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19 March 2017 @ 08:09 pm
_Black Point Clan_ part 16  
 

"Either the King is saying this is a private matter, with Wolfson and his Second talking about dueling, or he is leaving an incredibly important bit of diplomacy in the hands of his two top magical spies."

"I'm rather inclined to the former. I may go so far as to suggest . . . " He broke off as more vehicles stopped behind the limo. A man hopped out of the first one. Efge frowned as the man approached. "Ajki. I might have known you'd find out about this."

Ajki shrugged at his fellow director. "I own the embassy on Embassy. And I wouldn't dream of missing this meeting." He cast an eye back at the men waiting. "Action Teamers, as you requested."

"Good. I'm not adverse to them testing the limits." Efge raised his voice a bit at that, and got some grins from the team.

Ajki shook his head. "Think, before you make trouble. Please."

Chapter

They drove a trio of cars through the Gate. Teamers in front and rear in heavy black utility vehicles. Xiat rode in the white limo with the two Directors and Izzo. They all had on their game faces. They emerged facing a large fountain in a open plaza that must have been in excess of fifty hectares. A collection of people in mixed Oner and Fallen garb was waiting for them. A man in an impeccable suit walked to them, followed by a young man, who, in a different uniform, wouldn't have warranted a second glance on the One World.

"I'm Ambassador ///. Lieutenant Hasty will guide you to the Tavern, sirs." The high soft voice of a Eunuch.

I didn't realize they'd placed a Priest here. Xiat eyed the plaza. She'd seen a million pictures, but the reality felt . . . more spacious than she expected. And thin . . . It's the small population of Oners. I'm use to the pressure of billions of people, millions of Oners, in the background. Here? I've heard the population is up to fifty thousand, with maybe four or five thousand Oners. A couple office buildings' worth, in Paris.

And outside this city . . . this town there's nothing, no one.

Director Efge was nodding. "Thank you Ambassador. I'll make sure you get a report on this meeting."

The Ambassador led the young man off to the first vehicle. They drove around a corner of the block and through another gate. A quarter mile down the road they turned and drove into what Xiat recognized as a corridor. They emerged on a road running between grassy low hills, scant snow on top of winter killed grass. The only building in sight was a steep roofed wooden, and quite small place. As they approached, two men in blue and gold stood and stepped off the porch.

She recognized Xen Wolfson, of course. The other man was not quite as tall, but broader. Sandy brownish hair and grey eyes. She recognized him as well. One of the other spies. At first glance, no magic and not much intelligence, either. Major Easterly is a wizard . . . the lower frequencies are showing a faint gleam around solid, habitual shields. So solid his eyes looked shallow. Probably smarter than hell. You can hide a lot behind shields and eyes like that.

Teamers slipped in to check out the premises. Introductions made the rounds. One of the five guards who had gone in stepped back out and nodded.

Wolfson waved them toward the door. "Come in. We're taking you at your word, that you seek a means to quiet down this low level picking away at us. We're delighted that you can finally contemplate peaceful co-existence. Who knows? Even Earth may find some basic manners, one of these decades."

The interior was warm, wood and stone. A bent old man of African heritage was polishing glasses behind a bar made of a split trunk of wood, the smooth top gleaming in the light of oil lamps on the wall behind. The embers of a fire in the huge fireplace glinted and radiated warmth. Wolfson sat on the far side of the big round table, Easterly sat beside him. Xiat followed the Director's cue and they all sat just a bit clumped, wider gaps on either side separating them from the Fallen.

Efge put his elbows on the table and laced his fingers. Izzo was beside him, and Ajki beyond, across the table from her. Xen Wolfson was within arms reach of her. The hair was standing up on the back of her neck and arms. She remembered the man from guarding the President's daughter while he was her riding coach. From an attempt to assassinate the President. Knew too damn much about the most successful spy the One had ever been the victim of. Being this close was doing horrible things to her fight vs. flight instincts. She told herself he looked like Pajamas, but he didn't. He didn't glow, but somehow the eye still sought him, the breath caught. His eyes didn't reflect the shields within, instead they showed incredible depths, terrifying depths. She shivered.

He's letting a lot more show than he reveals in Paris, at those dinners at Government House he regularly gets invited to.

She pulled her eyes away and swept the room for the location of other threats.

