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05 June 2019 @ 01:32 pm

I'm going to have to make a chart of who is where. I totally lost Ajha and Fiend, who ought to be here, somewhere.


Pyrite promised to get him back to Wolf World even faster than going the other way.

:: I’m rested, full of oats. Need to practice so no one can beat me. ::

Xen laughed. Clicked his wristwatch’s stopwatch function. Then leaned forward and enjoyed the kalidescope ride of Pyrite at full stretch through a thousand worlds.

He was dizzy with sensory overload, and Pyrite dripping wet and breathing like a blacksmith’s bellows when they jumped through the last gate.

Xen half fell off and flopped flat on the ground. Clicked the stopwatch. “Forty-eight minutes eighteen seconds. That’s. . . you averaged over twenty miles per hour.”

“Who were you racing?” Rael walked into view. “Yes, Nighthawk found your corridor from the village to here. And she put up corridors to both Han settlements. And we've got eight bits of the One here, checking out their mental modeling. And offending everyone.”

He sat up. “Damn, that many gates that fast is . . . interesting.”

“Interesting? I was puking sick before we made it half-way.” She kicked him when he laughed.

“Well, I suppose it’s less disorienting when you can see the inbetween and such, even if I can’t actually see through the gates.”

A snort from the horse. :: I just refuse to see the energy, so I can see the other side. ::

Xen sat up and eyed the horse.

:: I told Q. You do it so much faster and easy, I never bothered to make gates. ::

Rael started snickering.

Xen climbed back to his feet and loosened Pyrite’s cinch. “C’mon, let’s get back to the village. I want to talk to everyone.”

“You know, a quick dip in the river and pair of you wouldn’t hardly smell like sweaty male animals.”


“And there’s a bend in the river with a sand bar that traps water long enough that it warms up.” Rael pointed. “North over that little ridge.”

Pyrite perked his ears and turned that direction.

Xen grabbed for the cinch and pulled the saddle off. “Be right there.” He eyed Rael. “So, you’ve been exploring?”

“Yep. No more bears or lions, Ra’d bagged a bison last week, and the Oner Priests have worked over Poobah and the guards. The guards are close to normal, and setting up a village across the river.” She paused, and he could feel her deciding to not tell him something. “Poobah is better. But . . . not all the way recovered. He’s up at our village, right now—the guards kicked him out—so he’s trying to fit in.”

“Really?” He crested the low ridge and spotted Pyrite climbing out of the water, shaking like a dog.

“Yep. Sam recognized him. An up and coming politician, a former cop, fairly high ranked before he went into politics, the correct the problems before they became the problems the cops had to try to deal with.”

“Oh, a crusading politician. Can’t have that.” Xen shook his head and dropped the saddle as he walked out into the meadow the sloped down to the river. He peeled out of his disco jacket, and tee shirt, pried off his boots as he got to the sand bar and dropped everything as he slid into the cool water.

When he climbed out, his clothes had disappeared and Rael was lounging on a large bearskin . . .

“Good thing I’m not in a hurry to get back to work.”

Chapter Twenty-six

Judges and Spies

The village had expanded by another cabin and three crawlers in his brief absence.

“That was a fast cabin!”

Sitting crossways in his lap, Rael giggled. “Well, you’ve been gone for a week. And . . . Nighthawk and Lala showed the Renshe how it was done magically. They explained, in the most pitying tones imaginable, that witches were the most powerful magic users around, pulled me into a triad to show them how women coordinated, and had the cabin built in a day.”

“I don’t see them. Dare I ask what they’re up to?”

“Building a big stockade and cabins for the Guards.” Rael giggled as she grabbed mane and slid off. “Hummer—a female Priest—is off with them, having a learning experience.”

A grinning Paer walked up. “And now that you’re back, Jiol and I want to drag you over there to break them up and make a second triad. Think how fast it can all go up, with double the people.”

Cali bounced up after her. “Can we have a stockade too? Uncle Jerry says we can’t have livestock until we can keep them safe from the wolves and the lions.”

