Wlkn swallowed slowly before he fell to his knees and dropped his head. Odin ignored the man and bent over toward Wlvn. Somehow, he laid his hands on Wlvn’s head and before Wlvn could object, something went from the king of the gods into Wlvn’s stomach, or at least it felt that way.
“So you can return fire yourself if they should send another airboat in your direction,” Odin said and sat up straight. “So, where are you headed, any ideas?”
Wlvn frowned. First Poseidon filled his spirit with horses and now Odin filled him with a power strong enough to take a Gott-Druk shuttle out of the air in flight. “Southwest,” Wlvn said, but he could only guess.
Odin did not look pleased with that, but his words were merely curious. “I would think your troubles are behind you, back the way you came.”
“Zeus has something I need,” Wlvn said. “I have to have something to kill the Titan. That is not an easy thing to do, you know.”
“Yes, I know,” Odin responded from experience, but then he had another question. “So, your intention is to kill the Titan?”
“Yes. It is my intention.” Wlvn spoke flatly, but it scared him to death to think about facing that great creature, so he thought instead about getting a swing at Loki if he could.
“Good, good.” Odin appeared to be satisfied with Wlvn’s answer. “Then I won’t stand in your way or keep you.” He shook his reigns, and without another word, his horse began to carry him up into the sky. Wlvn saw the rainbow bridge drop down for him, but he said nothing because he felt sure a dumbfounded Wlkn could not see anything but the Alfader flying. After only moments, Odin was too high to be seen, and then Wlkn looked once at Wlvn, but stayed on his knees.
Wlvn frowned. He did not understand what was going on. If Odin wanted the Titan dead, why didn’t he just do it himself? If he did not want to do it himself, Wlvn knew Tyr or Thor, or any number of other Gods would be glad to kill one more giant. Why did Odin want Wlvn to do it?
Wlvn had to whistle again for Number Two. “Get up old man,” he spoke sharply to Wlkn. “We have a long way to go.” Wlkn got up but said nothing at all until they started out along the stream at a slow and gentle pace. Then he seemed to burst with questions.
“That was the king of the gods?”
“And to be clear, who was that woman who met us earlier, the one that gave me this wonderful sleeping pad?”
“Vrya. Goddess of love and war.”
“What did she say?”
“She said I am supposed to stay with you and use my wise, old head to help you in any way I can. You do know I am too old for this? All this riding will probably kill me, I shouldn’t wonder, and then I will be no good to you at all.” He brushed back his gray hair, what he still had of it.
“And I am too young,” Wlvn admitted. “Your point?”
Wlkn shrugged. “I am traveling with the god of the horses, why should the rest of this surprise me?”
“Not me,” Wlvn said. “I’m just as normal, mortal, and human as you are.” Or at least he was before Odin laid hands on his head. It made him wonder what Mother Vrya did. She touched him, twice.
“Hmm.” Wlkn had to think about that. “So now, I suppose you know where we are going?”
“Right out of this world altogether,” Wlvn responded. “The king of the gods in the next world over has something I need to kill the Titan.”
“What?” Wlkn tried to grasp the concept of passing out of the world, altogether, but Wlvn thought he asked what he needed to kill the Titan.
“I need blood, from a beast called the Golden Hind; that is, if Zeus has not yet destroyed them all.”
“And you did not mention this to the Alfader?”
Wlvn shook his head. “I would guess he probably already knows; but in any case, it would not have been polite to talk about something that can kill a god.”
“The gods can die?” Wlkn started having real mental problems with all of this. Wlvn decided to hold his tongue. After a moment of silence, Wlkn stopped so Wlvn felt obliged to stop as well, and he turned Thred to face the man and waited patiently until the man spoke.
“I need to know,” he said. “Gods know the knowledge will probably kill me, but the gods also know that I will be no good to you if I don’t know. I can’t imagine the surprises we may have to face out here on this journey, but I hate surprises. A big enough surprise might make my old heart stop altogether, so I figure you have some explaining to do.”
Wlvn understood, but he hardly knew what to say. “I don’t know where to start.”
“Try the beginning,” Wlvn folded his arms.
