R6 Greta: The Forest of Fire, part 3 of 3

Alesander stood when the lady came in and he took the moment to introduced the group before he sat.  The elves were good to wait until the introductions were over, but they appeared to nod as if they already understood as much.  Alesander ended with Mavis, whom he called the Lady’s handmaid, and Mother Greta, whom he called by her Dacian title without any other title.

“Mother Greta.  So I see,” Oreona said with a smile, and Greta was the only one who understood, besides Mavis.  Greta nodded and responded.

“I have to be careful what I eat at this point. I have been feeling sick in the morning.”  Everyone suddenly looked at Greta as if for the first time.  Greta could see the wheels working in several minds that wondered if such a journey was wise in her condition.  She ignored them.

“Morning sickness.  A human affectation I am glad elf-kind does not share,” Oreona said.

“We thank you for this supper and the promise of a time of rest, but you should know we are being followed,” Alesander took back the conversation and turned everyone’s attention from Greta, for the moment. Lord Longbow interrupted.

“By the followers of Mithras and the Wolv of Mithrasis. This we know, but rest assured, they will not come here.”

“And who told you we were coming?” Briana asked this time, and Greta smiled her approval.  As an elect, Briana naturally began to pick up on such things and ask for herself.

“Mithras,” Oreona said.  “The male one, and I do not understand what game the old man is playing.” Oreona glanced at Greta who quietly nibbled on a bit of venison and bread.  The elder elf looked at her hands and took a deep breath, which made it look like a time of confession.  “By my art, I have seen the monstrous crow, the lion in the thunder, the Persian whose magic is great and terrible, and the sun-runner, a magnificent beast, and I have discerned that all of them, including Mithrasis, appeared just over a hundred years ago, certainly less than two hundred years.  For some reason the soldier and the Pater, the Father are hidden from me.”  She paused and Lucius interjected a question.

“How could this be?  I thought the gods were there at the beginning of all things.”

Greta spoke up to answer the man.  “In the ancient days, when a god or goddess was born, reality changed to accommodate this new god, and the people all knew the god or goddess by name and believed this new one was as old as the others, being from the beginning of history.  When Apollo and Artemis were born, the people in the jurisdiction of Olympus, not everyone in the world mind you, but those subject to Olympus and the little and lesser spirits knew them and believed they were born at the beginning of history with all the others.  In truth they were born later, I won’t say how much later, but suffice it to say they were imagined to be grown up even when they were only babies. Mithrasis was born or created less than two hundred years ago.  It is only the reality adjustment that is telling you she is from the beginning of time.”

Greta saw Hermes, Lucius and Briana shake their heads, so she offered a bit more.  “Think about it.  You know that once the Titans ruled the earth, and the gods were born long after time began.  Zeus, that is Jupiter, was the youngest of his siblings.  He set his siblings free and they overcame their father Cronos and banished Cronos to the deepest pit of Tartarus.  And Briana.  You know Rhiannon calls Danna “Mother.” and I told you it was more like great-great grandmother, but you know that had to happen at some point after time began. Think about it.”
“And Salacia?” Alesander asked.

Greta took a deep breath, but could not imagine any harm coming from the telling.  “This age began between ten thousand and forty-five hundred years ago, with a flood and a foolish tower.  Salacia is less than two thousand years old.  She was born after the days of Hammurabi; just after the Hyksos invaded Egypt, and just before the Hittites sacked Babylon.”

“Two thousand years is still a long time ago for us poor mortals,” he said.

“That is a long time for us elves as well,” Lady Oreona added.

Greta paused and turned to Oreona.  “Since the time of dissolution, Mithras seems to want to build a new pantheon, and where better these days than Rome?  Mithrasis is the Nymphus, the female groom, the masculine bride.  What worries me is there are six altogether out there with her, but I cannot be certain about that because Mithras seems to be changing his mind.”

“She is trapped.  I have seen it.” Oreona responded.  “And the old Lord Mitra is trapped with her.  He warned us of your coming in a dream.  We only wish to help.”

“And I thank you,” Greta said for the group. “But good food and a good night’s rest is the best help.”  She would not ask the descendants of the elves of Miroven to risk anything more.

