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matapam
13 May 2019 @ 06:44 am

“Oh . . . umm . . . maybe a lake the right size and shape? Not that we could find anything perfect, but . . . and we ought not block a river . . . crap.”

Bran nodded. “Well they ought to be popping back out again pretty soon. In fact, maybe we ought to camp and see if Gre and or Hudson can see the size and shape of the bubble. And we can do some hunting.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Oscar closed his eyes and “saw” the bottom of the bay. Fifty miles across, almost circular, a raised rim . . . “Do you know? I think this is a crater, maybe an impact crater, maybe a volcanic caldera, but . . .”

He studied the break in the wall ahead. Lots of debris, but still plenty deep. He opened his eyes. “Let’s check out that break in the cliffs, there’s a smaller bay behind it.”

Bran grabbed the lines as Oscar turned further across the wind, and the Driftwood wallowed around and slid as neatly as she was capable of through into a bay, perhaps six miles across, circular . . .

“Bran? Have you ever looked at the telescope pictures of the moon? Overlapping craters, little ones on the sides of big ones?”

Bran stood and looked around. “Yeah. Exactly. Well . . . might be a little small, but let’s get the guys out and see if they can see if we should try to drop a city in here, or if we need to keep looking.”

“Not that we actually have a clue how to open up that whole bubble.” Oscar steered for shore. “Although maybe they can rip it open wide enough to pull it off the whole city?”

Bran shrugged and leaned over the bow. “Looks pretty deep.”

“It feels about five or six hundred feet deep in the center. Pretty flat, rises abruptly at the edges . . . no breaks for streams or anything . . .” Oscar let his dreamy visualization of the lakebed go and helped lower the sails. Then he had the waves push the boat over to the steep rocky shore. “Let’s drop the stern anchor and tie off to that rock . . .” Oscar gestured and the waves sloshed them in close enough to jump to the rocky shelf, and then the water shifted the anchor rock a few feet out to keep the boat safely away from the shelf.

They climbed the steep wall of the crater, and eyed the scenery. Grass, scattered trees, a stream . . . animals. Strange animals.

“Well . . . it’s got horns and hooves. Legs are kind of long and skinny, but I think it must be a bison cousin.”

“Forget them. Scan left. What the blood hell are those things!” Bran voice rose. “They’re huge!”

Bare gray skin. Thick legs to carry the weight . . . but the heads! Big blocky things with a long wiggling . . . “I’ve seen pictures. In an old book . . . when I was really young . . . El Ophonts. Something like that.”

“Sounds Spanish. Maybe we’re in the far south of the Auralian Empire?”

“No . . . those sorts of things would be known all over. Selano said Scandia was on the west coast of Europe, so maybe they’re Europeal animals.”

“Yeah . . . I suppose so. Damn. Well, let’s set up camp and . . .” Oscar set the pebble down as Roboner stuck her head out the window frame, withdrew for a second, then climbed out.

“This looks nice! Why don’t you guys go kill one of those ugly things and we’ll collect firewood.”

The city people all emerged for the big bar-be-que of roast Uglybeast.

Doscompos laughed. “They called them Wildebeests, or they did a thousand years ago. And those are elephants, and that’s a pride of lions sizing us up for dinner.”

“It’s good.” Selano nibbled. “More like version than bison.” He pointed and the big shaggy predator watching them flinched. “Too far away. If we’re going to stay here, we really ought to kill them all.”

They all turned and looked over to where Gre and Hudson were standing on the rim of the crater.

A gradual slope up about fifty feet, on this side. They walked up and joined them

Gre looked around. “It’ll almost fit.” He raised the hand that was holding the pebble up over his head. “Maybe another ten feet, to clear the bottom of the bay, but the witches said the edges were mostly empty land, so it won’t matter if there’s bit of collapse at the edges.”

Doscompos grinned. “Yeah, we walked around the edge of the bubble often enough, trying to get out. But can you turn it so the harbor’s over there? By the cove entrance? And what about all this water?”

“I can move the water.” Oscar eye the six mile expanse. “Or try at least. But is it deep enough? Is the bubble spherical?”

Hudson frowned at thin air. “No, it’s only about half a mile thick, and half or more of that is air. With buildings sticking up into it.”

“Selano? How about you guys practicing with Hudson, and I’ll take the pebble around the rim and build up a big heap of rocks in the right spot to turn the city . . .”

Not that it was that simple, but with Gre and Hudson opening a hole further around the rim, and Estaven, and the witches checking inside and estimating relationships with the outside, Oscar had the spot and they started building up a seventeen foot pile of rocks.

Because there was no way anyone was going to stand there with the pebble over his head with a city about to pop out of nowhere, attached to it.

***

Estaven and his men took over the hunting, bringing in all sorts of interesting deer-like creatures, and even a wild donkey with black and white stripes. And hunted down the lions.

The first day, they hadn’t a clue what to do with the carcasses.

Oscar and Bran had laughed at them, and demonstrated field dressing their kills, so there was less weight to tote home. And then the girls—they hadn’t started out life as spoiled harem girls, after all—took over the rest of the butchering.

Bran looked over at the outdoor butcher shop, the pretty girls, the big gangsters helping . . . “If we’re not careful, we’re going to lose some of our harem.”

Oscar shrugged. “They’re free now. It’s their choice, and, well, we’re gone a lot and . . . well, that’ll change if we’re stuck here. Hmm.”

Selano snorted behind them. “I have a hard time picturing the pair of you settling down to married bliss. But if we’ve been missing for decades . . . well, no one’s even looking for us anymore.”

“And tomorrow we’ll make our first attempt to free the city.”

***

The pebble was wedged into a split in a long pole and balanced out over the edge of the crater.

“The harbor will be way above sea level . . . lake level . . . but it’ll be in the right place, and maybe we can get the ships down to the water without too much trouble, or they can dig out a channel . . . or move the wharf . . .”

Gre and Hudson retreated from their last check, holding open the rip mentally as they backed into Selano and Bran, forming a small compass and mentally peeling back the bubble.

Oscar reached out mentally, magically, to the power in ten cubic miles of wind, wave and tide driven water, and pushed it. The water heaved, a wave rolled out the mouth into the larger bay, followed by a giant swell as the water obeyed the Sea King.

He heard Bran in the distance, as much mentally as physically, “Peel it all the way back! Like getting a woman out of a tight pair of . . .”

“Oops, it’s . . .”

A thump, the ground leaped and Oscar opened his eyes, trying to hold back the water . . .

A cliff of dirt, bronzed buildings beyond . . . A roaring, groaning . . . a huge fountain of slimy mud erupting all along the boundary between the old crest and the new city . . .

“Oh, shit! The bottom of the crater was all mud, not hard rock. Who knows how deep . . .”

Ominous creaks and snaps, more mud fountained . . . the edges of the city broke and fell, crumbled . . .

Oscar spotted a ramp of broken street and ran up it, jumped across the broken crack and into the city. Another crunching roar as the central city dropped, a sharp cliff circling the city center, the tallest buildings leaning . . .