The Fallen Lieutenant settled against the bar, at the end away from the front door. One of the Directorate teamers stood so as to have him and the old bartender under observation. The rest focused on Wolfson and Easterly. There was a door in the side wall beyond him, a door in the back wall. A door under the stairs. Stairs that led to a balcony and two corridors running back . . . They must use dimensional bubbles in construction, the inside of the Inn is larger than the outside by at least a factor of three.

"So, Director of Interior Relations Efge, how do you think we should we settle the legal matters left between us?" Xen opened the negotiations.

"I wish to address some personal matters, not the espionage, which President Orde pardoned unconditionally yesterday. You interfered with eighteen marriages. The men are mortally affronted, the women, cast out, with their bastard children."

"To starve in the freezing snow?" Wolfson put in quickly. He received the return glares with equamity. "Sorry, do go on."

"We have a group judicial decree, for one hundred thousand rials for each child. As there are twenty-five of them, impounding all your property and auctioning it didn't come close to covering the judgment. We recognize that you settled that debt a few years ago. But the women's genetic reputation was badly damaged. Additionally there is the matter of thirteen husbands who wish satisfaction."

"Thirteen still alive? I thought you'd executed more than that. And I'd heard a report of one of them dying just the other day. Uzga, Third Minister or some such? Or, these names, I get so confused, was that some other poor sod who ran afoul of your 'Game' as you call it?" Xen shook his head. "You lot marry and divorce damn near at random, not a single one of the women I allowed to seduce me was on less than her third husband, they all had considerable personal property and were perfectly able to raise their children themselves. They were all miserable in their marriages, else they'd not have pursued me. The men? They got to divorce this round of wives on the cheap. If there was a single one who loved his wife, and grieved for the poor quality of his marriage, I extend my regrets to have magnified his failure to win his wife's regard. Although, I must warn you, those women talked. Lots. Especially about their relationships with their husbands. If any of them was trying to woo his wife, it was going right over her head."

"Third Minister Uzga died accidentally. Nothing to do with politics." Efge unlaced his fingers and leaned back. "You seem lacking in sympathy for the women you wronged."

"I pitied the women who sought me out. And I used them. As their husbands, and ex husbands, and indeed the whole society uses them. Social prizes, fields of play for random genetics testing, political conduits, given money but little power and less respect. Well, we have some odd societies of our own. Our witches, for example, have done away with husbands altogether. And sons, for the most part. Sorry, that was way off topic. Where were we?"

Major Easterly looked like he was falling asleep. Izzo hadn't relaxed though. A girl with auburn hair walked out of the door in the side wall. She bore a tray of cups and saucers, and a pot emitting coffee odors. The teamers shifted to block her.

"If any of you would like coffee, it's fresh." She turned bright green eyes from the table to the nearest of the blocking guards. "If you would prefer to serve them yourself, please do. If you are the official taster, start tasting." She rocked back on her heels and waited for the man to make up his mind.

He glanced toward Efge, then grabbed her arm. Cups slid as the tray tilted. The flick of power was fast and expert. The waitress stepped out of the way, steadying her tray. The teamer collapsed.

The waitress stood there, toe tapping impatiently as spells from the other guards bounced, fizzed or just died against her shields. Two of them moved toward her, stopped to feel what must have been solid, grounded shields.

"If you don't want coffee, just say so. You don't have to be nasty about it."

"Enough. Let her serve the coffee." Ajki glared at the team commander, glowered at Egfe.

The girl handed the cups around with experienced reach and balance, poured coffee without spilling a drop, and stepped back with a smile. "Would anyone prefer tea?"

A second girl emerged with a tray of her own. Munchies, little plates. Cookies. The guards eyed her, but didn't interfere. She walked around the man on the floor, and set them in the center of the table. She was tall, looked about sixteen. Straight mid-brown hair, brown eyes. Xiat looked back at Wolfson.

"Relatives of yours?"

"My cousin Eclipse. And Deimos, the daughter of a good friend. The witches used the index of an Astronomy text for their naming scheme that year." He leaned to snag a cookie. "Now, we both know that you're looking for an excuse to start a war and we're looking for a reason to not have one. If, somehow, my coming to the One World and slaughtering thirteen members of the War Party will stop your war mongering, then I'll grit my teeth and do it. If two and a half million rials, given to the women who have raised my children, doubling the standard child support, will stop a war, then I'll import more gold, sell it, and pay the women.

