R6 Greta: Porolissum to Work, part 2 of 3

“Scythians.  Thousands of them on the main road just over the mountains.  They will be here in three days, and it is just Chip if you don’t mind.”  Chip, older than Snowflake, appeared as a fifteen-year-old in his big form.  That made him a full-blown teenager, and Father had practice dealing with those.

“Mavis,” Greta nudged her handmaid who had hardly left her side since Greta arrived in Porolissum.  “Take Chip to find Darius.  Give Darius the message and then come back here.”

“What are you thinking?”  Greta’s father asked and waited for Greta to answer.

“General Pontius left the legion fort two days ago. He will be here right at the same time as the Scythians.  How did he know when to start for Porolissum?”

“He had to have got word from the Scythians to time things so well.” Father came to the obvious conclusion, and Greta confirmed as much.

“Darius, Alesander, Bragi and the others have been arguing about whether or not to trust General Pontius.”

“I have heard the arguments,” Father admitted.

“I would say this is circumstantial evidence, but it says don’t trust him.”  Greta moaned a little.

“The baby?” Father asked and held out his arm for her before he paused to rub his own leg.

“My ankles are swelling in this cold and rainy weather,” Greta answered.  “I calculated the middle of June, but I may have miscalculated.  I may be entering my eighth month now.  I may be due in the middle of May, about six, not ten weeks from now.”

“I could limp you home,” Father offered.  He did that, but as they got to the door, Greta had to ask.  “So, no questions about the fairy?”

“Only if you want to tell me,” he said.  “I decided a long time ago some questions were best not asked.  I decided that back when Mother Hulda died, and then that awful woman, Brunhild came to town, and then you disappeared into the haunted forest.”  Greta reached up and kissed her father on the cheek.  “Of course, if your mother was here, I would ask her.  But that is safe because she doesn’t know anything.”

“Papa!”  Greta protested and went inside only to find Snowflake in her natural fairy size, wings fluttering, riding a wooden toy horse across the kitchen floor while Padme followed with her doll and Karina stood at the wash basin on the kitchen counter where she was washing up the breakfast dishes.

“Careful, young woman.”  Karina spoke kindly to the fairy.  “You are supposed to be watching Padme, not encouraging a madhouse.”

“Icechip came by a few minutes ago,” Greta said as she found a chair to sit while Father went into the other room to rest by the fire.

“My Icechip?” Snowflake asked, excited, and Greta nodded.

“Another fairy?  How many fairies do you know?” Karina asked and dried her hands.

“A very big number,” Greta answered.

“All of us,” Snowflake said.  “And elves and dwarfs and spooky dark elves and everyone.”

“Lady,” Mavis came in, followed by a streak of light. Chip caught Snowflake and they circled and danced in mid-air while Karina scooped up Padme.  “Everyone is coming to discuss what to do,” Mavis finished her announcement.

“Father,” Greta called, and she heard the moan of an old man who would rather be taking a nap.  “Snowflake.  You need to sit on my shoulder and be quiet.”  Snowflake flew over, Chip beside her.

“Yes, Lady,” Snowflake made herself comfortable. Father did not have far to go to sit in the end seat.

“Chip.  You need to sit on my father’s shoulder, and please don’t say anything unless you are asked a question.”

“Yes Lady,” Chip said, and to Father he added, “It is an honor, sir.”  Father brushed off his shoulder with one hand and when Chip got seated, Father found he had a few questions after all.

As Darius, Bragi and the others came in for the meeting, Karina spoke just loud enough for Greta to hear.  “Padme and I will be in the back, sitting on the pot.   I am sure we will be more productive than one of your meetings.”

###

The troop rode through the night and arrived at the legion camp well before dawn.  Everyone had their assigned tasks, and they moved swiftly after swearing the guards and the night watch to silence.  The word they put out was the Scythians had been spotted and they were there to discuss the situation in Porolissum, just in case word went ahead of them.  There always seemed to be one suck-up who would go running to the General.  They claimed to be gathering the officers for a conference, but in truth they rounded up two tribunes, six centurions, a dozen top sergeants, a standard bearer, a trumpet master, three scouts and several other commanders, and they arrested them along with the General.

Mithraism remained a religion whose ceremonies and sacraments were closely guarded secrets of the initiates.  But Mithraism itself got on the list of officially approved religions of the empire because Mithrites could also claim to worship the traditional gods of Rome, and even sacrificed to Antonius Pius’ dead wife, the love of the divine emperor.  Because of this, many men were open about admitting they were Mithrites. Christianity, by contrast, did not get on the acceptable list, primarily because Christians only worshiped Christ. Christians refused to participate in the pagan worship and festivals around them and steadfastly refused to sacrifice to the emperor.  This regularly got painted as disloyalty to Rome, true or not, and at times Christians got killed as traitors no matter how much they protested.  Thus, Christians tended to keep to the shadows in most places, but in this case, Darius and Alesander sought them out.

One hundred confessing Christians brought down from Porolissum now formed the foundation for the guards who held eight hundred Mithrites in an open field.  General Pontius had been working on his legion over the years, but affecting the various transfers seemed a bureaucratic nightmare and a very slow process. The general’s staff all got arrested, but some of general’s officers and troop commanders appeared to be Mithras free.

“Of course, we will still have to watch them.” Alesander stated the obvious.

