R6 Greta: Land of the Lost, part 1 of 3

“Son,” Bogus began like he had a long speech prepared, but there came shouts and a great commotion among the horsemen in the distance.  The horses at the parley screamed and swords got drawn, and a hundred men broke from the ranks of horsemen and charged.

The dragon turned and slithered up between the two giants.  It rose up and held itself a matching twenty feet from the ground.  The snow and cloud giants looked briefly at the dragon while it looked back and forth between the two, then all three let loose with everything they had in the face of the oncoming charge.

The snow giant shot sharp pointed icicles, like a machine gun.  Those icicle bullets penetrated everything, wood, bronze, iron, leather, horsehide and human flesh.  The cloud giant let loose one lightning strike after another.  The ground, people and horses exploded, and the thunder boomed for miles.  Greta mumbled.

“There was a reason the ancient gods put all the little ones, the sprites in her hands.  They would not give them to another immortal because it would have made that immortal too powerful.”

The dragon, of course spewed flame and created crispy critters, but after only seconds, that whole line of horsemen turned and ran for their lives.  Greta shouted up.

“Oren, you must take us now.”

The dragon turned.  “I feel the strong urge to cook you and eat you,” Oren said.

“You are still half mine,” Greta responded.  “You have a powerful half that belongs to the sprites of the earth, and you can resist the control over your human half.”

The dragon turned its head up and shot flame into the sky before it lowered its neck for Greta and Bogus to climb on board. “Hold tight to my scales,” the dragon said.  “You will not hurt me.”  They held tight, and as they rose into the air and circled several times to gain some height, Greta got a good bird’s eye view at what happened down below.

The Scythian horsemen made a massive army. Greta feared for her friends, even if they had two giants protecting them, but then she caught sight of an army coming from the east.  Slavs, she thought, and quickly turned her head to see an army coming from the west. “Goths,” she shouted.  Then she looked once more and saw three horses racing back from the parley, and then she saw no more as they shot out over the trees.

After that, Greta looked side to side, but decided she would rather not look down.  She looked for Mithrasis, and felt surprised the goddess had not already picked them up.  She decided that she guessed correctly.  As long as Mithras and Mithrasis canceled each other out, they were vulnerable to more ordinary things.  Mithrasis probably feared the dragon fire, not to mention the dragon claws and teeth.

Greta finally looked down when she felt the dragon begin to circle for a landing.  She saw the river and had to think about that.  Four thousand years ago the river came down more from the north, above the dome.  Now it had shifted to south of the dome which no longer appeared a dome.  She saw no more than a few dozen blocks of stone, even if they were ten ton blocks, but even they started crumbling under thousands of years of relentless weather.

They landed, a rough landing for Greta and Bogus, though one the dragon probably thought of being as soft as he could make it. Bogus said nothing as he slid to the ground and raced into the gap between the stones.  Greta paused.

“Thank you, Oren.  I hope I live long enough so I can bring your grandmother here for a visit.” She wanted to say she would change the dragon back into a man, but she was not sure how to do that, and besides, the gods never made promises.  Greta learned that four thousand years ago when the dome was whole and the Titan who lived in it still lived.  She could do one thing though, and she leaned over carefully and kissed the dragon on the nose.  A great, hot tear rose in the dragon eye before they both heard something that made Greta jump and made the dragon lift its head.  The distant howl of a Wolv echoed through the trees, and someone started coming through the bushes.  Greta ran through the gap in the stones that let her inside.

Bogus closed his mouth.  He had been yelling at his granddaughters, and mostly Berry whom he knew so well from her years among the little ones of the forest.  But when Greta popped into the room, he quieted and everyone stared for an instant of absolute silence before they shouted and Berry ran into Greta’s arms, tears in her eyes.  Fae followed Berry, and a grinning Hans and Hobknot began to nudge each other, like they had some sort of bet.

