When everyone gathered, Freya motioned for Tyr to speak.
"Your chieftain's betrayed us," he said. "He's worked against us a long time." He explained how Hlif's mother was killed in battle and talked about the death of all other witches before they came to the meadow. "A witch would see Heid's tricks. She'd catch Griswold at his game." He told them about the many attempts to kill the warriors and how Griswold used the ghoul pox to try to destroy them. "He escaped this morning," Tyr said. "He cannot be allowed back inside the gates. He's a traitor who works with Heid. He's gone to her."
Olaf's wife worked her way to the front of the crowd. "Did you see my husband at the stables? Griswold sent for him at sunrise."
Brandr came to stand beside her. "The chieftain asked us to deliver the shields we'd finished."
Diana's breath caught. She could feel her heart pounding. "Did you go with Olaf?"
Brandr nodded. "Griswold was pleased with our work. He sent me home, but asked to speak with Olaf further."
"And he never returned to the shop?" Diana asked.
"No." Brandr licked his lips, worried.
A guard said, "Olaf left the village to visit the giants camped in the meadow. He said that Griswold admired the shields the gods sent them and wanted him to study them to make more like them."
"Was this before or after Griswold left?" Tyr asked.
Goosebumps formed on Diana's arms. Griswold could have met with Heid or one of her witches by the time Olaf left the village.
"We'll go to the giants then." Tyr started for the gates. "All mortals stay here and shut the gates behind us. Take no chances. If Griswold returns and demands entrance, don't allow him passage."
Diana and Freya half ran to keep up as Tyr stalked across the meadow. When they reached the giants' camp, only Ormr and Asdis were awake. Ormr saluted them. "It's early morning. We heard your bell. It woke us. Is everything all right?"
"Griswold's our traitor. He escaped before we could take him. He sent Olaf to your camp. Have you seen the dwarf?"
Asdis shook her head. "We only woke when the bell rang. Olaf wasn't here."
Diana's eyes searched the clearing. Nothing in sight. Worry wormed through her veins. A knot tightened in her throat. She went to the wolf den. "Friends," she called. "I need your help."
The wolf who shifted stuck his muzzle into the morning air. He came forward and sat on his haunches, waiting.
"Griswold betrayed us. He tricked Olaf and sent him on an errand. The dwarf's life is in danger. Can you help me track him?"
The wolf sniffed the ground until he found the dwarf's scent, then he set off at a run. Diana and Freya raced after him. "Stay here," Diana called to Tyr. "Protect the village."
He nodded and stayed.
Olaf had followed the stream to the tree line, then his scent disappeared into the woods. Diana had no idea what Griswold told him, but once he was out of sight of the village, she knew the dwarf was in trouble. It didn't take long before the wolf stopped and sniffed in a slow circle. He stalked back and forth, looking for a scent. Diana and Freya waited impatiently. Every second mattered. Each minute felt like an eternity. Finally, the wolf shifted into his boy form. "Others waited here, three of the witches who held us in the cave you rescued us from. Their scent is evil. Olaf's trail stops too. They didn't walk any farther."
"They grabbed him and took him to their cave. They used runes to transport." Diana's voice sounded flat, even to her own ears.
"We've been there. We can go again." Freya's hand went to her short sword. "I can't just sit here and do nothing. Olaf would be safe if he hadn't helped us."
"They'll be ready for us this time."
Freya turned to the boy. "Go to the camp. Tell Tyr what's happened. Tell him we're going after Olaf."
"Don't do it." The boy's voice shook with fear. "Heid will trap you. You won't make it back."
"We have to try." But even as she said it, Diana realized whose body she'd seen in the runes' visions—the person who'd given them a gift and was betrayed. They had to try, but she knew they weren't going to rescue Olaf.
The boy gave a quick nod, then raced away, as though he meant to reach Tyr fast enough for the sky god to stop them from going.
"Shift," Diana told Freya. "You have seidr magic. Use it. Turn into something Heid won't notice."
"Make yourself into something that will fit in my hand." Diana chanted her obscuring spell and disappeared from sight. Immediately, a small lizard nestled in her fist. Diana touched her other hand to the runes in her pocket. "Take me somewhere near the cave, some place safe."
Air rushed past them, and Diana found herself on a high branch in an oak tree, Heid’s cave entrance close by. Leaves surrounded her, blocking her from view. She opened her fingers to let Freya see. They heard no voices, no shuffle of movements. "They’re hiding," Freya whispered. “Maybe it’s a trap.” She scurried up Diana's arm to perch on her shoulder.
