached for miles and miles.

Vasen calmed when she kissed him a second time.  He forgot all about the little ones, about Thorn and Thissle, about Avalon, and Greta’s place among them.  She let this also spread, but certain ones she protected. The Romans, Dacians and Celts all thought the knights of the lance belonged to the others, and that, she felt, might help keep some in line.  Vasen even forgot his vision of the goddess hovering over him that moment, but Salacia left the vision of Danna among the Celts.  She hoped that vision would promote peace.  Then like the ripples from the pebble, she let that fading of the memory spread out from there until it touched all whom it needed to touch.

Salacia vanished from that place and appeared in the secret place in the forest.

Bogus the Skin, Gorse, Ragwart and Thunderhead all appeared.  They had no choice, though Thunderhead kept sleeping.

Bogus uncovered his head and nudged Ragwart to do the same.  “It’s not our lady, Greta,” he whispered to Gorse.  “It’s out great lady herself.”

“I can see that,” Gorse whispered back, and whipped off his hat.

“What?”  Ragwart did not quite catch it.

“We’ve stopped all eleven riders,” Bogus said, and took a very humble step forward.  “I don’t believe any got through.”  He pointed to a great pile of things.  There were a couple of guns, but mostly spears, swords, a couple of tents, several cooking pots minus the ones the little ones kept, one wagon load of mason tools, and so on.  And there were only three riders.

“Thank you,” Salacia said, and smiled, and loved them dearly.  She sent the pile to Avalon and sent Thunderhead back to his bed, never to know he had not been there the whole time.  “Berry is fully human now,” she told Bogus.  “But if you have Fae for a time, be content.  Only try not to corrupt her.  She is a sweet woman, and remember she is still half human.”

“Too late,” Bogus said.  “If she has taken up with that old bachelor, Hobknot, you can be sure she’s been corrupted already.”  Bogus shook his head.

Salacia laughed a merry little laugh.  “Be good boys.  No more stealing,” she said, and disappeared to appear instantly where Fae, Hobknot, Thorn and Thissle were celebrating their survival.

“Oh, dear,” Fae said.

“Great Lady.”  Thissle curtsied, fairy style, as well as she could.

Thorn and Hobknot were quiet, but Salacia knew why.

“No.”  She said, simply.  “You cannot go to Greta’s wedding.  You know the rule.  You may have a celebration apart, but you are not allowed to mingle with humans.”  She got firm and sounded like the roar of thunderous waters crashing against the rocks.  Such interactions caused no end of trouble and caused her no end of headaches. “Now Fae.”  She went on a little less firm.  “You may visit your sister from time to time, but make sure you are not seen.  Your work may still be in this world, but your place is now separate and apart.”

Hobknot lifted his hand and looked so uncharacteristically meek, Salacia almost laughed again.  She handed him two bags of grain and seed, and two containers of milk and one of sweet honey.  She gave the same to Thorn and Thissle, though they claimed they needed nothing.

“Remember Nameless in the spring, and the Don, the mother goddess in the fall.”  Salacia said.  “Remember Junior whenever the north wind blows, and me in the long, hot summer. Think of me wherever the waters run cool and clean.”  She vanished. She went to see Hans and Berry.

R5 Greta: Woman of the Ways, part 3 of 3

“I believe you,” Caesar said, as they set his chair upright.  Caesar seemed to need to sit down, so Bodanagus joined him.  “Salacia?”  Caesar added. He remembered what Bodanagus had said.

“Amphitrite.” Bodanagus named her in the Greek. “I lived her life, what?  Sixteen hundred years ago at least.  It was before Akalantas sank into the sea.”

Caesar hardly knew what to say.  He sweated and looked dazed.  “How many others?”  He asked at last.  Bodanagus understood well enough.

“Many, but I only rightly remember a few.  There is Candace of Nubia and Lydia of Tarsus, but neither of them has yet been born. There is Ali among the Arabs in the East.  He, too, will face his Caesar in Trajan in the days to come.  And then there is the Princess and the Storyteller, Doctor Mishka, an excellent field surgeon from the Russian front, 1914, and Diogenes of Pella. I did mention that I was once Alexander’s cousin, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did,” Caesar said, and his face brightened at last.  Clearly, he had great admiration for Alexander the Great. “Do tell me about him.”