Greta took a moment to look around that great round space.  Most of the wall looked one block high, though plenty of places still had part of a second block on top, or two whole blocks which made a wall as tall as Greta. A couple of places were three blocks high where Greta could begin to see the slight curve in the stone that once rose up to the top of the dome, but there were not many three block places. There were more blocks and worn down blocks and partially crumbled blocks on the floor of that space, and Greta could see where they were turned into seats and tables for their furniture.

“I never stopped believing,” Berry managed to say before she started to cry again.

“We all kept believing,” Fae said.  “It’s what kept us going on those long winter nights.”

Greta nodded, but she moved Berry into her grandfather’s arms so she could face the old man who sat quietly in the corner. He stood and spoke when Greta’s eyes focused on him.

R6 Greta: The Road of Dreams, part 3 of 3

Greta sat alone.  She still had plenty to think about and she was not at all finished with her worry.  There were no guarantees here and she imagined a million things could go wrong. She felt panic coming on, but fought the feeling.  She did not do well in panic situations.

She thought she might be leaving her moody stage and entering her paranoid stage.  She wished Darius was there.  He always made her feel like everything would be all right, even if he had no way of knowing. He was her rock, and she missed him. She took a deep breath of the cold, fresh air, and set her mind to the task.

It did not add up.  She understood Mithras and Mithrasis trapped each other in the woods. When the two gods cancelled each other out, neither one could work many miracles.  She knew it had nothing to do with the old Gott-Druk electric fence because that equipment had surely rotted away after more than four thousand years, and she could not be sure if it had been picked up and moved to Avalon all those millennia ago.

Greta considered Avalon, her home in the Second Heavens, the Castle of the Kairos, her little island sanctuary where all her little ones were welcome to come and rest from their labors.  She looked at her companions who sat quietly, enjoying a wonderful meal.  She briefly thought she could open a door to Avalon, go there, and open a new door in the dome of the master, to step out and thus avoid the woods of the Wolv entirely. But she would not do that.  It would go against her every rule. Somehow, the need to burn her own bridges included walking her own walk.  As she often said, if she was supposed to die on the road so she could be born in her next life, then she had to be on the road to do it.

Greta blanched and thought again about Mithrasis. Mithrasis did not exactly threaten her life, truth be told, though she said it might come to that.  The Nymphus really just wanted to prevent her from coming. Then there was Lucius.  At first, Lucius kept trying to convince her to return to Roman lands.  True, he got a bit carried away with the rock slide, unless it really was the accident he claimed, but otherwise he did not get hostile, uncooperative, or even unhelpful. Jupiter seemed to want to kill them, but then he proved not as accurate with his lightning strikes as he got in her nightmare.  Maybe he just wanted to scare her.  She wondered. Certainly, she felt a strong urge to go home before she had that nightmare.

Greta stopped.  She started getting confused.  But she could not help thinking that even the Persian did not outright attack her, not counting that jackass thing.

“Lady?”  Her faithful centurion, Alesander, got her attention.  Greta looked up and appreciated his faithfulness over the years more than he would ever know.  She saw that Briana still sat by the fire.  She tried not to be obvious, but clearly, she payed strict attention, so Greta knew it was something she and Alesander discussed.

“And what have you and Briana decided?” she asked, and watched Alesander turn red.

“How did you—?”

“It is not our way to question how the druid knows what she knows,” Vedix spoke up.  Vedix sat nearby and listened in.  They probably all listened, especially Mavis.

“I cannot marry you two before I go into the Land of the Lost.  There is not enough time.  My ride is already on the way.”  Greta paused and stood.  “And we have company.”  Her eyes stared off to Alesander’s left so he turned to see what she looked at. Everyone looked.  An army of horsemen stretched across the south from one end of the horizon to the other, and they were drawing near.  Lucius appeared out front, leading them all, and Alesander spit, but held his tongue.

