Chapter 5 – Greta’s vision
Next morning the King felt in a good mood. He had a plan for the day, and he had enjoyed his night with the girl.
He was sat in his reserved place of honour at the larger trellis table outside the cook’s wagon. He was eating his breakfast of freshly baked biscuits and cold roasted wild boar, when his mood changed as he saw that troublesome Greta approach in one of her animated states. She approached him directly, not waiting to be summoned forward. It was typical of her lack of respect. She wailed in her high pitched voice as she came forward shouting ‘woe is me, woe is me’, in order to gain everyone’s attention. She waved her stinking black cloak over her head, like a flag as she ran towards him in that strange sideways run that she had.
‘Sire we must leave immediately,’ she said in her high-pitched voice. Her white hair was loosened from its ties and wafted about her head in the breeze. ‘I have had a terrible vision.’
His men-at-arms within ear shot looked up in alarm. The superstitions around these witches were strong. Other members of the court drifted closer as the caught the words and saw Greta’s animated body language, but not close enough so they could smell her. In truth, Stephen knew she was a great actress, and used to pitching her voice so many could hear.
She was also one of very few people who could approach the King without a bow or curtsey and escape punishment. Such a discourtesy would normally result in a nod from Eustace, and the unfortunate have their legs kicked from under them by his brutes so they sprawled on the ground. If the King was in a foul temper, unfortunates could be taken away and given a savage beating. Some said Greta got away with it because it was said she would put a curse on anyone who struck her.
Now that Greta had the camp’s attention she went on, without seeking royal approval.
‘Sire, I have seen a vision of a flying object that will bring death and destruction to us all.’ She paused for effect, as there were horrified gasps from the courtiers and servants within earshot. We must leave this place and head to Winchester with great haste.’ She held her arms wide above her head in an elaborate gesture to emphasise the size of the flying object.
In truth, she had been genuinely confused and alarmed by this vision. Over the years, she had learned to survive by building on peoples fear and loathing. Either people feared her witchcraft or loathed the site and smell of her, so paid to get rid of her. She invoked self-preservation, by cajoling the less-intelligent and easily manipulated to believe that if she was killed or harmed then the perpetrators would carry a witch’s curse and go to hell and damnation. However, every so often she did get a real and true vision. This one was very vivid, and she knew it to be true. She just couldn’t explain it.
What Greta had actually seen in her vision was a small silver flying saucer, and a spaceman. As she had never seen either, she described them as a Silver object and a Silver man. The silver object was perfectly formed and made of a material she had never seen before. The curves of the object showed no signs of the blacksmiths hammer. It was larger than a house, too large to float, yet it appeared to not only rest on water but to hover over it and fly away in a perfect arc with incredible speed. Yet it had no wings like a bird.
To Greta, the Silver man was tall, muscular and elegant. He carried himself like a nobleman. He did not have the misshapen limbs of the peasants who never have enough to eat in childhood. It was as if he was naked because the suit he wore fitted him tightly, and fully enclosed his hands and feet. He carried no weapons or shield, but had a domed helmet on his head made of the same silver material. His face was covered by a single black mask, so she could not distinguish his features. The material of the suit was shinny and showed no seams or joins. The type of cloth and colour was like nothing she had ever seen.
In truth, she felt in her vision that the silver object or the Silver man offered no threat. She sensed that he was neither hostile nor aggressive, but she also sensed that he was neither open nor friendly. This part of the vision she just couldn’t explain, but what had really frightened her, was the part of the vision that followed.
This part of the vision was even harder for her to explain, because what she had foreseen was the future destruction of New York City. Of course, Greta would have no concept of a modern city of millions of people.
In her vision she saw many, many people lying dead, motionless. People just lay as if asleep, yet with no marks on their bodies. She had seen battle scenes with the dismembered, maimed and blood covered corpses, it was not like that. She had seen plague victims with their bodies distorted in impossible angles from their mortal agony, and their mouths and nostrils caked in vomit, but it was not like that either.
She saw more dead people than she could ever imagine. They were dressed in strange clothes, with skin colours and facial features she had never seen before. The huge wide tall buildings with many perfect square windows, fast moving objects bellowing smoke and many bright coloured lights. She felt connected to all of their deaths, as if she knew who these people were. But she could not recognise or relate to any aspects of their appearance. The feeling confused her.
She desperately wanted to discuss the vision with her Mistress the Queen Matilda and her fellow witches, her Sisters. They would know what to do. So, she wanted a way to persuade the King to resume the journey back to Winchester quickly, and not stay too long in La Fete to hunt.
She knew this would be too much for the King and his men-of-arms to take in, so instead she said to the King and his followers, ’I have seen a great silver object falling from the sky that will destroy La Fete. We must leave here today and make haste for Winchester.’ To add emphasis to her words, she sank to her knees before the King, letting her forehead touch the ground, apparently imploring him to accept.
All eyes turned to the King, who sat impassively finishing his breakfast. He took a long slug from his jug of ale, and then stood up. The assembled camp knelt as he stood; those that were already seated remained seated but bowed their heads in respect.
‘We will leave tomorrow at first light for Winchester,’ he declared. ‘Now you lazy bastards, let’s go hunting.’ They rose from their prone positions and cheered him, they clapped their hands and banged their metal plates and jugs of ale in approval. The King smiled with them, waived his hand to acknowledge their cheers and raised his jug of ale in toast. The truth was this plan also suited his purpose.
Greta kept her head bowed low so none could see her small smile of victory. Soon she would be with her Mistress and her Sisters. As the court dispersed, she rose from her prone position. There was dirt on her forehead, but she made no effort to remove it. No one noticed as she lolloped away to follow the King and his hunting party.