The three of them went straight to Olaf's smith shop. His wife, Groa, came to the front stoop to meet them. She glanced inside at her children and shut the longhouse's door. "You've come with bad news, I can tell." She sat on the step to hear it.
They sank down beside her. Freya was the one who explained about Griswold's trick and told her that Heid had taken Olaf to Giantland.
"You two followed his trail to Heid's cave?" Groa asked in wonder.
"We found a personal item of Heid's," Freya said. "We meant to follow her again until we saw the vision."
Groa closed her eyes against the picture Freya had painted. "You've done more than anyone would expect. You can't go to Giantland. It wouldn't save him."
Diana bit her bottom lip. These people were so practical! How did they do it? "I was hoping he'd fake making a shield to buy some time," she said.
Groa shook her head. "Olaf would never do that. It goes against everything he believes in."
Diana didn't see what was so wrong with the idea. She could make an obscuring spell to end all spells and try to sneak the dwarf away from his captors somehow. Maybe she could shift him into something small, something she could carry with her.
Groa studied her face and put a hand over hers. "This isn't your fault. Olaf would have made weapons to help the warriors anyway, whether you asked him to or not."
"But the shields were my idea."
"He and Brandr were already talking about making some. Theirs wouldn't have been as strong and useful, but enough to anger Griswold."
There was a noise, and they looked up to see Brandr standing at the side of the shed, a smithing hammer in his hand. Diana wanted to hug him to her. The poor boy looked miserable.
Groa motioned for him to join them. "You heard?"
Brandr nodded. "I should have tried to talk Olaf out of it."
"It wouldn't have worked." Groa sighed and glanced inside her longhouse. Two, young children were peering out at them.
"Don't worry," Brandr told her. "I've learned well. I can run the shop and care for the family."
Groa's eyes misted and she blinked quickly. "You won't return to your parents?"
"To do what? I came here to learn smithing skills. I've learned enough to make do. If you'll let me, I'll stay on. We'll keep the arrangement we had. I earn enough to send a small amount to my family."
"And when you're old enough to marry and have children of your own?"
The boy shrugged. "We'll attach a longhouse on the far side of the shed, with the smith shop shared in the center."
"I can teach you what you've missed and more." At Groa's shocked look, Tyr added, "I can visit once a week to teach Brandr a new skill. I'm not the best, with only one hand, but I have the knowledge if he'll provide the muscle."
Brandr stared, caught as much by surprise as Groa. "You're a god. You'd teach me?"
"This is our meadow. You're our people. We want you to thrive—if we survive this battle."
Tyr was so determined to help them, Diana glowed with pride.
"Olaf will die protecting our village," Groa said. "You're willing to risk much for us too. We have to survive."
Diana swallowed a lump in her throat. She pushed thoughts of Olaf, and what he must be enduring, out of her mind. These Norse were a dismal lot, but they didn't lack courage. Neither did Greeks and Romans. She'd see this through, and she was determined to win.
Freya pushed herself to her feet. "Surely there's something we can do. This wondering and waiting is making me crazy."
Tyr and Diana stood, too. Diana could think of nothing helpful to do at the moment, but she didn't want to sit and brood either.
"We should return to the longhouse," Tyr said. "Hlif will be anxious to hear our news."
They strode toward Griswold's and were stunned when a young and beautiful Hlif greeted them at the door. Jon stood beside her, his eyes returning often to her long, auburn hair and curvy figure. Jorunda and Inga came too. They gathered around Griswold's table and Freya once again shared her news.
The mood was somber, but Hlif said, "Think of it. If the village survives, after Griswold's done everything he can to betray it, we'll have a new seer—Inga, a powerful, white witch—me, and a new chieftain—Jorunda."
Jorunda stared at her in surprise. "Me? Chieftain?"
"You were Griswold's best warrior," Hlif said. "More than that, you show love of your people and wisdom beyond your years. Who could want more?"
Jon nodded. "Remember what Gudrun told us—that your fate determined the fate of the village. No wonder Griswold did everything he could to kill you."
"And no wonder you and Inga were destined for each other. What a pairing! A warrior and a seer. It's perfect." Hlif motioned for the servants to enter, bringing bread, cheeses, and fruit to the table.
Jon nodded agreement. "We need our strength. Eat and drink. Soon, we fight."