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15 January 2017 @ 06:43 am
_The Last Merge_ part 2  


Comet Fall

Eldon hated to admit it, but these damned farmers had gotten powerful. "Tyrone, if you had any training at all, you'd be dangerous."

Tyrone grinned. "Heard from Mortimer you lot got chased out of your fancy mansion."

"Yeah, that was a nice place. Pity about the guys, too."

"Guys? Ha! Mortimer was just sick over the women he killed. That pretty Gauntlet that filled out the set." He pointed over at Falchion and Epee. "And Kessi, Wenda, and Skori, although they were getting a bit long in the tooth. Not that that matters anymore. Everyone's going to live forever and be young and pretty."

"Heh. Well, I'll have to settle for young. I'm not the pretty sort, like Mag."

"Mag? So-so. In prison, anyway."

"Huh. I thought most everyone had gotten away."

"Nah, they even killed Lord Thomu. And Ronnie, wasn't he a buddy of yours?'

"Sort of. He was from Gemstone. They kill anyone else?"

"Some witch from Verona. Dawn? Yeah. And Franc, Bender, and Hat."

Eldon hoped his poker face was hiding how sick he felt. "How do you all about it?"

"Oh, it was all in the papers, about the trials. Ericka read them out loud to all of us, since we knew them. All about how Disco took their magic away before they went to prison in other worlds."

"Took who's magic away?" Eldon popped another beer and handed it to Tyrone to keep him talking.

"Zap and Mag were the guys they caught. Women? Smokey, Teri, Arrow, and Lida. Some kids. Girls. They sent them to their grandmother. All the others, that Disco guy, Xen the Wolf Boy took their magic and they're all in prison on that World you lot robbed. I just about bust a gut laughing about the robbery. All of them waking up fucking each other."

"Yeah, that was a good one." Eldon winced a bit remembering the multiple rapes. It had seemed so funny, at the time. Then he tromped hard on those soft feelings he'd been having lately. It was a bit late to be going soft.

"So, what are you doing next? What are you doing here?"

"Ah, just checking up on home. And maybe we'll head over the mountains and do a bit of honest gold mining."

Tyrone chuckled. "As cover for all the gold you'll steal?"

Eldon flashed a grin, but didn't answer further.

"You haven't got enough men left, for a proper gang. Three men? You're toast. I reckon I could round up enough fellows to fix that problem."

"Well, I'll mention it to Rior, but you know, the witches are pretty damn good bank robbers."

"They didn't help rob that Senator's party."

"Oh yes they did. They put everyone to sleep and then shielded the building while we gathered the goodies."

"Humph." Tyrone subsided grumpily, and Eldon wandered off to shop through 'Aunt Susto's' pawn shop. As usual there was mostly junk, and a few odd things here and there. Some of the cheap jewelry wasn't bad actually. Pretty, and he bought a few of them, and some of her mystery potions. Those would be fun to figure out. And a hex bottle. If Xen ever un-magicked him, the hex had so much stuff in it, it would probably get something right, and once he had magic, he could do or undo the rest himself. He paid too much for them, got seduced by Susto, and fled to town before she got hungry again. He had a bunch of stuff he needed to do, if they were going to become miners, even if just for a short while. The livestock auction was empty, so he hopped through to Karista and asked around. Damn few horses for sale. Quite a few wagons, though. He took the short corridors that just went town to town until he found a little place with a horse auction that night. The horses ranged from old to young, thin to draft. Eldon aimed at the middle, and had to pay a hefty sum for two three-year olds and two two-year olds, all geldings. Younger than he wanted, with pinto spots that were going to get him spat on, but the older well-trained horses were just too expensive. He chatted around and sacked out in the woods with his new acquisitions, then followed directions to a leather worker, who charged him a premium for four harnesses.

"Ah, bought some of those freighter's horses? Don't mind the spots, they're all good horses, well handled and trained. Nice folk, for City."

Eldon paid him, and led the horses to Karista where he picked up a heavy wagon. His unknown young horses took to it in stride, so he drove it back through Corridors to Grantown and parked the wagon near the SUVs and staked the horses out to graze. He chewed a thoughtful fingernail, and looked at the geldings' good confirmation. A brief rummage through bubbles found Rior's recent batch of male-to-female potion. He added that to each of four buckets of oats, and fed the youngsters.