Bodanagus shook his head.  “There will be time for that.  We make peace first.”

After a brief moment, Caesar nodded.  He became his pragmatic self again.  “I must hold what I take, but no God will interfere?”  He checked.

Bodanagus nodded.

“And how will this be enforced?” Caesar wondered.

“I will be going with you,” Bodanagus said, without emotion.

“But will you not return to your people and your home and family?” Caesar asked.

“I will return to conclude the peace, but I no longer have any family.”  Bodanagus felt the deep stabbing wound of the loss of his wife, now seven days gone.  The grief nearly overwhelmed him in that moment, and it might have if he had not forced himself to think of something else.  He thought of Sheik Ali, the Arab in the days before Islam.  Rome would have her limits, he thought, and they would be set by a Spirit infinitely greater than the gods.  Still, there was much work yet to do.

###

Ali looked out from his hilltop hideaway over the camp of the Roman armies.  Panic gripped the camp as the massive explosions shook the earth itself.  The factory that made the weapons of Trajan became rubble, but there was much work yet to do.  He remembered.  All of this had to be cleaned up to the last detail lest some future archeologist flip out. Amphitrite volunteered to help, and Ali felt grateful.  At the moment, he remembered the grief of Bodanagus, and his own grief due to his own losses in his own war with Rome mingled in, like salt in the wound.  He reached out through time and Amphitrite came to stand in his place.  The goddess looked first to the moon, full and bright overhead.  Ever so briefly she thought she saw the face of Artemis in the sculptured face of the moon; but then it had to be her imagination.  The time of dissolution had long since passed.

“You missed a wagon train of guns and ammunition.”  Artemis seemed to say.

Amphitrite nodded. “My Greta will have to deal with that. The guns will never reach Rome. They will be hijacked along the way and I feel my Greta may be my next life after Ali.

“I miss you.” The face of Artemis beamed down and looked to be filled with tears.  Amphitrite cried for her very best friend in all the world.

###

Greta opened her own tear filled eyes and saw the full moon shining down.  It appeared full, her Artemis moon.  She had always called it that, only now she knew why. Then she saw the creature in the window and frail Mother Hulda holding it at bay with her broom.

“Werewolf,” Greta cried, and her hand sprang up, almost of its’ own volition.  A
bright light, light as day, streamed out from her hand and struck the creature square in the face.  The wolf howled and became engulfed in flames.  It turned and raced back into the woods with all speed.

Mother Hulda turned at last and gasped at what she saw.  Amphitrite was still present in the room for an instant before she vanished and Greta came home.  Greta considered what a strange birthday she had just before she collapsed to the floor. She remained unconscious for three days.

###

When Greta woke, she found herself at home and in her own bed.  Mama hovered there.  She rushed to the bed the moment Greta breathed for her.  Hans appeared there too, and very sensibly brought her some water. Greta felt dehydrated.

“Thanks.” Greta spoke through Mama’s tears. Hans spit on his two fingers. Greta had no spit but she touched his fingers with her own and smiled as well as her cracked lips allowed.  They were a team.

Mother Hulda came in quickly.  She had moved to their house when Drakka, Rolfus, Sanger and Koren carried Greta the two miles to her home.  Mother Hulda said she had seen the gifted pass out for a time after a particularly draining experience; but after two days she became as worried as the rest. Outwardly, she kept up a good appearance and claimed she only wanted to be near in case Yani went into labor.

Once it became clear that Greta would recover, Hans quickly wagged his tongue.  “Absolutely everybody has been by to see you. Vanesca and Yanda have been here every day, and Venice, Karina and Liselle came by.  Karina is absolutely beautiful.  And all of the young men, the older ones, I mean.  Koren carried you some of the way and he has been here every day. And Sanger carried some, I think, but Drakka carried you most of the way by himself.  He said it would just not be right not having you around.”