"But you'll be right back, with other complaints, won't you? Or perhaps slaughtering bureaucrats by the dozens will be the excuse you want. What I'm not getting, from our constant monitoring—spying, if you prefer—is any desire for peace nor recognition that we can, and have, individually and as a whole, beat the crap out of you every time you attacked. Why is that?" He nibbled at the cookie.

Director Efge looked him straight in the eye. "Because you have less than a thousand trained magicians, and we have a million. We have an elite of a hundred thousand people, and any one of us can beat your best. Even one of your Gods."

Major Easterly leaned forward. "Do you lot still want a war? Haven't you noticed that we fight according t'our strengths, not yours?"

"Your strengths? You are nothing, compared to us." Efge pointed at the front door. "I can kill the next person who walks in here. At a much greater distance and with greater ease than your baby witch drained that soldier. The One World can crush you."

Director? Threats are not actually useful . . . for anything except playing to the home crowd. Are you recording this?

"The One World can try. We have a much smaller population, but we're quite amazingly tricky. We can open—and close—gates anytime we want to."

Slid right into a nasty threat, there, didn't you Xen?

"And as for killing random people who walk through doors, I really recommend you don't. Sounds like breaking a truce, act of war, that sort of thing. And since I've got the troops keeping civilians away, anyone who walks in is likely to be a magician, and able to protect him or herself. It could get messy fast." Wolfson nodded at the teamers. "Take pity on your poor security detail and don't threaten to start the war with them as your only troops."

Director Efge bristled.

In unfortunate timing, footsteps crossed the porch. The Director stood up and turned to the door as it swung open. An old man stepped in, tall and thin, not a hint of infirmity in his lean, muscular build. Brown eyes flicked to them, scanned the array of guards, flicked back as the Director threw a spell.

The old man's fingers twitched. A fog, a fine net, a swarm of spells . . . Efge bent over with a painful bleat. The teamers leaped into action. Major Easterly thrust out a foot and tripped one. Xiat leaped for the action, saw the spell coming, not a single spell, but a flood, dropped and rolled . . . The major had the tripped guard in hand. Both his arms appeared to be broken. The last guard, outside with the cars, flew through the door, weapons ready. The old man reached for the bottle the barman extended, and applied it to his head. The fight was over.

The old man turned the bottle around. "Just what I was looking for. Hot date with Justice tonight." He ignored the bodies writhing on the floor.

Xiat glanced down at Efge. The director's hands twisted, deformed, fingernails growing thick and heavy, fingers short and fat as his hand elongated. He pawed at his face as it seemed to project and grow outward, a dark beard, no, he had hair everywhere. Knobs on his scalp burst around ivory . . . horns. Growing longer as she watched.

"Worst case of Instant Karma I've ever seen."

She turned her head just enough to get Wolfson in her peripheral vision. He hadn't even bothered to stand up. He stuffed the last of the cookie into his mouth.

The old man cocked his head.

Xiat stood very still, and she noticed that both Ajki and Izzo were likewise unmoving. They'd barely stood up before it was all done.

"Is Lord Hell around?" Wolfson shrugged. "No? He'll be jealous. Would you mind changing a couple of the guards back so they can drive away?"

Easterly chuckled. "It'll also show them that a bit of goatiness is neither deadly nor irreversible."

"You could change them all back, and avoid the consequences." Ajki straightened and met the old man's gaze directly.

Wolfson snickered. "What's this? You can't undo a few Fallen spells yourself? Don't you want to take them back home and work out all the lovely little intricacies? Analyze them and try to duplicate them? Why, this could be the secret to our multi-dimensional abilities."

Ajki shot a glare toward Wolfson, then returned to studying the old man. "I saw Xen change people into purple rabbits. I've heard of Q and Xen changing people into goats. I hadn't realized the practice was widespread. You don't fit the descriptions I've had of the Old Gods. Who are you?"

Goats? Xiat looked down. Yes. A goat. The Director struggled free of his suit coat, and ripped out of his shirt. He was a very pissed off goat. Large, black, with his horns now spiraling out to the sides.

The old man leaned back on the bar. The menace in his hooded eyes belied any appearance of indolence. "My name is Nil. If we had such a thing, I'd be called the Archwizard. As it is, I operate a School of Magic. The one from which Nighthawk was kidnapped. Did any of you have anything to do with that?"

