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28 April 2017 @ 09:14 am
_Lost and Found_ the end  

Scandia

Part Two

"Thirty seven days, give or take. The light never changes." Hail shot a glance up at the hated faint bronze glow. "A thousand years, give or take."

And then the light changed.

A black spot, brightening and quickly becoming a bright wedge as the bubble deformed, like something pushing down from the outside. Stretching, stretching down to the ground.

The ground quivered.

Jolted her back into motion. "Earthquake! Get away from the building!"

Fair pushed Macy, Hudson was on their heels . . .

"The bronze buildings shouldn't fall . . . "

"Something fell. To the east." Hail started jogging. Rounded the corner and stopped dead.

It looked like a jagged mass of marble had burst up out of the ground, spewing dirt everywhere.

A dozen people stood on the road, clear of the last spray of dirt.

A huddle of women.

Four men, glowing.

Hail held her hands out, and Fair and Macy joined her, gathering power.

The strangers just stood there, from the way their heads turned they were talking among themselves.

"They've got a couple of babies, and the other women look very pregnant." Fair relaxed. "I don't know who they are, but they really don't look very dangerous. I mean, the men are obviously mages. Did they break out of one of the bubbled buildings?"

The four men . . . a greybeard, two blondes and a redhead . . . appeared to be arguing. Then the old man stepped away, started walking toward the witches.

"The old ones are the most powerful," Hudson muttered.

"Yeah, but they may think he looks less threatening, and be trying to not scare us." Hail shifted, uncertainly. "But whoever they are, maybe they can let us out."

The old man walked out into the intersection with Elm and stopped abruptly, looking to his right.

"Oh, dammit, Estaven must have come too." Hail strode forward. "He'd better not start anything, with those women and children so close."

The old man swapped looks between her and whoever was approaching from the other direction.

"Good morning," she started . . . "Well, maybe it's afternoon."

The old man inclinded his head to her, his attention still split.

She walked out far enough to see down the cross street. "Good afternoon, Estaven. The gentleman has women and children in tow, so let's not start shooting, eh?"

The old man's eyebrows rose. "Shoot?" He studied Estaven and his cronies. "Old Gods, I've seen those things in museums. Err, sorry. I'm Selano Discorski. We had a bit of a run in with Pax, err, the God of Peace?" He paused for their nods. "And we arrived here accidentally." He shot a glance back toward his group. "I hope we didn't fall on anyone."

Hail shook her head. "Most of the population is bubbled up for the Comet . . . I'm Hail and this is Estaven Doscompos. Could you tell me what year this is? I'm afraid that since no one came to unbubble the city, we've been here for longer than we'd expected."

The old man looked startled. "The comet isn't due for another two months."

Hail paused. "When we were bubbled, the Comet was expected inside of days."

"Oh. So we've lost months?" The old man looked a bit taken aback.

Fair, Macy and Hudson had walked up from the west, the rest of Estaven's people from the north, and the rest of the strangers from the east.

Estaven had relaxed when he saw that there were only three other men, and the women were young pretty, and either carrying babies or obviously pregnant. But his eyes narrowed suspiciously as he eyed the three young men. "I don't recognize the uniform. You play in a band?"

The blonde in the lead snickered, and the women giggled. The other blonde and the redhead looked indignant.

"Kingdom of the West. Army." This first blond looked around. "Umm, where are we?"

"Scanida, on the West Coast."

The blond wrinkled his nose. "Never heard of it. Auralia, perhaps?"

The old man made a faint choking noise. "There was a Scandia on the west coast of Europe, which was destroyed when the Comet Fell."

"Thought you said it hadn't fallen yet?" Esteven frowned.

The blond swapped glances with the redhead. "Selano meant the comet of 1376. I'm beginning to wonder if you aren't talking about the comet of . . . "

"Thirteen seventy-six? What is this bullshit? Are you trying to tell me we've been stuck in that bubble for a thousand years!" Estaven was pale, no matter how angry his voice.

The blond looked absent minded for a moment, then shook his head. "Can't hear anyone." He cleared his throat. "I'm going to appeal to a higher authority. Don't over react, please. God of Roads! Harry! We are so lost I think we're even going to surprise you."

A pregnant pause.

"God of War?" Nothing.

