“Oh, shit!” Oscar bolted down the middle of the street. I must be insane! Just because the bronze buildings will fall all in one piece, undamaged, doesn’t mean they won’t squish me flat!
He slowed, trying to feel below as he approached the tallest building . . . The bedrock it was anchored to had fractured all around, and was compacting the softer sedimentary rocks below, slowly, now.
They’re porous. They may be rocks, but there’s water there, and the water needs to leave that side . . .
He opened his eyes and watch the building slowly straighten . . . start to go the other way . . .
Now all the water out! Let the weight of the building crush the pore spaces . . .
A few more nudges and it was stable. He looked around and headed for the next one . . .
At some point Bran grabbed him and forced him to eat and drink before joining the compass and then the most obviously leaning buildings got leveled quickly.
But they slept in the camp outside, waking to thumps and cracks all night.
It was a week before it settled down. They straightened where they could, and got Gre and Hudson to open up a bubbled hardware store for tools and made paths over the rim, as the town sank down a bit.
The harbor was still well above the water level.
And everyone agreed that they needed working farms and such before they started letting more people out. They started surveying, claiming land and breaking ground for gardens and using an amazing array of motorized vehicles to pull improvised plows for the larger fields.
And the Mages didn’t claim any land.
Oscar sighed and sat back, watching the workers from a hilltop. “You know what?”
Selano and Bran looked at him. “This is the first time I remember seeing Gre working like he belongs in a group of people. Like he’s part of a group.”
Selano sighed. “Yes. He was raised badly, and finds the Mage lifestyle just doesn’t suit him. Even these gangsters of Estaven’s . . . they generally pair up into dedicated couples. I . . . think when we leave, he may stay here.”
Roboner and Dalphi were just down slope, in the nursery the women had built, nursing their babies. They both glanced up, and nodded.
Roboner shrugged. “It’s not like we don’t like you guys, and we’re really glad to be out of the Solti’s harem, but . . .”
“But this is closer to your dream life?” Oscar nodded. “Yeah . . . well, maybe it’s time for one last try.”
He got up and walked over to the dirt road they’d built, and into the bronzed city. To the closest crossroad.
“Harry, God of Travelers! We’re very lost and very in need of . . .” A deep subtle flood of magic all around. Oscar turned and grinned at the spear wielding bronze armored old man looking around in astonishment. “. . . a ride out of here.”
“Oscar?” The God grabbed his shoulders. “Oscar! Where the Hell have you been?” A glance around. “Where the hell are we?”
“I haven’t a clue. This is the city of Scandia, that Barry virtue bubbled piecemeal, and then as a whole over a thousand years ago. We sort of dropped into it a couple of months ago . . . and moved it out of the glacier down to here before we opened the outer bubble.”
Harry turned in a slow circle. “Scandia. Good Lord, yes.” He looked up. “Noon here, and it was pre-dawn . . . That will give me a starting point to find you. I can feel the summoning coming to an end . . .”
Oscar looked back. Bran was trotting up, Selano following.
“Grab.” Oscar held his hands out each direction.
Harry grinned and grabbed one, Bran the other, reaching back for Selano . . . and they thudded down into the dark . . . a room, as the light brightened. Harry’s office, under the stairs of the Tavern, and much larger than could possibly have fit into the space.
“Welcome home.” Harry, now a stooped old man, a short arc of gray hair around his bald pate, dark skin wrinkled into a grin. “Let’s scare up something to eat and drink, and you can tell me what you’ve been doing for thirty-eight years, and I can bring you up to date on what’s been happening everywhere else, until it’s a decent hour to show up on the king’s doorstep.”
The Future, Part One
Karista, Kingdom of the West
Thirty-eight years had passed.
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 was still with his second wife. Their son had been four years old the last time Oscar had been in Karista. He’d died, assassinated. All the other royal children he remembered were grown.
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 regularly stole 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. Go there, get settled. I'll see you two officers in three days. Selano, stay or go, your choice, of course.
“I’ll talk to people about the best way to get a corridor to this displaced city of yours, so your girlfriends can get home if they wish, and all those people can come and go at will, and reenter the world at their own pace.”
A Few Weeks Later
“Forty-five corridors. Fortunately we already had the one to the ruins of New Tokyo, so I didn’t have to sail across the ocean.”
Oscar eyed the man dubiously. “So you are Never’s grandson, son of the Auld Wulf, and . . . you are the God of Spies?”
Captain Wolfson, in the King’s Own uniform grinned. “I suspect you’re going to have a hard time adjusting, just because so much is familiar. Anyway, once I found the place, I dragged a single corridor back through all the rest and planted it at the end of Commerce street.”
Oscar rubbed his face. “And that is the hardest thing yet. Instant transport thousands of miles. Not to mention that you just built this one like Scandia was just another city.”
“It is. Just . . . a bit further away. Rufi and Leano want to take a tour, and make sure the city council there understands that they are welcome to join the kingdom, or if they prefer to remain independent, they can still trade at will.” A quick flash of a grin. “Half your girlfriends were packing up to come home, the other half are staying.”