R6 Greta: Home to Porolissum, part 2 of 3

Rhiannon looked away as she spoke, and Greta caught a glimpse of the idea that there might be something Rhiannon was not telling, but then what she said made sense.  “Maybe the human war is not what you need to focus on.”

Greta wanted to ask what she meant and why she looked away, but they were at Hans and Berry’s door so she said, “Shh.”

Berry still lay in bed, sleeping on her face, her knees pulled up and her butt sticking up in the air.  Greta whispered.  “She used to sleep that way when she turned twelve and a wee winged little fairy.” Greta stepped up, but this time it took her whole hand to push and not simply her finger.  Berry fell over and immediately protested.

“No, Mom.  I’m still sleeping.”

“Time to get up sweetheart,” Greta boomed in her best mom voice.  “Time for school.  You don’t want to miss the school bus.”

Berry’s eyes opened and shot daggers as she crawled up to her pillows and pulled the covers over her head.  “I can’t go to school today.  I feel sicky.”

“Poor Hans.  He is all alone.” Greta let out a big sigh and Rhiannon covered her giggle.

Berry pulled the covers off her face. “Cheater.  But really, I feel sick.  I have thrown up every morning for more than a week, not a lot, but every day.”

“Oh Berry.” Greta sat on the bed and helped Berry sit up.  Rhiannon sat on Berry’s other side so she could not easily lie down again.  “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to have a baby?”

“I am?”

Rhiannon put her hand out to touch Berry’s belly, not that the goddess did not already know.  “Definitely.”

“Me and Hans?”

“Unless.”

“No, never,” Berry said.  “Me and Hans.”  She smiled a big smile for a second before she asked, “boy or girl?”

Greta stopped Rhiannon’s hand.  “Do you want to know?”

Berry thought for a second and shook her head. She gave Greta’s oft used response. “Healthy and happy is what matters.” and Rhiannon and Greta hugged her and helped her stand.

“Good,” Greta said.  “Now I can go back for more sausages.  Maybe a sausage and egg sandwich.”  Berry looked pale at the thought of food.  “There are wafflies, and apple cinnamons,” Greta said to tempt her. “And sausage on the side.”

“What is with the sausages?” Rhiannon asked.

“I think my son is going to be a carnivore.”

“I think my baby is going to be skinny,” Berry said and turned pale again.

“I would like—” Rhiannon started the sentence, but Greta cut her off.

“Don’t even think it.  You are not even supposed to be here, remember?”

###

After nearly a month, Greta could not wait any longer.  Darius and Greta’s Father were in Porolissum, the main settlement on the northern border of Dacia, having made the long trip from Romula in the winter rather than waiting until the spring as planned.  They brought up six hundred Roman Cavalry, and six hundred auxiliaries as their escort, only to have two hundred cavalry and a hundred auxiliaries rebel and try to take over the town.  Darius sent out half the escort on arrival.  They went out in groups of thirty to a hundred men to scour the mountains for the enemy and secure the passes that led to Roman land.  The Mithrites turned half of the remaining men and acted as soon as they saw a chance for success.  They raised the men of Porolissum and thought to turn them to their side, seeing that so many of them were branded rebels in the last rebellion; but the men of Porolissum remained loyal to their high chief and to the governor, Darius.  Led by Drakka and Bragi, they put down the rebellion at no small cost.  Now, they were working furiously hard in the snow and slush to fortify the town and the border against whatever might be coming in the spring.

Greta made a doorway between the Second Heavens and Earth.  She said good-bye to Avalon, the sanctuary she made for all her little ones back four thousand years before Christ.  It had become her sanctuary and place of peace against the storm that gathered on Earth, but she understood she could not put off her responsibilities any longer. She stepped out on to the Earth, dressed in her own ordinary dress and well-worn red cloak, and left her armor home in Avalon, just to make a point in her mind.  She wanted to arrive quietly and unobserved and chose a spot next to her brother Bragi’s home, along the side of the house where the grass got tall, but the whole community was up in arms and in such a bustle of activity, there were plenty of people who stopped and watched Greta, Hans, Berry and a bunch of strangers step out of a hole in the air.

One of the watchers, Karina, Bragi’s wife, had her two children, Kurt and Padma with her.  Karina opened her mouth until she recognized Greta and curtsied.  “Mother Greta,” she called her.  Greta frowned at the formality and hugged the woman.

“Just Greta,” she said.  “Just Bragi’s little sister.”

Karina returned the hug, but had more to say. “And wife of the imperial governor. And the woman of the ways who saved so many lives from the headsman’s axe, and who consorts with spirits and powers beyond my reckoning, and who is able to appear out of nowhere, out of the very air itself.”

Greta took a step back and thought she better introduce her crew to give some familiarity, to counter Karina’s distress. Karina kept staring.  “This is my friend Bogus,” she said.  Bogus had on his glamour to make himself look like the old prospector.  “He is grandfather to both Fae and Berry.  Fae.”  Fae stepped up disguised like an older woman, not nearly as old as she had looked when she lived as a human, but hardly young enough for Bogus to be her grandfather. “And her husband, Hobknot,” Greta added. Hobknot looked like an older man, but he kept tugging on the fairy weave clothes Fae made him wear, and he came across as very curmudgeonly.  He grunted his Hello.