“Drakka said that?”  Greta breathed.  “What else did he say?”

“That’s pretty much it,” Hans said, before Mother Hulda and Mama made him go away.

“Let her rest,” Mother Hulda said, and Mama brought Greta some broth and a little bread, if she felt up to it.

It took three more days to recover, and all the while, Greta refused to talk about what she had seen.  In part, she felt afraid if she talked about it, it might all come crashing down on her head again.  It all seemed so real, Nameless, Danna, Salacia, though she had not experienced living their lives.  Then there was the Princess and the Storyteller, Diogenes and the good Doctor Mishka, and Bodanagus and Ali, of course.  And her fear was not helped by her staying in bed.  While there, she discovered two more lifetimes, and her feelings of closeness to them was especially distracting.  One was Festuscato, Senator of Rome, and the other, Goreau, or rather Gerraint, Prince of Cornwall, and they felt very close, indeed. This time, though, she only had dreams.

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MONDAY

R5 Greta, The Little Mother. Greta begins to move into the position of the Woman of the Ways, as Mother Hulda encourages her.  But, as always, in the life of the Kairos, nothing is ever so simple.  Until Monday, Happy Reading

*

Avalon 5.1 Sirens Are for Emergencies, part 6 of 6

Thalia, Alesandros and the travelers could not get Mother Evadne to calm down and speak.  Fortunately, old Mother Delphine came in, neither running nor screaming, and she explained.

“Lord Andipas and his Akoshian sailors came just before dawn.  They locked us in the orphanage, and scared the children, terribly.  They hitched the mule to the wagon and filled it with things taken from the barn.  They went into the temple and brought some more things, but they did not get the horses.  I believe they were afraid of the big horses.  But they left for the village when the light of Apollo first touched the horizon.”

Everything belonging to the travelers got taken from the temple, except Boston’s blanket, which they must have missed.  The travelers rushed outside, and found the horses grazing peacefully on the spring grass fed by the rain.  They called, and the horses trotted right up.

“We have to go after them,” Katie said to Lockhart, who nodded and held his head, like he was getting a headache in the sunlight.

“Bareback?” Lincoln did not object too loud.

“It is what we got,” Decker said, as he shouldered his rifle and helped Elder Stow mount without stirrups to place his feet.  Lincoln helped Alexis, and then climbed up on Cortez, who stayed remarkably patient for a horse.  Rodeo Boston jumped right up, no problem, and held her hand down to pull Thalia up behind her.  Decker almost fell getting Alesandros up behind him, but then they started down the hill toward the village.  Boston and Katie rode out front, and the other horses followed, which was a good thing since none of them had reins to direct the horses.

They stopped their slow progress when they got to the bay.  They saw men working on the small dock that got torn up in the storm tide.  They saw that the fishing boats had mostly gone to sea.  They also saw the Akoshians had managed to get to their big boat, anchored off shore, and at least Decker cursed.  No doubt, they had all the traveler’s things, and they looked ready to set out.

The Akoshians saw them dismount and stand there, staring, wondering what to do.  The Akoshian Captain’s man shouted to them.  “Lord Andipas laughs in your faces.  He has all of your things of magic and he will become greatness on Akoshia.  He has your bread makers, and he knows how to make the magic.  You are now small.”  He laughed, but apparently had to get to an oar.  They did not get far.

Amphitrite appeared floating above the bow, twenty feet tall, hands still on hips, foot still tapping, and making a tap-tap sound though she was standing on air.  The ship stopped when the oars all disappeared and reappeared on the shore, and Amphitrite spoke in a way that convinced everyone that the anger of the gods would be a terrible, frightening thing.

“You stole from my friends,” Amphitrite said, and all of the travelers things appeared in their proper places.  The horses were saddled with bit and reins.  The packs were all tied on perfectly with all their things neatly packed away.  The side packs they carried reappeared on the side of the people, and suddenly Lockhart’s head did not hurt, though he did not know if that happened because she did something to sober him up, or his fear in the face of an angry god did that all on its own.

