R5 Greta: How May Miles to Avalon? part 3 of 3

Greta did not answer.  She got busy helping Fae up the little hill.  Berry also got preoccupied, back on Greta’s shoulder, sticking her head out behind and sticking her tongue out at the receding ogre.

“Fascinating,” Fae said.  “Such a big and frightening brute.”

“Yes, I know,” Greta said.  “I’m sorry.” As if she was personally responsible.

“And yet, very child-like in a way,” Fae concluded.

“In a way,” Greta agreed.  “After a fashion.  Oh, let’s face it, most ogres are not even the sharpest spoon in the drawer.”

“Fascinating,” Fae said again.  “And I know what you say is true.”

When they reached more level ground, Greta ventured a question.

“Bogus, you are Berry’s uncle?”

“Yes, I am,” Bogus said.

“He lies.” Fae got right on him.  Greta, Berry and Bogus all looked at her.

“Well, no.” Bogus took a side step.  “Actually, I am more like her great uncle.”

“He lies.” Fae said, and Bogus looked very uncomfortable.  He looked inclined to say no more, but Greta felt curious.  They all were.

“What, exactly is your relationship to Berry?”  Greta asked.

“Yes, what?” Berry wanted to know.

“It is kind of complicated,” Bogus hedged.

“He—” That was all Fae could get out before Bogus yelled.

“All right! I’m her grandfather.  Got it?”

Greta could tell this came as news to Berry.  “You are her grandfather,” Greta confirmed.

“Yes, look. We need to stop here a minute.” Bogus quickly changed the subject. “You can rest and I will be back in a minute, I promise,” he said, and looked at Fae, pleading.

“He does not lie,” Fae said, so Greta nodded.  She would not mind a minute’s rest.  She felt sure Fae would not mind.  Berry quickly jumped to Fae’s lap.  She knew Greta had questions.

“So, who was the flyer in your family?”  Greta asked.

Berry shook her head, and then perked up.  “Bogus has wings, but he never uses them.  I don’t think they work right,” she said.  She thought some more.  “Bogus said his mother was a flyer.”  She looked proud to have remembered that.

Greta nodded. It did not make sense to look at them, but it made perfect sense in the folded, convoluted universe of the little ones. She got ready to say something when Fae spoke.

“There is a chill in the air.”  Greta felt the same, and it caused her to look around.

“It’s a bodiless.”  Berry named it, and Greta shrieked as the ghost came out of the tree right beside her. She had to stand and scoot back to keep the ghost from walking right through her.  It looked like a Roman, and an officer at that.  They all saw him well enough, but oddly, he did not seem to see them.

“Roman,” Berry said.  “I should have remembered this was his place.  Roman!”  She called to the ghost and the ghost stopped.  At first the ghost looked around as if something did not quite penetrate. “Roman.  Why are you here?  You frightened us.”

“Little mistress?” The Roman communicated after a fashion.

“Where are you going, Roman?”  Berry asked.

“Round and round. I do not know.  I cannot find my way.  It is so dark.”  The ghost seemed to look at Greta, and then more nearly looked through Greta.  “Do you know the way out?” he asked.

Greta let go of her little prayer and spoke.  “The rebellion is over.  Rome has won. The emperor says to come home, now. You are ordered to come home.”

The Roman took off his helmet and appeared to put his hand through his hair.  It appeared as only a slight wind.  Berry flew back beside Fae.  This seemed new to her.

The ghost smiled for a minute and they all caught the sense of home.  Then the ghost vanished altogether.

“What did you do?” Berry asked, and leapt for the protection of Fae’s hair.  “Where did he go?”

“She sent him home,” Fae answered, even as Bogus showed up.

“Back like I promised.”  Bogus said, but he eyed Greta harder than ever.  “You must be made of stronger stuff than most humans.”

“No,” Greta said. “Same stuff, just a little more experienced is all.”

“So, who are you?” he asked.

“A sister who wants her brother,” she answered.  “You know the instructions of the goddess.  Now, no more tricks.”

“Oh sure.” Bogus almost sneered as the sarcasm crept into his voice.  “And I suppose you always do what your god tells you.”

