R6 Greta: Cleaning Up, part 1 of 3

Greta took her seat on the battements and stewed all afternoon.  She kept her eyes on the enemy in the distance and fretted.  There did not seem to be much movement, not much to see, but they were still there.  They did not look to be leaving anytime soon, and that worried her.  She knew she should have been tending the wounded. That was her real job, not the Kairos’ job, it remained Greta’s job, but she felt bloated, and rotten like the weather, and drained from a day that seemed too long already.  She slept briefly in her chair, a cold afternoon nap, but woke up covered in blankets, a pillow on the ground, which she guessed had once been put behind her head.  Someone cared.

Pincushion made her eat some soup which was not hard because it tasted really good, and Greta had the good sense not to ask what was in it.  Then Pincushion, Karina and Snowflake went off to play with the children.  Greta got grumpy.  She missed her children.

Goldenrod and Oreona checked on her and told her Ulladon was sleeping in the deeps.  They were happy that things went so well, but Greta added, “so far,” and she did not feel sure how well things really went.  The reports she got in passing were a thousand defenders dead and a thousand who would be dead soon enough.  Darius told her there were as many as five hundred or so, a rough estimate, who might be saved if the Roman physicians and various tribal healers could hack off enough limbs before they got infected.  Greta knew in practice, more than half of them would die as well.

The rest of the men were in good spirits, her Father told her.  She listened. He said beyond their casualties, there were as many as a thousand more among the various groups of people who would survive and heal, but who were wounded seriously enough to where they would not be fighting much.  He said both Hans and Bragi fought well and she should be proud of her brothers.  He said he was glad Mother stayed with the children, far away from there.  Icechip, still riding on Father’s shoulder, picked up something of Greta’s distress.

“I never knew what war was like before.  I’m sorry so many had to die,” he said, and it sounded heart felt.

Greta sniffed and turned her back on them and Father left with a word that he would check on her again, later.  She missed her children.

Mavis went off with Hermes and Captain Ardacles’ troop to clean up the mess, as she called it.  Wagons went out over the field all afternoon collecting the dead and wounded.  By two o’clock, it began to drizzle softy and Rhiannon showed up.  She said nothing, but made something like a beach umbrella against the rain so Greta could continue to sit and stay dry.  It felt like Rhiannon wanted to say something, but she did not.  She looked sad when she disappeared into the misty rain.

Vedix and Bogus came and sat with her for a while. Neither said much, not even to each other, and after a time they quit the rain and went to find shelter. Alesander and Briana showed up moments later and Briana had an announcement.

“We want to get married.”

“And this is news?” Greta asked.

“Her father has given his blessing if it is all right with you,” Alesander said, and kissed Briana on the cheek.  She responded with a loving and happy face.

“I have said a thousand times, I will not be the decider of such things.”  Greta sounded angry, though she did not mean to be.  “You know what marriage is.  The union between one man and one woman is not to be entered into lightly, but if it is what you want, it is not my place to approve or object.  Personally, I wish you nothing but happiness, but you make your own decisions.”

“So, yes?” Briana asked.

“Yes.  Go on. Have fun.  Get fat.  Have babies. Scat.”  Greta snorted and looked across the field, though in the drizzle, she could hardly see the enemy.  She knew Briana and Alesander stood and kissed for a while, but she ignored them and paid no attention when they left, holding tight to each other and laughing at the rain.

It became four, or close enough.  The sky got ready to turn a dreary afternoon into the equivalent of an early night, when Greta thought she finally saw some movement in the distant camps.  She listened in her mind and caught words first from Longbow, the elf.

“The Scythian chief has convinced the others to make one last try.  He says they damaged the defenders in the first attacks and now the defenders are weak and ready to fall.  He says they would all be cowards if they ran away.  One good drive against the center, and the Romans will break and fall apart is what he says.  He knows the Legion in Porolissum is the only serious Roman presence in the whole province, and once they break through there will be nothing to stand in their way all the way to the Danube.  All of the outsider tribes are leery, but the Scythian has convinced half of the Sarmatians to lead the charge.  That is about five thousand lances.”

“The other tribes will follow,” Treeborn the fairy King interrupted.  “They are preparing as we speak.”

Lord Horns added one thought.  “Though they no longer feel the urging of Mithras, I think the Scythian chief is interested in what he calls the mountain of gold that the Romans have mined and guarded so carefully.”