“Hans, of course,” Greta said, and Hans gave Karina a hug.  “And Berry, and my good friend Rhiannon who is from the Celtic lands beyond the mountains.” Greta saw Berry and Rhiannon kneel and talk to six-year-old Kurt, with three-year-old Padma hidden behind her brother’s shoulder. The little girl kept grinning.  Greta looked again at Karina.  Karina had been the beauty of Boarshag, and Greta could not imagine how she ended up with her clunky, big brother.  That happened before Father got elected High Chief of the Dacians, as Greta recalled, so Karina did not go for anything like money, power or position. And Karina truly appeared beautiful in every human way, but then Greta looked again at Berry and Rhiannon. Berry lost none of her beauty when she stopped being a fairy and became fully human.  She remained fairy beautiful, and that went into another whole beauty category, far beyond human reach.  And Rhiannon!  She toned down her godly attributes to almost nothing so she could walk among the mortals, but she could not disguise her looks without real effort.  Rhiannon looked goddess beautiful, and it appeared breathtaking, impossible to focus on, and almost too much for a human mind to take in and comprehend.

R6 Greta: Home to Porolissum, part 1 of 3

Greta sat at the breakfast table and fretted.  Her whole world started falling apart and she felt powerless to do anything about it.  The Sun-runner and the Soldier were back on earth, gathering an army to invade Dacia.  The Roman legion, the one supposed to defend Dacia, under General Pontius’ leadership, might very well help the Scythians.  Greta managed to send word to Darius and her father, but some of the very men who escorted them around the province were Mithrites and could not be trusted.  Rome had become a mess, in far more danger from inside the ranks of her vaunted armies than she ever was from outside pressures.

“Greta.”  Greta looked up.  Hans woke up for breakfast.  Berry was missing.  Fae and Hobknot were also missing.  They disappeared almost immediately on their arrival.  Hobknot took her to see the sights and wonders of Avalon, and for the past week, Bogus paced and made grouchy faces and noises.  Willow was wonderful, but she and Thumbelin had lots of catching up to do, so Greta did not see much of her.

“Greta.”

“What?”  Greta answered her brother and had a thought.  “You haven’t had thirds yet.  You don’t want Missus Kettleblack to be insulted.”  Missus Kettleblack was the kindly old dwarf woman who ran the kitchen in the castle.

“I can’t eat like I used to,” Hans said.  “I just spent the last two years with nothing to do but eat and sleep and get fat.”

“I don’t see the fat,” Rhiannon came into the banquet room, and everyone seated at the various tables around the room stood out of respect for the goddess.

“Great Lady,” Hans offered a bow.  She might not have been a goddess for the Dacians, but she was certainly a goddess.  “Maybe you can answer my questions since I can’t seem to get my sister out of her sausages,” he said.

“And what questions might those be?” Rhiannon asked, but then she read his mind and answered without waiting for the questions to be verbalized.  “You know one of the crossed swords very well.  Excalibur.  I understand you carried it over the last two years.”

“I didn’t hardly get a chance to use it,” Hans griped.

“How fortunate for you,” Greta returned the gripe.

“Ahem,” Rhiannon cleared her throat.  “Excalibur was made for Diogenes, a young man who fought beside Alexander the Great.  The other sword is a bit smaller and thinner.  It is the sister sword, Caliburn, and it was made about a hundred years later for the Princess.  You have met her,” Rhiannon pointed out and Hans squinted and tried to remember. He felt sure he must have met her.

“And that is some of the finest work the elves of the mountain ever produced,” Lord Branworth spoke up from the accountants table. “Priceless artifacts.”

“Same crew that made Thor’s hammer,” Lord Deepwell of the dark elves said.

“Or their descendants,” Lord Darkvein of the goblins added.

“I am sure all of these weapons have fascinating stories,” Hans interrupted the background commentary.  “That is what I was asking Greta.”

“Indeed,” Rhiannon said.  “But not all of these belonged to the Kairos, at least in the sense that they were mostly used by others.  This great spear that hangs over all, for example, is the Seig of Lug, sometimes called the Lance of Lieu, or Slaughter.  It came from the deep south to Britain, Wales, and eventually Ireland. They say no battle was ever won against it and it always hit its mark.”

“Rhiannon,” Greta interrupted this time.  “We need to leave the Celtic treasures where they lay. The old ways have gone and the new ways have come.  And while I am sure you will do a wonderful job when you find a young man to train in the martial arts, I wish you would not encourage Hans.  He’ll just get himself hurt.”

“Greta!” Hans protested.  “There is no harm in hearing the story of the Lance of Lugh. Who was Lugh, anyway?”

“He was a great sun god.”  Lord Sunstone the elf wizard stood and walked toward Hans who was standing at the back wall, looking up at all the treasures hung around the fireplace.  “Lugh infused the lance with the very power of the sun.”

Greta rolled her eyes, took Rhiannon’s hand and pulled her into the hallway. “Hans has too much time on his hands.  We need to find his wife to distract him.”

“Young Berry,” Rhiannon named her.  “But I feel as if there is something else you wish to tell me.”  Rhiannon could not read Greta’s mind.

Greta shook her head to say no even as she spoke. “I feel guilty staying here as long as we have.  The world out there is massing for war and I can’t think of any way to stop it.  I can imagine ten thousand Scythians gathered by now, preparing for all-out war, and if they bring in the Lazyges, Capri, Sarmatians and others, that number could easily top twenty, even thirty thousand. And what is there to stand in their way? Will a few thousand Goths and Slavs take up the sword against such odds?  I doubt it. One look and I would turn my little army around.  And even if the Roman legion raised all the auxiliaries within reach, they would still be outnumbered two or three to one at least.  But it is worse than that.  Half of the legionnaires are probably Mithrites and would fight for the other side.”