“But here, we have it all worked out.” Lord Horns interjected, and Longbow took up the telling.

“In a few days, when you are fed and rested, we will take you to the Lake of Gold.  There we will give you into the hands of Lord Treeborn, the fairy King. He and his will then guide you to the edge of the Swamp of Sorrow where Lord Crag and the goblins hold sway. They have pledged by every mighty word to guide you safely through the swamp to the city of Samarvant on the River called Heartbreak.  The river flows northeast from there, but after that point, you will be beyond our help.

“Goblins in the swamp?”  Poor Nudd had his eyes closed most of that time, and Greta took a moment to run a hand through his hair.

“Hush.  It will be all right.”

Vedix spoke up in the common Gaelic of the people. “Eat up, boy.  It may be some time before you get another feast as good as this.”

Nudd smiled a little, but having his eyes closed had not prevented him from eating plenty.

“I knew a goblin in a swamp once,” Greta said as a matter of conversation.  “I met Friend in China when I was cursed and sent to the hell of the Nine Gods.” Greta let her voice trail off as she reminisced.

“What happened?” Lord Horns asked, before Hermes could voice the question.

“He helped me escape from that hell, so as a reward I turned him into the first hobgoblin in history.  To this day, I am not convinced that was a wise decision. Hobgoblins, by definition are no end of trouble.”  Greta paused and came out of her reverie to look around the table.  Most mouths were open and staring, and the elves looked especially wide eyed at being reminded just what their goddess could do.  Greta decided it might be best to retreat.

She rose first from her seat, and after thanking her hosts and hostess, she made for the back of the room and the nearest bed. She sent her armor away with a thought but kept the fairy weave she wore beneath, and she curled up under the covers. She would let the others argue about the details of the journey.  After a moment, she heard Mavis curl up in the bed beside her, but then she slept like a baby.

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MONDAY

Greta and her friends soon need to leave the elves behind and travel to the lake of gold.

Until then, Happy Reading

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R6 Greta: The Elect and Her Cousins, part 2 of 3

Greta felt pleased with the way things turned out, and would have said so if she had not been interrupted by a scream in the distance.  The men on the wall were turned toward the bonfire and clapping along with the music instead of watching for the enemy.  As feared, the Lazyges did gather reinforcements and brought them up into the hills.  One wall watcher fell off the wall inside the stockade and another yelled, “Plainsmen,” even as everyone could see the plainsmen perfectly well, scrambling over the wall in that spot, and sporting swords and long knives, ready to do battle as they came to the ground.

Greta sent her dress and red cloak away again as she recalled her armor, this time with all of her weapons.  Then she vanished as Gerraint, son of Erbin, a six-foot virtual giant for that day and age stepped into Greta’s place and immediately drew that big sword from his back.  Even as people were screaming and running away, some of the men searched for a weapon, and Mavis let loose three arrows from a bow that no one knew she had. Three Lazyges went down before Gerraint waded into the invaders.  He put three more down almost before Gwen could draw a breath and the boys could close their mouths.  Then the Lazyges made some mistakes.  One fired an arrow back at Mavis, not that he had any chance of hitting her.  One got a good right fist into the eye of Briana and knocked her head to the side.  Briana got mad, struck him back and the man went straight to the ground.  And one Lazyges let out a pirate worthy laugh as he cornered three young women against a wagon.  Gerraint went away, and the Nameless god stepped into his shoes.

“Enough,” Nameless shouted a shout that reverberated all through those hills.  Every Lazyges inside or outside the wall froze in place and could not move. Nameless let his godly senses search the area and found the leader of this raiding party still outside, sitting comfortably on his horse, waiting for his expendable men to make it safe for him to enter the village.  “You.” The Lazyges leader instantly found himself inside the compound, suspended a foot off the ground, Nameless’ hand wrapped around his throat.  For only a second, Nameless let the man glimpse the deepest pits of Hella’s domain and experience the hopelessness of Tartarus.  The man caught the idea that Nameless could leave him there, and he came back to the compound without the same degree of sanity he had a second earlier.

“You.”  Nameless’ own word was turned on him as there came a flash of light and the sound of thunder beside the bonfire.  A woman appeared, tall and beautiful with a haughty, arrogant look on her face and fire in her moonlit eyes.

