?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
18 September 2017 @ 09:34 am
_Gate Team_ part 7  
 

"Governor? I though you had, like, Princes and Lords?" Bunny blushed. "We don't actually know a lot about you guys."

Q grinned. "It's mutual. The Kingdom is broken up into Provinces and Territories. They're broken up into Land Grants. The Land Grant holder is a Lord, generally hereditary, but in the territories they can buy grants, but they have to be economically viable inside of ten years or it lapses."

"The Land Grant Holders of each province elect one of them to be the Duke and represent them in the Council. The title of Duke has become hereditary as well, although the king can remove one, and in theory the other land Grant holders could as well. Territories have appointed Governors, ditto provinces where the hereditary duke is under age. They are also members of the Council. Cities and professional guilds over a certain size get representation as well."

"And of course," Xen sniffed, "the title of Lord has expanded to cover any and all male line descendants of the Land Grant Holders. So they're all over the place putting on airs."

Q snickered. "You tell them, Prince Xen."

Xen gave her a rude gesture. "Nope. Female line of descent. Princess."

That got a gesture Rael wasn't quite sure how to translate so she ignored it. "I got the impression the king is not exactly a figurehead . . . "

That got her glares.

Xen cleared his throat. "We have a two part head of state. Crown and Spear. The King runs the administration of the kingdom, the Spear runs the Military and the police. They both support each other and act as a check on each other. Either may request action of the Council, and either can veto legislation the Council passes. Two signatures are required to enact a law."

"Isn't that awkward?"

"It usually works well. Except when it's such a disaster it implodes before it gets within a generation of the top."

"And that's how the Hors de Combat started?"

"Yep. And we're really glad they don't seem to be in business any longer. Wherever they are."



Chapter Eldon

Eldon like the long trips down the east side of the Rip to the northern end of Long Lake. He'd grown up in Gemstone, with this stony wilderness just a few miles away. Of course they'd had a whole world to use and explore on the other side of their Gate. But a more boring World would be hard to find. The desert, on the other hand, had been perfect for his boyhood misbehaviors.

And hide from well earned punishment. We're all set up with a house and mining claims . . . I hope to hell we can keep it up.

With a good sized load of gold, he had all four horses hitched to the wagon today. Banana and Muffin leading, and Star and Blazer as his wheel pair. They'd been this way enough times that they hardly needed steering. Which was just as well; he rode the brake down the slope toward the bridge across the lake. The stupid dog sat beside him. Not stupid. He's a Hell Hound cross of some sort, and probably not even full grown.

The bandits showed up at an awkward time, pelting down the hill at him, as they made a rather sharp turn on the steepest segment. They were whooping and yelling, and had crossbows cocked and in hand.

The idiot dog growled and then faded into the rocks.

"Halt or die!" The leader had a really great mustache.

"What? Do I look stupid?" Eldon yelled back. He raised a physical shield around the horses and scowled at the idiots. Around the corner, Banana snorted and stopped. Eldon cussed and set the brake. Climbed down to examine the fairly minor fall of rocks that completely blocked the road. Eldon certainly wouldn't want to come up on it at any speed. "Son of a Witch."

The dozen men were pulling up alongside the wagon, grinning.

"Think its funny do you?" Eldon flicked a finger at the mustache, which promptly burst into flame. Half a dozen bolts bounced off his personal shield, and Eldon grabbed the nearest man and dragged him from his saddle. He removed sword and knife from the man's possession and shoved him at the rock pile.

"Start shifting rock. Don't give me any lip!"

Before the frantic leader had gotten his mustache put out in the road dust, Eldon had disarmed two more, bubbled three, and was studiously ignoring the rest of them.

"Who are you?" The man touched his tender face.

"I'm a bigger, badder man that you'll ever be. And you'd best be glad it's me and not any of my partners that you tried to rob. They've got tempers. But, despite my position on the pinnacle of evil, I'm currently trying to be an honest miner. So, you lot are going to take note of these odd colored horses of mine, and you aren't ever going to try to rob me again. Right?"

A sharp bark from the dog. Eldon sidestepped the swipe from behind and above and dragged the man out of the wagon. "Get out there and move rocks." He planted a boot in the man's rear for emphasis.

"You aren't Auchel Ibrahm."

"Old Gods, no. I thought they hung him. Twice."

"Three . . . Umm, well, yeah . . . not that I knew anything about it, being at the time an honest man, who's umm, just recently gotten desperate and, umm, so incompetently . . . I mean, we was warning you about the rock fall, to not drive your poor horses into it. Why, they could break legs, coming up on something like that sudden-like."

"Yep. Sure could." Eldon eyed the dust cloud to the south, and then the slightly diminished rock pile. "And if you and your helpful fellows were to clear those rocks in a hurry, why, I might let you go soon enough that you won't find out who's raising that cloud of dust."