“Not half,” Rhiannon said.  “Not more than ten percent, but do not underestimate the power of Rome and the pride of the Romans.  Even if they are Mithrites, many will still fight for Rome.”

“I hope,” Greta said.  “But I can’t think of any way to stop it.  And the Mithrites not only have the numbers, they have Mars and the Sun-runner still living and active and driving them forward to victory in a way that only the gods can do so well.  And the Pater.  I guess Mithras himself is the father figure.  I’ve been thinking that the Pater was just another aspect of the old man, like Mithras had seven small pieces break off from his person, like seven of his fingers; but now I think he broke completely apart, into seven whole pieces, and the one I was calling Mithras is in reality just another piece of the whole, no more than any of the others.  I guess Mithras is the head, but why the head should trap me into killing off the other parts of his own body, I have no idea.  Who can guess what game he is playing?”

Preview of Coming Attractions: April 10, 2019

The story of Gerraint, son of Erbin, in the days of King Arthur, will continue in the next book:

Kairos Medieval Book 3: Light in the Dark Ages

M3) Gerraint: The Holy Graal   13 weeks of posts

Gerraint feels his days of struggle should be behind him.  All he wants is to retire to Cornwall with Enid, his love.  But when ghostly hands carry a cauldron across the round table, he knows he has to act.  Arthur deftly turns all talk to the Holy Graal, but Gerraint knows he has to stop the older men from recovering the ancient treasures of the Celts and dredging up the past.  Christendom is only a thin veneer, and if Abraxas is allowed to strip that away, history might be irrevocably changed.

Gerraint’s story will begin again one year from now right after the posting of Avalon, Season Six, which will post over 22 weeks and  serve as an interlude between the end of the Kairos and Rome series and the beginning of the Kairos Medieval series.  Of course, the Avalon stories: the prequel, the pilot episode, and seasons 1, 2, and 3 are available as E-books, with the pilot episode free in most places.  Look under the author M G Kizzia.  Avalon, seasons 4, 5, and 6 will also go up as E-books as soon as I can work out some details… But I promised myself I would not turn this into a sales pitch…

First, we have two stories of the Kairos and Rome saga to complete:

Kairos and Rome Book 6: The Power of Persuasion

For those who enjoyed the Kairos and Rome book 5, Greta’s story (R5 Greta), which began on June 4, 2018, and which you can look up in the archives and read for yourself, you maybe realized the story is not finished.  Picking up the story several years later…

R6) Greta: To Grandfather’s House We Go   20 weeks of posts

Greta’s ward, Berry, and her sister Fae, along with Greta’s brother and Fae’s husband go north, looking for Berry and Fae’s father to bless their marriages.  They get trapped in the land of the lost, and the shattered pieces of the old god Mithras stand against Greta when she sets herself for a rescue mission.  Soon enough, the Iranian (Mithraic) tribes in the wilderness come to knock on Dacia’s door, which doesn’t have enough strength to stand against them.  And the Roman ranks are full of Mithraites.

Before that, as we did on April 2, 2018, roughly one year ago, we have the further adventures of Festuscato, Senator of Rome and all around cad, who is good at getting into trouble, but even better at wriggling out of the consequences.  That may be why the Emperor Valentinian and the Pope both tapped him to go to Britain and bring order out of the chaos that had taken over that former Roman province.  That may also be why the Bishop in London got him to take on a special assignment:

R6) Festuscato: The Dragon in Ireland   10 weeks of posts

Festuscato gets roped into providing safe passage for Patrick to get to Ireland.  Festuscato, knowing something of what to him is the history of these events, wants to see Patrick get started on a good foot.  That isn’t going to be easy when the so-called King of the Irish is against you, not to mention the reluctant druids, the Irish pirates, and the Saxon intruders.  The boy and his pet dragon don’t help, either.

 

 

MONDAY

R6 Festuscato:  Festuscato and the bishops relax in Caerdyf.  Before setting out, they are interrupted by a boatload of Irish pirates; an indication of things to look forward to…

Until then, Happy Reading

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R5 Gerraint, son of Erbin: born in the days of Arthur Pendragon.

Kairos and Rome 5: Rome Too Far

R5) Gerraint, son of Erbin: born 479, in the days of Arthur, Pendragon.
10 weeks of posts

Gerraint, son of Erbin, with Percival and Arthur, romp through the early days of Arthur, Pendragon.  They fight off a rebellion and beat back the Saxons, Irish, Jutes and Picts, and rescue Gwynyvar.  Sadly, as the boys become men, the fighting never seems to stop.  And Meryddin, a fly in the ointment, appears to be on his own agenda.

Following the end of the Kairos and Rome 5: Rome Too Far, the story of Gerraint and Arthur will continue in the last book in the series:

Kairos and Rome 6: The Power of Persuasion

R6) Gerraint: Love and War   12 weeks of posts

Gerraint, son of Erbin wins Enid, his love before he is called to the continent to help Brittany (Amorica) stay free.  After a time of torment, Gerraint and Arthur continue to fight off Picts, Scots, Danes, and Angles, before the final battle of Mount Badon.  And still, Meryddin has his own agenda working, subversive in the background.