Nameless tossed the Lazyges leader twenty feet away and marched straight at the woman.  She lifted her chin and tried to show courage in the face of this man, but it did not look like he was going to stop.  When he got real close, she staggered back a step, but he caught her around the waist, pulled her in close and planted his lips on hers.  Her eyes got big for a moment before Nameless heard something go click in the woman’s mind.  Nameless was, after all, the son of Vrya, the Aesgard goddess of love, and he poured all that love into the woman’s heart before he let the woman go.  The woman took a couple of steps back and stared at him in silence.  This time, her eyes showed a layer of deep confusion over the fire of deep desire. She wiped her lips with the back of her hand and slowly faded from sight.

“Go,” Nameless said and waved his hand.  The Lazyges found themselves back outside the wall, seated on their horses.  Their leader screamed a scream that sounded only slightly sane, and he rode as fast as his horse would ride in the dark, certainly faster than would be safe, but his men followed without complaint

The man of the Wolf Clan that had been stabbed and thrown off the wall got tended to by Gwen, and the boys were right there, helping. Nameless smiled.  They were honestly good people.  He went away with that thought and took his weapons with him. Greta came back, but she kept the armor because it felt safe.

“Lady?”  Mavis came right to her elbow, her bow long since vanished, because people did not bring weapons to a feast.

“Come,” Greta said.  “We have to praise Briana for the effort, even if she gets a black eye, and then we need to find where Alesander, Lucius and Hermes are hiding.”

“Lady!”  Mavis scolded Greta for her thoughts.

###

In the morning, Elder Dunova had ten men of the Wolf Clan, all volunteers, ready to escort the party, first to the village of the Raven Clan, and then to the Dragon Clan.  The men were all on horseback and had two mules of their own because Alesander assured them his group would not be going on foot.

“So, it’s the low road.  That is mostly safe.  The Lazyges would have to be stupid to attack a party of fighters.  Even against merchants and simple farmers, they always lose men whenever they come up on to the low road.  Of course, no one ever said the Lazyges were smart.”  Dunova grinned, and Alesander returned an honest smile.

“As long as the lady is safe.  My men and I and Briana have pledged to take her safely to her destination, wherever that may be.”

“So, you think she will not stay with the Dragons?” Dunova asked, but Mavis with her good ears reported curiosity in the question, not probing.

“Druids do not stay long in one place,” Alesander said honestly enough.  “She did mention wanting to visit her brother at Porolissum.”

“Back into Roman lands,” Dunova nodded.

“At least he did not say that like a swear word,” Mavis reported.

“Good,” Greta responded, and made Mavis ride beside her all that day.  Mavis stayed good, and only looked back now and then to where Hermes and Lucius followed. Alesander and Briana rode in front of them and seemed to be getting along well.  Greta imagined if it had just been the six of them, they might do well enough, but to be sure, she felt safer surrounded by the men of the Wolf Clan.

Greta spent the day observing the hamlets and many farms they passed along the road.  The west side of the mountains and the foothills were hardly the unpopulated wilderness it might appear to an outsider.  It really was a bulwark against the wild Lazyges, the plainsmen that rode the steppes that started where the hills petered out and stretched to the horizon.  She remembered there were some two thousand Celts that came through the forest to aid the defenders of Ravenshold against an invasion of the Germanic Quadi.  She wondered how many of Dunova’s ten men of the Wolf Clan might have been there.  It only happened seven years ago.

R6 Greta: Going, Regardless, part 1 of 3

Greta sat up in bed when she heard a woman’s voice. “Stay away.  Don’t come here.”

“Who is calling?” Greta asked.  It did not sound like her mother’s voice.    She looked once around her darkened room.  She saw no one there at all.  Even Darius was missing.  In the back of her mind, she knew this had to be a dream, but she felt helpless to wake.  Perhaps it came from all the stress of preparing for Darius and her father’s six-month trip around the province.  Then again, Greta secretly prepared for her own trip, and she had to do so without letting on to anyone.  That seemed stressful by definition.

“You must stay away,” the woman’s voice echoed in the night.

Greta went out from her room and wandered through the house, calling, “Hello.  Who is there? Is anyone there?”  The whole house appeared empty and dark.

