Diana's eyes felt heavy. She'd worked into the early hours of the morning. Noir had come to help, and now the damned cat refused to wake up.
She poked him to annoy him. "Move it, feline. This is a big day. Inga's doing her first reading."
He opened a yellow eye, yawned, and closed it again.
She was tempted to pick him up and cart him into the kitchen but decided against it. When Noir was in a pissy mood, he was impossible to live with. Instead, she gave him the middle finger and tramped to the wooden table, alone. Inga and Freya were already there.
"You're up early," she told her fellow goddess.
Freya licked her lips. "I heard Inga moving around out here, so I came to join her."
Inga tore off a chunk of bread and swallowed it down with a gulp of milk. "What do you want? Bread? Cheese?" Nervous energy roiled off her. The girl was looking forward to her first reading as much as most women looked forward to a pap smear.
Diana went to the ceramic jar that held wine and poured it to the rim of her goblet.
"Isn't it a little early for that?" Freya asked.
"I don't care."
"Do you dread teaching me that much?" Inga demanded.
"I didn't, but you're all wound up. This isn't a test. I mean to help, so that I can lead you through your first reading."
"I'm nervous." Inga pressed a hand to her breast and burped. She blushed fiery red. "My stomach's churning."
"The runes won't attack you. They're a gift, not a curse."
"I know. I know." She put her hand over her mouth and rushed out the door. Soon they heard the sound of retching.
"The silly girl's made herself sick with nerves," Freya said. "Can she do a reading when she's that afraid of failing?"
"She has to start somewhere." Diana looked at Freya. "You should read your runes too. You've listened to each of our lessons. You should give it a try."
Inga returned, looking pale. "Freya can go first."
"With what? I don't have any runes." Freya spread her hands. "We didn't make two sets, and we used all of the rowan wood we brought back from Asgaard."
"With these." Diana went to the wooden shelves, opened a clay jar, and brought out a soft, leather pouch on a cord. She handed it to Freya.
The goddess took it warily. "Where did you get this? Gudrun's runes burned to ashes."
Diana motioned for Freya to open the pouch. "At Ragnarok, you're going to fight monsters and giants, right? So what better runes than those made from a giant's ribs?"
Freya studied the bones and grimaced. "They're black and jagged."
"Charred when the giant's flesh burned—the giant you helped defeat. I asked the dwarf, Olaf, to roughly shape two ribs for me. Then I carved your alphabet on each one with magic. I cast a spell. They're petrified. I wanted to surprise you."
"Burnt bones." Inga's hand went over her mouth again, and she hurried away. Freya wrinkled her nose.
"You're not squeamish, are you? You hover over dead bodies after battle."
"But I don't have to touch them."
"These have been cleansed by fire and hardened with chants. Olaf's magic is combined with mine. You'll find no better runes."
Freya reached out a finger to touch one. "It feels like a stone worn smooth by running water."
"Hold them in your hands."
Freya scooped up a few. She shivered. "It's almost as though they're alive. There's energy in them."
"Magic," Diana repeated. "You said you wanted to read runes for the rebuilding time after Ragnarok. If these don't help you, no runes will."
Freya leveled a look at Diana. "You must have worked most of the night on these. I've never seen anything like them."
"They're a gift." Diana looked away, embarrassed. "They're not as strong as mine. Mine are impossible to reproduce, but yours are unique to you."
Inga wandered back into the kitchen, a hand pressed to her stomach.
Freya's gaze didn't waver. "I doubt even Woden's runes are as special as these. You've done much for Inga and me. Thank you, friend."
Diana felt heat burn her cheeks. Was she blushing? She'd never blushed before she came here. She was a goddess, for Zeus' sake! What were the Norse doing to her? She cleared her throat. "You and Inga are both prepared now. Let's try them out."
To her horror, Freya flew around the table and kissed her on the cheek. At Diana's strangled gasp, Freya laughed. "Do you think you'll survive friendship?"
Diana sputtered. "We're wasting time. Let's get on with it!"
Inga hurried to hug her. "I hope I prove worthy of you."
"It's Gudrun…." Diana looked at them both and gave up. They were grinning like idiots—hopeless. "Let's just do this."
Noir finally stirred himself. He padded from the bedroom, jumped on the table, and began licking his paws, staring at Inga with unblinking eyes. Freya's cat jumped onto a wooden bench and glared a challenge.