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

If you read with us the story of Festuscato, Senator of Rome (The story before Greta), you saw the sword being put in the stone.  Festuscato installed Constantine of Amorica as the first Pendragon, (war chief) of Britain, Wales, and Cornwall.  Now Gerraint, Prince of Cornwall, walks beside Constantine’s great-grandson Arthur, the last Pendragon.

Don’t miss it.

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

Meanwhile

Avalon Season 6 is in the works.

As of now, R6 Festuscato, The Dragon in Ireland will follow Gerraint.  Festuscato is charged to escort Patrick to Ireland and see that he begins his work safely. (Good luck with that).  R6 Greta, To Grandfather’s House We Go  will complete the posting of the book The Kairos and Rome 6.

Then, according to plan, I hope  to post Avalon season 6 before beginning the Kairos Medieval book 3: Light in the Dark Ages.  As if things ever go according to plan…

Hopefully, by then, I will have three good book covers and be able to put Avalon seasons 4, 5, and 6 up on Amazon and wherever E-books are sold.

For the present, the prequel: Invasion of Memories, Avalon The Pilot Episode (which is free) and Avalon Seasons 1, 2, and 3 are available for purchase and your reading pleasure.

The new adventure, the story of Gerraint begins MONDAY, and as I say:

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R5 Greta: The Quest, part 2 of 2

“Fae, dear.  I made a small bag for you.  It has salves, physics, bandages and potions in it.  Everything is labeled, and since you served your people for seventy years as their wise woman, I know that you know the good they may do.”

“Thanks, my Lady,” Fae said, as Greta fitted the bag over her shoulder.

“I do not know your future,” she told her.  “I don’t know what all you will face.  I had to guess what you might need.  There are no miracles in the bag.”  Greta felt very inadequate.

“Quite all right, Lady,” Fae answered graciously. “You would think after all of those years I would have thought of this for myself, but I didn’t.  So, you see?  I had nothing, but now I have everything.”

“Hans.”  She made him repeat his three words again.

“But what do they mean?”  Hans asked.

“Stop.  Do no harm. Friend.”  Greta told him.  “They are Agdaline words.  Very hard for the human tongue.”  Greta paused to look at the fading stars above.  She supposed they did not need to know who the Agdaline were, nor that those strange beings never expected their little pets to get loose, get big, and go wild. She spoke again.  “They are Dragonspeak,” she said.  “They are in the ancient tongue to which all dragons are bound to obey,” she said, hopefully.  Sometimes when dragons went wild, they were mighty slow in the obedience department.  Still, it had been bred into the beasts.  It was genetic, and even if they only paused on the words, it might be enough to let the quest get to safety.

Hans said the words once more and Greta felt satisfied that he said them well enough.  Agdaline was not easy.  Then she gave Hans a gift.

“Here,” she said.  “Take good care of it.  It is the sword of Avalon.”

“You have more than one sword?”  Hans sounded surprised, though when he thought about it he decided he should not have been surprised.

“I have had several,” Greta said.  “My very first got broken, though, when Sakhmet took it and started to wipe out every living thing in Egypt.  Then I lost one up the nose of the wolf.”

“The wolf?” Berry asked.  She slid closer to Hans.

“Fenrus.”  Greta nodded like it was no big deal.  “Loki’s son. Then there is Wyrd, and Salvation, you know.  This one is special, though.  It usually hangs over the fireplace at home and has not been used very much since the days of Alexander the Great.”

“Why is it special?”  Fae asked.

“It was made by little ones, not actually by the gods, but under contract, if you know what I mean.  The same crew that made Thor’s hammer.”

“Does it have a name?”  Hans asked.

Greta nodded again.  “Excalibur,” she named it.

Hans drew it out and even in the dim light of the dawn, it glowed and glistened, almost as if it had a fire of its’ own. “Wow.”

“Don’t cut yourself,” Greta intoned.

“We must go,” Berry said, stepped up then and took Greta’s hands.  Berry had become a strikingly beautiful woman.

“You are very young,” Greta said.  “As is Hans.”

“Older than you when you stepped into the haunted forest,” Berry reminded her.

“Yes, but I had encouragement and help that you do not have.  I am only twenty-two even now, but in a special way I may be the oldest person presently on this earth.  You, on the other hand, have only your hope, faith and wits to guide you.”

“We will find him,” Berry said, squeezed Greta’s hands, and firmly believed what she said.

“I believe you,” Greta said.  “But here, let me give you my heart.”  Greta wore a small, Celtic cross on a simple gold chain. She had two made four years earlier in anticipation.  Vasen never took his off, but now she gave hers to Berry.  “Let my God be your God.  Look to the source to guide you and be your shield.  He is an ever-present help in time of trouble.”  Berry placed it around her own neck and then hugged Greta.

“I love you Mother,” Berry said.

“Oh look,” Greta interrupted and placed Berry’s hand on her tummy.  “Little Marta is saying good luck.”

“I feel her moving,” Berry said, with delight. Her eyes went straight to Hans. He did not catch it, but then everyone crowded in close.

“Tight in there,” Greta said.  “Not much room to move around.”  Greta looked once more at the four.  “Go on,” she said.  “Before I change my mind.”  She turned without looking again and went into the inn to rest.  Alesander waited for her there, and Darius sat with him. She had not told Darius, but somehow, he found out.  He always did.

“Will Berry be all right?” he asked.  He had become like a father to her, and Greta smiled because she knew he would be a good father to all of their children.

“I pray that she will,” Greta said.  “But who can know the future.  It isn’t written yet, more or less.”

