Keiq thought it was funny. "I haven't researched the people who've lived there. I'll have to look for a Tanya."
"Are there any real details about Mikel the Eye's later life? The ladies seemed quite clear about the Bags of the Prophet. I suppose we could ask Rael if she has any dimensionally able students handy." Ice sighed as she started giggling.
Yawned. At least being there, I could sleep in until four-thirty. Maybe I'll nap at lunch. Or research Mikel.
Mikel the Eye had died in 397 yp at the age of three hundred and fifty one. At the time of his death he'd been married for just over a year to his fortieth wife Princess Tanya, daughter of Oliver, granddaughter of Alexander. They had a six week old son. Thirty-eight of his hundred and twenty-two children had attended his funeral. Lady Tanya had not been present.
"Just over a thousand years ago. Which makes it hard to find . . . anything."
Keiq nodded sympathetically. "I hunted the on grid archives for original sources, or at least contemporary news. What I mostly found was lurid speculation about where Mikel had buried the bodies.
The kids were all wide-eyed and ooing. Their parents looked both amused and skeptical.
Cwyk--Wacky to family and friends--was grinning. "Honestly, Ice! That was almost the worst of your tall tales. So . . . what are you going to do, to top it?"
"Actually, I thought that I might go to Makkah this weekend. This house is supposed to be based on Oliver's house in Makkah, which still exists. I thought I'd go take a look. Keiq? Would you like to come?"
She gulped. "To Makkah? I . . ."
"I've been several times, but never had the time to do any sightseeing. How about it?"
She nodded, a bit wide-eyed. "Certainly. How terrifying could it possibly be?"
Ice grinned. "It's odd, but I didn't find it scary."
"You . . . does anything scare you?"
"Sure. Lots of things. The trick is to not let it stop you."
"Right. Should I dress up?"
"Think good walking shoes. There's nothing resembling public transit there, but it's a small town. Five to six hundred permanent residents, ten times that in visitors. At some times of the year, millions, and no place to stay."
"Yes, but a lot of people calculate their hajj by the old calendar. Fortunately that's over for the year." Ice grinned. "So I'll pick you up early, day after tomorrow?"
"Right. And . . . I think I'll go talk to your ghost tomorrow, while clearing the kitchen." Keiq bit her lip. "It's still taped up, isn't it?"
"I've sent a note to the building inspector, requesting limited access for the roof repairs. I, umm, thought I probably ought not get pushy at this point. Want to borrow my hard hat?"
"I think maybe I'd better get my own."
After a fortunately uneventful day's work, he found the house wrapped with a single yellow strip of ribbon labeled "CONSTRUCTION AREA -- HARD HATS REQUIRED." A vast improvement.
The entire entry area was cleared of debris. A neat array of roof tiles to one side, and carefully laid out fragile rotted wood carvings on the other. Ah. The stairs. That incredible carved newel post. Posts, there was one on each side.
How did Keiq get so much done in a day?
He heard voices, and followed them to the kitchen.
Women everywhere. Keiq and Wacky . . . Madam Paex!
Keiq looked over with a grin. "The Historical Society's Monthly meeting was a field trip. I put them to work."
Indeed. A dozen of them, and if some of them looked rather like the seance ladies, well, he was too much of a gentleman to mention it. And certainly not stop them.
"I'll be upstairs, dealing with the roof." He headed for the ladder.
Madam Paex followed him. "I want to see what you are doing to the roof."
Ice concealed a wince. "Right, come on up. I've got the north end cleaned up enough to see what I'm stepping on as I repair the wood up there."
Madam Paex eyed his braces dubiously.
"I braced it before we leveled it. Now, as you see the main beam is badly rotted and sagging, held up mostly by the rafters, that aren't in very good shape themselves, and then the horizontal boards that hold the tiles are also pretty rotted."
"Indeed. However, I have a lot of training in magical wood manipulation, so I'm going to see if I can make repairs without disassembling the whole thing. Let me demonstrate." He picked up one of his long poles and levitated it to lie parallel to a rafter.
"That's just a stick!"
Ice compacted it carefully into the rotted rafter, shaped it, compressed it. Water dripped from the green wood.. Nothing fell down. Good. Now I'll . . . augment the wood of the rafter opposite it on the west side. Once I've stabilized them, I'll work on the worst of the rotten cross-wood, where the tiles are still in place. Then I'll strengthen and straighten the main beam."