"Enough you two!" Freya scooped up the gray cat and stroked his head. He leaned into her and purred. Diana reached for Noir, but he hissed. Freya smiled. "There's no mistaking he's your cat." She turned to Inga. "Okay, girl, do it."
"Me first?" Inga's hands trembled.
"Concentrate on your training. Ask your question," Diana said.
The room grew solemn. Inga slid her fingers into the fabric pouch that held her runes. She closed her eyes and focused. Then she spilled the rectangles of rowan into her hands and tossed them. "Is there anything else we can do to win this battle?"
A good question. Well chosen. Eighteen runes fell, face down. It only took six to give an answer. Diana narrowed her eyes and listened to their music. What she heard and saw disturbed her. She saw Inga's eyes widen in surprise too.
"This can't be right," Inga said. "I must have done something wrong."
"It's right," Diana told her.
"It can't be… What difference would…" Inga stuttered to a stop.
Freya's grin spread from ear to ear. "If I'm right, the runes are telling us that Inga should sleep with Jorunda."
"But how could that help us win a battle?" Inga complained.
Freya snorted. "Do you want to sleep with your warrior or not?"
Inga's face turned bright crimson.
"So where's the hardship?"
"I'm still shunned. Griswold's never…."
Freya cut her off. "Didn't Diana's runes say that if Jorunda died, so did you?"
"So if he survives, and you're with child, would he abandon you?"
"So seduce the man and have your way with him." Freya waved a hand. "You're a woman. Men think with their claim to fame. Get it up and at 'em."
"Freya!" Diana didn't think a goddess of love and beauty should be so vulgar. "I thought you were about romance, courtship, flowers and wooing."
"Give it a break! I'm a fertility goddess. Who do you think mortals call on for their spring rites around the May pole? Those two have been itching to be in each others' pants for years now."
"What?" Inga looked aghast.
"A modern saying." Freya shrugged. "Shag the man." She turned her attention to Diana. "You should have some fun too. You're a maiden goddess. How you stand it, I don't know."
"Three of us made a pact."
"Three of you swore off men?" Freya couldn't hide her incredulity.
"Athena, Vesta, and me."
"But that was how many centuries ago? None of you have met any men since then that excited you? Are the three of you gay?"
"What if we are?"
"No biggie, but you'd think you'd meet some hot woman who'd excite you by now, that you'd get your jollies somewhere."
Diana sighed. "You really can't live without sex, can you?"
"Sex is natural. How do you think I got this necklace?"
Diana didn't follow her reasoning. She frowned. "What has your necklace got to do with it?"
"It was forged by dwarves. I had to sleep with all four of them before they'd give it to me."
Diana didn't know what to say. She shook her head, trying to clear it. "But you're married."
"Odur understood. He has my heart. If four dwarves use my body, so what?"
Diana began to pace. "Sex is a bond. You're sharing your body…."
Freya interrupted her. "Your maidenhood won't seem nearly as important to you once you give it away. Sex dims with time. It's wonderful, don't mistake me. But love and commitment are far stronger."
"You didn't answer me," Freya persisted. "What of your two friends? Are they still maidens?"
Diana shook her head.
"There you go then. You, of all people, should understand sex. What if every lion decided to be chaste? Reproduction is part of survival. So…how do you feel about Tyr?"
Diana tried to find the right words, but settled on, "I've never met anyone like him."
Freya smiled—it was kind. "My friend, Tyr has saved himself too. He's felt burdened by his responsibilities, just as you have. You're a perfect fit."
Diana took a deep breath. "I happen to be busy with a war."
"Foolish, foolish girl." Freya looked every bit the goddess of love and beauty. "Love can move mountains. It's not just some song lyrics."
Freya's music acumen was behind the times, but Diana let it slide. She stalked to the door and looked out at the day. Sunshine. Bird song. She turned back to her friend. "You’re being bothersome."
"No, it's simple. Bed the man! He needs it. So do you."
Diana crossed her arms over her breasts. "It's your turn. Throw your runes."
Freya frowned, but didn't push it. "What should I ask?"
"They're your bones, your question."
"All righty then." Freya held her pouch in her hand and closed her eyes. She took a minute to focus, then said, "Tell me about Heid's shape shifters." She tossed the black, jagged pieces across the table.