A fine mist followed by several clouds drifted down from overhead and formed into the shape of a giant between them and the oncoming horde.  The cloud formed figure stood twenty-feet tall, and inside the cloud they saw sparks and a kind of blue flame, which said the cloud giant had started to build up enormous amounts of electricity.  The horsemen in the distance slowed.

Then the snow gathered, even from beneath their feet, and it built itself up, higher and higher, until it made a kind of twenty-foot-tall snowman.  It had a grin with great, sharp icicle teeth.  A very small head, upper torso, and arms stuck out from the butt of the snowman. “We came down with the snow.  We were worried about you.” The baby snow person grinned and his own ice teeth filled the grin in a frightening way.

“Bubbles,” Greta named the sprite who disappeared again into the mass of the giant snow body.  Greta went on to speak her thoughts out loud while the rest of the crew got ready to defend her.  “I need to be gone.”

“They look to be sending out a group to parley,” Hermes pointed.  The horsemen stopped a thousand yards off and three men followed Lucius to a spot half-way between the horsemen and the giants.

“Briana, Hermes and Vedix,” Alesander took charge. “Get your horses.  Bogus, Pincushion and Mavis, guard your mistress.” The horses had to be saddled before the horses walked between the giants toward the meeting.  As the horses moved out of earshot, there came a great flapping sound heard from behind, like the leather wings of an enormous bat.  A dragon came over the tree tops and landed beside Greta.  It looked easily forty feet, perhaps fifty feet long, and it raised its head ten feet up to stare down at Greta’s party.  The snow giant and cloud giant paid close attention, but no one made a hostile move.

“Do no harm.  No fire,” Greta shouted in the dragon tongue that all dragons were engineered to obey.  Of course, when they got as big and old as this one, they tended to develop selective hearing.  “No harm.”

The dragon cocked its head, turning it much further than a human neck could turn.  “I still understand the words.”  The dragon spoke in the Gaelic tongue of the people of the forest.

“We need your help,” Greta shouted.  “Your father and I need to reach the dome to save your daughters.”

The dragon turned its head further until it stared, upside down.  It looked hard at Bogus.  “Father?”

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

MONDAY

Greta and Bogus enter the Land of the Lost.  Until Monday, Happy Reading

*

R6 Greta: The Persian, part 2 of 3

The Persian waved his hand, and a scorpion appeared.  It looked the size of a rhinoceros, though flat and low to the ground like a true insect. The horn on this beast appeared, not on the head, but at the end of the multi-jointed tail where it waved slowly up and down, ready to strike at any moment.  Its six legs made the creature shuffle back and forth, and it made a great clicking sound with its jaws, but it did not charge.

“Oh, Lovely.”  Greta clapped like an excited schoolgirl.  “A teleport device.  I can do that.”  The Persian looked confused again as Greta called.  “Bonebreaker!”

The ogre appeared beside his goddess as he had no choice.  He looked confused about what just happened and where he was, but looking confused was not an unusual thing for an ogre.  The poor ogre looked cut up, a few deep cuts, and he looked burned in several places, but he lived and would heal.  Greta touched Bonebreaker’s upper arm, about as high as she could reach, and the ogre felt strength and healing enter his body.

“But you can’t do that,” the Persian protested.  “You are just an ordinary, stinking, mortal human.”

“And this is my ordinary, stinking ugly friend,” Greta asked the ogre a simple question.  “Bonebreaker, dear.  Would you smash the scorpion?”

Bonebreaker grinned, which made Alesander and Briana look away and made Vedix swallow to keep from throwing up.  “Yes, Lady,” Bonebreaker said.  Ogres lived to smash things.

The scorpion moved, but Bonebreaker leapt and both fists came down at once on the scorpion head.  He grabbed the clicking jaws and with a great roar, ripped them out. The scorpion insides and brains began to leak out on the dock even as the stinger struck Bonebreaker in the shoulder. Bonebreaker howled, but grabbed the tail below the stinger and yanked.  Reflex kept the stinger in attack mode, but Briana let out a great scream of her own and leapt.  One swing of her sword and her sword broke even as the scorpion stinger flew off into the bushes.