“Don’t I know it,” Portent peeped, and Greta cut off the long-distance conversation.  Now she had a headache and was not sure if it would turn into a migraine.

Greta stood alone when she stood.  She looked over at the men’s side where Tribune Hadrianus had a tarp erected against the rain.  The constant drizzle actually stopped an hour earlier, but the sky remained as dark and dreary as it had been all day, and water continued to drip now and then off the edge of the tarp where the water had collected.

Darius, who spent the day watching her from a distance and feeling powerless to comfort her, noticed right away when she stood. Cecil saw and pointed.  Olaf, Venislav and Hadrianus all looked and genuine concern covered their faces.  “Darius,” Greta called, and he came to hear what she had to say.  The others followed out of curiosity,

“They are preparing for another attack.  The Scythian chief will not let them wait until the morning for fear they may desert in the night.  They believe the legion here is the only thing standing between them and the riches of Dacia.  They believe the legion is the only form of Roman power in the province. They are wrong.”  Greta scooted up to Darius and gave him a quick kiss with a word.  “Pardon me, my love.”  She went away, and Amphitrite, the one worshiped as Salacia by the Romans, the wife of Neptune, god of the sea, came to stand in her place.  Olaf, Cecil and Venislav all took a step back.  Hadrianus looked too stunned to move, but Darius grinned and hid his grin as Salacia shouted at the sky.

“Fluffer, Sprinkles, Bubbles, get ready for a wild ride.” Salacia raised her hands, reached into the sky and took hold of the clouds.  She caused a great wind to blow over her shoulder, and another to come pouring over the distant mountains.  They crashed over the enemy camps with hurricane force, and Salacia squeezed her hands.  Torrents of rain fell and whipped through the wind.  It drove the men back and some men drowned from the fury of the liquid assault. A number of tornados formed from the contrary winds, and men panicked.

Many men scattered and fell to the ground in fear, or were lifted by the winds and slammed again on the ground or blown for miles. Tents were ripped up and shredded. Horses stampeded.  Some men, horses, wagons and equipment got caught in the tornadoes and tossed away, sometimes landing on other men.  When Salacia really got things going, she began to dance with glee on the battlement.  The wind ripped up whole trees and threw around wagon-sized boulders. The rain came with hail the size of bowling balls and sleet that fell in whole sheets of sharp edges.  Then at once, Salacia decided it was enough, and it all stopped, instantly.

Salacia let her face appear on the clouds where she could look down on the devastation she caused and the survivors who cowered all over the ground.  They looked so puny and helpless, but Salacia thought there still might be something to say. She said two words.  “Go home,” and the words were not only heard and understood by all, but they reverberated for a moment inside thousands of minds. Then Salacia returned in her power to the battement on which she physically stood.

“Forgive me father, for I have sinned,” Salacia said, almost too softy to hear, but she grinned as she thought of Festuscato, and she frowned as she thought of all those ships and sailors who died at sea when her temper flared after Poseidon did something stupid.  Then she smiled again as she remembered her cult had always been one to care for the widows and orphans of the sea, a small payment for her guilt, and she thought of her friends and her own children, Triton, Proteus and Nyssa.  She frowned again when she remembered poor Orion, and how she lost him in a terrible accident, and even as a goddess, she could not do anything to save him.  She went away and let Greta return, and Greta reached up to Darius for another kiss, which Darius was happy to give.

“Sorry love,” she said, and with one hand on her belly and without another word, she turned and walked slowly back to Karina’s house where she had the best sleep she had in years.  When she woke up the next morning, there was not an enemy to be found, and she finished Salacia’s thought about children by admitting she missed her own.

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.

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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: The End of the Day, part 2 of 3

“Anything else?”  Greta stood.

“No.  I need to finish these correspondences now.  I want the couriers to leave for Rome in the morning,” he said.

“I suppose I had better go prepare myself to go to Rome,” she said.  “To meet Darius’ father, and probably your father, too.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Marcus said. He looked up one last time.  “A sweet barbarian girl like you with all of your special talents.  Lady goddess.”  He smiled and half saluted in Greta’s direction.

Greta returned his smile.  “Big oaf.”  And she returned his half salute before she stepped into the hallway.  She heard Marcus ask the General.  “What is an oaf?”  She almost felt the General shrug as she traded places through time with Salacia and Salacia caused the two men to freeze where they stood.  She felt sorry for what she had to do, but it got decided the day before when Greta had to call on the good Doctor Mishka to dig a few bullets out of the wounded.  She felt especially sorry for Marcus.  He had become so human, so alive in these back woods.  She felt sure it would kill him.