Darius hugged her and they kissed.  “And you,” he said.  “You should not be running off this close to delivery.  I worry about our son.”

“Daughter,” Greta said.  “And there is another month yet, at least.”

“And how is my son today.’  Darius spoke to the baby.

“Daughter, Marta,” Greta said.

“Son, Marcus,” Darius said, and Greta let him have the last word because she knew a month or so later she would have a little girl, and she did.

END

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Tomorrow

A preview of the story of Gerraint in the time of Arthur, Pendragon.

Tomorrow

*

R5 Greta: The Quest, part 1 of 2

Four years later, Greta left the Governor’s mansion alone in the early morning.  She just entered her eighth month with child number two.  A daughter to go with her son.  Faithful Alesander led the cart.  He would follow her to Hell if that was where she was going.

They went slowly because the new road through the forest was still rough in many spots.  They arrived late the next afternoon at the village of the Bear Clan. Greta rested at Baran’s house as was her custom.  Several men came to pay their respects, but then Baran’s wife turned the rest away. She knew what the eighth month could be like.

In the wee hours before dawn, Greta got up and went out to the new stables beside the new inn.  The Dacian who ran the place made a home brew beer which became very popular with his Gaelic patrons.  This was a good thing, Greta thought.

She made herself as comfortable as she could, sitting on a small stool.  She waited, but she did not have to wait long.  She heard a bang.

“Shhh.  Hush.” She heard a woman’s voice that Greta knew very well.

“Oh shush yourself, you old biddy,” the response came out of the dark.

“Old goat,” the woman came right back.  “I hope that was your head and it knocked some sense into you.”

“It was my toe,” the man responded.  “And if it wasn’t hurting I would use it to kick your butt.”

“Quiet, both of you.”  A young woman spoke.  “If you two don’t stop making love we’ll never get anywhere.”  She called it right, and Greta heard a young man laugh.

“Ahem!”  Greta cleared her throat.  “Over here,” she said.  She just turned twenty-two, a young mother in her prime.  She could have easily gone to them, eighth month or not, but why?  Let them find her.  “Over here,” she repeated.  They knew her voice, too.

Berry and Fae were the first to come out of the shadows.  They came timidly, holding hands.  Hans and Hobknot came behind with Hobknot’s mouth running.

“I told you it was no good sneaking off,” he said.

“And I told you I was not going without saying goodbye to my sister,” Hans said.  “But I was not worried.  I knew I would see her.”

“Oh, you did?”  Greta got up slowly.  Hans came quickly to help her to her feet.  She hugged him and whispered three words in his ear.  She made him repeat the words over and over until he could say them perfectly.  Meanwhile, she hugged all of the others, including Hobknot who turned a perfect red and covered his face with his hands in case she thought of giving him a kiss.

“So, where is your father?” Greta asked Fae and Berry.

“She knows,” Berry said with surprise.

“Of course she knows,” Fae said with certainty.

“From the dragon village we go north.”  Berry spoke as if repeating a lesson.  “We must go over the Toothless Mountain and beyond the Way of the Winds.  Through the pass called the Ogre’s Jaw which is the only way through the Rumbling Ridge. Down the other side, we go through the Forest of Fire and pass the Lake of Gold which must be on our left hand. We must go through the Swamp of Sorrows until we reach the River called Heartbreak.  From there we travel down the river beyond the Giant Rock and the Troll’s Eyes until we see the Mouth of the Dragon.  The Mouth will take us under the Heart of the goddess by the Road of Dreams and at last, at the end of the road, we will find the Broken Dome of the Ancient Master.  It is there that a secret door leads to the Land of the Lost, and our Father is there, still living among the lost.

North over the Transylvanian Alps and plateau to the Ukraine.  How far, then?  To Kiev? All the way to Moscva?  Greta translated.  “Sounds exciting, and complicated,” she said.  “You will remember all that?”

“Oh, yes, Mother Greta.  I will not forget,” Berry said.

“We will remember,” Fae insisted.  “We seek our father’s blessing on our marriages.”

“You and Hobknot,” Greta teased, and Hobknot spun around several times in embarrassment before settling on a spot with his back to them all.  He probably looked scarlet.

“You didn’t have to tell her that part,” Hobknot protested.  “Make me sound like a love-sick puppy.”

“But you are.”  Fae, Berry and Hans all said more or less the same thing in near unison, and then laughed a little.

“Hobknot.”  Greta called him and gently compelled him to come to be sure he did not run away and hide for the next fifty years.  “You are also the eldest,” she said.  “And a little one with a good, sensible brain.  Use it.  I expect you to think clearly if the way gets muddled and speak sense, even if the way appears nonsense.”  Greta took off the ring of Avalon.  It had the seal of the Kairos.  She put it on Hobknot’s thumb and it fitted itself snugly there so it would not come off. “I am trusting you to speak in my name. Just make sure it would be words I would actually say.  I want you helped, not hindered along the way.”

“Hear that, all of you?” Hobknot said, proudly. “My lady says you got to listen now when I talk sense.  I speak for the lady.”

“Fae.”  She called her over.  “Don’t let it go to his head.”

“Never worry,” Fae said.  “If his head swells up, I’ll just knock him down and sit on him until the swelling goes away, I will.”

“Listen everyone,” Greta said.  “Don’t forget Fae knows truth from lies.  Listen to her carefully, especially when she warns that someone is lying.”

“I wish I was there when the messenger came,” Fae said.  Greta agreed.

