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07 August 2018 @ 08:28 am
_Meet the Family_ part 1  
 So, while Cooking Hot ists for a bit before I reread it for coherency, it's time for Rael to meet Xen's family.

Meet the Family

1407 px 1409 yp

"According to rumor, Xen Wolfson has either been killed, or seriously wounded." President Orde paused and watched her.

Rael tried to not respond, to not show any reaction beyond polite interest. She suspected she failed miserably.

"Dr. Quicksilver says injured, leave him alone for a year or so and he ought to be fine. We'd like you to go to Comet Fall and ask to see him."

She raised her eyebrows.

"Well, yes as a matter of fact, there are a few other things. Specifically, I suspect you'll need to go to the infamous Village of Ash. So you might just happen to meet the leadership of the Witches, the Mages, and the Wizards. It's . . . for all the importance of the place, it's pretty well opaque, as far as any of their magical organizations and practices. We need to know more about them."

"Right. Nothing to it." Rael considered the Fallen, probably the most irritating people in the Multiverse. "I'll start with their embassy on Embassy. If they won't let me through, I'll see if the horses will show me a back route." She ignored the odd look he gave her.

Chapter Two

It looked like an "Old Western Frontier" stage set had met up with a kitschy Swiss Chalet schemed touristy ski villa and unfortunately, procreated. The setting sun tried to gild the spring snow-melt mud, and failed.

Rael lifted her reins and urged her horse down the slight decline and into the little valley.

She'd taken the corridor as far as the provincial capital, then bought the horse for the final leg. She'd picked this one because with the irregular pinto spots she figured there wouldn't be any of the engineered genes that made the "best" horses here so One damned scary smart.

But "Calico" had turned out to be smooth gaited and easy going, the muddy-grass-over-gravel road in reasonable repair, with rather obvious camping areas at high and dry spots along it. The last two days had been more pleasant than the preceding four, arguing with diplomats. The first day, riding alone, the lack of people had felt eerie. But today the sudden scatter of huts and muddy sheep and fenced pastures over the last ten miles had felt like an unfortunate intrusion on her serenity.

The mud deepened as they descended to a creek in full spate. A bridge of logs thrown across, with boards nailed on top, was barely above the water, and from the fresh scrubbed look, had been under water quite recently. Calico slid a bit on the muddy slope down to it, ambled across and up the other side.

And then she was in the village of Ash. The center of magic on this world.

Pretty much as Subdirector Ajha had described it. Some new houses, since he'd been here. Now the question was, where would Xen be? Here or someplace else, and would anyone tell her?

Calico's iron shoes clinked on harder pavement, free of mud. There were lights coming on behind windows, indistinguishable voices, a baby crying. Two girls, preteen at a guess, stopped to eye her.

"Hi? I'm, umm, looking for Xen Wolfson?"

One girl raised a supercilious nose. "Oh, you mean Xenotime Rustleson."

The second girl elbowed the first. "Don't be snotty, she's obviously just a city girl, doesn't know anything." She pointed. "Take the road past the inn, go right at the fork."

"Thank you." Rael booted Calico forward. The inn was emitting delicious smells. I could hunt him up in the morning . . . But she ignored her stomach and turned up the road running between it and a garden, lush with budding bushes, flowering trees, and rows of soil full of sprouts. Just past the inn's stable, the road turned into a dirt track. Sandy enough to not be a morass. A kilometer up the rising path, it split and she took the right fork. The almost full moon cleared the mountains to the east, and by its light she could see that the path dropped a bit toward another creek. Smaller, with a faint smell of sulfur. Run off from one of the hotsprings they talk about.

The path dived into the dark under an oak tree. A hitching rail was dimly visible. Was this a picnic spot, or did visitors tie their horses here and walk the rest of the way?

"That's the usual procedure."

For a second she thought she'd found him, the voice was almost . . . but the man stepping out into the moonlight was more muscular, bearded . . . but those dark eyes . . .

"And I think you're the first Oner we've had stop by."

Rael clamped down hard on her shields.

White teeth flashed in a quick grin. Familiar enough to wrench her heart.

"You must be Xen's father."

"Yes. Wolfgang Oldham. And you are?"

"Rael Withione Montevideo. I . . . The President is concerned, we've gotten rumors that he was badly injured." She slid off the horse, trying to not wince as her feet took the weight.

"Yes." Exasperation in the deep voice now. "An amazing number of people want the boy dead. And are perfectly willing to take out any number of innocent bystanders to achieve that."

Rael sighed. "Yes. At least most of the Oners who want him dead just try to stick him with a sword. May I speak to him?"

"Umm, don't know that he'll wake up, but come along and see for yourself."

She tied the horse and followed the shadowy figure along the stream through a gap in the hill that opened up quickly to orderly grape vines climbing the hillsides. Ahead a grove of enormous trees. Redwoods, like on the west coast of North America?

"Yes. That's where I got these, or rather, their progenitors. Coastal redwoods. I wish I'd thought to snag some giant sequoias. Now those were impressive trees."

Rael tried to tighten her shields further. But there wasn't any tighter. One damn it!

The building just beyond the redwoods was sleek and modern. The first room was obviously part of a winery. It smelled of fruit and alcohol. Beyond it, a sitting room, with stairs leading up to a second floor. And sitting on the stairs, Xen.