Heso came whistling back from the direction of the farms, looking smug. "Hey, you know what? Those old gals all look young again, plus the second generation has grown up. Good hunting, down there." He circled the horses and nodded approvingly. "Nice, apart from the spots."

"Hey, I wonder if a hair color potion would change that? I should have thought . . . "

Heso laughed. "I don't think so, I think you'd just change the solid colored part."

"Oh. Well, never mind. I'm going to change them into mares and breed them to Beastly before we leave though. We'll be rolling in horses next year."

Heso rolled his eyes. "I'd rather get back to cars, myself. I'd forgotten what a pain in the ass animals are."

"Yeah, well, I kinda missed 'em. I'll get another wagon, hey, maybe I'll get a box wagon and we can all dress like Travelers."

"No. Nobody's going to recognize us anyway; we've all changed about three or four times already."

Eldon nodded reluctantly. "I wish they'd hurry up and get back. This is just too close to where the guards have caught us before." He dug through his bottles and pulled out a bottle of the Joy Juice. It would hurry the horses' changes along, and they could be ready to leave any time.

"I need to think about sneaking home and asking some questions. No?" Heso raised an eyebrow as Eldon shook his head.

"Nope. Tyrone knew all about the raid." He rattled off Tyrone's list. "The rest must have escape through one of the other gates."

"Gauntlet! Old Gods . . . Epee and Falchion are going to be upset. Hell, I'm upset."

"Yeah. Well, we're criminals, so it's not like it's a big surprise, is it?"

"Well, yeah, but . . . "

"Just because we usually hit people that aren't magic and can't hardly hurt us doesn't mean that we're indestructible. You know that, or you ought to. And if we're going to keep on being bad guys, well, we're going to keep on getting killed sometimes."

"What do you mean, if? You quitting?"

"Thinking about it. I'll see what gold mining is like, and maybe I'll just keep on doing that."

Heso stalked away, offended.

Eldon shrugged and dosed his horses. Do I want to quit? I can't go home. Not to Gemstone anyway. The wind whipped up, with a chilly edge to it. They needed to get settled, or at least move south before the first storms of winter found them camping in the woods.


"This will be a good spot for our mansion. Absolutely nothing there to recommend it to anyone." Rior tapped the papers. "Then we can Corridor to wherever we're going to mine. Or pretend to mine, or whatever."

Falchion nodded. "It's about two hundred miles from this 'Two Trees' place which looks to be the nearest Corridor. If we go on foot, we should be able to climb down the wall of the Rip, cross the river and hot springs zone and climb back up. From the descriptions we own a mile long stretch of the eastern wall, with about quarter of a mile strip of land down in the canyon and three quarters of a mile up on the lava plains."

Rior nodded, and led the way toward the local Corridor concentration.

They didn't have to walk the whole two hundred miles. Falchion could throw a Corridor a good two or three miles, and she anchored another one in Two Trees, so returning there would be simple. Her other Corridor was stretched from the camping spot, so they could easily retrieve the SUVs. They camped out four nights, then spotted the survey post marking the boundary between Gold Rush Province and Desolation Territory.

So their property was directly across the Rip. Falchion tossed a Corridor down to the bottom of the cliff and they stepped through into the steamy sulfur smelling bottom of the canyon. Rior kept his eyes open for the notorious 'water lizards' as they called them locally. Apparently they were the only species of crocodilian to survive the cosmic bombardment that gave Comet Fall its name. He'd lived in the New Lands for almost three decades, and knew well how dangerous the beasts were. Another Corridor got them across the river, where they sliced up a trio of hungry reptiles and kept walking. The far cliffs were jagged, picturesque, and tall.

"Perfect. Absolutely perfect."

Falchion nodded, and paced, looking them over. She stopped at an angular outjut. "Right about here is the center of our mile, don't you think?"

