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21 November 2016 @ 04:10 pm
_Smugglers' Ring_ middle outline & ending  
Sorry frantically running about with family stuff, so despite intending to flesh this out . . . Not happening.

***

1- Smugglers meet Harnay at the shoals. He admits to taking some of their supplies further afield. Laughs as he refuses to let them compete with him, refuses to help them through the corridor. He runs a chant and dance, bringing up a sizable chunk of magic, to their astonishment. Drawn by the magic, the Oners join in time to become the targets of the magic.

2- Smugglers follow Harnay on horse path through mountains. Harnay has decided that one of the teenage girls is just what he wants, and lets them track him.

3- Oners get their trucks restarted and detour through the road-pass, confident of their abilty to beat the horses to Tannay. They underestimate the speed of the Fallen horses. They swing back to the west, to intercept them before they reach town, only to find they've missed the smugglers, and they have to detour further . . .

4- Another three way confrontation at the refrigerator plant's enclosed shipping yard.

(A) Harnay grabs Saiga and gets through the corridor to the Plains.

(B) The rest of the Smugglers escape through the new gate to Homestead.

(C) Idlo follows Harnay, magic battle, assisted by Saiga. S dives through gate to One. Idlo arrests Harnay, has saddlebags full of potions as evidence. He hauls Harnay to One World and puts out alert for the girl.

(D) On Homestead, Fean gets them across town, through the One gate, and out into the very large area of the gates. They head for the gate back to Vista when S pops up and they run for the boundry and side gate to hide and rest.

***

"Hi Ohno, I've got eight people, where can you put them? Are the rooms down from my usual one open? Great, we'll grab the nearest."

The dignified old man managed just the right amount of refined horror over their travel stained appearance, but assumed that they were directorate personnel. Fean led them off through the maze, giggling over their reactions to, well, the reason the building was referred to as the Gothic Horror. Eight rooms was no stretch for the labyrinthine palace. Maids showed up quickly with sheets and towels and soap, and with many perky glances at Zodiac, said they'd hunt down some clothing for them.

"They're sisters. They are like witches – older than they look." Fean frowned at the boy, then shrugged. The One was encouraging the Princesses to seduce Comet Fall magicians, so it wouldn’t hurt to raise a few in the servants quarters.

Whipper and Mushy perked up themselves at the sight of four pretty girls.

Then Idlo shows up, all glowing and victorious. He has captured the Smuggler, shows them the potions, brags . . .

Fean oooed and ahed in the appropriate places. With their hair, eyes and skin restored to their normal color, not to mention their noses back the right shape, Idlo hadn't a clue. Fean ran her fingers through her hair and looked back at the mirror. Perhaps normal color wasn’t the right term for her, any more. She bit her lip and refused to admit that she’d always wanted lighter colored hair. This blend of colors was very attractive.

Fean managed a brief conference with Ajha that had him looking very thoughtful. He went off with Izzo after a bit. They returned and scooped her up for a bit of practice.

"Now we’ll just wait and see what else you can do, if you can see the gates, and learn how to make them. I’ll talk to Urfa about getting you back here regularly for training. And I’ll send you the genetic analyses." Izzo’s amusement had softened at that last.

The research people had gleefully mapped out her whole body and taken several hundred samples. One only knew what they’d find.

"Stop looking so apprehensive." Ajha ordered her. "We won’t tell Idlo."

Idlo got the same hex potion. They should test him too. And the other five guys with him. Or, maybe I'll just shut up.

The dinner party switched to a pool party. The warm spring air, subdued landscape lighting, the pool glowing . . .

Mushy and Whipper were drunk enough to tell their stories about infiltrating Comet Fall. The witches giggled over their encounters. Fean figured they probably knew the mysterious dark rider and the slut with the junk shop and magic potions, personally.

"There's a gate to Comet Fall on the side of the Disco barn?" Xiat double-checked.

"Yep. It goes right to the Crossroads. That Tavern, you've been there." Mushy grinned.

"Oh. Yeah. Just missed being turned into a goat there."

"There's other gates too. They made them for the Astronomers, up on this hill to the northwest." Fean set her glass down. Too much alcohol, her tongue was getting loose. "We ought to map it. It’s a maze, no rhyme or reason to it that I can see."

Mushy and Whipper looked interested.

"We'll have to get the Director to let us explore them." Mushy looked bright eyed and eager. Walnut looked at him and drooled. For that matter, Macaw was sitting rather close to Whipper. And Crimson brightened when Idlo walked out and joined them. Too bad she was so huge, Idlo would have to look elsewhere. The looks Gewz was sliding his direction, he wouldn’t have to look far.

"Was your Director happy about capturing the smuggler?" Saiga looked innocently up at him.

:: Don't get any ideas, you're only fifteen. ::

:: Sixteen in three weeks. ::

"Thrilled. And, damn the twisty fellow, he was even happy the women escaped. He says we need to find them and get friendly, find the source of the potions, and what gates and routes they take to other places they smuggle to. Although he was a bit disappointed this wasn't a Fallen spy action. He'd love to one-up Endi. Xen. Whatever."

Crimson popped a beer for him, and Fean mentioned the Game Pod to the teenagers, and led them off to it.

They stayed three days, until the high traffic volume through the Embassy gate died down for the weekend, then they slipped through, unnoticed. Such a useful web of quietness, unnoticeablity and invisiblity spells! Fean watched them disappear into the Embassy night and turned back with a sigh. That had been fun, now that it was through. There'd been those nerve screeching moments with Saiga missing . . .

