A quick head count in the dark and Oscar grunted in satisfaction. "Everyone's out. All the witches . . . I think everyone was ahead of us." Gre had Dagni. Bran, Selano, Risti, Gari, Mieri, Dalphi, Roboner. All safe.
"Yeah. They got out of the trap. We didn't." Brad held out a hand and lit up the area.
Buildings. Bronze. Solid bronze, like a one piece casting. Only, full sized.
Those inside out bubbles?
Selano stood up stiffly. Eyed the bank building. "Well, at least it fell the other direction." He lowered his gaze to the girls. They were all clustered, Bali in the middle.
"Just one more good push!"
Oscar shuddered and looked away. Brought up a light of his own, raised it. Looked up. "I think we're inside a bubble."
He swallowed. "Well, at least we broke away from whatever Pax was trying to do." He swallowed again. We can't get out of this, by ourselves! None of us have any of that dimensional ability the gods say is necessary to even see bubbles, let alone do things to them. The gods.
"Harry? Harry! God of Travelers! We've got a problem traveling!"
Even Bali paused in her panting . . . then whimpered.
"Push. You're almost done . . . "
"God of War? We're under magical attack by the God of Peace. God of War, I summon you!"
A baby's first cry. A bit weak and tentative, then with another breath, louder, outraged. Oscar stopped to listen to the indignant newborn. A god's baby. Edmund Vice, Old Gods help us! Not the nicest of men, but surely most of that was the collective subconscious, not genetic . . .
"Edmund Vice! God of Vice! I summon you!"
Selano stepped over closer. "I don't think they can hear through a bubble. But the others will call on Harry, and he'll come to search for us."
"True. So there's nothing to worry about. I wonder where we are, this time?" Oscar glanced
Bran looked around. "You know, we really do need to stop doing things like this."
"Well . . . we've never been hijacked with a bunch of women and babies before."
"A new challenge." Oscar assured him. "But what's with the bubbled buildings? Is someone try to protect a whole city from the Comet?"
"You do this often?" Gre looked up at the bubble. “I mean, just . . . turn up someplace weird?”
"It does keep the boredom at bay." Bran admitted, grinning back.
"That's the spirit." Oscar clouted Gre on the back. "Cheer up."
"I suppose it's a good idea, but the outer bubble must be a quarter of a mile high."
"Impressive." Oscar peered down the block. "And we are not alone in here."
Three women in a triangle. Witches. Good.
"So. Let's go find out where we are."
A Few Decades Ago
"Thirty-seven days, give or take. The light never changes." Hail shot a glance up at the hated faint bronze glow. "A thousand years on the outside, give or take."
And then the light changed.
A black spot, brightening and quickly becoming a bright wedge as the bubble deformed, like something pushing down from the outside. Stretching, stretching down to the ground.
The ground quivered.
Jolted her back into motion. "Earthquake! Get away from the building!"
Fair pushed Macy, Hudson was on their heels . . .
"The bronze buildings shouldn't fall . . . "
"Something fell. To the east." Hail started jogging. Rounded the corner and stopped dead.
It looked like a jagged mass of marble had burst up out of the ground, spewing dirt everywhere.
A dozen people stood on the road, clear of the last spray of dirt.
A huddle of women.
Four men, glowing.
Hail held her hands out, and Fair and Macy joined her, gathering power.
The strangers just stood there, from the way their heads turned they were talking among themselves.
"They've got a couple of babies, and the other women look very pregnant." Fair relaxed. "I don't know who they are, but they really don't look very dangerous. I mean, the men are obviously mages. Did they break out of one of the bubbled buildings?"
The four men . . . a greybeard, two blondes and a redhead . . . appeared to be arguing. Then the old man stepped away, started walking toward the witches.
"The old ones are the most powerful," Hudson muttered.
"Yeah, but they may think he looks less threatening, and be trying to not scare us." Hail shifted, uncertainly. "But whoever they are, maybe they can let us out."
The old man walked out into the intersection with Elm and stopped abruptly, looking to his right.
"Oh, dammit, Estaven must have come too." Hail strode forward. "He'd better not start anything, with those women and children so close."
The old man swapped looks between her and whoever was approaching from the other direction.
"Good morning," she started . . . "Well, maybe it's afternoon."
The old man inclinded his head to her, his attention still split.
She walked out far enough to see down the cross street. "Good afternoon, Estaven. The gentleman has women and children in tow, so let's not start shooting, eh?"
The old man's eyebrows rose. "Shoot?" He studied Estaven and his cronies. "Old Gods, I've seen those things in museums. Err, sorry. I'm Selano Discorski. We had a bit of a run in with Pax, err, the God of Peace?" He paused for their nods. "And we arrived here accidentally." He shot a glance back toward his group. "I hope we didn't fall on anyone."
Hail shook her head. "Most of the population is bubbled up for the Comet . . . I'm Hail and this is Estaven Doscompos. Could you tell me what year this is? I'm afraid that since no one came to unbubble the city, we've been here for longer than we'd expected."
The old man looked startled. "The comet isn't due for another two months."
Hail paused. "When we were bubbled, the Comet was expected inside of days."
"Oh. So we've lost months?" The old man looked a bit taken aback.
Fair, Macy and Hudson had walked up from the west, the rest of Estaven's people from the north, and the rest of the strangers from the east.
Estaven had relaxed when he saw that there were only three other men, and the women were young pretty, and either carrying babies or obviously pregnant. But his eyes narrowed suspiciously as he eyed the three young men. "I don't recognize the uniform. You play in a band?"
The blonde in the lead snickered, and the women giggled. The other blonde and the redhead looked indignant.
"Kingdom of the West. Army." This first blond looked around. "Umm, where are we?"
"Scanida, on the West Coast."
The blond wrinkled his nose. "Never heard of it. Auralia, perhaps?"
The old man made a faint choking noise. "There was a Scandia on the west coast of Europe, which was destroyed when the Comet Fell."
"Thought you said it hadn't fallen yet?" Esteven frowned.
The blond swapped glances with the redhead. "Selano meant the comet of 1376. I'm beginning to wonder if you aren't talking about the comet of . . . "
"Thirteen seventy-six? What is this bullshit? Are you trying to tell me we've been stuck in that bubble for a thousand years!" Estaven was pale, no matter how angry his voice.
The blond looked absent minded for a moment, then shook his head. "Can't hear anyone." He cleared his throat. "I'm going to appeal to a higher authority. Don't over react, please. God of Roads! Harry! We are so lost I think we're even going to surprise you."
A pregnant pause.
"God of War?"