The bones fell in an odd jumble, most of them face up. Their music started, and Diana could tell by Freya's expression that she heard and understood. The Norse goddess bit her bottom lip and tears misted her eyes. A hand went to Inga's throat. She understood too. The scene before them was heartbreaking…
Peta, in dragon form, struggled against the chains that bound him, but the cave walls held—slick and hard. Heid slowly walked to a huge nest made of large, dead tree branches. They'd been gathered and arranged with care. Five, small dragons huddled in its center. Egg shells littered the edges of the nest. The dragons must be newly hatched. She reached in, grabbed one, and lifted it.
"Your father failed you," she intoned. "Perhaps he'll try harder next time."
Energy poured from her, and the tiny dragon spasmed in pain. A muffled roar of despair came from the back of the cave. The runes refocused, and a female dragon clawed at the chains around her neck, snout, and back legs.
Heid dropped the small body and turned to Peta. "Too bad you have so much power and so little skill. How often will you disappoint your mate? Next time, you lose a child."
Laughter sounded from the far side of the cavern, and the runes refocused again. A dozen witches sat around a fire with a huge cauldron balanced on a circle of rocks. Behind them, silver bars stretched from the rock floor to the cave's rock ceiling. Inside their cage, young wolves paced nervously.
One of the witches pointed in their direction. "They’re of no use to us now. Their father died a stupid death. We’ll get no more notes from the village."
Heid shrugged. "He was a shape changer with rare talents. His children might possess them too."
The largest witch—a giantess—rose and walked to the cage. Eyes narrowed, she studied the young wolves. They cringed against the rock wall, trying to make themselves small. Her eyes settled on a pure-white female. “You, lovely one? Can you shift?”
A fellow witch laughed. "Like she’d let you know.”
The giantess aimed a finger at one of the wolf’s siblings. The black male cowered, tail between his legs. "If she cares for her brother, she’ll change.”
Straining, the young female trembled. Her forelegs grew, and her snout shortened. Exhausted, she sagged onto the cave floor, her face half-human, two arms where her forelegs had been.
Heid gave a derisive snort. “She’s too new, of no use to us in this battle. Let her be. We have more important things to consider now.”
…The image faded. Diana's throat closed. She was too furious to speak. Freya shook her head, distraught. Inga whispered, "Can we help them?"
Diana reached for her bow. "I'm going after them."
"How?" Freya stared.
Diana's fingers stretched toward a rune.
"No. They're my runes. My question. You're taking me with you."
"Me too." Inga came to join them.
"Not you. It's too dangerous." Diana took a deep breath. "Freya and I shouldn't go either. We might not make it back. And then…."
"I don't care." Freya draped the belt with her short sword around her shoulder. "Heid will not harm one more shape-shifter."
Diana knew that Freya wasn't being totally honest. The goddess would have been just as upset if she'd seen mortals treated so badly. Not that it didn't happen. But when mortals mistreated one another, it was their business and gods stayed out of the way. "We can follow your runes back to their magical source," Diana said. "There's a trail, but it's short lived. If we go, we have to go now."
Freya pulled her sword. "If we get there, can you free them?"
"I'll try." Diana turned to Inga. "We'll return for you, if we can. If we don't, find Tyr. Tell him what happened. We'll need help."
Inga reached for the hem of her dress sleeve and fretted the cloth again. Before long, she'd have nothing but fringe there. "Come back," she told them. "I don't want to be here alone."
With a nod, Diana took Freya's hand. "Be ready. We'll be there in a second. The only thing we’ll have in our favor is the element of surprise. I’ll try to zap Heid before we do anything else."
Freya scooped the giant's bones up to put in her pouch. Wind stirred. Everything blurred, and the goddesses landed in the center of the cave with a thud.
Heid whirled. Her coven jumped to their feet. Heid slashed energy at Diana, and she ducked out of its away. So much for surprise. White, hot balls ricocheted all over the cave. Heid’s witches scattered this way and that to dart away from Heid’s power.
Diana turned to Freya, but found herself staring at the giantess witch. "What in Hades?"
She jumped back, pulling her knives. The coven charged, and the same witch yanked away from her to rush toward the baby dragons. "Freya?" The goddess gave a wink and kept going. Seidr magic. Her friend's eyes were the same sky blue they'd always been. Good enough. Diana knew which witch to kill.