They all got very still.

"I believe the Director of Internal Relations was the one who instigated that action." Xen indicated the first black goat. The Director was bleating at the other goats, at Izzo, then trotted over to Ajki, reared up and bleated demandingly in his face.

The old man's fingers twitched a bit. Xiat jerked forward, but she was too far away to intercept anything from the old man. Ajki had gotten a hand up, and shook himself uncertainly. Nil chuckled nastily.

"You're going to regret getting a piece of that. The goat spells will finish up in a minute, then I'll pop it off a couple of them." The old man strolled over to the director. Izzo tensed. Wicked brown eyes swung his way, amused. Confident. Izzo sunk back.

"Why did you attack me?"

The black goat maaahed. The old man snorted. "Trying to get Xen to kill some of your guards over a show off sleep spell? At least you had enough sense to realize that if you'd actually killed anyone you'd the one facing a trial and execution. If that had been anything except a sleep spell, you'd be a barbequed goat." The old wizard looked over the small herd of goats with a smirk. Pointed at two, who immediately convulsed again. Horns shrunk, faces writhed . . .

Xiat looked away, sick. "I don't suppose there's any of that Joy Juice around? The filtered variety? For the injured?"

Three women had been surveying the battle site, if such a one sided affair could be called a battle. One ducked away and returned with a wine bottle.

Wolfson stepped over and took it, producing a cork screw from thin air. "May I recommend that you separate the goats once you get them back home? Goats tend to be sexually aggressive, and there will be enough rancor without them, err."

Izzo's poker face slipped a bit. "Quite. Now if you don't mind, perhaps we should get these . . . people in the cars."

Major Easterly murmured something about " . . . full retreat, tails between legs . . . "

Xiat eased out and around the goats, keeping an eye on the old man.

He eyed her in return. "You're very fast. I hope your boss appreciates you."

She smiled stiffly. "Just at the moment, I seriously doubt it."

He chuckled, a nasty menacing edge to it.

I'm really, really glad I dodged that net of spells. But I wish I'd had time to study it. She glanced worriedly at the goats. And the two shocked and naked guards who were scrambling back into their clothing. "Do the utes have room for . . . goats?"

"Yes. We'll, uh, we'll go fold the seats all down then come back for the . . . goats." They hobbled stiffly past Nil who grinned after them. Pulled muscles? Aching bones?

"Funny isn't it. Can't remember the last time I had to fight someone twice."

Wolfson popped the cork of the wine bottle and handed it to her. Major Easterly assisted with his victim, who whimpered as the big man pulled the rapidly healing bones straight. The one with the knot on his head was blinking and trying to fight his way back to consciousness. She dribbled just a bit into his mouth. The third man was limp, and a bit blue around the lips. Xiat drew in power from the air around her, then knelt and poured it into the guard. His pulse leaped, then settled, his breathing deepened. He got a few drips of wine, just on the strength of its reputation.

She looked around at Ajki. He was still studying Nil, and she left him to it, grabbing her patient by the coat and dragging him toward the door. One of the retransformed guards stepped in and helped. She looked over at him. "Are you two all right to drive?"

"Yes, Ma'am. And the sooner the better."

The other one held the door, while nodding agreement.

"Right then, lets put this fellow in the back of the limo, the other two injured as well. Collect the loose clothing. We'll load the goats, the directors and get the hell out of here." She stepped back into the tavern.

Ajki and Izzo were still facing off with the old wizard. Wolfson, Easterly and the young soldier were watching from the opposite end of the bar from the wizard. The old bar keeper was looking a bit amused. Xiat caught his eyes and jerked to a halt. Deep, powerful, old . . . How old? Surely this isn't one of their Old Gods. His eye crinkled in amusement and he nodded.

She pulled her gaze away and tried to watch them all from the corner of her eye while she collected the Director's case, bracer and clothes. Set her own case on the table and eyed the bottle of wine, now corked. She looked for anything else she ought to remove, slipped the wine into her own case and handed the lot off to the drivers. "Limo, front seat. Guards, all of you who are transformed, get in the back of the utes. Director, perhaps you would prefer the limo?"

The goats jumped in the utes readily, looking panicked and definitely ready to go home. The one who was Efge climbed into the limo, giving the moaning and barely conscious guard a disgusted look and leaped up onto the seat.

