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11 August 2018 @ 10:14 am
_Meet the Family_ part 4  

The privy had flushing toilets, the three bath tubs each had its own tiny cubby with a bolt on the door. And hot pipes. It felt so good after three days on the road. She was seriously pruney when she dragged herself out.

She walked back into the Inn, dirty clothes and damp towel over her arm.

Dogwood and Urial were chatting with two familiar witches. Demioselle and Egret, fortunately two of the nice witches she'd worked with three///years ago.

They spotted her and waved her over.

"Long time, no see, Rael." Demoiselle had dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, and a deep tanned skin. Along with the good looks and height that in the Empire would have immediately had her recognized as a High Oner.

"Yes, and luckily I'm here for a one person disaster, not a . . ."

"Multiworld mass murdering world." Egret was another elegant brunette, not so dark, and with bright blue eyes.

"Yeah. Although I've got to wonder about these cyborgs Xen encountered."

"I want to see them!" Urial bounced on her toes, then nodded at the bundle under Rael's arm. "Laundry service?"

"Yes, please." Rael surrendered her bundle, and sat at Demi's invitational wave.

"So, how's Xen? Was he finally awake?"

"Barely awake, for maybe twenty minutes. It looks like the remaining damage is mostly superficial. I've never heard of these cyborgs before, but Xen says he was investigating a powered gate. I wonder if the cyborgs were making the gate—or if Earth or the One was. Darn. I can see that I'll be writing another report."

Egret nodded. "We don't need aggressive neighbors."

A snort from Particular as she delivered a teapot and three cups. "If that idiot stopped bring us to the attention of aggressive polities, we would wind up in wars with them." She looked down on Rael. "Simply destroying the Empire's and the Earth's gate mechanisms every time they touched us would have kept us safe."  

"And left us helpless in the path of the Helios. We do recognize that you saved us."

Sniff. "After you attacked us. And letting you come here? An agent of President Orde!"

Rael blinked. "These wretched names of ours—we've had two President Ordes in a row. The first was the man responsible for the attack. I was part of the One's efforts to remove him from office. The current Orde is doing his best to keep the peace."

Rael looked down at her cup as Demi poured. "Not that that damned War Party has quit."

Dubious looks from a number of directions.

"I am, as you point out, an agent of the Empire of the One. I . . . do not get to pick and choose which orders I carry out . . ." Mostly. Almost always. "Well, if I can, which rather obviously I sometimes can't."

A number of glares were aimed her way.

And from a dark corner, a dry old voice. "Pity."

Eyes widened, and bodies shifted a bit away from Rael. No one protested that single word.

The soft scrape of a chair, then a thin woman stepped out into the lantern light. Ancient. Powerful. Straight and moving easily despite her obvious age.

Rael stood up quickly as the old witch strolled out to look Rael up and down.

"I am Answer." Her blue eyes flicked to the other witches. "Bring her to the hotsprings tomorrow."

Chapter Four

"Weak." The old witch looked her up and down again. "Dependent. Running after a man."

Rael blinked at the head witch, the Senior Sister, they called her. Answer. "Actually my president sent me to check on the status of a very important person."

Sneer. "You look young, but I can see you must be nearing the half century mark. And you haven't the complexity of a woman who's given birth. Such a waste, you seem so strong."

Rael unclenched her jaw. "And how many children do you have?" In truth, the old witch's glow was both incredibly complex and frighteningly strong.

"Three. Ten granddaughters. Nineteen great granddaughters. Eight great great granddaughters—so far. And unfortunately, a great grandson, and three great great grandsons." Snort. "Here. You lot don't count."

"Xen? You aren't proud of . . . ?"

Snort. "We don't have any need for men beyond brief use. We are not weak, we are not subservient, and we should not have sons." She eyed Rael. "At least you are well trained. No doubt your president finds you useful. Your genuine infatuation creates a vulnerability in the man. He's amazingly weak for someone so strong magically. Not terribly bright, and soft in the head as well. But do join us . . ."

It was certainly an eye opening experience. Such different training. Such different talents. Such different methods. So many very strong women.

And soaking in the hotsprings after was rather nice as well. And she was much too worldly to be embarrassed by the casual nudity. Really.

She eyed the two witches heading her way. One complex and strong, one very complex and very strong. A young mother and a . . . baby goddess?

"I'm Obsidian, and this is my sister Topaz. We're Xen's aunts." The older one had light brown hair and blue eyes. The younger was blonde with hazel eyes. And similar features, and they certainly did look quiet a bit like Rustle. But then they all did, to her untrained eyes. Local phenotypes, and less variation, after at least one bottleneck.

(Anonymous) on August 13th, 2018 06:42 pm (UTC)
"Weak" ... "you seem so strong"
Answer gives seemingly contradictory judgements within a short period of time.

It makes sense if I interpret them as referring to different aspects, such as "Weak (psychologically)" and "you seem so strong (magically)".

But it really jars my ear as written.

matapampamuphoff on August 13th, 2018 09:05 pm (UTC)
Re: "Weak" ... "you seem so strong"
I'll make that emotionally vulnerable.