Wine of the Gods 26: Embassy

Pam Uphoff



Copyright © 2016 Pamela Uphoff

All Rights Reserved




This is a work of fiction.

All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional.

Any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.



Cover design by Cedar Sanderson

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five

Chapter Thirty-six

Chapter Thirty-seven

Chapter Thirty-eight

Chapter Thirty-nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-one

Chapter Forty-two

Chapter Forty-three

Chapter Forty-four

Chapter Forty-five

Chapter Forty-six

Chapter Forty-seven

Chapter Forty-eight

Chapter Forty-nine

Chapter Fifty

Epilog for the Bad Guys

Epilog for the Good Guys

And A Final Scene

Excerpt from an upcoming release


Just Following Orders

About the Author

Other Books by Pam Uphoff

Chapter One
Early Summer 1398
Karista, Kingdom of the West



Captain Xen Wolfson scowled at the handwritten report on his desk. "I want to go back to the One World and steal a computer."

"No." Firm and definite, from the common room beyond.

He sighed, frowned and turned his head at the whisper . . .

"If I was an idiot local I'd just pray to the God of Spies."

Xen stood up as the light dimmed and the walls of his office faded away. Felt his face. Collar turned up, hood up and pulled down to his eyes. Dark corduroy jacket with odd shifting colors, loaded with knives and whatever.
Full blown God of Spies clothes and gear. So why am I here? Who just sort-of-prayed to the God of Spies? And where is here?

He followed the sound of furious whispering in the evening light shining through a few unshuttered windows high in the walls of a cavernous warehouse.

"Ha! You're even stupider than a local. This is all you perverts' fault."

That sounds like modern Merican, from Earth. Another marooned soldier, or have they snuck in a powered gate without us noticing? I need to drag Q back from the maze and her experiments . . .

"Like you lot are just the sweetie pies of the Multiverse? You can't even pretend to give equal treatment to subject people, can you?"

Oner accent. Ha! We knew they were back here somewhere.

"Oh, right. Like One World is any better? Your appalling program of breeding with the natives turns my stomach."

And arguing instead of shooting at each other? Wonder how that happened?

He settled down on a convenient crate to watch the two spies.

"Ha. What about all your female gyp drivers. I hear they keep score. Breed with one male on every World they've ever visited." The Oner accent was clear.

"Not breed. We don't allow uncontrolled breeding." A brief snicker. "We don't have to worry about our entire political structure being brought down by reproductive political maneuvers. That Fallen spy just ran all over you. And if he hadn't wanted your President alive, for some purpose, he would probably still be active."

Fallen? Us? And how the hell did they find out about what happened in the Empire? If they've found the Empire . . . or . . . if they are still on Granite Peak, they are no doubt picking up anything and everything the Oners broadcast in their towns. I hope that's all it is. A full blown war between them would be brutal.

A growl from the Oner. "Oh? Don't think we weren't in place and watching you lot when that Elf showed up to lecture your General about the Geneva Accords."

Sizzling angry silence.

Xen softened his mental shields a bit, and picked up immediate indications of people all around the building.

Yes, every soldier out there was focused on this building, while the magic squads searched. Big strong, ugly feelings. Sea Wolves. Searching. He wondered where he was, and slipped into a side room and looked around . . . newspaper on a table, the Hastu Post.

"The opinion we had of Earth sank even lower after you tried to kill an entire world of people with a bioweapon. Have you no shame, whatsoever?"

Xen slipped back out. "However entertaining it is to listen to the pair of you—and it truly is entertaining—the Sea Wolves are closing in. Why don't we leave?" Xen grinned as the dimly seen figures whipped around, trying to spot him.

"And just who might you be?"

"Xen Wolfson, or Endi Dewulfe, or whatever. Sometimes they joke and call me the God of Spies." Xen strolled out into the faint light and reached a hand toward each of them. They shied back and he sighed. "Now, now. No need for all that." He grabbed a pair of shoulders and reached out for an empty spot to Travel to.