The redhead looked up. "I don't think they can hear you through this . . . bubble. Umm, Hi I'm Bran, that's Oscar, and the young one is Gre."

Cautious nods and names circulated.

"So you must have tried to get out?" The old man, Selano, looked around. "Where's the nearest edge of the bubble?"

The women were in no shape to do anything. The men dithered, and finally let them just camp right where they were.

Hail and Fair exchanged glances, and Fair eased back to chat up the new women, while Hail led the way to the nearest edge of the city, about two miles away.

The mages poked and prodded it with no results.

"All this is new to us." Oscar sat and frowned at the unresponsive wall. "And we haven't the talent to handle a bubble."

The youngster—how could anyone with that gorgeous head of blond curls be named "grey" was beyond her—poked the wall. "They said I had potential. And what a pity I had no training at all."

The other three exchanged glances. "Circle up. Let's see if we can supply the training."

They formed a small compass, and Hail backed away from the brilliance of the power they gathered, and the spinning glowing hoop in her inner vision.

Hudson and Macy edged behind her.

"Is that . . . safe?" Macy whispered, peering out as the mages threw energy at the dome.

Hail sighed, as the dome shrugged it off. "Apparently."

The power spun down. The redhead, Bran, walked up and kicked the dome.

Hudson snickered. Straightened his shoulders and walked out to join them. "Kicking never works. Trust me, I've bruised my toes on it regularly."

They tried again. And again.

Fair and some of the new women brought food for them.

They munched and talked about what had happened in the World.

"Nearly everyone died, when the Comet fell. Lady Gisele, The Auld Wulf, Harry . . . they saved a lot of people." Selano looked around.

"Barry Virtue bubbled everything and then the whole city. Well, the main city, I suppose parts didn't fit."

Esteven snorted. "All the people came in, that lived too far away, and got bubbled."

Hudson nodded. "My horses and cows are bubbled."

Gre sighed. "I guess he used to do good things. All I hear now is . . . oh, never mind." He leaned back and closed his eyes.

But after a break, they got back up and tried again.

Hudson gazed wistfully at the show of magical strength. "Makes me wish wizards worked in groups."

Gre hunched his shoulders as they let the power go. "I was raised to think magic was evil. It . . . I just can't not do it." He ran his hands over the dark bronze . . . "I can almost grab it."

Hudson shrugged. "I can't even do that." He poked the wall . . . and it rippled.

Hail gasped. "Together. You two work together." She strode up. "Put your hands on it, both of you."

The others crowded around, everyone getting their hands on it. But it was Hudson and Gre who pulled open a slash of bright light. And a blast of frigid air.

"Hold that! Just . . . hold it open for a minute." Oscar ducked under their arms and through the slash.

Hail hesitated . . . then followed him. Out onto icy rock. She looked around. She ought to be able to see . . . Mount Christopher was denuded of trees. Stark stone and snow. Beyond it, the higher peaks were white, fading into the sky. "I really hope it's winter."

"Uh . . . I haven't a clue." He raised his voice. "Harry! God of the Roads, we are seriously lost!"

Nothing but the chilly wind.

"Can he answer prayers when you aren't on a road?" Hail's teeth started chattering, she turned . . . nothing on the windswept desolation but a tall slash of darkness, anxious faces peering out. The whole city was invisible.

"God of War?" Oscar did not sound confident.

"Doesn't he answer soldiers?"

"In battle. Bran and I are more . . . well, spies. And I can't just go 'God of Spies! Help, help, help!' and expect . . . "

Hail spun a sudden movement. A tall man, taller than Oscar, in an odd dark gray suit. Looking as surprised to see them as she felt.

"Old Gods . . . where the heck is this?"

"Scandia. Who are you?" Hail straightened, trying not to shiver. "Where did you come from?"

"Someone summoned me." He glanced from her to Oscar. Frowned at him. "Are you . . . no you're too young to be Oscar Harryson . . . And that's the biggest bubble I've ever seen."

Oscar shook himself. "I am Oscar Harryson, and who the hell are you?"

"The God of Spies . . . " he walked over to the slash and looked through. "You have a whole city in there?"

"Yes." Oscar edged nearer. "Scandia. They've been here for a thousand years. We got here . . . hours ago? Maybe a day?"