Greta could not fairly answer that with Fae around.  “All the same,” she said.  “I want my brother back and the day is drawing on.”

“Little do you know,” Bogus chuckled and rubbed his hands.

“Bogus,” Greta got through fooling around.  “You must take me to my brother, right now.”  She compelled him.

“Well, if I must I must,” he said, and he started to walk.  “Though my better nature asks why?”  He mumbled again.  “If I were in my right mind I wouldn’t do it.  Not in a million years.  So that’s it, then.  I’ve gone completely bonkers.  Lock me up and throw away the key.  See, my feet are moving, and in the right direction, too.  I must be mad.  Well, here we are.”

Greta stepped up and saw Hans dancing with a woodwife while two little imps made wild music on a pipe and a drum.  Several woodwives stood around, clapping and waiting to take their turn at the dance. Hans had been dancing for nearly three days and three nights.

“Greta.” Hans saw her.  “I’m sorry I left the camp, but isn’t this wonderful?”

“Stop.  Stop the music,” Greta insisted, and the music stopped.  “And how long have you been dancing?”

“Not more than a few minutes,” Hans said.  “I was about to come back.”  He collapsed. Greta rushed up to put his head in her lap, but he had already fallen asleep.

“Hey Bogus.” Greta heard one of the imps. “What happened?  It’s still today.”

“What?  Not possible,” Bogus said.  “I’ve been walking them in circles for days.  It must be the day after tomorrow at least.”

“No, it’s still today, I tell you.”

“Ragwart.” Bogus called for a second opinion. “How many days since we left the river?”

“Same day,” Ragwart said.  “Just like Gorse told you.”  Gorse nodded and Bogus turned to face Greta but Greta spoke first.

“We need food,” she said.  “Hans must be absolutely starving.  And then I want to go straight back to the river without tricks.  I want to be back in the village before dark.”  She did not want to spend another night in the haunted woods.  Gorse and Ragwart volunteered to fetch the food while Bogus tried one last time.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I am the Traveler, Greta,” she finally told him.

“The Kairos, the goddess,” Bogus said.  “Pots and kranky bits!”  He started to swear, though he had actually figured it out, but he stopped as Greta held up her hand, having more to say.

“More important,” she said.  “Fae and Berry are both your granddaughters.”

“What?” Bogus jumped about four feet straight up.

“Not possible,” Fae said.  “I am seventy years old and Berry can’t be more than thirteen.”

Greta shook her head while Berry spoke up.  “I’m seventy,” Berry said.

“It’s true,” Greta said.  “The little ones age much more slowly, but twins were born and Fae stayed with the humans while Berry was given to the fee.”

“Honkin beans!” Bogus yelled.  “Great horned butt headed goblins and ogre snot!  I’ll be the laughing stock of every spirit between here and Davy Jones.”  His language got rather colorful after that as Ragwart returned.

“Eats is ready,” Ragwart said, having missed everything up to that point.

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

MONDAY

Playing with the sprites is all fine and well, but at some point, Greta has to return to reality.  he has guns to deal with, and a rebellion getting out of hand in Ravenshold.  Next week, Back to the World.  Until then…

*

R5 Festuscato: The Cad in Ravena, part 1 of 3

In 438, the Emperor of the East, Theodosius published a work which said, this is what Roman law is, like it or lump it.  It read full of morals.  In 438, with only minor incidents, most recently concerning young women, Festuscato turned twenty-two and Mirowen, who had not aged a bit, said he no longer needed a governess, he needed a conscience.  She knew he was a good boy, but he liked to push the boundaries.  She said he never got over being a rebellious eight, quick to wrestle in the mud and come home smelling of stolen oranges.

In 438, Festuscato headed north into Gaul where the western empire started falling apart, despite the great work of General Aetius.  The how and why of that actually began in mid-summer, 437 with a message from Ravena.

Over twelve years, neither Festuscato nor Mirowen heard a thing from Ravena, the capital, where Galla Placidia ruled over her son and everybody else.  Festuscato sometimes thought about General Aetius and his several, brilliant victories, and his even more brilliant decision to stay in Gaul and not get involved in Roman politics.  Aetius and his Hun friends had backed Joannes, the loser, but he was not the sort of man to repeat a mistake.