“Hello,” the woman called.  “Over here.”  The voice sounded spooky with echoes, but it came from the Great Hall.  Greta went into the big room slowly and carefully. It appeared as dark and empty as the rest of the house.  Only a sliver of light from the fingernail moon slanted across the floor.

“Hello?”  Greta called again and the response came from only a few feet away.

“Here you are,” the woman said, and Greta saw her, and gasped, because she had seen this woman before, only she could not say where.

“Who are you?” Greta asked, and she looked close. The woman had long black hair that curled over her shoulders.  She had eyes that glowed with the color of the moonlight, and she appeared to be wearing a nightgown made of silk, see-through.  It hid nothing.  The woman’s breasts were full and firm, her waist slim, and her hips where her hands rested were well made to carry her long legs.  Greta gasped at the woman’s beauty and felt very small and plain.

Greta blinked and they ended up back in her bedroom, and Greta realized she wore much the same slinky, silky night dress.  She fought the urge to look in the full-length brass mirror.

“I love your hair,” the woman said.  “Your yellow-white hair sets off your soft brown eyes.  I would call them beige, sparkling eyes.  And the way you have your hair cut.  It just fits your cute little round face.”

“Who are you?”  Greta felt very wary.  She felt strongly that she had seen this woman before, at least in her dreams, and of late they had not been pleasant dreams.

“Mithrasis,” the woman said, and stepped closer.  “And I think if you came for me I might be able to work something out.”  She moved her hands across Greta’s breasts, a quick caress, and snaked her arms around Greta’s back until they encircled her and pulled her in tight.  Then the woman pressed her lips to Greta’s lips in a lover’s kiss.  Greta’s eyes went wide and she wriggled her hands up to push the woman away.  As Mithrasis staggered two steps back, Greta wiped her mouth, but Mithrasis laughed.

“Such a pity,” Mithrasis said.  “So, we are back to stay away.  If you want to live, stay away.”

“I will be coming, to get Hans and Berry, Fae and Hobknot, and I will bring them safely home.”

“Then I will stop you.  I will probably have to kill you.  True, the geis of the gods is still on you, Traveler, so it will have to be done carefully, but there are ways.”

“I might die,” Greta admitted.  “I am a person of small magic.”  She certainly had nowhere near the magic of Mithrasis to invade a person’s dream with such a real presence.

“Killing you would be a terrible waste.” Mithrasis winked and let out a sly grin. “Let me know if you change your mind and decide to share my bed, but otherwise, stay away.”  Mithrasis began to glow until the light became so bright, Greta had to shut and cover her eyes.  Then she sat up in bed.

Darius mumbled and put his hand out to touch her, but he did not wake.  Greta spit on the floor and wiped her mouth again.  She thought, another few months and she will have been married for seven years. She would be twenty-four soon enough, and she still loved her husband.  She slid down under the covers and took his arm.  She made him turn a little to his side and draped the arm over her waist.  She snuggled and put her hand over his arm and on to his back.  Then she got close to his face where she could hear and feel his long, slow, sleepy breaths.

Mithrasis could not be the witch Greta first thought. She had to be a goddess, and as such she did not belong there. The time of the gods ended some hundred and fifty years ago, but a few did refuse to go over to the other side.  Greta should have been afraid to disobey a goddess, but as the Kairos, she had been counted among the gods for thousands of years.  That was why Mithrasis needed to be careful. For a god, to kill the Kairos became an instant ticket to Hell, at least back when the gods were around and in charge of such things.

Greta shifted her head on the pillow and blew the hair away that had fallen into her mouth.  Mithras, she thought.  The great mascot of the Roman army.  But he was a male.  Who was this Mithrasis woman?  She tried to put it out of her mind, except she thought that she really had no interest in that direction.  She thought about Darius and fell happily asleep before she woke him to show him how much she loved him.  He would have been happy to oblige her.  He would be going away soon and he would be gone for months.