R5 Greta: Battle, part 2 of 3

Men still fought in the distance, nearer the raised lake which had been the mount, but nearby there was the scene.  Kunther and Drakka were to her left with rifles in their hands.  Kunther screamed.  “Kill them! Kill them!”  He sounded like a man for whom all had been lost, but he pointed the rifles at Marcus, Darius and Gaius.

“No!”  Greta screamed in return, and with a run and a leap she threw herself in front of Marcus, turning her back on Kunther.  The guns went off.  A bullet struck Greta square in the back.  She fell into Marcus’ arms, who went to set her down gently, but she saw that Gaius went down and Darius knelt over him.  She wiggled free of Marcus, but had to practically crawl over to Gaius.

“My Lady.”  Gaius said, but he could say no more.  The bullet came out his lungs.  Marcus saw and found tears in his eyes.  Darius stayed strong, but stoic.

“Gaius.”  She spoke quietly.  She had the wind knocked out of her as well.  “Do you know the Icthus?” she asked.

“I know the cult.”  Gaius said through his pain.  The bullet had clearly nicked his heart as it bounced off his ribs.  There was not much time.

“Set your mind and heart on him,” she said. “And when you see him, tell him that I love him and I am tired, and I want to come home.”  Greta could not be sure how much of that Gaius heard.  She cried with Darius and Marcus, both of whom were on their knees.  After a moment, she found Darius holding her and she cried in his shoulder.

“Are you all right?”  She heard Bragi’s desperate question but she took a moment to respond.  “Greta!  Answer me. Drakka said he shot you by accident.”

“I’m fine,” Greta sniffed.  “He hit me square in the spine.  I’ll just be stiff for a little while is all.”

“Where?”  Bragi examined her cape.  It had not torn, and her armor had not been penetrated.  She caught his hand.

“It’s all right,” she said.  “Athena said the cape was bullet proof and many things proof. And anyway, Hephaestos’ chain would have stopped the bullet even without the cape.”  Darius got quiet and Bragi stared at him and his sister in the Roman’s arms.

“Darius.  My brother Bragi.”  Greta did the introductions.  “Bragi, this is my betrothed.”  Together, they helped Greta to her feet and shook hands which she thought was a good thing. “But Darius,” she said, sure that she looked a wreck.  “If you don’t want to marry me, now, I’ll understand.  I mean, now that it is over.”

“It is not over.”  Marcus spoke first.  Greta had not known he could cry, and she did not know he could get so angry.  Somehow, that did not seem to be the Marcus Aurelius history remembered.  “Men will be crucified for this.  I swear it!”

Suddenly, Greta knew her job became to save as many lives as possible.

“Lady, oh lady, I found you.”  Hobknot, almost visible, did not seem to care.  “Please help me.”  Greta saw that he was about to cry and it broke her heart.

“Dearest Hobknot.  What is it?” she asked.

“It’s the grumpy old lady you gave me to watch.” He howled and several men looked up in a moment of fear.  “The old biddy took an arrow and I am afraid she is dying.  Her crotchety old frame can’t handle it.  Lady, she is the only female I ever met with a brain.  Please, goddess, don’t take her from me yet. Please.”  Hobknot howled again.

“Fae!”  Greta spoke sharply.  “Bragi help me.  No, Darius, help Marcus and for Christ’s sake, don’t let him crucify anyone until I get back.”

“Christ?”  Darius asked.

“Later,” Greta said, and she walked as fast as her spine and cut, bruised and banged up body would let her.  Hobknot led all the way.

When they arrived back at the outpost, she found Fae in her tent and back in the same bed she had been in almost since they arrived.  Berry sat there, weeping and wailing in Han’s arms.  Bragi looked at his little brother, but Hans shrugged.

“We’re engaged,” he said.

“You have all been busy since I have been away,” Bragi whispered.

Greta went to Fae’s bed.

“Lady,” Fae said.  “You should have seen it.”  Her words were weak and the wound might well kill her, but not for some time. “It was glorious.”

“Tell me,” Greta said and took her hand.

“I knew when I heard the drums.  I knew they were war drums, but I knew my people were still hesitant.  I had to go out with Vilam and the others.  I had to be seen supporting my people.”

“I tried to stop her,” Hobknot said.  “But she is mule stubborn and pig headed.”

“Oh, quiet you old goat,” Fae shot at him.

Hobknot started to say something in return, but wilted under Greta’s stare.  “Go on,” Greta told Fae.

“When the enemy first charged, they seemed countless, but the Roman cavalry struck them dead center and split them nearly in half. The Romans on this side and near the city took care of some, but I could not see the road.  I only know when the enemy reached there, they were in disarray. The Roman cavalry then turned and came here, to the outpost.  It could not have been better timed, for just then, men from the mount came up to attack us. The cavalry struck them so hard from the rear that despite their weapons, they were forced to flee back to the mount.  They were on foot, you understand.

“Then I saw the thing that worried me greatly. The first charge of the enemy was only the beginning.  The main army, much, much larger, was beginning to charge.  Their numbers appeared so great I feared we had no chance at all.  Then I saw these men and horses shining in the morning sun like saviors sent by the goddess herself.  They were followed by many men on horseback, but they still looked so few compared to the enemy.  Still, as I was watching the lines draw closer, the Mount exploded.  There came a tremendous fire and then a great burst of water utterly destroyed the Temple and blew out the sides of the Mount itself. Great boulders flew through the air, and most on this side crashed into the enemy.  They became confused.”  Fae grinned.

