“You see, my lady. I am the Nameless god. That is why your Mithras does not dare to show up and help you now. I would kick his butt.” He thought to Thorn. “Now.” And he unlocked the door for them and caused the guards to come and see the jackass in the making so there would be no risk and no one standing in the way of the escape of the others.
Nameless laughed a hearty, healthy laugh such as Brunhild could never imitate, and then changed back to Greta just as Brunhild let out her first “Hee-Haw!”. Greta thought the woman recognized her for one instance, but then the light of understanding seemed to die in Brunhild’s eyes. “Bragi, hold the Lady,” Greta said.
“Sister.” Bragi, free of Brunhild’s spell, acknowledged his sister and took hold of the donkey’s neck. “Mother Greta, I should say.” He gently stroked the donkey’s nose and spoke soothing words to keep it from panic. Greta grabbed Eldegard’s good hand and Vasen’s hand as well.
“The rest of you have about ten minutes to grab your friends and get down the Temple Mount before the Temple is blown sky high by the explosion. I mean it.” No one moved. “All right then, stay here and die.” That got them. They tripped over each other as they ran in mass and rushed out just after Gregor, Finbear and Thorn.
“What about us?” Bragi asked as he struggled a bit to keep his new pet under control. Greta sighed. She would not make Brunhild suffer the final indignity by making a bit for her mouth. Let her have Avalon. The Isles beyond the seven were innumerable, after all. Surely one could be found where she could live out her days without struggle or fear.
“We go the easy way,” Greta said, and against the same wall where Brunhild called up the pictures of the preparation for battle, Greta called up the door to Usgard. As soon as she opened it, the donkey leapt toward the grass which looked greener than any grass ought to be, and the aroma became too much for the beast. In Avalon, all looked more vivid and more real than anything on Earth. Bragi, of course, followed after the donkey almost heedless of where he headed. Greta brought Vasen and Eldegard more slowly. “Like Dorothy going from black and while to color,” she said,
“Are you all right?” She generally asked the men, but Eldegard stared around and wandered off without answering, and Vasen wept, so she expected no answer there, either. The door closed behind them and vanished.
“Hey!” Greta yelled, dropped her hands and stepped forward. “That’s my brother, and that’s my donkey, too.”
Two gnome-like creatures were about to throw a net over the donkey who was contentedly grazing and utterly ignoring them. Bragi was on his back looking up with fright at the horrifically shaped black cloud that hovered over him.
“Stop it.” She turned to yell at the fire sprite who stuck his head out of the lantern which hung from the tree and the water sprite, who just started to rise from the bubbling stream. “You two strike at the same time and you will just put each other out.”
“Sorry, Lady.” The fire sprite spoke up. “Foam was just going to slip your feet out from beneath.”
“Yeah,” Foam said. “And Flick was going to fall on you from above.”
“Yeah,” Flick said.
“Exactly the plan,” Foam said.
“Exactly right,” Flick said.
“Yeah,” Foam said.
“Enough.” Greta did not have time for this. She introduced her companions. “This is Eldegard. This is Vasen the Priest. That one is my brother, Bragi, and the donkey is Lady Brunhild.” The two gnomes tipped their hats to the donkey while the cloud over Bragi took on a friendlier appearance and offered his hand.
“Sir Bragi,” he said. “An honor to meet you.”
“Yes.” Bragi looked unsure, but he accepted the hand and the help back to his feet.
“My name is Cloudhook, and my little friends are Noblink and Mrs. Weebles. Of course, Flick and Foam have already named themselves.”
“That’s right,” Foam said. “I named Flick.”
“And I named Foam,” Flick said.
“You might say we named each other,” Foam added
“Or, we said each other’s names,” Flick amended
“Yeah,” Foam said.
“Ahem.” Cloudhook interrupted the perpetual “Yeah” with a cough which sounded a bit like distant thunder. “Our job is to guard the door and be wary of strangers. No hard feelings, I hope, Sir Bragi.”
“No,” Bragi said, very graciously. “I would say you do your jobs very well.” Then he rushed to Greta’s side. “What is happening with Thissle? Is she all right?”
“Quiet,” Greta said, and even the brook stopped bubbling for a minute. She closed her eyes and reached out. It seemed an easy thing to do from Usgard where all ways lead to her little ones. “Thissle is just fine, and she found Thorn and they are dancing.”
“I’m glad,” Bragi said. “Good for her.” Then he got quiet because clearly Greta had not finished.
All right, Madwick. Burns, Scorch, Miss Spark, be careful.
She saw the sprites leap out of their safe havens like blow torches and touch the nearest barrels. Madwick and Burns were close enough not to even vacate their safe havens entirely. Scorch made it back, but Spark had a way to go. The explosion came as she grabbed on to the dolphin for dear life. She just sucked herself inside as the statue clunked to the ground in front of them, a smoking hulk. There were lights headed their way, as odd as that sounded on a bright, cloudless day. Eldegard pointed them out. Vasen looked, though he clearly looked like a man, raptured with more delight and joy than his old frame could handle.
“That would be Lady Thumbelin, the fairy queen and her court come to collect the statue.” Cloudhook said. “Probably make a big deal out of the job and Madwick and Burns will have swelled heads for a hundred years.”
“Too late.” Noblink mumbled. “Already swelled.” Weeble stomped on his toe and curtsied for Greta.
Madwick and Burns pulled themselves from the wreckage at that moment and took on human form. They looked dizzy and appeared as if they had been through a war. Then Scorch and Spark appeared together, talking and holding hands. Scorch had grabbed her at the last second and pulled her to safety. Madwick got ready to say how hard that was, but he was glad to make the sacrifice, when Spark beat him to the punch.
“That was fun!” She yelled and ran to Greta’s side. “Can we do that again?” She appeared a very pretty sprite, and Greta saw that Scorch thought so, too.
“Yeah,” Scorch said, sounding very much like Flick. “Can we do that again.”
“Please, no,” Greta said. “I hope we never have to do that again.”
They looked sad for a minute, but then Spark looked up with hope. “I volunteer if you ever want to blowed something up again, though. You will remember. You won’t forget me.”
Greta touched Spark’s hot cheek, gently. “I won’t forget you, Spark,” she said, and Spark smiled, shyly.
Brunhild has made an ass of herself… but there remains a battle raging on the earth. Greta’s work is not yet done. Don’t miss it, Monday. Until then, Happy Reading.