"Shit." Burned Mustache eyed the dust cloud. "Boys, help the man."

They set to with a will and Eldon sent them off with a good three miles start on the troops. He was just clearing the last rocks when the officer pulled rein beside him.

"You have any trouble with those fellows?" The man was bald, riding a handsome bay stallion. His uniform, such as it was, suggested company security.

"Laufiler?" Eldon guessed. "No, not much, but I didn't have enough control to hold them once they saw you coming."

"Old Gods. What, are you another one of these damned wizards. Who are you, where from?"

"Elk Denison, from Gemstone."

The man looked disgusted. "Another damned Deni welp. I should have known, just looking at you." He shifted in the saddle and his horse headed up the hill on the track of the bandits. Eldon funneled a bit of wind to keep the dust off of himself and his horses.

The dog trotted in from wherever he'd been. Mottled black and gray he was hard to spot when he was still.

"I dunno why you keep hanging around me. Scat!" The dog ignored him. Eldon climbed back into the wagon and let off the brake.

A Hell Hound cross followed me home, Mom! How do I get rid of him?

He supposed he ought to have held the bandits, but then what sort of Bad Guy would he be? He was still wondering a day later when he rattled into Southern Hell and pulled up at Tivo's Gold Traders.

Tivo Harryson took his security seriously, and his guards stepped out beyond the wagon to make sure no one approached as the handlers, assayers and accountants got to work. Then Eldon took the letters of credit across the street to the Bank of the West and deposited them, distributing the money among their seven accounts. A fair amount of cash went into his pockets, and he sauntered out to see if the quality or quantity of entertainment had changed since his last visit.

The dog had galloped into town ahead of him off, and with luck would find someone who wouldn't be running for his life at a moment's notice.

The hosteller managed to squeeze his foursome into the stable of the Peacock, and he found a pretty lady with a bit of glow who was delighted to help him spend money. They had a decent show with dinner, and then got down to some serious gambling. He eyed the garish vest of Phillip Michaelson, and gambled recklessly. Jilly was careful, and cheated a few times and lost money. But she perked up when he headed for his room and showed him just how much she'd enjoyed the evening, and left in the predawn with every penny he hadn't stashed in a bubble. Which was enough for breakfast and a bit of grocery shopping, then he headed back to Cliff House.

The dog jumped into the wagon a mile from town.

Eldon shook his head. "Bad choice dog. Really. You need to find a new home."

By late summer they had respectable bank accounts, both corporate and personal, and were keeping a lot of their gold on hand, for cross dimensional trading.

***

Eldon thumped his head on the dining room table. "Stop looking so bored, Heso."

"It's almost football season."

"Not here. But suppose there's millions of worlds where it is. Geeze." He looked over at the witches, all sitting around with their new babies. "Maybe we could get them to . . . umm. We really, really can't attract attention to here. How about we sneak through Embassy?"

Heso thought it over. "But do they have Gates to Worlds we like? Those year 2100 to 2200 Earths are my favorite."

Rior looked over his, err, her shoulder at them. "There's one to the World where we raided that Senator's party. I wonder what Rivolte is doing, these days? Could be dangerous though."

Eldon and Heso nodded.

Falchion snorted. "I'll open one to the place were we had the Baldness cure place. Far away from all your girlfriends, though."

"We'll just rent an apartment and watch football." Heso promised.

"And take that dog with you."

***

Selling the gold was easy enough. Renting the apartment just took a bit of magic persuasion to skip the tedious credit check parts. And objections to large pets. Buying the SUV and the sports car ditto. The big screen TV they bought new, to be sure it complied with all the fiddly details of the broadcasts, or in this case, cable. The rest of their furniture they'd brought along in a bubble. They were ready for the pre-season a week early, and spent that mostly at the apartment complex's pool, trying, without success, to pick up babes. At least the ladies liked the dog.

Eldon gave up trying to get his computer to understand the gibberish coming over the cable, and bought a new one. It made researching what had happened after their last visit easy.

"Has it really only been a year and a half?" He muttered.

"Yeah. Seems like we were robbing banks for longer than six months, doesn't it?" Heso wandered over and grinned at the pictures he was downloading. "Hey, look! There's Julia! Twins! We had twins. Cool, eh?"

"Yep. Bet they'll be damn fine witches in a few years. We ought to come back every year to check on them, you know?" Eldon found another site with a complete tally of the "Stranger" Babies. "What the heck? Denver? I didn't do anything in Denver."

"That's where Rior pulled the jewelry heists that got us in trouble. I think he had Mag and that lot along."

"Ah. All right. I guess that makes sense. Those guys were hornier than us, hands down." Eldon scowled at the screen. "Eight babies up there have been identified by our genes. Huh. advertisements for genetic screening all over the place. 'Find out if your baby is a Stranger.' What kind of rot . . . Well, I suppose it makes sense from their point of view. They don't know when we came and went."