"Thirty-three years, out here. Right. It too much to teleport, so I'm going to get some help. I recommend you go back inside and close up. It'll take me a week or so to get what I need and then move the city bubble . . . Ah. I know just what I need."

He disappeared. She was staring at him and he just stopped being there.

Oscar hunched his shoulders. "There's no such thing as a God of Spies . . . Let's go warm up and eat something."

Hail ducked back inside and Oscar followed. Gre and Hudson let go, and the slash snapped closed.

And light bloomed.

Warm winds. Beaches. Hills. A tidy little bay.

With . . . a colorful . . . cloth, perhaps . . . ball hanging in midair?

Hail blinked as her brain processed distance and size. A very large colorful ball hanging in mid air, with a wagon suspended under it, and a rope angling down to tie it to a tree beyond the city.

The tall man who'd called himself the God of Spies strolled up. "Much nicer climate. We're south of the ruins of New Tokyo, on the east coast of Asia. The nearest settlement is about five hundred miles down the coast."

He walked over to the closest building and tapped four spots on the wall, opening a square of . . . a scene in a city. People standing around, walking up to, and stepping through, onto the road.

"Oscar!" An old stooped man, dark skin, grey hair, bald . . . The God of Travelers! grabbed him by the shoulders. "We thought you must be dead?"

"My god. The whole city is safe." The big muscular man with the trim beard looked stunned.

Estaven started as another man and woman stepped out of nowhere.

This one was dressed like an actor in a play, broad brimmed hat with feathers, lacy shirt . . . the old woman was the Goddess of Heath and Fertility.

A fourth man stepped out of nowhere. Pale blonde, four huge dogs . . .

Estaven swallowed, looked back at the gang. "Mind your manners. They're gods. But not the ones we were fighting."

The bearded man cocked his head. "Who were you fighting?"

"Pax and Art. I'm not afraid of a god. You are all just magicians." He crossed his arms. Braced himself.

"Barry Virtue bubbled all of the buildings, and then the city as a whole." Hail edged around him. "Has it really been a thousand years?"

"Yes." The God of Just Deserts answered. He was looking past Estaven, right at them. "I remember you three witches." He started smiling. "And Barry sealed most of the people up inside the buildings. We really ought to let everyone out."

Estaven blinked and looked around. "Better get everything else you're going to do, done first. Unless you want to deal with the major, the city council and a planning commission."

The gods had all swapped looks.

Old Harry had just grinned. "Let's move them first. Then they can talk all they want, and plan all they want, and ask us to shift things around."

The God of Just Deserts smirked. "So . . . where would you lot like us to put—or build—you some homes? Wolf? Why don't you ask Never and Dydit to come and throw their inhibitions to the winds? We've got a whole city infrastructure to redesign and rebuild."

"Who?"

"A witch and a wizard. What they can do together has to be seen to be believed. And Uncle Havi's gang, too. I'll go ask them." The God of Spies stepped back through his corridor, and then disappeared from there.

Hudson sighed wistfully. "Wizards just aren't very strong. How does he do it?"

"Ah. Yes. We discovered that the male hormones, if removed or suppressed, allow the last maturation of the male brain to grow in a more powerful manner." The God of Just Deserts, Lord Hell, he called himself, grinned. "It's a spell. How old are you?"

"Eighteen."

"Perfect. Want it? Your sex drive will be low to non-existent for four or five years, then it wears off."

"And I'll be strong? Magically?"

"Yep." He held out a glittery spell web.

"Do it."

And people kept popping out of nowhere . . . except it was more of a doorway . . . with food, drinks, and news.

"We couldn't deflect the comet. Almost everyone died." Wolfgang Oldham, he'd introduced himself as. "Now, all the population centers are in the western hemisphere. If you want to be autonomous, you'll need to stay in the eastern hemisphere. But the friendliest nation is on the west coast of North America, so Xen moved you just across from them, and the corridor is to their capital city."

Hudson, just behind her, breathed "I never knew the God of War had an actual name."

The Old Wolf, of course.

They talked of corridors, gates to whole other worlds.

New nations, but the same magic. Sort of.

Never Happydaut was the most powerful witch Fair had ever met.

The three of them huddled together, defensively.

"We're not part of the Scandia Pyramid. They kicked us out when we killed some rapists . . ." Hail swallowed and waited for the reaction.