“You stole from my people.”  The dock miraculously repaired itself while everything in the ship that was not tied down—sails, ropes, buckets and brooms appeared, stacked in a great stack on the dock.

“You frightened my mothers and children half to death,” Amphitrite yelled, risked a few heart-attacks, and everything else, mostly food and the very clothes from the sailors backs vanished and no doubt appeared at the orphanage.

“Most of all.”  She stopped yelling, and spoke in cold, clear tones that felt much worse than the yelling.  The travelers could hear the sailors wailing for mercy.  “You desecrated my temple and insulted me, and I take that personally.”  The ship that floated at the mercy of the waves, with no means to move otherwise, full of stark naked men, vanished, though Amphitrite finished her thought.  “You should learn respect.”

The travelers caught a glimpse of the island of the sirens, so they could have some men of their own, however briefly.

Amphitrite turned to the travelers and smiled, and it felt like the sun just came out.  She made a translucent, golden ball around herself and floated slowly toward the travelers, shrinking as she came so when her feet touched down on shore, she was back to her normal height.  The bubble burst, and she said, “I always wanted to do the good witch of the north, but no one in this age would have understood it.”  She smiled again.

Boston shuffled her feet and looked down at her shoes until Amphitrite opened her arms and yelled, “Boston.”  The elf flew into the hug.  After which she turned to Lincoln and said yes before he asked if she was Amphitrite.  Then she walked around the group and examined them carefully.  Finally, she spoke again.

“I heard Boston’s prayer.  I checked with Alexis and Lincoln, and apologize for violating your minds and hearts, and privacy; but here is what I have decided.  It will only be temporary, but for now…” she touched Alexis, and Alexis became the elf she had been when she was born.  She looked to Lincoln to be the same age she was when he first met her, and just as beautiful.  Alexis bent toward him, and he touched her pointy ears to see that they were real.

“See?” Alexis grinned.  “You did not even have to pay me a dollar this time to do that.”

Lincoln smiled at the memory, and Alexis grabbed him.  He grabbed her right back, and they kissed in a way that made Katie look at Lockhart and Thalia sigh.  Then Alexis went to stand beside Boston, and took her hand.  Alexis still looked twenty-six or twenty-seven, and that made Boston look like she was; like someone just out of her teen years.

“Hey, you’re breaking up the combo.”  Everyone heard the woman’s voice and watched as she walked up to stand beside Amphitrite.  For the men, watching the woman walk felt worse than the sirens, but this time, the women did not respond with jealous, protective eyes.  All they longed for was a touch of whatever the woman had.

“Just temporary,” Amphitrite said, and turned to Elder Stow.  “Artie?” she asked.  Elder Stow glanced at Katie, but he knew he would have to tell the absolute truth.

“She has developed a small gap in her flesh—miniscule, but she is taking on water in the rain.  It might kill her to cross a river.  I don’t know.”

Amphitrite folded her arms and put a finger to her temple.  “Of course, I can fix it, but I think I would like to try something else first.”  She waved her finger and Artie changed.  It looked like a much more complicated and extensive change.  “This may also be only temporary, but there is much to learn on the road.  I call this the Pinocchio solution.”  She stood back, and the woman beside her eyed the change and added her comment.

“I like it.  I can work with this one.”

“That is not what I made her for,” Amphitrite said.

The woman looked at Decker.  “And you are still on my list.”  The woman squinted, and pointed a sharp finger at Decker.

“Aphrodite,” Decker named the woman.  “Please, no,” he said, and Aphrodite laughed.

“What happened to me?” Artie said.  “I feel so different.  Wow.  Wow…” that was all she could say for a while.  Katie hugged her and Amphitrite spoke.

“As an android, she may have been six-years-old, but as a human, she is sixteen.  Katie.  You need to be like her mother.  Lockhart.  You need to be like her father.  End of discussion.”

Aphrodite whispered to Amphitrite, “Good job.”

Elder Stow smiled.  “They are the mother and father of the group.”

Aphrodite did not understand, but Amphitrite returned the whisper.  “I’ll explain it later.”