Heid spat a chant, but Diana's spell was faster. It sewed Heid's lips shut before she could say the final word. Heid raised her arms and forks of power spewed around the room. Diana threw protective bubbles over the baby dragons and young wolves. A grim smile curved Heid’s lips and she aimed at Freya. Diana blocked her. Their magic met, jammed, then exploded into streaks and sparks. A shard hit Peta, and the dragon roared. Heid jumped, and Diana used the distraction to slam the dark witch against the wall. Her head hit rock, and she crumpled to the floor, unconscious. A lucky break.
Diana ran forward, gushing power at the coven. It knocked them off their feet. Two tried to rise as she passed them. Quick slashes of her blades finished them off. Another raised her hands to zap Freya, and Diana bound them to her sides. She rushed to the mother dragon's chains. With a slice of her knives—made by Vulcan so that nothing could withstand them—the heavy metal fell. She ran to the silver bars that held the wolves and slashed those too. They clattered to the cavern's floor.
When Diana turned, she saw that Freya had gathered the baby dragons and freed Peta. Diana led the young wolves to them. The mother dragon followed. One of the coven lunged to her feet—the giantess who'd menaced the female wolf cub. Peta's wife scorched her with fire. Heid regained consciousness, and three of her coven ran to her. "Get us out of here!" Diana hissed at Freya.
The goddess touched her runes. "Take us home!"
With a whoosh of air, all of them—Freya, Diana, the dragons and wolves, followed the magic back to their clearing in the woods. A few trees crashed on their impact, but other than that, everyone seemed safe.
Diana immediately turned and began a long, elaborate chant. “By land, sky, and sea—fire, water, earth, and air—seal our path and provide us care.” The spell took a minute, and when she finished, she let out a satisfied sigh.
Freya frowned. "What was that?"
"It sealed our passage. No one can follow us."
"You can do that?"
"I am the mistress of magic."
Freya had no time to answer. Inga raced from the house and threw herself on them. Eyes red and puffy, throat hoarse, the girl had worked herself into a frenzy.
Diana frowned. "If you're going to be the village seer, you have to stay calm in times of trouble."
She clung to Diana, her body shaking. "I didn't think you'd come back. There were only two of you and thirteen of them!"
"Ten now," Diana said. "Heid no longer has a coven." A good thing. Heid was stronger than Diana anticipated.
"Three people died!" Inga’s fingers clenched and unclenched. "That could have been you and Freya."
Diana felt the girl's terror. "But we're here, and we saved the shape shifters Heid was tormenting."
Inga finally raised her head, wiped her eyes, and turned to look at the dragons and wolves.
Peta shifted to mortal shape and bowed his head. "We have no words to thank you. My wife and children can't shift." He took a deep breath. "Before, when I met you on the trail, I had to obey Heid or…." He couldn't force himself to say it.
"We saw," Freya said. "The runes showed us."
He stared. "You're a goddess. What do you care of our fates?"
"We felt your pain. It touched us."
His lips curled in irony. "The Norse fret over us now? Why? Might we sway the balance of your battle with Heid?"
Inga stepped forward, hands on hips. "You insolent beast! The goddesses saw you bound to the cave! They could have left you there. Your magic can't harm them."
Peta hung his head. "I'm sorry. Heid used us, so I thought…."
"That we'd use you too." Diana nodded. "A reasonable assumption. But what did she hope to accomplish by sending you here? Heid knows the prophesies. Tyr and Freya don’t die by your hand."
“I was told to take out the Norse warrior and the girl with the blue tattoo.”
“Jorunda? And me?” Inga’s complexion went pale.
Freya glanced at Diana, frowning. “A smart move, Jorunda’s Griswold’s best warrior, and Heid had to know that Gudrun protected Inga.”
Diana nodded. “She might not know why, but she’ll know there was a reason, an important one. Heid’s kept a close eye on the village through her spies.”
Peta turned on Diana. "You killed three of the witches. Why not all of them? Why not Heid? Why didn't you destroy her?"
Diana sighed. "Did you see her magic? How powerful she is? The Norse gods burned her on a pyre three times. Three times, she rose from fire, renewed. I barely got everyone out of that cave alive.”
"Would you have survived Heid?"
Peta looked at his mate and children. "So you spared her to spare us?"
"We came to rescue you, not destroy you."
The shape shifter dropped to one knee. "In that case, our allegiance is yours."
"We'd rather you and your family stay safe. Hopefully someday, shape-shifters will thrive once more."
"You refuse our help?" He sounded offended.
Freya answered. "We want your young ones to grow up. There are too few dragons, but we can only do so much."