"That was stupid of them." Never waved a dismissive hand. "Not that we don't have to deal with the same sort of thing. My oldest daughter . . . well. So. The gods are figuring out what to do with a whole city, and in the mean time you who are not bubbled need homes."

Estaven tried to swagger. "I want a mansion. Me and my boys want to be up there, along the curve of the bay." He pointed across the bay. "I figure the wharfs can go along there, with most of the city sort of back a bit."

The man, Dydit Twicecutt, surveyed the whole area from their position on the highest hill, above and behind the city. "There's no reason to keep the city in one solid chunk. It can be spread around, and spread out. It's not a very large bay."

Estaven shook his head. "The wharves and the warehouses all need to be pretty close, for efficiency."

Fair grinned wickedly. "Why don't we put the administrative buildings over there on that hill? And the main business district back a bit, with room in between to grow." She cleared her throat. "And keep their planning commission—you know that's the first thing they're going to do—busy figuring out how to determine ownership."

"Good grief, what was Virtue thinking? He's cut all the water and sewer lines." That was a man with striking golden eyes contrasting with his black hair and handlebar mustachios.

"If the buildings all stayed in place it would have been easy enough to repair the cuts." A man with dark hair and eyes, a goatee, all dressed in black. Ras, he'd been introduced as. "Estaven, do you want to be in any of the city areas, or separate? How about you witches?" He eyed the surrounding hills, and pointed at a promontory that dropped abruptly to the ocean. "That one might be suitable for your pyramid celebrations."

Fair and Hail gulped in concert. Macy grinned. "Yeah. We want it. The other witches can pick some other place.

Fair gulped again, but Hail was nodding. "Yes. We'll take it. Please. And maybe we can build a home down at the base."

The older wizard, Dydit, grinned. "That's awfully polite. Are you sure you're a witch?"

Never shot him a dark glower—with dimples showing.

Estaven snorted. "I want a house right there. Are you actually saying you build them . . . magically?"

"Yes." Never sounded a bit . . . distracted. She set a hand on Dydit's arm . . .

Fair staggered as the ground changed underfoot.

Looked around.

Tried to not hyperventilate.

"Witches and wizards are not supposed to work together, and they can't travel like gods." Hail's voice was high and squeaky.

Macy and Hudson swapped glances.

Macy bounced on her toes. "I think they learned how to. And maybe they'll teach us."

Hudson grinned. Then his eyes widened.

Fair turned.

A hole was excavating itself, dirt flying one direction, rocks the other . . . then the rocks started flowing like putty, lining the hole, rising up into walls . . .

"Windows!" Ras yelled. "Lots of windows for the view and to catch the breezes. We're in the tropics!"

The walls oozed, opened up wide gaps . . . poured out over nothing at all to form a floor. The walls kept rising, a second floor, a roof . . . ornate columns . . .

"Hey, can I have gargoyles?" Estaven sounded a bit breathless.

Lumps on the eaves grew, developed features . . . Gargoyles.

"Dang, can I have a house too?" One of Estaven's men.

The witch and wizard nodded, absent minedly, as they strolled away . . .

The others started calling out suggestions . . .

Thirty houses later, the uncanny pair finally blinked as if they were just waking.

Fair had organized a camp and had dinner ready.

"The gods moved chunks of the city all over. And Never and Dydit have been just . . . walking along looking at the ground. They said they had the water and sewer lines all laid out, underground, and ready to connect to the buildings."

"All we need is nerve enough to ask to have homes of our own," Hail whispered.

Ras looked over and laughed. "Give them a good night's sleep, and they'll probably do more than you want." He glanced over at Estaven and his people. Raised his voice. "We'll start work on doors and glass for the windows tomorrow. Then the rest is up to you."



Chapter Three

Spring 1395

Karista, Kingdom of the West

Everything was the same. Except for what had changed.

Oscar tried to tell himself that the details would be easy to pick up.

King Rebo had died at the age of one hundred and nine.

King Leano was still the solid man he remembered. Crown Prince Rolo had settled down with his second wife. His oldest son, the spear heir had been badly injured, and the crown heir assassinated. They been six and four years old, last he'd noticed. The crown prince had since had four more children. The daughters were seventeen and thirteen. Their twin boys were just approaching their first birthdays.