R5 Greta: Battle, part 1 of 3

“What is this place?”  Eldegard asked as he got weakly to his feet.

Greta conceded.  “Most who live here call it Avalon after the ancient tongue, but it has many names.”

“Is this Elvir?” Vasen asked.

“No, it is Usgard above Midgard,” Greta said. “Elvir is over there.  Nidelvir is that way, and Svardelvir is in that direction.”

“Usgard,” Bragi repeated.

“Usgard above Midgard,” Greta corrected.  “But you may as well call it Avalon.”

The fairy queen arrived at that point and became big, even as she landed.  Her court followed suit.  Immediately, she walked up to Greta, got on one knee and held up her hand.  “Lady Kairos.  All is well?”  She asked.

Greta took the hand, but made the Queen get up. “I don’t know,” she said.  “I cannot stay this time.  My anxiety is too great.  I must get back to work.”

“My Lady works too hard sometimes, I think,” Thumbelin said.

“This is Lord Eldegard of Boarshag.”  Greta introduced him.  “And this is Vasen the Priest of the Temple on the Mount.” Vasen had been staring at Thumbelin and Greta.

“And this?”  Thumbelin asked, sweetly.

“This is my brother, Bragi,” Greta said.

“Sir Bragi.”  One of the ladies of the court nearest him offered her hand.  Bragi took it, but since he did not know what to do with it, he merely held it for a second before he let go.

“And that.”  Greta pointed to the last of her party.  “Is all that remains of Brunhild.”

“She had become a powerful sorceress.” Thumbelin confirmed.  “What then of her god, Mithras?  What game is he playing?”

Greta shrugged.  “Same old?” she said.  It was time to go.  “Please take Brunhild to an outer isle where she can live out her days in peace.  I don’t want her eaten by dragons or cyclopses or any such thing.”

Thumbelin suddenly hugged Greta and whispered through a small tear.  “I love your kind heart,” she said.

“I love you, too, Thumbelina.”  Greta returned the same as she received.

The door appeared behind them.  It would let out at the outpost.  Everyone took a last look before they left, and Bragi especially had to partly drag Vasen back to reality.  Once through the door, Avalon vanished, but several men, Romans and Dacians, saw them step out onto the Earth.  They stopped what they were doing and stared.

Greta took advantage of the moment and pointed to Eldegard and Vasen.  “Take them to safety,” she said.  “Treat them kindly.  They have had a hard morning.”

“Indeed I have, Lady Kairos,” Vasen said, having caught her name.

“Forgive this old fool, Mother Greta,” Eldegard said, and for her part, Greta did forgive him.

She watched for a moment as the man hobbled away, head lowered.  “The rest of you need to follow me.”  She said that in both Dacian and Greek.

“Where are we going?” Bragi asked.  She could tell he was beginning to enjoy this.

“We are ordered to stay and guard this post,” one of the Romans spoke up.

Greta ignored them both.  She focused and held out her hands.  Her shield appeared in her left hand and Salvation vanished from its’ sheath to appear in her right hand.  They were heavy, but she held them well enough.  Some men stepped back in surprise, but she was not really showing off. As before, she did not feel sure if she could draw Salvation without cutting her own ear off.  This felt safer, but then she immediately handed them to Bragi. “Here,” she said.  “You know how to work these.”  She did not wait.  She started running across the field and about ten of the thirty or so men followed her.

It looked and smelled like a slaughterhouse. She saw bodies of the dead and dying everywhere.  A few might recover if they received help in time, but that seemed unlikely.  Some of the bravest survivors were out on the long field trying to help those that they could, carrying men on makeshift stretchers back to the outpost or the forest’s edge.  Greta knew she could help, but she had something more important to do first. She turned toward the mount and caught her breath at the sight. The mount looked gone, along with the temple, and the water which bubbled from the sides, still crumbled parts and carried away boulders.

“The explosion blew the temple off the top.” A man said, as he stepped up beside her. It was the Centurion, Alesander. The water did the rest.  It must have shot a hundred feet in the air and threw the walls of the mount for hundreds of yards in every direction. The rest then collapsed all the way around.”

“I said it was full of water under tremendous pressure, but I never expected this,” Greta said, then she had to save her breath to run.  She had the feeling she might be too late.  “Come on,” she said, but Alesander paused, and grabbed at her arm to stop her.

“Wait,” he yelled.  “The fighting is over there.  It is not safe.  Damn!” He followed.

It felt like running through a nightmare, even on the edge of the battle.  Greta had to run around and twice leap over men who were not quite dead.  The sounds of agony were deafening.  Some tried to grab for her legs or arms.  She heard the word “Valkyra” over and over.  She imagined a woman in armor with straw colored hair flowing behind would invoke that image, but for her own part, she wished the Valkyra were still around.  She could use their help.

A man jumped in front of her and made her pause. She did not know from his blood-soaked clothing if he was Dacian or Quadi.  He stared at her for a long second in disbelief, then he held out his arm. His hand was missing and the stump poured out his life’s blood.  She brushed past even as Alesander and Bragi caught up, followed by the rest of the squad.

Greta passed by other horrors.  She could not stop.  She began to panic and reminded herself that she did not respond well in panic situations.  But she feared she might be too late.  It was her vision.

R5 Greta: The Lady’s Doom, part 3 of 3

“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.

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MONDAY

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.

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R5 Greta: And Back Again, part 3 of 3

Berry thought about calling Greta by her given name.  “Oh, no.  I couldn’t do that.”