“And the bears, the pigs, stampeding herds of those wild cattle-bison things, and who knows what.” Sam stomped up behind her. “Since we can’t go back.”

Xen looked around, and admitted that they had a point . . . Ah ha! A place to unload all those Hell Hound puppies Lord Hell thinks belong to me. But they’ll need a year or two to grow up . . .

“Right, so looking at the lay of the land . . . sloping down to the river, and a little to the stream, with the sharp break . . . north there’s a slight rise and then fall. Almost too little to call it a hill . . .”

Karl strolled up. “The slope to the river, there’s a break where it drops more steeply. If we put up poles at the bottom of that bit, and filled in behind, the wall could be a good meter taller on the outside than the inside.” He nodded across the village. “Ebsa and Ra’d built a fort on a dinosaur world, built up inside so they could see out, but the walls tall enough to keep the dinos out.”

Xen nodded. “Pretty much what I was thinking. I’ve seen Fort Dino. We’ll need something larger, here. It’d be nice to get about twenty acres predator proofed. Paddocks for livestock, and gardens. I think I’ll go lumbering.”

He looked over his shoulder at the priests. “If anyone wants a lesson in Comet Fall Large Scale magic?”

Rael rolled her eyes, and took Jiol and Paer off for triad lessons. Cali waffled, then went with the women.

The men all took the corridor to the mountains.

Where Ebsa and Ra’d proved to be experts and help him teach seven stubborn and opinionated Priests how to fell trees without killing anyone, trim branches and cut them into roughly uniform six meter lengths. Sam and Mitch could trim the larger branches, and Jerry and Connor got lessons and sweated over small cuts. Karl was much faster with a chain saw.

Xen bubbled all of the logs and they returned to camp sweaty and tired and with maybe a quarter of the logs they’d eventually need.

They cleaned up, the flopped down with drinks from the fabs in the crawlers.

No women or girls in sight. Xen closed his eyes and checked . . . two triads hard at work, a bright spark dancing around them. Cali.

Xen opened his eyes and leaned to look at Sam. “What were you trying for, with Cali? And why did you give up so quickly?”

The old scientist hunched his shoulders. “I analyzed DNA from six hundred descendants of AnnaKarina. And thought I’d assembled a genetic copy. I obviously missed—the hair color, you see—but I might have gotten enough right that she’d be very strong magically. Then the ethics committee started sniffing around about the mismatch in artificial uterus use and licensed artificial births.”

He heaved out a breath. “And I panicked and ordered Dr. Watson to terminate the experiment. I . . . should have talked to him about it. Well, I shouldn’t have done it in the first place. But she was three and not a bit of glow, so I was pissed about that and then the query from the ethics committee . . .”

Jerry snorted. “They probably just watched you to see what you’d do.”

“No. that was six months before . . . I told Watson to terminate the experiment. Wrote up a note about an equipment failure in an artificial uterus, and running tests, must have been misinterpreted.” He sighed. “Sorry.”

Connor reached out and gather a handful of power. “I’m not. This is working out all right.”

Xen erected the first ten feet of the stockade. The other watched in disbelief as he peeled back the meadow grass, roots, dirt, and all, for twenty feet down slope and the same up slope. Sliced and levitated a wedge of dirt under the down hill side up to the uphill side. Cut a trench five feet deep at base of the dirt cliff he’d made, and dumped the dirt on the up hill side. Dropped the ends of logs into the trench. Compacted dirt to hold them. Rolled the sod back over its new subsoil . . .

“So. Is this the sort of thing we need on three sides? We’ll have to have rock on the stream side, of course.”

Only about five feet of the wall was above the new ground level inside. Fifteen foot tall vertical wall outside . . .

Sam poke the first log, as if he was checking that it was real.

Karl sighed. “We were so worried about poor Xen . . .”

Ra’d laughed. And rounded up Jerry and Connor for a small compass to see of they could duplicate the feat.