###

Greta stood on the battlements of the city and watched her husband and father ride off to the south, accompanied by a whole troop of Roman cavalry and auxiliaries.  They would spend near two months touring the Danube and the land grants given to the faithful families after the last rebellion.  It turned to early October, and they wanted a good feel for the harvest.  The emperor himself wrote demanding as much, and Marcus Aurelius, the emperor’s son, added a note at the bottom of the letter.  “Darius, my old friend,” it said.  “Winters have been hard in Italy of late.  You need to be sure every speck of grain that is due to Rome is sent. Pax.”  So, Darius headed south and Greta’s father, the high chief of the Dacians, went with him.

They would spend the heart of the winter at Romula, the capital of Dacia Inferior, before they headed north all the way to Porolissum in the spring.  Porolissum was where the rebels who were not given to the headsman’s axe were branded and told to guard the border at all costs.

This October, 151 A. D., as Greta thought of it, became the seventh and last year Darius would be imperial governor of the province of Dacia, after which he promised to retire.  This also became the seventh year of Greta’s father being high chief of the Dacians, a dubious position the Romans allowed for the sake of peace—and there had been peace for seven years.  But now Darius would retire, and her father started getting old and his strength started failing, and after they were gone, who knew what the future might hold.  Greta smelled rebellion on the wind, and not like last time where a few hundred disgruntled young men took up arms around the capital.  This smelled to Greta like the whole province might go up in flames.

“My Lady.”  Mavis, Greta’s handmaid, stood dutifully close and held Greta’s cloak in her arms.  It still felt early in the fall, but the wind came up and felt cold.  Greta waved her off.  She had too much on her mind and a simple cloak would not help against the chill she felt in the air.

Preview: R6 Greta: To Grandfather’s House We Go

A simple introduction:

The Kairos and Rome book 6: The Power of Persuasion

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.

Do enjoy… But it occurs to me that some might not understand who the main character (Greta) is, and how this person might appear, at any moment, to be another, completely different person.  Allow me to introduce you to…

The Kairos

A Greek word meaning opportunity, the right time, a propitious moment, event time, or as the Kairos defines it, history.  It is the name the old titan Cronos gave to the polyploidy being he struggled to bring to life as a complete male and a complete female.  Knowing his time would soon be over, he imagined this complex “one being in two persons” would be his replacement.  When Cronos died at the hands of his children, the mere counting of days ended, and with the birth of the Kairos, history—event time began.

The Kairos might be called the god of history, though the Kairos prefers the term watcher over history, because unlike the gods of old, he or she is not immortal.  Instead, the Kairos normally lives as an ordinary mortal, male or female, sort of taking turns, and as such is subject to all the frailties of the species, while at the same time, being captured by the very events where he or she must inevitably act.

Not allowed to fully die, the being or spirit of the Kairos is taken at death and reborn somewhere else on the planet, where some important historical juncture looms on the horizon.  On bad days, the Kairos complains about being no more than a cosmic experiment in time and genetics.  On good days, the Kairos averts a disaster.

Taken out of the hands of the most ancient gods, and placed in the hands of persons unknown; it is her or his job to see that history turns out the way it has been written.  With access to future lifetimes, as well as past lives, the Kairos knows the way things are supposed to go.  But getting it to turn out right is not ever easy.  Fortunately, the Kairos is able to borrow lives from the past or future that often have the skills and knowledge to meet whatever might arise.  No guarantees, of course.

SO

Enjoy the 20 weeks of story.  Posting on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of each week, a complete chapter, divided into 3 digestible daily bites.  Beginning next Monday, June 24, 2019.  Until then, Happy Reading.

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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 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.

 

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R5 Greta: Confrontation, part 3 of 3

Immediately, the two men who held Greta’s arms jumped back. This proved good, because Greta needed to collapse to the floor and take a moment to herself, to recover from the brink of death, and fortunately, Lady Brunhild gave her that moment.  The woman stared at her and seemed to be recovering a bit of her own strength as well, but outwardly she appeared to be examining the armor as if deciding what to do.

“I must tell you.”  Greta breathed as she struggled to her feet.  She would have appreciated the opportunity to pass out, but she was not about to stay prostrate before the woman.  “The armor belongs to the Nameless god.”  She spoke of the one with whom Brunhild and the men with her were most familiar.  “Defender and the sword, Salvation, have a mind of their own.  I do not want you to be hurt.”

