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16 November 2016 @ 10:19 am
_Smugglers' Ring_ part 3  

"I see." Izzo glanced to the side. "I just read Fean's report, about the three smuggler sisters from Comet Fall. Ask her to find out if one of their trade stops is Vista. We need to find out about the gate. If their spies aren't using it – perhaps ours will."

Ajha grinned. "Oh my, now there's a lovely thought. I'll bet I know what it is, too – all those experimental gates they've got at their test site. They've never done anything with several of them, as they go to primitive worlds."

"We may have found the other end of another one? Interesting. That argues that Comet Fall and the One are fairly close. So to speak."

Ajha nodded. "Oh, yes. I forgot about the one we attacked them through. It opened to an Empty world we were looking at. Yes, at a minimum, we're reaching a group of worlds from one direction, and them from the other. But they must be convenient to both or we'd never see two in common out of the millions of worlds out there."

Izzo’s eyes were narrowed in thought. "You’re right. That is the only place gates have been just sitting around, for as long as this smuggling has been going on. What a fascinating idea. Maybe the Fallen don't realize they've left a back door open"

"Fean will be delighted to hunt it down, I'm sure."

Chapter Three

3411 Spring

Chief Sushay was very glad to see them in the spring. "The Oners sent men, looking for smugglers. I think they are still watching, so we must be very careful."

Shaman Harnay nodded once. "They bring cheap fertillizer. You should stop, now, and bring only medicines."

"And horses!" The Chief's son was a handsome boy of sixteen.

Zodiac was already splitting up the train of pack horses and turning them over to the right villagers. Betund took the fertilizer, Jikom the grain. The horse carrying the bottled potions stayed with Crimson for now. The Shaman was careful that their children didn't gain uncontrolled access. As usual, they would leave the pack horses here, and depart with only their usual mounts. The girls led horses off with the village women. Since they'd all grasped power, the older witches weren't so worried about them running off with their local friends.

Then, too, the village was far cry from the starving refugee camp they'd discovered on their first trip through the gate. As far as they could tell, no one else had realized that one of the experimental gates led, not just to a primitive World, but to a Primitive World that the One was colonizing. It made their smuggling a lot easier. Their side of the gate had only a token guard to keep people from bothering the natives. This side had no guard at all, although Sushay generally had a youngster posted to watch for their arrival.

They walked into the village with the two leaders. The houses were solid wooden constructs with stone chimneys, the main street paved with flat stones over gravel, well maintained ditches prevented the plagues of mosquitoes that carried disease elsewhere. Of course the Shaman had a generous supply of medicines that would treat malaria, cholera, yellow fever and dysentery. It was one of their main sources of income, trading with the surrounding areas.

Of all the potions she'd bought or stolen, those were by far the best. The rest were so . . . unimportant. Hair and eye colors, and so forth. Well, the contraceptives weren't unimportant, but they were also frowned upon by the Shaman. Wretched men. Like all the primitive societies they traded with, the men held the dominant position in their society. Perhaps it was just as well. The Shaman had taken a potion that gave him a limited bit of magic, but he was too stiff to actually take instruction from a woman, so he couldn't do much at all.

Crimson made a note to herself, to talk to Zodiac about how much of what he showed the man. And the other teenagers. Maybe I should have thought a bit before I brought all those potions here.

The smugglers had a house of their own in the village. Clarok, a middle aged widow, lived there and kept it while they were gone, that is to say, most of the time. The rest of the village had their doubts about just what Clarok's abusive husband had died of, and none of the men had shown any eagerness to woo her. She and the witches got on very well. The barn and small paddock were large enough for their riding horses. This trip, just the eight of them. The three sisters had raised their nephew Zodiac and their own four daughters while smuggling. This village was a frequent stop, as were three others. A dozen other Worlds were just occasional stops.

"Your children are nearly grown. Soon they will marry. We would be pleased if one were to marry into our tribe."

Crimson nodded. "I have noticed that Ibex and Garntay seem to find each other's company pleasing. But our customs are so different than yours. I fear than eventually we would find only misunderstanding and anger."

"Bah. The girl would soon be busy with children and home. She would forget her vagabond childhood in the security of a true home." Sushay waved away the problem.