“Well,” Wlvn swallowed. It already sounded impossibly strange to his ears, and he had not yet said anything out loud. “I’ve lived before, in the past, and I will live bunches of times in the future as well. You see, when I die, I won’t really die. I’ll just be reborn somewhere else and grow up into a new person. I won’t just be a copy of me, Wlvn.”
Wlkn scrunched his arms tighter around his chest. “And how do you know this?”
Wlvn knew that like Flern he had no choice but to show the man. “Back there,” he said. “When Loki yelled at his helpers to stop that man, me. I traded places with the Princess and got away.” And he did that very thing again. Of course, when Wlvn vanished to be replaced by a beautiful young woman with long, golden-brown hair and deep blue eyes, Wlkn’s jaw dropped. The Princess smiled and raised her arms like she was showing off. “Do you like my disguise?”
With that, Wlkn slid right off his horse, and had no mattress on the ground to catch him this time. The Princess jumped off Thred’s back. “Are you alright?” she asked, worried, and lifted his head gently from the ground.
Wlkn shook his head opened his eyes and screeched. Immediately the Princess went away and Wlvn came back. “Sorry,” he said. “I suppose it can be a bit of a shock.”
“One day she will be,” Wlvn confirmed.
Wlkn scratched his chin. “That explains a lot already.” He paused before he offered his assessment. “And it helps. Yes, it actually helps me understand and be more comfortable.” Wlvn felt glad for that and helped the old man back up on his horse. Wlkn had another thought as Wlvn got back up on Thred.
“So how many lives do you have in there?”
Wlvn paused again. How could he explain this? They were not inside of him, but in their own time and place. The Princess came into the past from almost four thousand years in the future. He decided it was best not to get into why he was the Traveler in time and did a quick count, instead. “Ten right now that I can remember.” He got the man riding again as he talked. “There is the Princess. She is the huntress, an expert beyond any our village ever saw. I’ll be depending on her to help find the Golden Hind when we get there. Then there is Diogenes, chief of spies for Alexander the Great —but then you don’t know Alexander the Great. Diogenes is the consummate warrior, but I hope we don’t have to call on him. Mishka is the doctor, the healer, and I hope we don’t need her either. Then there is the Storyteller.” Wlvn paused.
“What does he do?”
“Keeps a record of all these different lives. Keeps my mind straight, you might say.”
“That’s four,” Wlkn pointed out, and Wlvn nodded.
“Then there are the two who belong to the gods. There is Vrya’s son and Amphitrite. She was wife of the god that first brought me the horses. A goddess of the sea, actually.”
“Like I said, that explains a lot. You spoke to the king of the gods as neighborly as I might have spoken to your father in the old days. I suppose we might expect all sorts of gods and goddesses popping in and out on this journey.”
“God, I hope not.” Wlvn turned up his nose at that idea, but Wlkn could not see him. “There are two more. They are the last two lives I lived before I was born. First there is Faya. I think though I only remember her because she is connected to Nameless in some way that I have not yet figured out. She died some eighty years ago or so.”
“I thought you said you did not die.”
“Oh, I feel all the pain, not the least the pain of letting go of all the people I love.”
There was silence again for a moment before Wlkn spoke. “I’m sorry for that.”
What could Wlvn say? He took a deep breath and continued. “My last life was Kartesh.” Wlvn smiled at his stray thought. “She discovered dragons.”
“What are dragons?”
“You don’t want to know.”
They rode a bit before Wlkn brought it up again. “There are still two missing.”
Wlvn nodded. “Me you know. And the one I am closest to is Flern. She doesn’t live that far away, only about six hundred years in the future. We are like partners, I think. I am experiencing her life while I am experiencing mine, and she is experiencing mine as well as her own.”
“I would be pleased to meet her,” Wlkn said honestly enough.
“No idea what that means, but I have to say you are a very masculine young man. I can’t imagine a girl that looks like you.”
“She is very pretty. She is a beautiful young woman, and just thanked me, by the way, for calling her a woman instead of a girl.”
“You can talk to these other lives?”
“Sometimes. In my head,” and he got lost in an internal conversation that Wlkn stayed polite enough not to interrupt.