"And fix the holes?"
Five rafters later, Madam Paex had her troops bringing in wood.
Scowling when he quit for the night.
"Tomorrow, Keiq and I are driving to Makkah, to take a look at Oliver's house. Lucky Dave said this was a close copy, because Mikel had always admired Oliver's house there."
"Oh!" Her eyes widened.
Ice wondered how many of the women were going to turn up there.
Two corridors and four hours of driving.
Much better company, this time.
Keiq started frowning a bit as the whispering voices started.
"You can shut them out a bit, with a mental shield, but they don't get much louder than this. It's . . . well they train to not shield, to accept and broadcast everything. It can be a bit overwhelming, the constant background chatter. We won't stay for more than a few hours."
She nodded uncertainly. Staring at the ruins of Old Mecca as they drove past. Then turning forward as they drove out on the harsh rock and sand of the desert.
:: So . . . Oliver's house? And Mikel's? It's been a long while since I've thought of that tough old man. ::
Keiq looked startled.
"And really, it's near impossible to keep their thoughts out . . . not that I've ever tried that hard."
Mental laughter. :: I'll meet you at Oliver's house. And your interesting companion. ::
Keiq swallowed. "Is that . . . The Prophet Emre?"
"Yes." Ice grinned. "He's actually quite nice in a . . . not quite normal fashion."
"That's . . . not really reassuring."
"Well, this is a strange place. Even with the Hive Mind broken, they all walk in and out of each others minds to such an extent that except for a few of the strongest, it really doesn't matter who you talk to or who answers."
Keiq was quiet for the last hundred kilometers. ,
Ice drove around the jutting rock of a stone ridge and the home of the Prophets was suddenly spread out in front of them.
Ice parked by a dead-end train station
Keiq frowned. "If that's the end of the line for the Medina line, what about the trains from Riyad?"
"That station is around on the east side." A man in the uniform of the Ecclesiastical Guard, white with green piping, walked up. "Let me show you the way."
He led them to the right, between two low buildings and into a courtyard.
"Oliver's house is open for tourists only under escort. You, of course, may wander at will, but there's always someone who wants to collect a personal memento."
Keiq looked between them. "You aren't angry at Ice?"
The guard grinned. "Because he had the nerve to force the Prophet to get out of danger? No, we're a bit astonished, but not angry about it. At all."
Ice squirmed. "I was a bit . . . emotional . . . at the time. I really don't think I could hit him in normal conditions."
A snicker from the guard.
Down a winding walkway, around a domed building . . . And there it was.
The low dome over the half-circle room on the upper floor. And yes, a shadowy private little patio on the ground floor.
They walked along in front of the building.
"I think Mikel's windows are larger." Keiq frowned. "And there's a tower. Flat roof."
A chuckle from one of the three men waiting for them. "Mikel was a bit peeved that a flat roof designed for the desert would leak in Paris. He put up that blue tile roof, but it still leaked around the tower and the dome." Dark skinned, middlle-aged in appearance.
Emre snorted. "He removed the tower, but refused to take out the dome, leaks or no." He eyed Keiq curiously.
Ice bowed. "One, may I introduce Keiq Withione Goldport Colorado. Keiq, this is Emre One, Former Philosopher Jeb ibn Oliver ibn Byrum. And One Ytry, one of the older Priests."
Emre waved an invitation at the front door. "Come and see what Mikel was trying to copy. From memory, mind you. I don't think he ever measured anything."
Ytry snickered. "I regret that I'm too young to have ever known him." He must have caught a dubious look from Keiq, and grinned. "I'm seven hundred and thirty-one. So I only missed him by a few centuries."
Ice stepped through the front doors and stopped dead. Black marble floors set off brilliantly colored rugs. The two staircases swept gracefully up to the balcony. Gleaming mahogany. White plastered walls to either side with a raised pattern giving an illusion of depth.
"Oh!" Keiq walked past him, turning to take it all in.
Jeb stepped in and looked around. "Father neither rejected the Islamic style of art, nor adopted it. So, while now I know what a hodgepodge of styles the house it, growing up here, I considered it normal."