Salacia floated out over the battlefield.  A full day later, and there were still bodies littered all around.  Nearly a thousand men had been killed in the battle.  That number would triple, perhaps quadruple in the days and weeks ahead. Salacia was not authorized to simply heal everyone.  Generally, sparing people from the consequences of their actions was the worst thing a goddess could do.  There were rare exceptions, but this was not one of them, and Salacia felt sorry for that as well.

Salacia floated to earth and materialized beside the main stream which flowed out of the remains of the mount.  She supposed her appearance looked like the appearance of Glinda, the good witch of the north.  She did not mean for it to be that way, but she did not really pay attention.  She imagined some men saw her appear and fell to their faces.  She felt sorry to ignore them, too.

Her attention stayed riveted on the top part of the great statue of Odin.  The head, one arm upraised in blessing, and the chest were planted firmly in the mud beside the new stream.  It looked very much like the top of the statue of liberty at the end of the original Planet of the Apes movie.

Vasen stood there, staring at the statue, weeping softly.  Apparently, Marcus decided to leave the Priest alone.  When Salacia walked up beside the man, she became fully manifest but had toned down her awesome nature to near human levels.  She might have passed for an ordinary lady out for a stroll apart from being so inhumanly beautiful and attractive.

Vasen looked up.  “It’s all gone, you know.”  He spoke through his tears.

“Nonsense,” she said.  “It has not yet begun.”  With a mere thought, she pushed the edges of the mount into the deep until it truly became a large lake, fed by underground springs.  Her mind followed the stream as it ran through the forest, and she only altered the course slightly to make it meet the Sylvan River at the swamps.  She wanted the stream to clean out some of the horrors of that area, and she made it so.

Vasen stood up.  He watched her, curious.  She lifted her arms.  All of the guns, the bullets and everything that did not belong in that time floated up in the air, and in a wink, she sent it to Avalon.  They were museum pieces now.

“Excuse me, my Lady,” Vasen spoke.  “Do I know you?”

“After a fashion,” she said.  “My name is Amphitrite, but the Romans call me Salacia in their tongue.”

“I’m sorry?”  Vasen looked confused.  “But a fine lady such as yourself should not be out here on the battlefield.  There are still things about that a lady should not see.”

“Nonsense,” Salacia said again.  “But I really came only to say goodbye to Granfather Woden.” She blew a gentle kiss to the statue, and the statue quietly crumbled to so much gravel.  She made the gravel line the bed of the new stream.

Vasen went to his knees.  He began to weep again.  “goddess.”  He called her rightly.  “Why did the temple have to be destroyed?  It is all gone now.”

“Hush,” she said and brushed his hair with her hand. “I told you once already.  Men will come, from the Greeks, the Macedonians, from Byzantium and the East, and they will be clothed in power from the Most-High.  They will speak of the one who was raised up on the third day, and all of the people will be drawn to them, to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” Salacia kissed the top of Vasen’s head, and he forgot all about the weapons of Trajan.  An earthquake released the water from below and that destroyed both the temple and the mount.  The people were in plain rebellion, but the Romans and the people with them won the day, and turned back the invasion of the Quadi, besides.  She let that thought ripple out from that place like one stone thrown into a calm pool.  The circle of forgetfulness spread until it reached for miles and miles.

Vasen calmed when she kissed him a second time.  He forgot all about the little ones, about Thorn and Thissle, about Avalon, and Greta’s place among them.  She let this also spread, but certain ones she protected. The Romans, Dacians and Celts all thought the knights of the lance belonged to the others, and that, she felt, might help keep some in line.  Vasen even forgot his vision of the goddess hovering over him that moment, but Salacia left the vision of Danna among the Celts.  She hoped that vision would promote peace.  Then like the ripples from the pebble, she let that fading of the memory spread out from there until it touched all whom it needed to touch.

Salacia vanished from that place and appeared in the secret place in the forest.

Bogus the Skin, Gorse, Ragwart and Thunderhead all appeared.  They had no choice, though Thunderhead kept sleeping.

Bogus uncovered his head and nudged Ragwart to do the same.  “It’s not our lady, Greta,” he whispered to Gorse.  “It’s out great lady herself.”

“I can see that,” Gorse whispered back, and whipped off his hat.