“I’m a real girl,” Artie said the inevitable line, and everyone congratulated her.

“Now, what?” Aphrodite turned to Amphitrite and asked what she wanted.

“I need your help,” Amphitrite admitted.

This time, Aphrodite put her hands on her hips and gave Amphitrite a hard stare as she spoke.  “Are you asking as my Aunt Amphitrite, Queen of the sea, or just between friends.”

“Just Trite to Dite,” Amphitrite said, pensively.

Aphrodite continued her hard stare for a few seconds before she laughed out loud, a most glorious sound.  “I love it when she says that.”

“People,” Amphitrite clapped her hands to regain everyone’s attention.  “Get mounted and ready to ride.  Sadly, this is not a good time for a visit, as I said.  In fact, it may not be safe for you to be here at all right now.”  Amphitrite gave Thalia another sisterly kiss and flipped her hand.  Thalia and Alesandros disappeared, and presumably reappeared back in the temple, overlooking the sea.

Aphrodite sighed to see them go.  “That recipe turned out great, and I hardly had to do a thing.” she sighed.

“Here is the scoop, everyone.”  Amphitrite added the last to regain Aphrodite’s attention.  Then she paused to think, and lifted herself up about five feet in the air, before she spoke.  “In simplest terms, our sun and earth formed about five billion years ago.  However, the first stars and planets in the universe formed about ten billion years ago.  After five billion years, human civilization reached the point that you are all familiar with.  Likewise, after five billion years, the people on that first planet reached a comparable level of civilization, only now they have had an additional five billion years to progress, or evolve if you insist.  No, in your wildest imagination, you cannot even imagine what they are capable of.  And no, Lincoln.”  She stayed Lincoln’s hand from his pocket in which he carried the database.  “You will not find information to read in the database.  There may be a few cryptic notes, but that is all.”

“What are they planning.”

“They don’t plan.  They don’t do things the way you and I do things.  I can’t explain. They will be rearranging the nature of creation.”

“Can they do that?” Katie asked.

“What do you need me for?” Aphrodite asked.  “I’m not sure I want to go there.”

“It will be all right,” Amphitrite said, and the travelers vanished to reappear in some totally new location.  Even the horses, who had done that before, hardly batted an eye.”

“Boston?” Lockhart called from the front, where he landed next to Lincoln.  Katie and Artie rode in the middle, while Alexis and Boston brought up the rear.  Decker and Elder Stow still had the sides.

“It looks like the time gate is right in front of us,” Boston shouted back.  Lockhart looked at Katie who nodded and held up her amulet.  It glowed green.

“We best go,” Lockhart said and let his horse walk through the gate.

“Wow.  I never felt excitement like this before,” Artie said as she and Katie came next.  Artie would say that sort of thing often over the next few weeks.

Decker and Elder Stow squeezed in to follow, Decker still worried, thinking about what it meant to be on Aphrodite’s list.

“Tell me more about Mirroway and Elfhome,” Boston asked, sounding almost child-like.  Alexis remembered a particularly juicy experience she had as a young elf.  Her head nodded, but as they were the last through the gate, she grinned a true elfish grin.

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Monday

The travelers from Avalon stick their nose where it doesn’t belong in episode 5.2, Palace Intrigue

Don’t miss it, and Happy Reading.

Avalon 5.1 Sirens Are for Emergencies, part 3 of 6

Alexis and Lincoln took bread to the pirates that evening as the sun went down, not that anyone could tell what the sun did behind the clouds and rain.  The only thing they noticed, being shut up in the meeting hall, was the sky appeared to open-up with lightning.  They heard, and sometimes felt the thunder.

Artie asked sweetly, so Katie agreed and she and Katie took bread to the back room, where the old man, his two helpers, wife and daughter were grateful, and amazed. The giants Lockhart and Decker, with Elder Stow anchored the table.  They all ate well, and in blessed silence for a time.

After supper, the priest got up, waved to Boston, and left.

Then finally, with a full belly, and surrounded by his mates, one of the sailors did get stupid.