Sometimes Festuscato thought about Bishop Guithelm up in Londinium.  The British folk called it Londugnum.  He wanted to go there.  Between Mirowen and what British house servants he still had left, he became fascinated with the whole notion of Britain, what Rome called Britannia.  He called it Gerraint land.

“So, tell me, Julia.  How many Britons does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

“I’m sure I wouldn’t know,” Julia squeaked and slipped down beneath the covers.

Mirowen stomped in, no knocking, no warning.  “Rise and shine,” she said and drew back the curtains.

“Is it noon already?”  Festuscato squinted at the influx of light.

“No.  It’s morning.  You remember morning, don’t you?”

“Oh yes, the bright time,” Festuscato said, and drew the covers over his head.  Julia giggled.

“Hey.  You have a message from the capital, and Gaius is here to visit.”  Mirowen pulled the covers part way back.  She did not pull them further because she did not want to see.

“I’ll be right down,” Festuscato squeaked this time, and thought how glad he was that he had not been betrothed to some Roman.

An hour later, Festuscato sauntered down the stairs.  “I think this one can go out the front door for a change.”  He held his hand out in front of his chest.  “She has such nice, big—”

“I don’t want to hear about it,” Mirowen pointed.  Gaius stood in his clerical garb.

“Forgive me father, for I have sinned.”

“So, what else is new?” Gaius responded.

“I will never get over you being a priest,” Festuscato said.  “Felix took up the mercantile business.  Lowest priced silk in the west.  And Dibs, poor fellow, took up the honorable profession of killing people. I hope General Aetius gave him a plum assignment.  But you…”

“Comes from Princess Mirowen forcing us to learn our letters, in Latin and Greek.  It was the only way to get you to learn,” Gaius said. “By the way, your philandering has reached the pope’s ears.  Every time he passes me in the hall, he just looks and shakes his head.”

“Glad to give the old fellow something to do besides count.  I mean, Xystus the Third?  He should be Xystus the Sixth, or maybe Tertius the Third.”

“Not funny, Festus,” Gaius said.  “But good try.”

“Ahem,” Mirowen coughed in her special way that got both boys quiet and listening. “Senator.  Your messenger is waiting.”  She pointed to the central court in the house.  Festuscato and Gaius moved along, but Festuscato could not help whispering.

“Probably a summons from the senate for missing too many meetings, or maybe for double parking.”

The messenger, a soldier, a centurion by rank, did not seem the normal messenger the senate would send, unless they were getting creative.  The man stood straight up and said, “Lord Agitus?”

“My, you look tired and hungry, I bet.  Sibelius. Drucilla.”  Festuscato called, and two remarkably young and beautiful women came immediately.

“Yes, Lord.” They dropped their eyes.

“Our guest has been kind enough to wait while I attended to business.”  Mirowen, Gaius and both girls stared at him.  “Well, bring him something refreshing to drink, and maybe some of those little ham sandwiches I showed you how to make.  Er, you aren’t Jewish, are you?  No?  Fine. Maybe whip up some scrambled eggs and sausage for me.  Business always makes me hungry, and try not to burn the toast.”  He turned to the centurion.  “I don’t know why they always have to burn the toast.  Now, you were saying?”

The centurion appreciated the females, and especially had one eye on Drucilla, which Mirowen noticed.  “Lord Agitus,” he began again.

“Oh, but I bet you were riding all morning,” Festuscato interrupted.  “Do have a seat.  We have few formalities in this house.  Sit.  Sit. That’s right.”  There were simple chairs, and a table with an umbrella for the outdoors which Festuscato had specially made.

“Lord Agitus.”

Festuscato took a breath to speak again, but Gaius touched his arm.  “Let the man speak,” he said.

Festuscato nodded. “I was having fun.  But I always listen to my priest, after my housekeeper, that is.  She is the scary one.”

“Like you ever listened to me,” Mirowen said and sat with the group.  “You have a name?”

“Julius, mum,” he said, with a smile for Mirowen before he turned to Festuscato with determination on his face.  “Lord. You are summoned to Ravena.  My century is here to provide safe escort.”