May 11th, 2019

_Lost and Found_ part 6

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. Nothing but rocks and ice . . . lots of ice, mounding up.

Like a glacier? What happens when the city comes back? And there’s ice in the way?

"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 . . . " His jaw dropped.

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? It was 1375 . . . "

"Thirty-eight years, then, out here. Right. You could probably walk out, but the city . . . Ah. I know just what you need." He bent to scoop up a pebble, and pressed it against the side of . . . nothing whatsoever. “There. Now the city’s attached to the stone, and detached from the ground. You can carry it out with you.”

He handed the pebble to Oscar, and 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." He stepped toward that slash of darkness . . . and it moved away from him.

Hail gulped. “It really is attached to that stone, isn’t it?”

“Yeah . . .” Oscar started grinning. “Which means we just have to start walking south. Go back in and tell Bran to grab all the warm clothes he can, gloves, ropes . . . food.”

Hail ducked back inside. “Hold that open! Bran? Oscar said . . .”

Now

“Feels like Ash in the middle of winter.” Oscar hunched inside an oversized coat over a sweater over three shirts.

Bran nodded. “So . . . that way’s south. Let’s get out of here!”

“Yeah.” Oscar headed across the slight slope, peering westward. “They had a port, so there ought to be an ocean out there. Or at least a river, a bay.”

“And you’d rather be afloat than afoot?” Bran cut up hill. “Let’s see what we can see.”

But short of climbing a lot higher, they could only imagine the dark line on the horizon was the ocean.

“Pity about that time dilation effect. It’s going to be colder than heck tonight, but if we duck back in . . . well, a good night’s sleep will be about ten years out here.”

“Did you have to say that?” Bran slipped on a bit of ice, caught his balance and kept walking.

“No . . . but we were in there for more than a day, weren’t we?” Oscar jumped across a half frozen rivulet of water. “And remember those Oners, the Earthers . . . We may not even be on the right world.”

Bran nodded. “Which would explain why we got a God of Spies instead of Harry. Different World, different Gods. I wonder what other ones we might try?”

Oscar laughed. “God of Optimism? Hello? We need some cheering up!”

Bran looked around. Shook his head. “God of Explorers? We could use some help!”

They marched along, thinking up absurd theoretical gods, until the sun hit the horizon. Then they found shelter from the wind and heated rocks to heat tea to drink with their cold dinner. A large folded canvas sheet that Oscar thought had once been a sail, provided insolation from both the cold ground and the cold air.

And a slash opened in midair, a foot away from the pebble in his pocket. Selano stuck his head out. “Good god it’s cold out there. We’re going to try something, a frame, to keep the bubble open so we don’t lose any more time.”

Oscar nodded. “Although if we have to carry it, that might not be a good idea.” But he stopped complaining when Roboner handed out blankets and more canvas to block the wind the kept gusting around the rocks at their back.

Then a window frame was shoved halfway through the slash and with a bit of . . . well Gre didn’t cuss, but he did speak bluntly to the uncooperative wood until he and Hudson managed to size the slash down and act like it was fastened to the window frame.

Then they hunkered down and ignored all the tourists popping out and yelping about the cold before they ducked back into the city.

But Roboner and Dalphi brought them a nice hot breakfast in the morning, and Gre and Hudson joined them and walked with them for most of the day. The window floated along with them, and most of the people were happy to just peek out.

A storm moved in as the afternoon progressed. The cold wind picked up and started spitting ice at them.

Oscar gathered some heavy rocks and placed then around and over the pebble before they climbed through the window to sit the storm out.

But bad weather or not, they climbed out and got going in the morning.

_Lost and Found_ part 7

They slept “inside” so-to-speak, and the next day the witches took the pebble and hiked all day. Then Estaven and his guys took a few days, while Bran and Oscar explored the bronzed city.

They took a turn and by noon were thoroughly cold and miserable. And looking down at a frozen river heading south-southwest.

“Where’s a sled when you need one?” Bran grunted.

“It’s not actually flat.” Oscar eyed it. “I wonder if the canvas would slide. Umm, or maybe with a bit of a push?”

Bran grinned. “How about a shield for a magic sled?”

“Oh . . . let’s go see if that will work.”

He shifted the pebble to his back pocket, and thought about a shield big enough to include it.

The spherical shield rolled until he had the sense to sit down, then it wobbled around and finally skidded along nicely. Oscar laid down on his belly, and pulled the shield in a bit, flattened the bottom . . . opened a hole in the top to let fresh air in . . . Bran shot past him, with a whoop, and threw out a pull spell to whip around the first curve.

Oscar couldn’t hold it long enough, and rammed a snowbank on the far side of the river . . . and spotted Bran shoving off from the other side. :: Ha! Held it too long, didn’t you? ::

Received a hand gesture in return, and then they were skidding along, not quite so fast and occasionally needing to give a little push.

They must have covered a hundred miles before Oscar felt the liquid water below, and another fifty before he cut south and coasted up to a low spot on the bank. Dropped the shield and slid on the ice and scrambled up the slope.

Bran whipped up, gave a hard downward shove and flew up the bank and thudded down on actual vegetation. Well, winter-bare bushes.