Harnay sniffed in disapproval. "We have heard that your people do not marry, that you women live separately and have children with whatever man you choose."

"Yes. That is our way. That and the training and use of magic. Our daughters' daughters will also be witches, and will also need lessons."

The Shaman thumped his ceremonial pole. "No. There will be no training of girls above boys, women above men."

Walnut snorted. "And that is why it is best we not allow our children to marry."

The Chief scowled, and the Shaman thumped his pole again. But nothing more was said as they parted from the men.

Tonight there would be a village-wide feast. They'd trade, the villagers acting as their agents, with all the villages around, keep their ears open for what else might be welcome, and in a week or two they would leave, with enough gold in their saddle bags to live on for a year. The villagers took their cut in medicines and grain that they didn't sell, or sold later, over the mountains where the Oners had shops with electronics and exotic foods.

The sisters would repeat this trip in a month or two, then one last trip in the fall, and bank a lot of the profit. And in between they had three other worlds they'd visit for business, and several where they shopped.

***

Harnay scowled at the shelves full of potions. "Women shouldn't have that power." The Shaman hunched a shoulder, and selected a potion, sat down and meditated over it. His guide spirit whispered the secrets inside and they decided how to change them, just a bit. The potion was to free a woman from pregnancy. It was easy to twist it to devotion to her man, so she could never leave him. The spells of healing could become spells of feeling wonderful, the spells to change the color of one's hair, bah, stupid women! They were the easiest to change, they could change things inside the head, cause spirit walking, prophetic dreams, euphoria. Terror.

It was almost dawn when his spirit cat departed. Bottles lay in disarray all around him. He added a bit of the First Wine to all of them. It would probably keep anyone from dying, if he'd done something wrong to the other spells.

The spells to keep a woman, he placed on a special shelf. Men came from all over to buy them.

He wrapped the rest in rags and filled four sacks. After the foreign women had left, he would take a sacred trek. All the way to the town on the coast and the magic corridor to a larger town where his contacts would pay him handsomely for these potions, and he could indulge his private fantasies where his people would never learn of them.

He rubbed his crotch and thought about women. Especially women who looked like those three foreigner women. His eyes shifted to a whip, hanging so innocently on the wall. He was an expert in its use. All the cattlemen in the tribe said he was the best.

 
 
 
ekuah on November 16th, 2016 07:24 pm (UTC)
Hmmmmm.....
Why do I have a sudden dislike for the shaman.
He really needs to experience a male to female spell on a very personal level.

That spiritual cat guide could be interesting. Is it a fidget of his imagination, or a real entity?
muirecanmuirecan on November 17th, 2016 08:16 am (UTC)
Re: Hmmmmm.....
The Shaman needs to get close and personal with the god of just deserts and a his dogs.
ekuah on November 17th, 2016 09:06 am (UTC)
Re: Hmmmmm.....
I don't know the parentage of the smugglers, but it would be real handy if one of them would be the child of Lord Hell ;-)

P.S.
Or even better, that dirty shaman lay his hands on Fean (or someone important) while she is doing undercover work. And the external (or presidential) directorate wants to hire Lord Hell to hand out deserts to that tribe.

Edited at 2016-11-17 09:16 am (UTC)
matapampamuphoff on November 17th, 2016 04:09 pm (UTC)
Families
Crimson, Walnut and Macaw are Ultra's children and Answer's grandchildren. Jade, the Black Widow, is the fourth sister. Details are in _Earth Gate_.

Eden is the daughter of the God of Art, the one who married Prince Rebo. Irwun and Alin are their twins, and possibly the heirs to crown and spear. They aren't along for this bit.

Zodiac is the dragon baby that Jade abandoned when she was first discovered to be a black widow. While Q babysat him occasionally and switched him to dragon shape, the rest of the family did not approve, so he's not very good at being a dragon, and hasn't learned how to switch by himself.
matapampamuphoff on November 17th, 2016 05:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Hmmmmm.....
"Spirit Guides" are how the native shamans visualize their philosophy/religion. In this guy's case, he's either taken potions and gained a power gene or he could be part Oner and gained the gene through a Halfer mother.