Spear Prince Fossi was fifty-three years old. He'd been Oscar's foster brother, Younger foster brother. Now he was a well respected colonel in the army, doing most of the field work for General Rufi, who hadn't changed a bit, thank the Old Gods.

There were a bunch of new officers whom he barely remembered.

But Lefty Lebonift—now a colonel—was high in the intel division, and spent most of his time spying on Auralia, which had split into eight nations before consolidating into four, and stealing time to explore cross-dimensional worlds with Question.

Rufi grinned, as he filled them in on what they'd missed. "Colonel Janic is the head of the King's Own. He's organized a few magic users in the army into what we call Magic Central. Guess where you're going to land?"

Selano sighed, and Rufi reached over to grip his shoulder. "Dad missed you. But he always said you were too tough to get killed, and he just hoped you were having fun, wherever you landed. You know you'll always have a home here."

"Yes . . . but I've missed so much!"

Rufi's eyes twinkled. "You have no idea. Take your time, and adjust to the new world. It's a lot like the world you left. Starting with that island father gave you. Your people have kept it in working order. My driver says the women who were with you and their old friends had a great reunion, and two more babies. He stuck around so he could report the results. Risti had a girl and Gari a boy. Go there, get settled. I'll see you three officers in three days. Selano, stay or go, your choice, of course."

Oscar made a mental note to ask someone discreetly about a God of Spies . . . but first he was going home . . . to see what it had become in three decades.

 
 
 
(Anonymous) on April 28th, 2017 04:37 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this story - I've wondered about what happened to Bran, Oscar, and company since they disappeared. I did notice a possible continuity error. Zen says they've been gone for thirty-three years but the timestamp for the last part of the piece is 1395 and Pax's attack is dated to 1375.
matapampamuphoff on April 28th, 2017 05:47 pm (UTC)
I've poked at the problem for quite awhile. And written more stuff, so the date they come come back keeps getting pushed further off.

I'm contemplating bring it forward and tossing them into the _Last Merge_ mess. Ajha's reaction to the pair of them happily charging in to spy on the Helaos could be fun. So, 1400 . . .they'd have only lost 25 years, more or less. Give them a couple of years to adjust, then they would have been helping with the _Cannibal World_ evac, and then later, assigned to spy on the Helaos?
muirecanmuirecan on April 28th, 2017 04:44 pm (UTC)
Ah yes the world has changed almost as much for Oscar and Bran as it has for those in Scandia.
ekuah on April 28th, 2017 11:10 pm (UTC)
Honestly?
The end feels a little bit rushed.
Need some more filling.
About how the people react, how they feel, how they adapt.
Sorry, but this is my first impression.

About Oscar, which home does he mean? Harries Tavern (which is now at a different place)? Or the isles (which he has no real memories of)?

By the way, I want to make a suggestion.
How about that Bran is the one who is curious about the god of the spies?
While talking to Xen he could accidentally meet Rael, his daughter, who is theoretical older than Bran now.
"Wow. Big zing. We must be related. And you look exactly like my biodad when he was young. Are you maybe my halfbrother? Do you know someone named Bran Butcher?"
"Ehm... Well... Yes... But first, who are You?"



Edited at 2017-04-28 11:12 pm (UTC)
matapampamuphoff on April 28th, 2017 11:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Honestly?
This won't be published, as is. Not that it isn't a reasonable short story, but I think it'll be better as the start of something else, something for Oscar and Bran to deal with.

Or a problem for Hail, Fair, and Macy to solve.

Better yet, both of them. Especially since I started the story with the witches.

Oscar and Bran are going to the island that was given to the "Karista Mages." It would probably be better to say "Going to the Island, the new home he'd barely lived in, thirty (or whatever) years ago."

Probably nothing more will get written until I come up with a problem for them.
ekuah on April 29th, 2017 08:04 am (UTC)
Re: Honestly?
I'm perfectly aware that this is only a first draft. But it felt somehow more drafty than your usual snippets.
If you need problems? Just put a pissed off Kail (the battleaxe) and her directorate on Oscar and Bran's trail. So the good guys have to defuse the situation.
mbarkermbarker on April 29th, 2017 12:46 am (UTC)
Reading through it, especially with the filling in I think you'd do, it makes a nice "intro" or "transition" piece for readers who might be starting or haven't have kept up with everything. Explaining what has happened to the bubblees let's you sneak that info to the readers.