“Hey giant.  My mate thinks you are not as strong as you look.  He wants to fight.”  Lockhart rolled his eyes.  The man did not stand as tall as Lockhart’s over six feet, but he looked big enough.

“Want me to shoot him?” Decker asked.

“No,” Lockhart said, and found Katie’s hand on top of his.

“This is my job, remember?”  The thinking was, if the man beat a woman, that would not mean much overall; but if the man lost to a woman, hopefully the rest would think twice before starting something again.  “Besides, I need the practice.”  Katie said that nice and loud as she got up.  She was an elect, so not only as strong as any man, she had the reflexes and balance of a cat, and had mastered all the marine corps could teach her about hand to hand and mixed martial arts.

The man looked at Lord Andipas, uncertain.  Lord Andipas had no trouble if the man beat the pulp out of the woman.  The man reached for Katie, but she caught his hand and thumb with one hand in a move that sent him to his knees, even while she punched him wickedly in the solar plexus.  When she let go of the man’s hand, she swung her leg gracefully around and kicked him in the back of the head.  He fell hard, face to the floor, and did not get up right away.  Katie looked at the table of pirates and spoke.

“That was too easy.  I didn’t even break a sweat.”

“Gather your things,” Lockhart said as he stood.  He turned and captured Katie by the shoulders.  He kissed her on the forehead.  “That was very good.  I tried not to watch.”  Katie nodded dumbly for a second before she collected her things and a slight tear came to her eye.

“Alexis, don’t forget your pot,” Lincoln said, and pointed.

When they went out to retrieve their horses from the inadequate roof overhang where they left them, they found the priest waiting.  “Follow me,” he said.  “I will shelter you and your horses for the night where you can be safe.

Lockhart looked at Boston, and she did not hesitate.  “He is a good one,” she said, so they followed the man.

“Alesandros,” the man told is name to Alexis.  He would have to repeat it when they got to shelter and could all hear, but for the moment, he thought it best to move them swiftly from the village.  Questions could come after they began to dry.

The edge of the village came quickly.  The whole village was not very big. being little more than a small cut in the hills and cliffs that fronted the roaring sea.  The road, a slightly better or more well-used path that exited the village, turned away from the sea to follow around the base of a steep hill.  That cut off some of the noise of the storm, but the lightning still crashed all around, and the thunder kept the horses on edge.  The travelers walked their horses and touched, and petted them to keep them as calm as possible.  The horses had to be miserable by then, but they seemed willing to trust the people to which they had been magically tied.

“How far?” Lincoln tried to shout, and people heard something.

Alesandros stopped and pointed where the road came to a fork. “Straight ahead,” he said, “Argos.”  He assumed that would be their way in the morning.  To the right, where the hill turned gentle, he pointed slightly up, and said, “Shelter.”  Even if the travelers could not hear the man, they could all see the big building not too far up the hillside.

As they climbed, Alexis tried to shout to Lincoln.  “Looks like a big home.”

“Looks like a small hotel,” Lincoln shouted back.  “Maybe a bed and breakfast,”

Alexis grinned and took Lincoln’s arm.

The top of the hill flattened out, like a shelf of good land, before the hill became rocky again and split into several peaks further on.  The flat land held three buildings, the big house to their right, a big barn to their left, and straight on, a third big building that looked round, a difficult shape given the time and technology, and it appeared to have a ten or twelve-foot-high roof.  Katie looked for columns.  It also appeared to face the sea, and Katie imagined it edged up to sea cliffs where the people could look well out to sea, and maybe up and down the coast for some distance.  Most did not pay attention or particularly notice, until they took their horses into the barn and Katie spoke.

“A temple.”

Alesandros clarified.  “The Temple of Amphitrite.”  He sat and watched as the people brought their horses in, out of the rain.  Decker and Elder Stow closed the big barn door which at least cut the sounds of the rain and thunder.