“What?”  Ragwart did not quite catch it.

“We’ve stopped all eleven riders,” Bogus said, and took a very humble step forward.  “I don’t believe any got through.”  He pointed to a great pile of things.  There were a couple of guns, but mostly spears, swords, a couple of tents, several cooking pots minus the ones the little ones kept, one wagon load of mason tools, and so on.  And there were only three riders.

“Thank you,” Salacia said, and smiled, and loved them dearly.  She sent the pile to Avalon and sent Thunderhead back to his bed, never to know he had not been there the whole time.  “Berry is fully human now,” she told Bogus.  “But if you have Fae for a time, be content.  Only try not to corrupt her.  She is a sweet woman, and remember she is still half human.”

“Too late,” Bogus said.  “If she has taken up with that old bachelor, Hobknot, you can be sure she’s been corrupted already.”  Bogus shook his head.

Salacia laughed a merry little laugh.  “Be good boys.  No more stealing,” she said, and disappeared to appear instantly where Fae, Hobknot, Thorn and Thissle were celebrating their survival.

“Oh, dear,” Fae said.

“Great Lady.”  Thissle curtsied, fairy style, as well as she could.

Thorn and Hobknot were quiet, but Salacia knew why.

“No.”  She said, simply.  “You cannot go to Greta’s wedding.  You know the rule.  You may have a celebration apart, but you are not allowed to mingle with humans.”  She got firm and sounded like the roar of thunderous waters crashing against the rocks.  Such interactions caused no end of trouble and caused her no end of headaches. “Now Fae.”  She went on a little less firm.  “You may visit your sister from time to time, but make sure you are not seen.  Your work may still be in this world, but your place is now separate and apart.”

Hobknot lifted his hand and looked so uncharacteristically meek, Salacia almost laughed again.  She handed him two bags of grain and seed, and two containers of milk and one of sweet honey.  She gave the same to Thorn and Thissle, though they claimed they needed nothing.

“Remember Nameless in the spring, and the Don, the mother goddess in the fall.”  Salacia said.  “Remember Junior whenever the north wind blows, and me in the long, hot summer. Think of me wherever the waters run cool and clean.”  She vanished. She went to see Hans and Berry.

R5 Greta: The Fire and the Dark, part 2 of 3

Greta turned last of all to face Hans.  “You broke your word,” she said, through clenched teeth.

“I couldn’t help it.”  Hans let out his well-rehearsed protest.  “It was the smell of those sweets.  It was overpowering.  I was enchanted before I tasted the first one.  I couldn’t help it.”

“Stop it Hans,” Greta said.  “Hansel.” She rubbed it in.  “You had your mind made up before we ever got to the cabin. You lied to me and broke your word. How can I trust you?”

“Really.” Hans still defended himself.  “I saw the smoke and I knew that was where I had to be.  I couldn’t help it.”

Greta nearly let out all her anger, fear, and upset in that one moment, but that would not have been fair.  She heard some truth in what Hans said, so she sniffed and held it all back.  “You could have resisted,” she said, in a hard, small voice, which suggested much more behind her words.  Hans did not argue.  He simply looked at the ground and got quiet.  “This is a dangerous place,” Greta went on.  “You must do what I tell you or you will get us both killed.”

“I promise,” Hans said, much too loudly and much too quickly.  Greta stared at him, and he saw the anger and disappointment in her eyes. He lowered his voice and spoke more carefully.  “I’m sorry. I really do promise this time.”

Greta said no more about it, and they started down the east side of the hill and back into the heart of the forest.

The forest changed on the east side to more fir and pine, characteristic of the land around Ravenshold.  More underbrush grew beneath the trees, particularly thorns, briars and nettles that caught the clothing unless they were careful.  Hans caught his backpack twice, once rather badly, which put a tear in the blanket.  Greta put a small hole in her dress, but it hardly looked noticeable.

About half way down the hill, they came across a stream.  At first, they thought it would ease their descent, but the spring water proved too cold for their sandaled feet.  What is more, the rocks in that stream were all green and moss covered, making them very slippery and unsafe.  They followed the stream as well as they could, Greta grateful for the fresh water.  Toward the bottom of the hill, the stream cascaded off a twenty-foot outcropping in a little waterfall before it made a dramatic turn toward the river.  It took some going out of their way to find a place where they could climb down safely.