"Director Ajki, we're ready to go."

He scowled.

Izzo and Xiat each took one of Ajki elbows and didn't quite manhandle him out of the Inn. As they left, she heard Wolfson speaking.

"God, I wish I could claim I did that on purpose!"

 
 
 
ekuah on March 20th, 2017 10:25 am (UTC)
Sorry to say it out loud...
... but this whole tavern scene need a makeover.
The whole vibe of this part is not matching well with the rest of the books.

First they can't be all that ignorant about the Fallen anymore.
At least Ajki should have a clue, to not mess with them.
I don't know if Izzo or Xiat have ever been to embassy (have to recheck all the other book for it). But Xiat is in Urfa's ingroup, so she should be a lot better informed.
Some of them should have guessed the mess Efge was steering them into.

About importing more Gold for settling the alimonies:
The Fallen should have a well filled bank account now, since they installed all the corridors and permanent gates (which cost how many millions each?).

Then there is a continuity errors:
'Embassy' Chapter 23
20 Furkan 1400yp
Agni: "President Orde has issued an unconditional pardon..."
'Blackpoint Clan' somewhere in 1407yp
Efge: "I wish to address some personal matters, not the espionage, which President Orde pardoned unconditionally yesterday."
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on March 20th, 2017 03:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Sorry to say it out loud...
I expect the Permanent Gate payment bank account belongs to DISCO, not to the Kingdom or Comet Fall (which has no organisation, in spite of the references to "Comet Fall Embassy".)

Edited at 2017-03-20 03:39 pm (UTC)
ekuah on March 20th, 2017 04:53 pm (UTC)
Re: Sorry to say it out loud...
And who installed those corridors?
Most likely the dimensional able members of Disco, who were Xen and Q at first.
matapampamuphoff on March 20th, 2017 05:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Sorry to say it out loud...
There are now several private "Dimensional Engineering" companies who are making big bucks all over the multiverse installing corridors.

Disco and the Kingdom'd government have all made it clear that they are not allowed to make gates without Disco's permission. No doubt this will become an issue at some point. I haven't shown much of Disco's day-to-day operation. I need to do that, show especially Xen and Q tracking down and closing gates the Black Island gang have opened, and trying to find them.
matapampamuphoff on March 20th, 2017 04:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Sorry to say it out loud...
This is a personal debt. Xen is perfectly capable of discharging it on his own, and pointedly making that clear.
ekuah on March 20th, 2017 05:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Sorry to say it out loud...
I know, I know.

There are now several private "Dimensional Engineering" companies who are making big bucks for it.
But the first corridors were done by Xen and co. Long before those companies were founded.
I can't believe that he would have done that pro bono. So I guessed that he should have got some funds from it.

So I just wanted to point out, that he should also have some funds from service salaries.
Also he has signatory authority for the Wolf Company, which has 'a sizable account' on the One world.
I know it is his father's money and it is somehow unlikely the he will inherit it anywhere soon.
But I think Xen is pretty rich.

And even if he is just braking even, I would guess that the Old Wuld would borrow him the money.
Just imagine the scene where a humble Xen going to his father to beg for money.
Like other boys, who have 'accidentally' impregnated a girl. "Dad, do you have minute? I have to talk with you about something..."

On the other hand, if he paid for them, couldn't he demand visiting rights or shared child custody?

Edited at 2017-03-20 06:08 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous) on March 20th, 2017 10:35 am (UTC)
Xiat could even gently turn off the recording when she grabs the director's bracer. I do wonder if someone will get a copy to the media or at least to ajha (drat, is that the right name?) you know, the third alternate philosopher?
matapampamuphoff on March 20th, 2017 04:55 pm (UTC)
Xen came prepared with his own recorder. Mind you, he wasn't expecting the goat incident.
mbarkermbarker on March 21st, 2017 12:23 am (UTC)
Yep, next segment. No one expects the Fallen recorder?
matapampamuphoff on March 21st, 2017 12:49 am (UTC)
What? Those Medieval peasants?

There was a whole lot of "I can use this to expose a murderer" on Xiat's part and "I can use this to make a name for myself and one up my rivals" on Efge's part. As President Orde tells Xiat later, some consideration of how Xen could use it might have been a good idea.