Peta looked at his mate. Communication of some kind passed between them, it was clear. Then he turned to Diana. "My wife and our children will return to our home. I'll stay to join your fight."
"If Heid captured you once…."
"She captured our children when we were scavenging for food," Peta said. "We live in dragon territory and foolishly thought we were safe. We grew lax."
Diana hestitated, curious. "How many dragons are there?"
"You should know. Not enough."
Freya looked at Diana, frowning. "What does he mean you should know?"
"Diana gave us our territories, free of mankind, on an island shrouded by mists and surrounded by rocks and tides."
"I should have guarded it from black magic too." She hadn't thought of that. At the time, she believed keeping dragons and humans apart was enough.
Diana ignored her. "We don't wish to risk you."
Peta straightened to his full, human height. "Dragons despise charity. We have a debt. I intend to repay it—with or without your permission."
Freya sighed. "No wonder you like dragons. They have the same temperament as you and your cat, Roman."
Freya hadn’t called her that in a long time. Diana got the point. "I should have told you."
"You might have mentioned it. Dragons came up in conversation," Freya snapped.
"I'm sorry." Diana didn't apologize often. Freya seemed to realize that.
Freya shrugged. "Can we protect Peta's wife and children if they return to their home?"
Diana grimaced. "I can protect them from humans. The island's inaccessible. But if Heid already went there once…. "
Peta fell to his knee once more. "We honor you."
"Oh, for Zeus' sake!" She let out a sigh. "We don't want to lose anymore allies than we have to when we fight Heid. I'd rather you went home."
"I'd rather I stayed." Peta glanced at his wife and children.
"Can you help his family?" Freya repeated.
Diana raised an eyebrow at the dragon—a stubborn beast, too intelligent for his own good. "If hellhounds invade your island, can you defeat them?"
"We roast and eat them."
"Make a great bonfire."
Freya looked a little more confident. "So it's only magic that can defeat you."
Peta shook his head. "Dragons have magic of their own. It was only carelessness that got us into trouble."
"You thought you were safe." Freya shook her head. "With your own magic, talismans might be enough to keep you protected. I'll fetch some. The dwarf, Olaf, makes them. With his magic, my magic, and your magic, you should be all right."
"I'll make a necklace of rowan leaves for your wife and children," Diana said. "They'll be protected from black magic.”
Peta nodded, satisfied. "My family will be fine without me."
"And them?" Inga looked at the wolves, huddled together at the edge of the clearing, ready to run if they had to. "Do they have a parent, somewhere to go?"
One of them shifted. He became a young boy. Head bowed, he said, "Our mother died, fighting Heid, when she came for us. Our father went to the village to spy for her, to keep us safe, but he was found out. He died, too, trying to escape."
Diana frowned. "But you're not that old. How did your father become Griswold's scribe in so short a time?"
The boy looked at his feet, unwilling to meet her eyes. "Heid killed the actual scribe. She made my father take his place. He didn't want to. It was the only way…."
"We understand," Freya said. "He didn't have a choice."
The boy said, "We thank you for saving us, but we have no place to go, no home or parents."
"You have one now." The deep voice came from the edge of the trees. Peta's wife spun and lowered her head, ready to blast the newcomer. Tyr stepped into the clearing. Diana didn't know how long he'd been in the tree line, listening. Peta gaped. "Sky god," he said.
Before he could kneel, Tyr raised his hand to stop him. "What an intriguing group—a little of everything—wolves, dragons, shape-shifters, gods, goddesses, and witches. I bet there's an interesting story." He raised a brow at Diana, but she turned to go into the house.
"I'm getting wine," she told him. "Want anything?"
His lips tugged at the corners. "Only information. Maybe Freya will tell me. And let's start at the beginning. I want to hear it all."
By the time Diana returned, Freya was finishing up.
Tyr glared at her, pale eyes flashing. "You could have been hurt, debilitated."
"You could have, too, when you fought the giants."
"I had no choice. We were under attack."
She sipped from her goblet, leveling a cool glance his way over the rim of her cup. "If you'd seen the reading, what would you have done? Could you have left them in that cave?"
"I'm a warrior. It’s different."
“And how’s that?”
“I’d have taken Donar with me.”
“A lot of good that would have done you.”
“There were two of you against thirteen.”
She held up her fingers to count. “You. Donar. Hmmm, that makes two.”
"But…” His hand balled into a fist. “Damn it, Diana, you could have been killed!"