Briana landed hard on the ground, the wind knocked from her lungs and the strength gone from her arms.  Alesander raced up and grabbed her.  He carried her to safety even as she protested that she could walk.  He told her to shut-up and kissed her to keep her quiet.

It turned out a good thing Alesander pulled her back from the action, because Bonebreaker shifted his hands on the scorpion tail and began to swing the scorpion to the left and the right, smashing it against the ground on the left and on the docks to the right.  When the scorpion became sufficient pulpy, Greta said stop, and Bonebreaker stopped and fell to his knees.

Greta rushed up.  The scorpion venom started having its way.  Greta was not a goddess, but even as a human, she remained Bonebreaker’s goddess, and she was the woman of the ways for all the Dacian people, and not without training and some small power.  She prayed as she touched the big ogre on the shoulder.  She emptied her mind and focused as well as she could, even as Mother Hulda taught her, and the venom collected next to the wound and forced itself out of the hole in the shoulder.  It dribbled to the ground and the earth steamed where it landed.

“That’s not possible,” the Persian shrieked.  “You are not a god.”

“I am human, but as Mother Greta, you know I have some small power.”  Greta turned and her eyes were hard and cruel enough to startle the Persian.  Her hand once again shook a finger at the Persian like he had been a naughty child.  “You claim to be a god, a claim I dispute.  So let me put you to the test of water, fire, earth, air and ether.  We will see if you are truly a god or not.”

The Persian looked surprised, but soon enough the sly look returned to his face and he accepted the challenge.

“We are here by the river,” Greta said in her stern voice and left little time for the Persian to think.  “Since I am already soaked from the rain, let us begin with the water test.”  Greta sat down on the dock and dangled her feet over the side.  “Let us see which of us can stay longer under the water.”  She slipped off the dock and sank beneath the waves.  The fish gave her plenty of room as instructed, and the water sprites surrounded her with a bubble of air and kept her supplied with plenty of oxygen.  The Persian slipped into the water to stand beside her, a smug look on his face before he realized she tricked him again. The water sprites that protected Greta could also feed off the pressure at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, and they pressed in on the Persian and would have crushed him utterly, before he could react, if they were not followed by the Piranha.  It took less than thirty seconds to strip the Persian of every ounce of flesh.  Greta surfaced, as a spark of white light shot out of the water and zoomed into the north.  Then the gnawed bones floated up.

Greta looked at Alesander and Briana, but they were busy kissing.  All the same, she positioned Vedix between her and the lovers before she traded places with Amphitrite.  Amphitrite bent down to the water and thanked her water sprites first of all.  Bubbles popped up from the water and she petted his head like a mom might brush the hair out or her little one’s eyes. Bubbles turned from a gray-blue color to slightly pink and broke to water pieces.  Amphitrite looked up to the sky sprites, and made a point of thanking them as well as singling out the winds that helped.  She turned again to the water and called her Piranha to the surface.  When they jumped from the water, she sent them all the way home to the Amazon, a little less hungry.

“They would not have survived in these cold waters,” she said, and went away so Greta could come back.  “Better they go home,” Greta finished the thought before she added, “I wish we could go home.”

Vedix nodded.  “As you say,” he said, while he got a boat pole and hook and tried to fish the Persian’s bones out of the water.

“Lady!”  Greta heard Mavis’ voice and looked around.  Lucius was nowhere to be seen.  Greta walked off the dock and headed toward the fort where Mavis and Hermes started walking toward her, followed by a great host of hard looking men in leather armor, round wooden and some metal shields, long spears and great swords that hung from leather straps that fit over the opposite shoulder. Bogus and Pincushion came from the big building with dozens of horses in their trail.