When they returned to the bottom of the waterfall, Greta found that the rock curved inward at a nice angle to make a natural shelter.  She checked the sun as well as she could and decided this would be as good a place as any to stop for the day.  Hans looked tired, and honestly, so was she.  While Hans went in search of firewood, Greta did her best to gather kindling and get things ready.  She dug down to the dirt and just started to set stones around it in a circle when Hans came back with his eyes big and his behavior strange.

“What is it?” Greta asked.  “A bear?”

“No, something spooky,” Hans insisted.  “There are sounds and lights and noises behind me, but when I turn around it is still behind me, like breathing on my neck and about to grab me from behind.  I kept turning, but it stayed always behind me.”

“Well,” Greta said, still struggling with her hurt and disappointment with Hans.  “There’s nothing there now.”  All the same, Hans craned his neck as far back as he could, he did a little dance like someone covered in cobwebs, and then he breathed.

“Start the fire,” Greta said and tossed him the tinder box.  “I’ll get the wood.”  And she smirked a little, though she did not mean to.

“It’s not funny,” Hans reacted.  “I’m not kidding.  There’s something out there.”  Greta just turned and went thinking two things at once; that in this place she ought to take Hans more seriously, yet after the morning performance, how could she believe him?

Just inside the tree line, some twenty paces out, she found a recently fallen tree.  The tree looked dead and dry, but not there long enough to be filled with worms, maggots, and dry rot.  She started to gather up the branches when she felt it. It felt like fingers or a hairy legged spider crawling up her back.  She spun around and put her back to the tree.

“Who is out there?”  she asked in a loud whisper.  “I don’t appreciate the spooky stuff.  I have already been upset once today, now please don’t make me angry.”  This, whatever it might be, was going to get the full force of her vented anger if it didn’t cut it out.

She turned to pick up her wood and felt the creepies on her leg.  “That’s it!”  She screamed, and Greta no longer stood there.  Amphitrite, Salacia to the Latins, queen of the sea stood there instead and she felt everything Greta felt.  She had pushed her way to the front because she knew how to vent better than most. She floated up about six feet. Her anger became hurricane in proportion, and she blew for a good five minutes.  More trees got killed by lightening or blown down by the wind in those minutes than had been damaged in the last hundred years.  Several miles away, the little Sylvan river boiled over its’ banks and became a temporary swamp, flooding everything for miles. Even the cascading stream became a torrential waterfall, which swept away Greta’s pile of sticks and frightened Hans half to death.  And it rained so hard at that time, Hans had to duck under the rock outcropping just to breathe.

Then, as always happens with a storm at sea, after that time, Salacia felt warm and tranquil. Hans got forgiven.  She even let up a small prayer for the hag because she knew the hag had once been human.  She brushed the clouds away, left only enough in the western sky to catch the sun’s red, crimson and purple.

Salacia called to the wood, and it dutifully split itself and followed her back to camp.  It piled itself neatly, and a few pieces set themselves in the center of Greta’s fire ring, now perfectly encircled with stones. They came immediately to life, not damp at all, and the flame burned brightly as Salacia floated back to the ground with a sigh.  “I don’t think we will be bothered again,” she said, and went back to her own time, while Greta came back into her place, feeling all of the tranquility that Salacia had felt.

Greta sat down by the fire without a word.

Hans closed his mouth and spoke for her.  “You were absolutely beautiful,” he said.

“I know,” Greta answered softly.  “Inhumanly so.  But weren’t you scared?”

“I’ll say,” Hans nodded.  “I think I wet myself.”

Greta thought for a minute and nodded.  “I was scared, too,” she said.  And it felt true.  She scared herself.  Such power she never imagined!

“Who was that?” Hans asked, handing his sister a tear of bread.

“Salacia.” Greta said.  “The Roman goddess.”  Greta chewed on her meal and went immediately after to lie down.  She pulled up the blanket and then raised a corner and looked at her brother.  It could still get cold at night.  “Well?” she asked.

“Is it safe?” He returned her question.

“For you, yes,” Greta said.  She was not sure about herself.  Authority be hanged.  Greta never imagined, and still could hardly imagine that much power in one person. It felt limitless.  Nameless always dampened and disguised his true nature, and Danna did the same.  She had not realized.  It was true; there was almost nothing a god could not do.  She could have flattened the entire forest with a mere thought. It staggered and frightened Greta to think of it, but at the same time, it brought some understanding.  She felt sorry for the ancient gods.  That felt like more responsibility than anyone should have to bear.