The pen at the back of the barn had a couple dozen sheep that bleated and paced, and unable to sleep.  One pen held a couple of cows, and one held a mule that at least were resting, if not sleeping.  A small pig pen held two or three, and a smaller blocked off section had a mother pig and six piglets that crowded the mother as she tried to sleep.  Finally, a primitive coop for chicken sat beside the door, and while the chickens would not be corralled, they were at least quiet in the night.

The main floor of the barn made a big open space with only one two-wheeled wagon and some farm implements off to the side.  Katie, the doctor in ancient and medieval technologies and cultures examined the evidence carefully, but the rest, and Katie, had to attend to the horses first.  It took about an hour to stack the saddles and equipment where they would dry and brush the horses free of the wet and the hard day.

“I would really like a hot bath,” Alexis whispered to herself.  Boston heard with her elf ears, and responded.

“Me, too.”

During that time, Alesandros spoke now and then, and the travelers did their best to listen, even while a large bit of their attention got spent on giving their horses some much needed love and care.

“The High Priestess of Amphitrite, my wife, says Triton is in trouble.  She says she can hear it in the roar of the waves as they crash on the rocks.  She says, probably some young lady or another.  The storm is a reflection of Amphitrite’s inner anger at her son.  Amphitrite can’t help it.  All nature bends to her.”

“Triton is Amphitrite’s son?” Lockhart asked, and Alesandros nodded.  He watched Lockhart remove his horse’s saddle before he spoke again.

“I have never seen such things as you ride, and I have seen many things, more than most.  People come here from all up and down the coast, from Argos and even Mycenae to make offerings and worship the goddess.  Sailors stop in the bay, and many merchants from Akoshia.  They pray to the goddess for calm weather and good sailing.”

“You can hardly blame them,’ Katie said, and to the others she added, “The sea is never a safe place, not even in our day; but certainly in this age, and for centuries to come.  Any help to placate the spirits is a good thing.”

“I saw the fishing boats,” Lockhart said, and nodded like he understood.

“Fisherman wives and children come here often,” Alesandros said.  “Not only from our village, but from many villages close by.  They come especially when their men have been long at sea.”

“Must be a hard way to make a living,” Decker said, and this time Alesandros nodded.

“The home across the road is an orphanage.  Our Great Lady Amphitrite has the biggest, kindest heart in the world.  She has made this place where the children can come who have lost their families and loved ones to the sea.  When storms come, and the sea roils, and the monsters come up from the deep, men are lost; taken down to Poseidon’s graves.  But it is not in the goddess’ heart that the innocent should suffer.  She made this place for the children, and the grieving wives and mothers who come and pledge themselves to care for the children of Amphitrite in the name of the goddess.”

“An orphanage,” Boston said, with a big smile and a look toward the closed barn door.  “I can feel the love from here.”  She paused, before she added.  “And the fear from the scary storm.”

“We have presently eight mothers in the home, all dedicated to the goddess that gave them a chance to live.”  He looked down and spoke softly.  “I was raised here, myself.  I owe the goddess everything.”

“And now you are her priest?” Alexis asked.

“In name,” Alesandros answered.  “She calls me her handy man and general contractor.”  The men chuckled.  “My wife, Thalia, is the high priestess who watches over the mothers and children, and keeps the temple.  She says the daily prayers, accepts the offerings for the altar, and speaks with those who come, especially those who grieve.”

“Grief counseling,” Alexis called it and Alesandros looked surprised.

“That is what Amphitrite calls it,” he said.  “All of you must be very special to the lady.  I think I knew that when I first saw you, though you were strangers to me.”

“Strangers to me, too,” Elder Stow said, and Decker and Lockhart both looked at the Gott-Druk, like he stole their line.

At least Lockhart got to say, “We are all pretty strange, each in his or her own way.”

“Maybe we can see the temple,” Katie suggested.

“I thought we might sleep there tonight, with the storm and all,” Alesandros said.  “The home is pretty full, and Thalia is in the temple.  She will stay there until the storm subsides, and I want her to meet you.”

“Ready?” Lockhart asked.  Everyone had their packs.  He signaled for Alesandros to lead the way, and the man raised his hood and went out the door.  The others all complained when they followed.  They had forgotten how hard it was raining.