The collective subconscious had other plans and dropped him on the Tavern's doorstep. He looked at himself. Still in his god suit. He pushed back the hood, folded down the collar. Blinked in the bright light. A good ways west of their prior location, plus the northern hemisphere's summer, and the sun was well above the horizon. "Dinner, gentlemen?"

The three of them, all in dark colors, at the back table, got quite a few fishy looks from the soldiers lingering over late dinners. Nighthawk flashed him a grin and suggested the roast beef. "The chicken is getting a bit dried out."

The spy from Earth claimed to be a vegetarian. Nighthawk looked at him in surprise. "Gosh. I thought Earthmen were cannibals. Or does it not count when it's natives? Since you don't treat us like humans, you know? Oh, sorry. That was rude of me. I'm certain Flare will feed you all sorts of veggies."

She whipped around and walked off, long black hair swaying.

"That's very un-hygienic." The Earther muttered.

Xen considered carefully. "Unhygienic. What part? Eating Natives?"

"That hair. I'll probably find some in my food."

"You know, Marty, spies are supposed to not stand out."

"How do you know my name! I don't use my name here."

"It's this wretched god thing. I pick up all sorts of information out of thin air. And vegetarian? Really rare here, people are going to notice you, remember you. How about you, Utto? Swear by the One once too often?"

"My cover wasn't blown." Marty whined. "I don't know what I did wrong."

Utto rolled his eyes. "Other than broadcast your thoughts? You Earthers are so obvious."

"Yeah. Right. Woohoo, it's magic!"

Xen smiled. "Exactly. Your blindness is even worse than the Oners' arrogance." He spotted Marty's impression of the place the Earthers were coming and going from, then melted insubstantial probes through the Oner's shield where it thinned up high.
Gate. Where is your gate?
"Umm, you referred to us as Fallen? Why?"

The Earther snorted. "Comet Fall. We named this world Comet Fall, when we discovered it."

"Ah. I see. And, umm, actually you named it Dallas Project B. I expect you renamed it after speaking to our representative who informed you that it was a comet, not an asteroid that caused the crater near your first gate and depopulated that continent. Hmm, Comet Fall. I kind of like it. Very apt."

Nighthawk swooped back with the pot of tea he'd ordered, bread and butter. "And this is olive oil with basil, parsley, salt, and garlic in it." She tapped the small bowl. "In case you don't eat dairy products."

The Earther looked surprised. "She understands the concept, at least."

"Why is it that you Earthers think we're stupid?" Xen tried a bit of the olive oil mixture. "We're all Earth descended. Exiled because we had genetic engineering, not for stupidity."

"You've regressed to a medieval level society. You are primitive and barbaric."

The Oner snorted. "Barbaric? Hardly. They are still a complex society. Just less technical."

Xen nodded. "We've lost most of the records, what with various comets falling on us and so forth, so my understanding is not exact. We regressed a bit industrially at first, and were operating on a steam engine and electricity level when the Comet hit. That killed about ninety percent of the population, and we were pretty much hand-to-mouth agriculture inside magic domes with magic lights for a century. We've never quite lost that dependence on magic, and it has rather crippled our technical advances. I'll show you after dinner what I mean."

Nighthawk delivered plates and they ate mostly quietly at the start.

The Earther flicked a glance at the Oner. "You haven't torn into him."

"The One World also attempted to invade. And their attempt was much bloodier on our side, although they lost fewer soldiers than Earth. We'd tracked several of their spy operations. They've been actively gathering intelligence, and committing rape and murder for over thirty years, that we know of, and were well enough established that we suspect they were active for at least a decade prior to that. They staged an attack on Earth from here, with local dupes, leaving us with a large chunk of the blame."

Marty narrowed his eyes and shot a glare toward Utto, who was also looking suddenly thoughtful.

So both sides have information holes? I guess the Oners didn't go back to the One World, but neither did they get caught. Think on it, later.

"We'd have had better luck with friendly trade relations with either of you, separately. Unfortunately you both arrived in the same time frame and seem to be determined to grind us up between you.

"So, let me just say this. Among the items the Earthers left behind when they retreated to Earth was an armed nuclear warhead. If you keep pushing us, one of you is likely to receive it.