"I'm immortal, unlike you. You’re going to be killed." She tossed back her wine and started toward the kitchen for more.
“You could have called me. I’d have helped you.”
“I don’t need a man to protect me.”
His scowl made the wolves dart behind Peta. “I offered to help you, not protect you.”
“I think I’m more capable of battling Heid than you are.”
“And I think I’m more capable of battling giants, but you hesitated when you thought I might need you, even though Jorunda was in danger.”
He had her there, but she wouldn’t admit it. "Do you want me to help you, or do you want me to sit on my hands and give you advice?"
He growled, and the young wolf backed farther away. "Do you shift?" the boy asked.
"No, but that woman can frustrate me more than most."
Diana carried the ceramic jar to the kitchen’s doorway, so that she could listen to their conversation as she poured herself more wine.
“Don’t look so smug!” Tyr snapped. “If I’d have lost you….”
“You’d have to defeat Heid without my help.”
Tyr’s shoulders slumped, and he ran his hand through his white-blond hair.
Freya turned her concentration on the wolves. "Do any of the other pups shift?" she asked the boy.
Diana smiled. Freya didn’t like it when she and Tyr argued.
"Two of my sisters. The others have the gene, but it's latent."
"If they mate…?"
"Their pups could be shifters," the boy said. He returned to his biggest worry. "We have no den. Heid blasted it when she killed our mother. She brought her hellhounds with her, and they have our scent. They can track us wherever we go in Giantland."
"You'll live with us in the meadow," Tyr said.
"But it's your world," the boy stammered. "Protected by the gods."
Jorunda walked into the clearing and stopped in amazement. He stared at the sight before him.
Tyr seemed surprised to see him. "I'd have waited if I'd known you were coming. Jon told me Griswold had called you to him."
Tyr interrupted, clearly uncaring of the chieftain's concerns. He motioned at the warrior. "You wolves will work with my friend and run with him. You'll defend the mortals here."
The boy stiffened. "We're no one's pets."
"Neither am I. Yet I work with Jorunda and protect the village." Tyr shrugged. "Does that make me less of a god?"
A flush crept to the boy's cheeks. "No, I meant…." He fumbled to a stop.
Tyr smiled. "You won't serve these mortals. You and they will be allies. They'll protect you and yours, just as you'll do for them."
Satisfied, the boy gave a quick nod. He glanced at Jorunda. Before the warrior could speak, Freya said, "I should tell you we circled the village and giants’ camp with wolfbane."
"We can't pass it," the boy said.
"Then we'll have to find another safe spot for you outside the wooden fence."
She would have said more, but Jorunda interrupted her. "Enough! Will someone listen? I have news." He planted his feet and crossed his arms over his chest. "Our chieftain has come down with a fever. He mumbles gibberish, out of his head. He needs your help. We must hurry!"
Freya stopped where she was. "If we don't reach him in time?" Her hope was obvious with no subtlety at all. Her tone gave her away.
"He won't die," Diana said. "We read the runes. The man's alive after the battle."
Freya grimaced. "Damn. That's right. But it's Griswold." She shrugged. "What's the rush? He's more of a problem than a solution anyway."
"He's covered in a rash!" Jorunda said. "He spent last night with us—all of his warriors—at the council table. If we catch his disease, we cannot defend...."
Freya cut him off. "An epidemic." She looked at Diana. "Can you heal people with magic?"
"If it began with magic, which is what I suspect."
“Can we go now?” Jorunda asked.
“Lead the way.” She hurried to keep up on their way to the village. The wolves followed on her heels.
Peta called, "I'll escort my family home and return shortly."
With a nod, Diana said, "If we're not back yet, make yourself at home."
"Can I sleep on your east porch? The marble columns support a roof there—like an open cave."
She stopped to ask, "You never breathe fire in your sleep?"
"No, it's considered bad manners."
"And hazardous to your family. See you later, dragon." Tyr and Jorunda had forged ahead of her. She set off at a brisk walk. Not fast enough. Diana had to half run to catch up with them. Finally, she and Inga gave up. They let the others go ahead. Freya cheated, turning into a bright bird and perching on Tyr's shoulder.
Diana slowed, but didn't dawdle. She'd protected the village against majic and hellhounds. Diseases, too, could ravage an entire population. Heid was one sneaky witch. If she couldn't kill with power, she'd resort to germs. Both were efficient.