"Yeah. You're back to blonde, and you've lost weight, haven't you? I suppose I ought to too." Heso wandered off. Eldon stared at the computer uneasily. What if it had been the collective subconscious, influencing him? Was he going to start prowling around in animal form, raping women again? He decided to start sleeping in, not going anywhere near early morning joggers.

"Hey! The Highlights show is on! We can see what we missed last year."

***

Houston beat Kansas City in the first exhibition game.

"Probably the last win they'll see for a month. Houston teams always suck." Eldon grabbed another nacho and settled in to watch the after game wrap up.

"It's a hell of a lot more fun to lay around watching football when someone comes by and say you ought to get to work." Heso burped and put his heels up on the dog. The dog farted.

Eldon opened a window. "Yeah. This doesn't even count as goofing off. But we really can't get jobs. I suppose we could open up our own place again. But curing baldness is boring." Eldon crushed his empty beer can and lobbed it at the garbage can.

"Maybe we should open a shop of fun stuff."

"We could make like Susto, and sell magic potions that no one knows what they'll do." Eldon grinned. "Of course, we'd get sued. I told an old lady today I'd make her young for a million dollars. How about if we do everything the old shop did, but we act like it's dangerous and criminal and charge huge amounts for it."

"The problem is getting started. Word of mouth has to start somewhere." Heso looked interested, though.

Eldon grinned. "Well, if this place works like Houston, people will try anything to cure baldness. We just need to be sure to offer other stuff."

"Or get laid." Heso pulled out a bottle of the joy juice. "This is the stuff we ought to sell."

They went through all their stuff. Eldon had some cheap jewelry from Aunt Susto's, so they dissected it into a heap of little trinkets and started putting charms on them. 'Notice me', 'Don't Notice Me', 'Love,' 'Clumsy,' 'Confidence,' all the little things they'd learned as teenagers, just grasping power. Little bottles, and wine, and Eldon going carefully, step by step, through the spells he knew for anti-baldness, and various colors of hair and eyes. Lose weight. That was a good one. He experimented with his abilities, and was able to slightly change the shape of bottles. It wasn't up to what a witch could do, but it turned all sorts of scavenged pickle and jam jars into funny shapes, and he carved sections of wood for plugs. He imagined they looked very magical, and got a gallon of cheap skin lotion, added normal wine and turned it into a cure for baldness and put it in wide mouth jars, to be rubbed on the scalp. Heso got creative with labels on the computers, and by the time they'd rented a tiny room off the side-alley door of a used book store they had plenty of stock for their magical store.

"I dunno if this is going to do the trick." Heso grumbled as Eldon painted the sign for the shop.

"Of course it is. I've filed a DBA, we've got a bank account, all we need are customers."

"I don't believe you and I are doing this. I mean, we're lazy bums, right?"

"Right. That's why we got a big screen TV for here too. We can goof off while we're on the job." The dog woofed. Eldon turned and eyed the young man peeking around the corner.

"What can I do for you, kid?"

"I'm not a kid. My name is Shane."

"So, whatcha need, Shane?"

"Can you make a girl fall in love?"

"No, but with a confidence charm and a notice me charm, you'll have a lot better luck doing it yourself."

The boy hemmed and hawed, looked askance at the dangly charms. "I can't wear those, everyone will think I'm gay. Don't you have magic rings? Something a guy could wear?"

Eldon and Heso exchanged looks.

"Rings. Right, why didn't I think of rings? Rings are so easy." Heso grabbed a crushed beer can out of the garbage and flowed aluminum into a smooth shiny ring. They checked it on the boy's hand, shrunk it and widened it a bit, then Eldon put his Notice me and Happy and Confident charms all intertwined around it and sent the kid off twenty dollars lighter in the pocket, but also wide-eyed by what he'd seen.

"We'll have to do a bunch of that." Heso formed more rings dropping them on the desk as the can shrunk. "People will really believe in the magic if they see it performed."

"Yeah. And metal is so easy to form."

That was their only customer for the day, so they pulled the sign in, locked the door and headed home.

Eldon opened the door of the magic shop, set out the sign and kicked back to watch a really great gory movie while waiting for customers. And actually got some. And more as the week went on

Teenagers mostly. Amazingly naïve and giggling as they read the labels, and frequently bought several.

The dog wandered in—he was getting really good at doors, and since they hadn't gotten any complaints from the apartment manager, he must be good at sneaking as well.

And as word that his charms worked circulated, he got so busy selling charm rings to teenagers he had trouble keeping up with football. Halfway through the season he put his foot down. The shop was only going to be open late on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Monday, Thursday and Friday, until five. Period.