"That biowarfare truck. We could have just parked it anywhere and walked away. Think please, about the consequences of a high tech multidimensional war." Xen put down his knife and fork and looked at both of them. "At the slightest hint that either of you are again trying for Option Zero, you will be isolated. We have the ability, but we will only use it if we have to. What we would like to do is use an empty planet as neutral territory, a place where every World can build an embassy and talk to the other Worlds."

Oh hell. Where did that idea come from?

"Oh. My. A United Nations. How high minded." Utto curled a lip. "Historically speaking, things like that have all failed miserably."

"I'll call Urfa in a month. If your government wants in on it, let him know where you want the gate, and we'll open a permanent one for you." Xen turned to the Earther. "Same offer to you. I'll call the public phone number of the UEBI, and introduce myself." He polished off the beef, and noted that the miscellany of veggies and beans Flare had produced for Marty had all disappeared.

Nighthawk returned quickly. "There's fresh strawberries or peach cobbler, with or without ice cream, if you are interested in dessert."

Utto opted for the strawberries, Marty, cobbler without. Xen took cobbler with ice cream.

"Old Gods forbid we should agree on anything." He smirked a bit at their expressions. "Oh, sorry, should that be 'One forbid' or 'Logic forbid'?"

They glowered and tucked into their desserts.

"What's this you were talking about, about showing us how magic has interfered with technological progress?"

Xen nodded. "Come along. I'll give you the tour."

Nighthawk slipped over grinning. "Flare says your tab is high enough to equal about twenty wild turkeys, please. By next week?"

"Tell her I'll go hunting immediately."

"Barter? I thought you had a decent monetary system."

"We do, but the Tavern is out here by the Crossroads to keep an eye on all these gates—this was, umm, our experimental grounds, because so few people lived here—which means Flare can't just buy things from the nearest farmers. She depends on a bunch of us to keep her supplied. Either hunting, or popping into Karista to buy it for her." Xen led the way out to the road, and around the corner. The sun was still a bit above the horizon in the long summer evening. The corridor to the Temple in Karista was on the side wall, with an illusion over it. He briefly suspended the illusion for the spies and stepped through.

After a moment, they followed switching wary glances around, from him to each other, to the City . . .

"We call them corridors. They're like weak gates, just going from one spot on a World to another spot on the same World. It kind of removes the need for efficient transportation, so we're still doing the horse drawn wagon thing." Xen led the way down to Commerce street, with all the corridors angled to make entry and exit easier. "That one took us about eight hundred miles, umm, twelve hundred kilometers, sorry. It's a bit restricted in its access. These are all public corridors." He crossed the street, spies in tow, and walked through the Havwee corridor. "The city of Havwee. Twenty-four hundred kilometers from Karista." He cut over to the Lucky Strike corridor. Abrupt transition to darker conditions. A few oil lamps outside the doors of bars and brothels. "Lucky Strike is one of the first gold rush towns in the New Lands. A thousand kilometers from Havwee, in a straight line, twice that by road."

The two spies were very stiff. Eyeing each other.

Xen sighed. "It's no good fighting over me. I didn't make these. Now will you each
go home and try to talk some sense into your people? We could trade for these sorts of corridors. Permanent gates to empty worlds, colonies, trading partners, and so forth. We don't care how many empty worlds you exploit. You just can't exploit us, and we'd prefer you don't exploit anyone else, either, although as long as you don't get really vicious about it we probably won't interfere."

Xen turned and faced them. "Tell your superiors about the corridors. Point out the savings in time and fuel they represent. And permanent gates. Tell them I dangled them as treaty tidbits."

He felt a faint tugging sensation. "Good luck gentlemen. I'm afraid I've done all I can for you." As he'd been suspecting they were about to, they disappeared. And then he was back in Magic Central.

Everyone was still there, with Fuchsia looking in the door as he blinked in the bright lights. "He's back!"

"Was I away long enough for a leisurely dinner at the Tavern and then a bit of a tour?" He glanced down at his blue and gold uniform. Weird.

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