"I hope you haven't given up on Tall Trees already?" Ice stepped over to admire the newel post. Half a meter square at the base, topped with an eagle, wings half spread.
"We haven't, but I, personally, was a bit to suddenly dominant to sit easily on the people there. We're sending in some younger people to help the courts and police. We'll show we've got something of value, and earn trust, as a first step." Jeb shrugged. "Possibly the only step. We can't see the future. And the past, only faintly."
All three of the men focused on Ice.
"Now about this . . . voice." Jeb eyed him. "Show us what happened."
Ice lowered his shields all the way, as the others stepped up near him. It wasn't quiet a circle, a small compass, there was only a light merge as he remembered the flashlights coming around the curve of the driveway . . . the seance . . . the voice.
A huff of breath from the Prophet. "That sounded like him. Damn."
Jeb stepped back, a little pale. "They never found Tanya or Ollie. I didn't know her very well. Father died when she was two, and her mother took her back to her own home in the mountains south of the Black Sea. She was a daughter of Alexander, you see. Raised to be independent, willful and a bit wild, and Tanya wasn't much better. But beautiful. And . . . she looked enough like Jasmine, Mikel's first wife, also a daughter of Oliver's . . . He proposed two days after they met."
Emre nodded. "A mistake. They argued almost constantly. When Mikel died, neither she nor the baby were anywhere to be found."
"And the rumors started, that he'd killed both of them." Jeb hunched his shoulders. "They never found any bodies, and the rumors died out, eventually. I have always preferred to think that she grabbed Mikel's most valuable possessions--the two bags of the Prophets--and escaped back to her mountains."
"So if that wasn't a pre-cog, was it a past-cog?"
Ytry grinned. "Post-cog? An impressed memory? An auditory illusion triggered by the seance?"
Ice sighed. "I don't know if, when we get down to the bare bones of the house, I hope to find something, or fear it. I suppose I could bring in one of Wolfson's kids to see if the Bags are hidden somewhere."
Emre snorted. "Dammit, we need to import Purple Power women and marry them off to nice Oner boys, instead of always finding ourselves turning to Wolf's son or grandchildren, every time we turn around."
Ice nodded. "We've got Twit, but she's busy mapping the multiverse, or at any rate those damned Cyborg planets."
Ytry chewed a finger nail. "If that was Mikel, or an impression he left, or your brain assembled a few wisps into a voice those two think they recognized, it seems likely that Mikel tucked his wife and child into at least one and possibly two bags, and I really want to know."
The other two nodded.
Ice winced. "Shall I invite the Ladies back for another seance? Or bring them here and see how many ghosts they can communicate with?"
Emre waved a hand. "They're arriving on the next train. We'll have to have a chat with them. So if you want to survey the house, I suppose we'd better let you get to it." He started to turn away, then turned back to Keiq. "And don't worry about those lawyers and their frantic clutching at any distraction. Trusting a Warrior of the One when they want you to shoot someone is the right thing to do."
Ytry snorted. "Rael! Of all the people to cast doubts at!" The old man gave her a quick grin. "Go train with her, while you're on leave. Because, damn, that was some good shooting. You just need to get your martial arts and Speed up to snuff, and the Warriors will be adding you to their ranks."
The three men walked out, leaving Keiq speechless.
Ice grinned. "Shall we go see what the kitchen here looks like?"
"Ice . . . I'm a nice peaceful type of person. I investigate and deduce and, and . . ."
"Kill invading Cyborgs by the dozens, when it's needed. Me too. I sit in an office and analyze shit. Now, let's check this house out before the Hysterical Society arrives."
They wound up staying up all night for the seances. At three different places.
After the women shrugged and said they felt nothing in a bare courtyard, the Priests sent them off to beds in a hotel.
Keiq pulled him into her room without hesitation. "I need a big strong man to cuddle with the rest of the night and however long into the day I happen to sleep."
Ice just reached out and pulled her into a hug. "I volunteer for this arduous duty."
Snort. "Horrible man. Do you know anything about that courtyard they wanted the last seance in?"
"I am not certain, but that might be the execution yard."
She jerked in his arms and clung tighter. Muffled her voice against his chest. "I'm really glad there weren't any ghosts there."
After breakfast with the Prophet, chit-chatting about architectural styles, they headed for home.