Even as Greta finally got to her feet, Lady Brunhild spit in her face.  “Strip her.” She ordered.  The two who had been holding her arms stepped up and touched her.  Greta cried out.  She felt the power surge through her.  It struck the two men like lightening and shot them twenty feet through the air where they crumpled, unconscious, if not dead.

Greta caught her breath again, but found it much easier this time, as if the armor protected her from more than just arrows. Lady Brunhild stared hard at her and began to pace, once again to decide what to do.

“Ruby slippers,” Greta said, and Brunhild squinted at her, not understanding.

“I saw these weapons and this armor in a dream.” Brunhild began to speak.  “It was before Boarshag and it may be why you startled me so at the time.  The great God, Mithras, bless his name, revealed to me that if I could take them from the one wearing them I would receive riches and power beyond counting.” She stopped in front of Greta’s face and Greta tried to smile for her, and it would have been a truly obnoxious smile if her cheeks were not hurting.  “Give it to me, now!”  The Lady said and threw her every ounce of compulsion behind the words.

This time, Greta hardly felt it, though she knew it had to be very draining for the Lady.  She knew Lady Brunhild would sleep well that night, but for Greta, she merely smiled more broadly.  The Lady, however, did not attack Greta.  Greta remained as vulnerable and human as ever.  But the Lady went after the armor of the Kairos, and as such she had zero chance of success.  Greta watched the Lady’s face flush and she could almost taste the anger that rose up in the woman’s veins.  By contrast, Greta stood very calm and resolute, and smiled as much as her cheeks allowed.  Finally, the Lady grabbed the hilt of Salvation which stuck up over Greta’s shoulder. This time, the charge appeared sufficient to glue the Lady’s hands to the sword.  The more the Lady tried to pull, the more she got drained, until a small surge kicked her free before she killed herself.

“I told you, you cannot have it,” Greta said, and something rose up in her from all the days in the ancient past.  “And your Mithras will not help you.  He has no given authority in this region, and he knows if he shows his face he will be killed for real, and this time I will not be there to bring him back.”  Nameless got tired of the game, and he was a master game player, arguably second only to Loki among the northern gods of old.  Indeed, some of the men thought they were hearing directly from the Nameless god, the reported owner of the armor, and they would not have been wrong in that assumption even though Greta remained where she stood.

Meanwhile, Lady Brunhild fainted in Kunther’s arms. “Watch her tonight,” she said and promptly passed out.  They took Greta away at sword point because no one would touch her.  To Greta’s disappointment, however, they did not return her to the room with the others.  Instead, she got driven into a real storage closet which did not even have a window.  When they shut the door, she sat in utter darkness.

The state of grace Greta had felt, left her with the light.  She tried to reach out to Yin-mo.  She tried to tell him it would be all right to plan for the morning attack, as he thought best, but please limit his and the knight’s contact with humans as much as possible.  She felt he acknowledged her, but she could not be sure.

She searched for Thorn in her mind’s eye, but he seemed to be asleep.  Thissle, on the other hand, seemed awake and curious.  She and Bragi were half-way down the Mount on night watch.  They had been busy.  Thissle left the glamour that Lady Brunhild found.  She left it to fool the guards when Bragi stole the real statue and took it to the diggings.  After hiding the statue beside the powder, they talked to any number of men. Thissle tired from all of that. More than once she had to step up and break the spell Lady Brunhild had set like a glaze over the men’s eyes. That seemed the only way they could be sure about the men, and then Bragi went on duty with a rocket-like flare which would be the signal for all of the men to vacate the Temple.

All at once, Greta seemed to be seeing out of Thissle’s eyes and hearing with her ears.  Thissle yawned and Greta yawned with her.

“But in reality,” Bragi said.  “I think Karina is so very beautiful, it has made her shy. She is shy around men and shy about outshining all of the women around her.”

“Silly boy.”  Thissle yawned again.  “Human women live to outshine each other.  Why, for some, if they can’t outshine their neighbors, life is hardly worth living.”

Greta jumped back into her own skin.  That felt like a strange experience, and now Greta had a monster headache on top of her hunger and all of her other pains.  She did not expect to sleep.