“That’s going to hurt, when you drop the shield.” Oscar strolled closer and watched as Bran bent his shield outward and tipped it.

He slid off and landed on his feet. “Really?”

“Show off!”

Bran raised a cautionary finger. “But! There were no goats! And I really hope you didn’t drop the pebble.”

Oscar looked over his shoulder at the window, made a rude gesture. “So, let’s take a look around. At least we’re far enough south to find brush.”

Bran eyed the bare branches. “They’re starting to bud. It must be nearly spring.” He led off to the south.

Five days hiking through increasingly green vegetation and they climbed a tall hill to get a good look around. Water to the southwest and southeast.

“Do they connect, or are they separate? The land spreads out on the other side of that narrow bit between them.” Bran shrugged. “I’d vote for southeast to see if the water there is fresh or salt. Fresh water’d be better for the city, I’d think.”

“Yeah, but let’s head for the narrows and see if there’s a land bridge or not. Then we’ll have a better idea of the options.” Oscar hefted his pack and turned for the narrows.

They stopped and camped early and the city emptied out behind them as everyone came out to take a look.

Doscompos sent men in three directions. “They need the exercise, and it’ll do them good to work to . . . well, rescue themselves sounds stupid, and I’m not sure there’s anyone, any place, out there to reach.”

Hail stared out at the rocky narrows. “Maybe we just need to get far enough south for better weather, soil we can farm.”

“And a place with animals to hunt.” Hudson joined them. “I’ve got horses and cows, once we get somewhere with grazing.”

Fair—the short dark witch—frowned. “I don’t understand where all the soil and forests around Scandia went. Surely it wasn’t completely glaciated? Ice ages take time. Certainly . . . well . . . is a thousand years enough time?”

“Probably time enough for local glaciers. Not a major expansion of the icecap.” Oscar shrugged. “I think.”

***

The rocky narrows were ten miles wide and split the ocean from what turned out to be a very very large fresh water lake. Everyone preferred the fresh water . . . and half of them climbed back out of the city in the morning to hike down to it.

The lake stretched out of sight to the east, widening as it went.

“Well . . . shall we flip a coin? North coast, south coast, or back over the rocks to follow the sea coast southward?” Bran peered east. “There are mountains to the northeast. Might be hard to get across.”

“And driftwood behind us. How about a raft?” Oscar eyed the big logs, the trunks of giant trees.

“Ah ha! Raft, my ass. Magic woodworking lessons coming up!”

“Ah ha! Your family traditions and training come in handy, once again.” Oscar grinned. “So where do we start?”

Bran pointed. “With that trunk right there. It’ll be the keel, and we’ll mold it into shape, with some of the bulk coming out and up to start the sides. Then we’ll add to the sides with those . . .”

They camped on the beach for three days. Doscompos and his people spread out, fishing gear in hand. Fresh fish would be a welcome change from the dried beef jerky and they’d run out of bread days ago.

“And we’re almost out of flour.” Hail dumped a load of firewood. “We need to un bubble a grocery store, if we can find one that’s by itself. I don’t think we’re ready for more people yet.”

Everyone in hearing range nodded about that.

The city inhabitants organized a series big fish fries over open fires. And watched the magic ship building.

With Selano helping, the hull was shaped and sealed quickly.

The rudder attachment and the tackle for the sail were the hardest parts. They scavenged through a hardware store that Gre and Hudson un-bubbled and, had enough to make-do. The canvas sheet was cut down for two triangular sails, and they launched Driftwood on the fourth day.

“Cruise the south shore. Find someplace with trees for building, and open fields for farming.” Estaven Doscompos, the leader, more or less of the city people stared longingly down the coast. “Then if we can’t free the city, at least we can start raising our own food.”

He ducked back through the window. The last of the city people followed him, and Gre and Hudson reluctantly joined them.

Driftwood wasn’t terribly handy. Or seaworthy. But with a brisk breeze and Oscar helping her along she could make five knots.

“Maybe, when I get home, I should study ship building.” Oscar sighed. “I’ve sailed so many ships, and I have no clue why some are such a delight and this one wallows. Not, mind you that I want to be a shipwright, but just in case I wind up needing to build another ship, it might as well be a good one.”

“Do you think we’ll get home?” Bran watched the grassy shore, squinted . . . “Am I hallucinating or is there an animal with a really long neck over there?”

Oscar squinted to look large. “Old Gods! What a strange creature! Look at those legs! I hope we get home. But if not, we’ve got a whole city full of people along with us . . . if we can get the rest of them out.”

They started shedding clothes as the weather and the season turned. And two days after the spring equinox, they rounded a point and eyed the broad entrance to what looked like a large bay.

“This would be nice for them, they said they had sailing ships, right?” Bran shimmied up the mast, and Oscar held his hands out to control the water make it steady the boat.

“Except for the cliffs. There’s a break in the cliffs ahead to starboard.” Bran slid down. “Oscar . . . what shape is that . . . city underneath? Underground? I mean, if it’s flat, no problem. But I keep picturing it as round, like a soap bubble. And if that’s right, we can’t just drop it anywhere.”