Now, for better or worse, she was going to have to talk to Urfa about it. He probably wasn't going to approve of some of the details. But perhaps he’d let her explore the maze. Come back and see Ajha. Frequently.

***

The first contraction hit while they were waiting for three cars to pass through. Crimson grabbed the saddle horn and concentrated on breathing through it. Her bodily awareness soared, and she could see her dau . . . no, damn Eldon! Her son wiggling in protest at the pressure. Dace moved under her, following Midnight toward the gate. And what that gate looked like! It shrank and swelled, her perspective shifting. Of course. Now she could see the two cones, twisted together at their tips. She looked out and spotted a fast spinning cone among the bubbles, and all the crumpled paper worlds, like translucent imperfections in a crystal. It swelled around her, astounding in its reach. There was the jagged dark crack of a major flaw. They rushed towards it, past it, dived into an orderly array of converging tunnels that were the gates to Embassy.

They trotted quickly out of the embassy compound, Crimson sort of vaguely noticed guards looking around as they heard the sound multiple hooves. But they couldn’t see anything, and the hooves were well wrapped, the muffled impacts hard to locate. And out of the compound, a glowing array of gates.

"Look at it all! This is amazing." She tried to turn in the saddle to look back, but another contraction pulled her attention inward. "This is going to be fast."

"Crimp, you can't have a baby here! We're invisible!"

"Oh, of course. Walnut, take them and find that gate to the Crossroads. I have to stay here."

Between contractions her awareness expanded out, and now she was looking at a different part of the multiverse. She looked across the plaza and spotted the Earth's gate and turned Dace toward it. She could see it, see where it went. "We can smuggle stuff to Earth. And Purple. There's Purple."

"Crimson, is that you?" A distant voice, ringing in the gates. "Old Gods, you're scaring people wandering around invisible, talking to yourself."

The light warp collapsed, suddenly. Another contraction.

"And you can't have a baby out here." The woman sounded closer to normal, now. "On horseback."

"Yes I can. I can see it all, all the gates, how they work and where they go. I won't leave." The contraction eased and she slipped back into the flow of bubbles. They tickled.

"What?" The voice chimed and echoed.

Irritating. She wished it would shut up. "Didn't you realize that having a baby around a gate is how you learn to make them? Idiot." She slipped off Dace and waddled back to the nearest gate. "Granite Peak. Huh. Look, all of the other Oners colonies are in a spray across three faults, all mostly toward Comet Fall. And a bunch of ours come from the other direction."

"You can see that?"

Crimson blinked and focused as a contraction pulled her back to her body. "Q?" Did I just call Q an idiot? She started laughing, and the contraction doubled her over in pain. Her water broke, soaking her riding pants. She fumbled with the belt. "He's coming fast."

"I don't believe I'm doing this. Sit. Down." Q knelt down and pulled one of Crimson's boots off, then the other.

Running footsteps. "Q, we've got a stretcher." Was that Xen's voice? It echoed oddly among the bubbles, rang in the gates. The Master.

"Forget it, she's delivering right here, where she can feel the gates."

"What?"

By the time Crimson held the baby in her arms, she'd collected a sizable audience. And the bubbles had faded away until she had to look specifically for them, to see them. But the spinning cones were among them, and so were the nearest worlds. Xen wrapped her in a blanket and carried her off. Figures. Of all the times to get carried off by a handsome man . . .

***

"Apparently several maturation stages, experienced in or near gates can encompass understanding of the gates in with the addition of the other skills attendent on that stage." Q looked around at her glassy eyed listeners and sighed. "Childbirth works best, but loosing one's virginity or being in the right place when your child grasps power may work as well. I'm lacking volunteers, for some reason. I passed through two corridors and was close to the gates on the Grange Barn, shortly after I learned to channel, after a magic battle overload. Menopause is such a long drawn out process . . . perhaps frequent gate travel would be enabling. We'll just have to find out as opportunities come along."

The witches all swapped looks around.

Answer straightened, pulling all their attention. "Any witches who wish to try this method of childbirth, do so in the realization that you'll be pulled out into the greater world. They will expect you to take a job making gates according to their rules."

Q nodded. "Crimson is being wooed by at least five different Worlds. She's going to be hard put to keep up her illicit trading empire."

"Her what?"

***

Crimson spun in front of the mirror. Her light brown hair was now so black it had blue highlights. She'd regained her figure, and then some. She was slim and athletic. A combination of the long life potions, skin tighteners and that wine had her looking like she was in her twenties. A bit of morphing to the nose and no one would recognize her. Ha! "The whole Multiverse can't stop me now."

***

:: Is that for me?::

Idlo looked up, startled. He'd been wandering the grounds of the Director's home, and found the stables. A big black horse was loose. And familiar. The stallion stuck his nose in the mug and lifted it to pour the dredges of Idlo's beer into his mouth.

Idlo made a hasty grab for the mug as the horse dropped it.

:: Ooowee! Good stuff. Izzo won't let me have any.::

Idlo took a slow deep breath. "Four women. One teenage boy, four teenage girls. How did I not see that? How did I not see that one of those smugglers was pregnant? Or was the pregnancy an illusion? Fean and her friends. Where the bloody One is Fean? I want to talk to her about Teamwork. About what side she is on. About a certain potion."

:: Bring more beer when you come back!::

"And about talking horses from Comet Fall."