“You must be Bogus,” Greta said, while a quick image flashed through her mind. Basically, she thought if he took her home to where there were six others that looked just like him, she would hit him.
“And just who are you?” Bogus asked. Danna had hidden the truth from him so he honestly did not know.
“Greta,” she said. “Plain old Greta.” And she thought real hard at Berry to keep her big little mouth shut.
“Oh, no,” Berry said. “I’m no tale teller. No I’m not.”
“So, what exactly do you want?” Bogus asked.
“I want you to take me to my brother, Hans. I appreciate you looking after him, but it is time that he and I finish our journey.”
“I don’t know any Hans.” Bogus sounded very sincere.
“Just take me to him,” Greta insisted before Fae could say a thing.
“All right,” Bogus said, as if he suddenly changed his mind. He turned, but stopped in mid-step. “Why am I doing this?”
“Just…” Greta started.
“Oh, I’ll do it,” Bogus said, and started to walk again. “I just don’t know why, that’s all.”
They walked slowly because Fae could not walk very fast, and all the while, Bogus mumbled. “I protect my people. I work out a fair deal, a fair deal, mind you. And we take the wyvern, the bogie and all of the other not so nice on our side. And then all we get is squeezed between the river and the road, but that’s all right because at least there is a little room for us to be free, and what happens? A mere seventy years later, a measly seventy years, mind you, and the goddess shows up out of nowhere and Poof! It’s all gone. Then she says I gotta give this dumb girl her dumb brother back besides. I tell you, what is the world coming to?”
Greta looked around briefly to see how Fae and Berry were getting along, but when she looked back, Bogus had gone. Instead, there came a tremendous roar and a vision of horrible ugliness that towered before them. It stood right in the path, and all three women screamed, and Fae at least feared that Bogus might have been eaten. Greta jumped forward without thinking to get between Fae and the beast. She was not sure how Fae’s old heart could stand it.
“Stop that!” She yelled at the beast without really thinking about what she did. She just reacted. “Bad, bad ogre!” She yelled, and then she slapped the ogre in his outstretched arm, truly without thinking. Curiously, the ogre wilted under her scolding and, though he would not have felt a human slap, he howled in pain at Greta’s touch. Then Greta remembered that ogres were included among her little ones, though they could hardly be called little. “Bad, bad.” She said again, and the ogre winced as if under hammer blows. Then Greta felt sorry for the beast. Berry was hide-ed in Fae’s hair, and Fae, while clearly repulsed, at the same time, she seemed fascinated with the sight.
“You scared us badly,” Greta said, a bit more softly. “You really are an ugly, scary ogre. I bet if you saw your own reflection you would even scare yourself.”
“I did once,” the ogre proudly admitted, and he turned a little red from embarrassment.
Fae drew her breath in sharply as Greta stepped up and put her hand right up to the ogre’s mouth; but Greta had no fear. “Oh, I knew it.” Greta praised the creature and he turned ever redder as she began to scratch beneath the fold of his chin where his own hammy hands could not scratch. Ogres develop a kind of moldy fungus there which otherwise only grows on rocks. It is not painful, but it itches terribly and Greta imagined that might be why ogres were sometimes so mean.
“Have you always been this scary, or did you grow scary when you got older?” She made polite conversation. At the moment, he was thumping his leg against the ground like a puppy dog. The ground shook a little and Greta felt obliged to stop scratching to let him answer.
“Always,” he said and stuck his chin out for more.
“What’s your name?” Greta asked, not offering any more scratches.
“Well, Thunderhead, you know you are not allowed to scare humans.” She almost scolded again and that took his attention from his chin.
“Bogus said it was only fairies. He said it was a prank.” Thunderhead defended himself in the classic way. He blamed someone else.
“No, Dunderhead.” Berry jumped out and began to scold him herself. Evidently, she knew him. “No hurting the humans. It is not permitted.” He listened, but at the same time he made a couple of slow attempts to grab the sprite darting in front of him. It looked a bit like trying to swat a fly with a wrought iron lamppost. Greta backed up a little to avoid the flailing arms. “Don’t make our goddess mad at you,” Berry said. “You have had enough scratchies.”
“No telling,” Greta insisted.
“I’m no tale teller.” Berry said, and she fluttered back to hover between Fae and Greta.
“What do you do, Thunderhead?” Fae asked out of curiosity.
“I make sand,” the ogre said, frankly. “I crush the rocks to make the soil good.” He made a fist, like he was showing her how it was done. “But sometimes my hands get tired so I crush them with my head. But right now, I got terrible itches. Maybe you scratch or I eat you, rule or no rule.”
Greta’s jaw dropped. “Of all the nerve!” She got a little angry, and the ogre wilted again under her lashing. “You frighten my friends, but I make nice. I compliment you and scratch under your chin, and what do I get? You threaten to eat us anyway! Serves me right for being nice to an ogre! Now move, you big, ugly oaf!” The ogre raised his arms as if to ward off her tongue, but she slapped his arm again, and this time he felt something electric in her touch. Thunderhead howled and jumped back about eight feet.
“You sound like Bogus,” he confessed, while he sucked on his arm and eyed Greta with awe.
“Yes.” Greta started building up a good head of steam. “Bogus! Bogus the Skin!”
“What? Who?” He appeared right in front of her. “What am I doing back here?” He got confused, at first.
“The goddess said take me to my brother and she meant safely. She did not say I should be threatened by an ogre!”
Bogus deflected her anger by turning on Thunderhead. “Thunderhead. What have you been doing?” He began a scolding of his own, but Greta interrupted before the ogre could speak.
“He only did what you told him to do,” she said. “Yes, I know the truth.” She added before Bogus could lie about his innocence. “Now get moving. I want my Hans back, and Thunderhead.”
“Me?” Thunderhead paused in his sucking. He looked visibly shaken.
“Go make some sand, and maybe, if you are real good, just maybe your itchies will go away for a while.”
“Yes,” Thunderhead said. “I will. I will.” He did not know what to make of her, but he felt sure that she was one he ought to listen to.
“Move,” Greta said a bit more softly as the steam began to run its’ course.
“I’m moving,” Bogus said. “What is the world coming to? And who are you, anyway?”