She tried to reach out to Berry, to see how she was.  She imagined her and Hans, Fae and Hobknot all sitting in Fae’s tent worrying about her. It seemed a sweet thought, but then, Greta felt sure it was only her imagination.  Greta smiled at the thought and got struck with a vision, like the opening of a curtain on a scene that looked all too real.

She saw a young woman, screaming and terrified. She looked about Greta’s age, perhaps seventeen, but absolutely beautiful.  Greta well understood her terror.  A worm, a dragon hovered over her, looking at her like a tasty morsel.

Bragi stood there, yelling at the monster. Greta could not hear the words. But no, it was not Bragi.  She heard the young woman.

“No, father.  Please!  Hans, help me!”

It was Hans, but Bragi’s age.

“Berry!”  Greta snapped out of it, shouted the word out loud.  But how did she age so much in her big form?  She should have still looked thirteen, even if Hans looked eighteen or nineteen.  It seemed a mystery.  She would have to puzzle it out somehow, but even as she began to think, she fell fast asleep.

Avalon 5.3 Perseverance, part 3 of 6

The volume felt unbearable.  Padrama regretted inviting the dwarf family to dinner, even if he felt he had no choice. The only good thing was it guaranteed no tiger would come within a hundred miles of that noise.  Bobo and Rinna argued and complained about the deer, and the cooking, and whatever else crossed their minds.  The boys sang.  At least Padrama imagined it was supposed to be singing.  Their volume was probably intended to drown out the sound of their parents fighting.  Poor little Rita sat quietly and rubbed the stubble on her chin, not counting the half-dozen times she mentioned that her mama told her that one day she would have a beard down to her knees.

“Good for you,” Padrama always responded, and Rita grinned with pride and went back to rubbing her stubble.

Raja sat close to Padrama at first, and eyed these spirits that he called Yaksha.  He said they were known to practice strange and powerful magic.  But Padrama assured his servant that these would not be any trouble, and after about an hour of the boys singing, the little girl rubbing, and the parents arguing, Raja threw his hands up with a comment.

“They might as well be human.”

Somehow, Bobo managed to slip something into the tea to make it alcoholic.  Padrama was surprised for all of a second, before he shrugged and decided it was just as well.  Maybe the group would eventually pass out in a drunken stupor.

Padrama did not imagine how bad it could get until he saw them eat.  They hardly chewed, but showed everything when they talked, and they all talked at the same time through the meal.  They stuffed more in before they swallowed, and more than once, one or the other of the boy had to lean over, gag, and throw something up.  One time it was a rib bone.  And the boy picked up the bone to chew on.

They ate through a whole deer, and half of the second one, leaving half for the morning, which for himself and Raja would have been breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It would be just a slim breakfast if the dwarf did not go home by first light.

Raja had a hard time holding his hands over his ears and eating anything at all.  Padrama finally had to secretly compel the dwarfs a little, to quiet them down after the meal.  He thought to get their attention with a story, and he made them listen and not interrupt.  Unfortunately, the only story that came to mind was the story of the three dwarfs at the bottom of the well.  It was a well-worn story with hysterical twists and turns throughout.  Padrama knew Bobo and Rinna had heard it before.  He knew they once told the story to the boys.  Little Rita was the only one who had not heard it, but Padrama imagined he could get away with a few laughs and a good night’s sleep.

He glanced at Raja.  Of course, Raja had not heard the story.  It was not the kind of story one shared with humans.  He imagined it would be all right.  Raja was a serious-minded soul and did not have much of a sense of humor.  So he told the story, and later regretted it.  Little Rita giggled all night long.  That was punctuated with Raja’s snorting laugh, which sounded worse than his snoring.  That was drowned out now and then by great guffaws from one boy or the other, not to mention the occasional snicker from Rinna.  Only Bobo appeared to be immune, but suffice to say, Padrama did not get much rest.

Padrama heard them get up in the morning, before dawn.  He heard them trying to be quiet, though they sounded like buffalos in a coffee shop.  They also laughed now and then, especially Bobo, who seemed to have saved up his laughter for the morning.  They left.

When Padrama opened his eyes, he saw that the half of the deer was gone.  He expected that.  Beside him, Raja’s voice whispered.

“Are they gone?”