"Yes. Stairway first?" He stepped back to watch her work, to try and see how she molded the rock like putty. It simply wasn't something he had the talent for, even with his acquired witch genes. He could mold small things, and create microscopic details. A five pound rock was impervious to all his attempts. The wall of the canyon bulged out a couple of feet and Falchion walked up the spiral tunnel as she created it. She stopped every twenty feet up to push the rock out into the side canyon to form an overhanging ledge, before continuing upward. At the top they looked around and chose a site well back from the rim to dump the filling of the rooms they made next. That became Rior's job, floating stone slabs up the stairs as she cut out the rooms they'd need. They worked steadily for a week, finally producing a series of windows hidden amongst the rough walls of the canyon, with spacious and well ventilated common rooms, a kitchen, bare now but ready for their imported appliances, and a wide scattering of bedrooms. Rior had his suite with a library. Heso and Eldon had big rooms separated by the TV room. The four witches had privacy and distance, with the children's rooms located centrally.

And they all had piped in hot spring water from below, and cold water from above. Or they would when they filled the cistern up there, probably over the winter.

"If Eldon's gotten horses, as he was threatening, I'll build stables . . . down there I suppose, where they'll be on the warm rocks." Falchion nodded her satisfaction. "There's a lot of finish work to be done, but this will do very well for now." She pinned the end of the Corridor to the living room wall, and stepped into it.

Rior followed, and found himself back in the bare forest, beside the SUVs. A brown horse with little white spots pricked her ears at them.

"Of course, no one's in camp. One forbid Eldon and Heso not take advantage of the local women."

Falchion looked over a wagon, and nodded satisfaction. "It looks like Eldon's been busy. Four horses, apparently. And here's Heso, sound asleep."

He grunted as Falchion kicked him. "Where's everyone else?"

"Oww! Eldon's taking his mares around to a bunch of different stallions. Well, four different ones. You'd think he was going into business or something. Jade and Betelgeuse are sneaking around Ash, hoping to contact Ultra. Epee is in Karista collecting information." He hesitated, then shut his mouth.

Rior eyed him thoughtfully, then looked around as Eldon rode back into camp. Another pinto, of course, and a mottled gray dog following along.

Heso wrinkled his nose. "That looks like a Hell Hound."

"At least part." Eldon shrugged.

Rior turned back to the immediate task. "Heso, why don't the two of us move the SUVs. The horses will have to wait until we've moved the corridor end down to the base of the canyon."

They drove the first two SUVs right into the living room, and turned them off. It made for easy unloading.

"So, Heso, what didn't you want to say in front of Falchion?"

"We heard Gauntlet's dead."

"Oh. Falchion's not going to take that well. How about Epee?"

"Haven't seen her since we learned. We figured we might need safety in numbers before we told her. I mean, those three were practically triplets."

Rior sighed. "Yes. Let's unload all the bubbles. I don't know where we're going to store the vehicles themselves . . . oh stop smirking. Inside a bubble, where else?"

Heso bubbled the SUVs and they carefully eased out to get the other one. Falchion was red-eyed and clinging to Eldon, so they just grabbed the last vehicle and left.

"At least she didn't kill him."

"Yeah. Never can tell, with a witch."


Mining turned out to be easy, with a witch or four around. Jade was the best at it, sensing the gold underground. Their first mining claim on crown property south of Cliff House started a small boom on the east side.

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.

matapampamuphoff on January 15th, 2017 12:46 pm (UTC)
I've trimmed back Eldon's homecoming story to what's relevant to this story. I probably need to cut more, but since you guys like Eldon, I'll leave it in for now.
(Anonymous) on January 15th, 2017 10:49 pm (UTC)
yes we like Eldon but...

I think this is about the right amount of detail. You're pulling in fragments (the pinto horses, details about who died, showing solid leanings towards ending "raiding" for Eldon, etc.) that help ground the story in other stories details.

course I don't know (or at least don't remember) what the original words were, so I might have liked them before, too.

In the longer term, I'd like to see all the other gang members reactions to Eldon's qualms, and whether they change too or not.

matapampamuphoff on January 16th, 2017 12:21 am (UTC)
At the end of this one, Eldon finally goes on to the other stories I've written about him. I do eventually put him back in touch with the rest of the gang.

But the rest of the gang is pretty much superfluous to _this_ story, so I'm trying to not get too distracted.

Edited at 2017-01-16 12:24 am (UTC)