“I am Han’s sister,” she reminded her.  “And if you marry Hans, that will make me your sister, too.  Call me Greta.”

“You mean, I have your permission to marry Hans?”  She got excited.

“I said “If,” Greta said, but then she had some insight as to how it would look.  When Hans became a man of eighteen, Berry would still look thirteen.  Even if Hans should live to be seventy, Berry would still only look fifteen or at most sixteen.  She would have to think about that.

This time Berry got quiet, so Greta completed her earlier thought.  “Calling me lady makes me feel so old.  Call me Greta.  I’m not that old.  Or maybe Lady Greta, as I said.”

“Oh, Lady Greta.” Berry turned suddenly serious. “He loves you so very much.  I wish Hans loved me like that.”

“Darius?” Greta asked.  Berry nodded. “I wish.”

“But he does. I can tell,” Berry insisted.

“No sweet,” Greta countered.  “He will do his duty to Marcus and Rome.  He is a soldier.  Marcus just wants to make sure my father stays loyal to Rome, that’s all.  It is all political, and besides, I think he really loves someone else.”

“No way,” Berry said.  “He looks at you with zombie eyes.”

“Zombie eyes?”

“That’s what Mab calls it.  It means he has no will of his own.”

Greta laughed at her own thought.  She made a spooky face.  “Resistance is futile,” she monotoned.  Berry laughed, too, but Greta knew Berry had no idea to what she referred.  They indulged a little in the breakfast sweets.

“The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, all on a summer’s day,” Greta said, absentmindedly.

“I know that story.”  Berry perked up.  “Were you the Queen of Hearts?”

Greta laughed again.  “No, sweet,” she said.  She remembered, though she was not sure which life she lived at the time.  She decided it did not matter.  “Aphrodite.”  She named the Queen of Hearts.  “She made them for Hephaestos on their two or three thousandth anniversary or something. Cupid stole them.  Hephaestos found out, and let’s just say Cupid promised never to do that again.”

Berry’s eyes got big.  “Lady goddess.  You shouldn’t tell me stories like that if you want me to call you Greta.”

“Don’t worry,” Greta said.  “Take me out of Usgard and the company of my little ones, and you will see.  Even as the woman of the ways, I have very little real magic.  Hardly any at all.  You will see how human and mortal I really am, and it won’t be a problem calling me just plain Greta.”

“Hans called you Gretal once, like you were just a baby.”  Berry giggled, and tried to picture Greta as a baby.

“Oh, he did, did he?”  She pretended to be upset.  “Hansel!” Berry giggled again, and Greta thought Berry had better grow up some.  Sixty years of that little girl giggle would drive anyone crazy.  “Time to go.’

“Oh, wait.” Berry got little and flew around the room, touched everything and did several back flips and fancy dives along the way.  When she flew real fast, she even left a little fairy trail, though only light, without the sparkles.  It appeared a meager thing, but a true sign of her quarter blood.  Then she settled on her feet again.

“Mab was nice,” Berry said, and Greta knew they would never be the best of friends.  “But she was not impressed until she found out I had a twin sister.”  Greta nodded. Twins were a very special thing in the spirit world.  “We looked at her twice in the Pool of Reys, and once in the Looking Glass, but she was always sleeping.”  Greta nodded again.

“Time to go,” she repeated herself.

“But can we come back again?” Berry quickly asked.

“Someday,” Greta said, and then she tried to explain that two days and three nights had gone by on Usgard, while back home the same night they left just came to a close. Berry did not understand, so Greta concluded by saying, “That was why Fae was always sleeping when you spied on her.”

“We didn’t spy. Not really,” Berry said, even while she realized that spying was exactly what she had been doing.

“Well anyway,” Greta said.  “It will all straighten out when we get there.  I want you and Hans with a troop of guards to go over and visit Fae, and stay there.”  Greta decided that if there was going to be a battle, they would be safest where they could hide in the woods if need be.  It also seemed one way to keep them all out of her hair for a while.  She would be busy.

Greta picked up her statuette and examined it closely.  The dolphin had its’ mouth open to sing.  The bear reared up and roaring.  The cat had a roar of its’ own going, and the horse, standing on the rest, looked still.  Greta pushed gently on the horse’s tail and the horse reared up and its’ nostrils flared. She opened the window.  “All right.”  She thought to the distant sprites, and four dashes of light penetrated each of the four animals.  Greta thought to try the contraption once more.  She pushed down.  The horse reared up and a young fire sprite named Scorch stuck his head out of the horse’s nostrils and eyes.

“Fancy cigarette lighter.”  Greta called it.  “Be good. Be careful,” she told them all.

“All set.” The hollow echo of their voices came back.

The eastern horizon started getting bright at last.  The sun looked moments from rising.  Greta raised her hand, and the door appeared right there in the room. She opened it and saw Darius jump up from the floor.  The guards he had posted, one Dacian and one Roman, stepped up, drew their swords and peeked around the door to be sure there were no more beasts in the other room.

Greta stepped through with the statue and Berry followed with a handful of tarts.

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MONDAY

Returning from the rarefied atmosphere of Avalon is just the first step.  Greta needs to find out how things are progressing.  Where is the legion?  How many germanic Quadi invaders have shown up?  And what  do the Romans plan to do about the rebels fortified on the temple mount? And what about the guns?… Monday, Connecting the Dots.

Until then, Happy Reading

 

 

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