“They are gone,” Padrama said, and he got up to make sure they did not tinker with the chariot, and the horses were okay.  He found a small stack of wood beside the fire and assumed it was their way of making payment for the half a deer.  He knew by morning they would all conveniently forget that he was the Kairos, their own personal god, given to the little ones by the gods in the most ancient times.  He would not remind them.  He would look out across the way and think about where he was proposing to go.

“Nothing left to cook,” Raja said.  “I’m glad to still have my skin.”

Padrama laughed.  He prepared himself to hunt, but a pot appeared on the miraculously built up fire, and a man appeared, sitting, and staring into the fire.  Raja leapt up and ran several steps from the fire.  Padrama squinted and then sat.

“Mita.  Why are you here?”  Padrama deliberately used a name for the god that Raja did not know.  He did not want his servant freaking out more than necessary.

“Several reasons,” Mita responded.  “Breakfast is a good one.”

It was rabbit and actual vegetables in the stew, and Raja quickly retrieved their bowls and spoons from his backpack.  “Sorry,” he said.  “We only carry the two.”

“Quite all right,” Mita said.  He lifted his hand that had been hidden by the pot and held a bowl in it, with a spoon in the bowl.  “Here,” he said and reached out.  Raja gave him the two bowls and he filled them.  It smelled wonderful, and from the sounds Raja made, Padrama was sure it would taste wonderful, too.  Unfortunately, he had sudden, serious concerns on his mind.

“You know you are needed,” Mita said.

Padrama glanced at Raja, and Mita, who was, in fact, Mithras, did something so Raja could not hear and thought of nothing but his breakfast.  Padrama spoke.  “Are Brahma and Varuna having trouble?”

Mita shrugged.  “Things have gone well up to this point, but they appear to have reached an impasse.  Varuna has only been king…well for some time, since Dayus stepped down, but it is asking a lot to give that up.  At least, I think so.”

“I didn’t think being king was that important to Varuna.”

“It isn’t.  He is prepared to give up the kingship, but who will take the responsibility?  Brahma seems a reasonably stable and good person, but as chief negotiator for the other side, he can’t exactly negotiate himself into the position.  Shiva wants it.  Vishnu won’t let him take it.  Indra suggested Vishnu might take it, but Vishnu is like Varuna in that respect and wants no part of it.”  Mita shrugged.

“How about Devi?”  Padrama said.  “She would be a great king.”

“She’s a woman.”

“So why can’t a woman be king?”

Mita just shook his head.  “You have to go there.  Both Brahma and Varuna would listen to you, if you don’t offer stupid suggestions.”

Padrama thought about it.  He knew the history and the way things supposedly worked out, but he would have to be careful how he presented it.”  Then something Mita said caught up with him.  “What do you mean, I have to go there?  Don’t you mean we have to go there?”

Mita shook his head.  “I suppose I will have to take you, but you will have to get back on your own.  I’m getting while the getting is good.  You know I have worked with Scythians, and the people all around Bactra for centuries.  It was Varuna’s idea to stall the invasion.  I am known by the people of this land, but I also have a connection to the Aryans.”

“Who are now also in this land.”

“Not all,” Mita said.  “Some Asuras, or I should say, Ahuras will cross the divide and move down with the people into the mostly empty no-man’s land, what you call Iran.  We will be gods for the Iranians, the Avestan Magi.”

“Medes and Persians, and I suppose you will still play with the Scythians, too.”  Mita shrugged, but Padrama had another thought.  “Tough luck on your brother, you running out on him and all.”

Mita shrugged again.  “You know I am not a fighter, and I am a glutton.  I would not do well around ascetics.”

Padrama looked across the river where Mohini had gone.  “You know I have only one desire in this life.  My soul mate is in the hands of a demon and I will save her.”

“Very noble, but if you don’t come, there may be nothing left to save.”

Padrama nodded very sadly.  “Raja,” he said.  “Raja.”  He got the man’s attention.  “You need to stay here and watch our things.  I have to run an errand, and I will be back as soon as possible.”

Raja nodded slightly, and when Padrama and the stranger both disappeared, he swallowed.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Be sure to chew with your mouth closed and swallow.

And Happy Reading.