Rings with a spell to prevent ovulation and menses, activating every quarter of the Moon, were amazingly popular. Almost as much as the orgasm intensifier. He resisted all requests for compulsion spells. The amounts offered often left him gawping.

"Old Gods! I don't do love potions. Why don't you just offer her that much? Sheesh."

"She won't talk to me."

"So go find someone else. Women are all pretty much the same."

"But she's special. She's the only one I want."

"Right. What you need is a plan. Like maneuvers before a war. Start with anonymous notes. Love letters, you know? Poems? Then find out what she likes to do, and start doing it yourself, so you sort of meet now and then. Let's see, then it might be about time for flowers and candy. Then you let one of her friends know that you're the fellow who's been doing it all. And by then she'll probably talk to you."

"That's a awful lot of work."

"Guess she's not that special, eh?"

The boy bristled, and bought some of his anti-acne cream.

Then a couple of men stopped in, and by the holiday they called Thanksgiving he was doing a steady business in anti-baldness lotions. And practicing all the other little things he'd been picking up, that he hadn't wanted to let the others know he could do.

If he could do them.

To make a Gate, Falchion had grabbed an oddly shaped bubble. So he sat and looked at the bubbles, and the more he looked, the more irregularities he spotted. Bubbles of different sizes and toughness. Cone shapes, spinning madly. Cylinders, doing nothing much at all, although they occasionally touched and stuck on those crumpled sheets-of-paper looking things.

When Falchion had made that Gate, she'd grabbed a bubble and rammed it with a cone to slow it down. Eldon spotted a cone and grabbed the nearest bubble. He bumped the cone with it, got knocked back a bit, bumped it again, braced himself mentally and kept bumping it until it slowed. Then he reached out and grabbed the cone pulled it around, shoved it large size up to the nearest sheet of paper. There it sat. Whoop-de-do. Doing nothing. All right. Falchion had pulled the tail into that wild energy, the breach in the Universe. So that couldn't be what she usually did. So, how about another cone? He tracked one down, bumped it until he could handle it and pulled it over closer. The narrow tails swung past each other, twisted together and the large end turned toward him and pounced. It sucked down right on top of him and he found himself dumped into long grass full of stickers. The dog landed on him. He jumped up, cussing. The whirling white mouth of a Gate was directly above him. He landed hard on the floor of the magic shop.

"Wow, how did you do that?"

He eyed the pack of teenagers. Two packs of kids, light and dark. "Magic. Excuse me, I need to straighten this out a bit. He managed to shove one end of the Gate down, and the other up, then jumped through. This time he stayed hunched down and slithered through the stickers until he was out from under it. He look a long look around. Tall grass, thin woods. Nothing dangerous in sight. He tipped the Gate upright, and the teenagers poured through.

"Hey, don't you lot go getting lost or killed or anything! Just because there's nothing dangerous in sight doesn't mean there isn't anything dangerous out there."



 
 
 
(Anonymous) on September 18th, 2017 04:35 pm (UTC)
Looking good!
Can't wait for more Eldon, he's one of my favorite characters and the Combat Group's shenanigans are always entertaining.
matapampamuphoff on September 18th, 2017 05:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Looking good!
I'm debating how much of Eldon's shenanigans to put in. He's very fun to write.
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on September 19th, 2017 08:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Looking good!
You probably should mention the Jacana Lapwing the "... raped by a goat " (Heso) episode in a Heso/ Eldon context.

You probably don't need the Lady million dollar follow up.
matapampamuphoff on September 19th, 2017 09:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Looking good!
Actually I need the million dollar lady to bring the local police into contact with Eldon.

As I feared, Eldon is trying to take over the story. Xen, Q, and Rael are doing such boring stuff right now.

It might even be a good idea, since, in the end, it's Eldon's dimension bomb that ends the whole Helios problem so thoroughly and finally.
mbarkermbarker on September 19th, 2017 01:51 am (UTC)
Just a vagrant thought about multidimensional branes -- every time there is a description of the branes, it's crumpled, right? But what makes them crumpled? Aha... What if it's magic. In other words, expending magic makes the brane membrane crumple. So it may not be putting up gates that causes our favorite wandering planet to veer, but simply that having that much concentrated magic makes the membrane ripple or crumple, which causes the wandering planet to wander a bit. In fact, it may be that having membranes that are similarly crumpled – have roughly equivalent magical sinks – causes those membranes to get closer. It's like gravity bending time and space, but magic bends the multidimensional membranes. So Xen and Q are close with their idea of putting up gates to make our wanderer change course, but not quite on target. Could they test this theory? Sure -- look at the membrane they are in, before and after they have put up several gates or done something else with concentrated magic, and see how it folds.

Which might actually mean that places like the Oners planet and the Fallen, with their concentrations of magic users, have more wrinkled membranes, which might very well pull the wanderer toward those places?