R6 Greta: Home to Porolissum, part 3 of 3

“You have lovely children,” Rhiannon said, recognizing Karina’s continued distress.  Poor Karina seemed to be deciding if Rhiannon was not a goddess, she ought to be.  Poor Greta felt very ordinary.  She had her yellow hair braided down her back at the moment because, while it was as clean and set as it had ever been, if she let it loose, it had a mind of its own and would never behave.  Besides, she had freckles, and a big nose, and short legs and a big butt, and fat hands, and she constantly fought against getting fat like her mother, and she would have gone on for a while if she did not hear a call from the distance.

“Lady!”  Mavis raced up, jumped before the horse even stopped, and fell into Greta’s arms for a hug. “I thought I lost you forever, too.  But Pincushion said you were still alive, and I felt it.”  Mavis cried.

Darius was the next to arrive, and Mavis stepped aside so he could throw his arms around Greta and squeeze her.  All thoughts about life and war and death went away for a while so Darius and Greta could get lost in their kiss.  When they took a breath, Greta scooted back a little and looked at her belly with a word.  “You don’t want to crush the baby.”

“Are you?  Did you?”

“Of course.  What did you think you were doing before you went away?”

“Making good memories?”

“You made more than good memories,” Greta patted her belly which was beginning to bump, and grinned as she thought through her own memories.

“Hello baby,” Darius leaned down.  “Are you Marcus or another girl?”

“I’m only half-way there, not even half,” Greta protested as if to say she had no way of knowing for sure.  Honestly, she knew he would be Marcus, but she wanted to tease Darius first.  Before Greta could say anything else, the crowd showed up.  Bragi ran to her and Hans.  Father tried to run, but his leg where he got wounded stayed stiff and uncooperative.  Alesander, Vedix and Briana were all there.  Pincushion even ran to yell at Bogus, but Hermes was not there.  Mavis began to cry, and this time Greta ignored the others and went to hug her handmaid.

“He was like a father to her,” Briana explained later. “She said she had no father, since he died in the days of the Wolv invasion, which you didn’t tell us about. She said she followed her mother up here from Thrace a hundred years ago to escape the memory of their loss.”

“On Hermes’ part,” Alesander took up the telling. “He had a family in Greece, but they were killed by brigands who were pirates in the Aegean and sheltered in the Pindar Mountains.  He joined the auxiliary troop to hunt down the brigands, and he succeeded, but then he had nothing to go home for, so he stayed with the military.  He served all around the Black Sea and in Asia, including once in Syria, before his troop got assigned here after the last rebellion. He said Mavis reminded him of his daughter and was about the age his daughter would have been.  I don’t know about that, but they were close.”

“Two Scythians drew their swords on us in the meeting.  Hermes saved my life,” Vedix added.

“He saved all of our lives,” Briana said.

“Lucius is the Mars.”  Alesander blurted it out and stiffened his lip to speak without emotion. “He said he had been moving among the Iranian people for a hundred and fifty years and infiltrated the Roman ranks a hundred years ago.  He said everything was ready to build the new Empire of the Gods, but he decided some time back that the others were just using him to do all the leg work and build the new army.  He said it was easy to get lost in a Roman legion and attached himself to my century ten years ago in Gaul.  But he was not surprised when I got transferred to the Gemina XIII in Dacia. The others conspired, he said, to position him for the plan.”

“What plan?” Greta wondered out loud.  “That is the question.”

While Pincushion and Karina fixed supper, Rhiannon stepped up to Greta for a private moment.  “I have all I need from here,” she said.  “But I have stayed too long at the fair.  I have my own work to do and must leave.  Besides, Briana and Vedix will eat better if I am not seated at the same table.”

“So, what did you figure out?” Greta asked quickly before Rhiannon could vanish.  Darius stepped up and slipped his arm over Greta’s shoulder while he smiled for their guest.  Not to say it would have been possible to look at Rhiannon and not smile.

“No, no.”  Rhiannon returned the smile and shook her finger.  “That is for me to know and you to find out.  But I will say, I think Mother may be right.  It is past time to let go of the Gaelic enclave and Latinize my people.  They need to be integrated into the Roman fold to avoid being wiped out by the Lazyges, if nothing else.”

“Sounds like work,” Darius said, not quite following the conversation.

Rhiannon smiled again at that thought.  “I would rather have something to do.  Sitting all day long, guarding the apples of Avalon and playing chess would bore me silly.”

“Who?  No, wait. What brought the apples of Avalon to mind?”  Greta got suspicious and Rhiannon’s face showed that she said too much.

“Apollo took the last basket full I know of.  The rest are safe,” she was continuing to spout, and knew it.  “I have to go.”  Rhiannon vanished, and Darius opened his eyes as wide as they could open.

“She was not one of your little ones, I could tell,” Darius said.

Briana ran up and pointed at the empty spot where Rhiannon had been.  “That was—”

“Yes, it was,” Greta said, and she took Darius inside where she could get warm.

Supper became an interesting affair.  Bragi borrowed a neighbor’s table and put it end to end with his own table to fit everyone.  As it was, Father at one end had his back to the big fireplace, which he said he did not mind, cold as it was outside, and Bragi at the other end sat up to the door, and got cold, but he did not complain.  Karina sat next to her husband on the kitchen side where she could fetch whatever was needed and keep one eye on the children who sat on the kitchen floor.  Then came Pincushion, Karina’s fellow cook, followed by Bogus, Vedix, Greta and Darius next to Greta’s father.

Hans sat next to Father on the other side, followed by Berry, Alesander, Briana, Hobknot and Fae next to Bragi.  Fae was a wise human woman for seventy years before she became a dwarf, so Greta figured her conversation should be safe for brotherly consumption.

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

MONDAY

Time get to work. The enemy is on the horizon  Until then, Happy Reading

*

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.