"Let's get closer." Diana called a wind to settle them to the ground. She ran from one tree to the next, thinking each time someone might notice them. Finally, she was forced into the open. No one should be able to see her, but they might feel her magic. They'd be watching and waiting, expecting her. She hurried up the rocky ledge and dipped inside the cave's opening. No one was there.
Diana concentrated. "There's no hum of magic. No obscuring spells. No witches hiding. The cave's empty."
Freya shifted into her natural form. She turned in a slow circle. Her eyes focused on a lone, leather boot. "Olaf was here."
Tears of frustration burned Diana's eyes. "They've made rune portals from one place to another. Without a trail, something to aim for, we can't follow them."
"But we have our runes." Freya pulled the cord at her neck to touch the linen pouch. "We can do a reading to find him." She returned the pouch to her ample cleavage. "Better yet, use your runes. You have stronger magic than I do."
Diana dug her pouch from her jeans pocket. She squatted to toss the carved bones. Several landed, face up, but when she went to read them, their images blurred. Their music stopped.
Freya frowned. "What's wrong with them?"
"Heid's blocked our magic. She's cast a protective spell around herself and her witches. She won't let us use our runes to trace her majic."
"Do you do that?"
"Always. No one can follow my runes. They can't follow yours or Inga's either."
"Damn it to Hel!" Freya began to pace. "You're the mistress of witches! Do something!"
"Find me something of Heid's."
They both started scrambling about the cave. There were mounds of straw with furs tossed over them for the witches to sleep on. Diana inhaled deeply. "This one was hers." She gripped a bear skin and muttered chants until the walls of the cave shimmered. They seemed to melt away until a forest with towering trees surrounded them. Hills rose in the distance, dotted with caves. Giants came and went from them.
A cluster of witches and giants circled someone near a slow-moving river.
"Show us," Diana whispered.
The vision wove between massive legs and arms. Griswold stood before Olaf. The chieftain's posture was angry. He pointed at a pile of thin metals. "You made shields for them. Make shields for us!" he shouted.
The dwarf folded his arms across his chest. "No."
Griswold's slap rang against the cave's walls. "Combine your magic with Heid's."
"Jorunda and Jon's shields were formed from Asgaard silver, laced with Freya's and Diana's powers. Yours would be cheap copies."
"But strong enough to withstand Asdis and her friends' pitiful efforts. Do as you're told." Heid's voice cut through the clatter of shuffling feet and the giants' low grumbles.
Heid's hot energy hit Olaf so hard, it knocked him backwards. He hit his head with enough force, it knocked him out.
"Look what you did!" Griswold complained. "He can't work now."
Heid shrugged. "He needs some convincing."
Griswold grimaced at the pile of rocks that giants had dragged together. Dried wood lay scattered in their center. "Surely you can make a better forge than this."
Heid nodded. "Be at it, and do a better job, or it's your hides next."
Giants shuffled forward and set to work.
The image faded, and Diana turned to Freya. "Do you know this place? Take me there!"
"A specific spot? There's a river. We can follow it."
"No." Freya turned away from her. She stood silently.
Diana put a hand on Freya's shoulder. "How can we help Olaf?"
"We can't." The words sounded tight, strangled.
"Olaf won't make the shields. They'll kill him."
Diana waited. She could tell how hard this decision was for Freya. "Perhaps Olaf will start to work to stall for time, so that we can get to him."
"He won't. You've met him. He always does what he thinks is right."
"If he stalls, though…"
"A Greek strategy. Of no use now. We can't go to Giantland. Olaf knows that. The giants who live in the caves are indifferent to our battle, but if we invade their lands, they'll join with Heid. We won't leave with Olaf anyway."
Diana sighed. "The vision. The broken body lying in the field. It's Olaf's."
Freya wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. "It's our fault."
Diana nodded. She gripped Freya's hand. "There's nothing we can do. Let's return to the village. They might need us."
The journey back took only seconds. They landed in the meadow, just outside the gates, and Tyr rushed to greet them.
"Have you no sense at all?" He gripped Diana’s shoulders and shook her. "How can we defeat Heid without your magic? And what would I do if I lost you?"
His words comforted her. Diana gave a small smile. "I love you, too," she said.
Tyr blinked. Color drained from his face. "No Olaf?"
"They moved him. He's in Giantland."
"The vision." Tyr had come to the same conclusion she had.
Freya nodded. "His gifts to us cost him his life."
The three gods turned as one to enter the village gates.