Wine of the Gods 26: Embassy (6 page)

Garit snorted. "When in one, stop digging. Right." He eyed Q.

"Don't worry, I took my mad out on the rocks." She looked over-head and around. "I was a bit pissed, but as much at myself as you. I knew you'd had practically every gland in your body interfered with."

"Yeah. Old gods I was mean for a while. And I didn't trust Xen, kept sending him off to Verona or Auralia so he wouldn't betray me, outshine me, get all the girls, and especially not get behind me and slip the knife in."

"Was it that bad?" Xen looked alarmed.

"I knew it was spells, not real. I was trying to not show it, not feel it. Actually it did wonders for my reputation with the Army. I'm officially a stone cold killer and a clever tactician. Lead from almost the front because I'm not completely stupid. Truly amazing."

"Um, Garit, you were all that before you got dosed. Were you the only one that didn't know that?" Xen was grinning. "Really, everyone's been saying 'just like his Uncle Rufi' about you for years."

"Really? Like Uncle Rufi?" Garit grinned back. "I'll have to start telling tall tales to all my younger relatives to cement the position."

"The Great Grand tells tall tales?" Q gathered up her history books and stored them again. "What kinds?"

Garit started laughing. "Oh. Oh, no. You don't know about them? They're all about the adventures of his witch granddaughters and their friends. Old gods! I hadn't realized you guys didn't know about them. They're full of magic dragons that terrify bandits by kissing them instead of eating them. And the witches eat very strange food, that generally cooks itself. Bad guys getting turned into goats, trees and purple bunnies, and of course, there's the boy with the talking horse. A very mean sheep who, after about five stories, turned into a wolf. They got rich making doorknobs from red rocks, and had fruit trees that grew chocolate oranges. Now, beside the boy with the talking horse, which I figured out years ago, how much was real?"

Q swapped grins with Xen. "Mother had some purple rabbits, but they started out as normal bunnies, not bad guys. Much too small to have started out as a person. Xen did have an interesting encounter with some bandits. Unfortunately he changed them right back. Goats . . . goats I could see. Trees? Umm, I don't think so, or at any rate the person wouldn't survive as such. Trees don't have brains, so all the information would be lost. The spell, if reversed, would produce a person with less starting knowledge than a newborn baby. I don't think even Nil would do that to someone. No chocolate orange trees either. It's too cold for oranges at all. Hmm . . . chocolate berry bushes, on the other hand . . ."

"The witches sometimes magically refine the iron out of some low quality red shale. But they usually use brass for making doorknobs." Xen snickered. "The very mean sheep, on the other hand is locally infamous. And that's turned
into a sheep. I don't think mother ever told Nil she turned a wolf into a sheep."

"Oh no. Please. I refuse to believe it." Garit was snickering.

"She turned him back into a wolf, after he helped with those bandits, but the other wolves rejected him. He started hanging around—they are pack animals, after all—and mother made him a mental switch to trigger the change back and forth from sheep to wolf. He, umm, pretty much stays with mother's odd colored sheep, now." Xen looked innocently at Garit.

"No. I am not even going to consider the possibility that you are telling the truth. The funny colored sheep are hard enough to believe in and I've seen them." Garit wiped his eyes. "I wonder if your invisible sheep have made it into his stories yet?"

"Chocolate trees and bushes . . . I must talk to mother about this."

Xen and Garit swapped grins. "Women and chocolate."

"Ha! If I hadn't gotten so interested in these merging Worlds I would have remembered that I was planning on buying myself a sports car before I left. Oh, and the girl dragons, erm,
the bad guys before they ate them. Not instead of."

Garit eyed her uncertainly, then edged over to read the labels on the boxes. "Power. Yes! Computers. Computer games."

"You were supposed to be learning how to use Oner computers, not how to waste time on silly games."

Garit just grinned. "Asti knows how to get people enthusiastically accepting uncanny things like those computers."

Q sniffed and got back to business. "I think most Half Moon witches can duplicate the solar cells. This isn't big enough for the whole building, we'll need a lot more. The capacitor and conversion systems are large enough to triple the area of panels, which will do until you lot start hiring people."

Garit nodded. "Q? Want a job? Head Researcher of the Multiverse or some such?"

"Umm. Hmm. I suppose I ought to finally settle down to a job, instead of volunteering all over the place."

Xen grinned. "But it means you'll have to stop stealing things. I'd hate to have an internal scandal before we've even got an internal to have it in. These are library books, young woman!"

"And I bought the solar stuff with, umm, the Internal Revenue's money. I was sort of acting under the auspices of the King. At any rate Rufi asked me to do anything that needed doing, so?" she shrugged.

"Are we really going to be cops?" Garit opened two history books, then reached for a third. "Or are we just going to stop wars?"

"We keep saying
but it's peacekeepers we really mean, isn't it. Do we need a criminal division? There's no such thing as an interdimensional criminal."

Chapter Nine
Summer 1398
Black Island, Comet Fall



Falchion couldn't stand another minute in the company of the witches and their griping.

Epee and Gauntlet about their huge sizes.

Jade griping about Rior.

Smokey and Sunset griping about how they weren't getting anywhere toward freeing Frost and Dawn.

Teri hissing about how Dagger would betray them, and rubbing her disloyalty into Jade's teeth gritting fury.

Falchion picked up her supper and walked away. "I'm going to the beach for some peace and quiet." Listening to the surf was much better, and she nibbled at the food, her stomach having lost the battle for body space a month ago.

Arrow showed up first. "It's all right to get snippy. I understand how you could be worried, after seeing the problems I had."

"Go away Arrow, I don't want your horror stories."

"Look, I'm sure you'll be all right, even though you're probably a year younger than I was when . . ."

"Arg!" Falchion shoved herself to her feet and walked off. She circled around to the little cluster of houses and slipped into Teri and Jade's house.
Where they put the things they don't want us to know about.
She looked around. That was the corridor to Karista, that one was to that colony in Asia . . . she spotted a new corridor, low on one wall, and glancing back to be sure no one was watching, stooped and crawled through it.

She hastily wrapped the mega reflecting surfaces spell Rior had taught them around herself, but between the two foot high grass and her crawling exit, no one would have seen her anyway. But a glance over the brittle winter killed grass showed that no one was there but a bunch of shaggy horses. A scruffy old dun draft horse walked over and wuffed at her.

"Ugg. Even the animals won't leave me alone."

The horse snorted and wandered off. The rest of the horses were fine looking animals. She sighed and wished she had more real life experience. Being raised in a speed bubble was the pits. The only horses on the island were a couple of mean ponies that they occasionally caught and tried to ride.

Curious about where she'd landed, she walked up the hill.

Froze, then slowly crouched down.
I think I've found that corridor Teri mentioned. The one to the Crossroads. Because that sure looks like a gate.

She stood up and lowered her mental shields enough to see the gates clearly. The gates were all down a bit from the crests of the hills, a mile or so between each one. She glared invisibly at the soldiers guarding it, and walked off to where she could sit and meditate and look at it with her inner eye. She bent over suddenly at the cramp . . . No. The contraction. It passed and she took several breaths, walked around, walked through the gate, and looked around the far side. Trees, not much underbrush. She stopped for another contraction, then walked back through the gate.

Once she was out of sight in the tall grass she sat down and meditated. No way was she going home immediately. This would go on for hours and hours, and she couldn't stand the thought of hours of labor while everyone gripped and told horror stories.

She settled down in the deep grass and concentrated on her breathing, on relaxation, on seeing the gate like a tough resistant corridor, much thicker than the corridor down there. She realized with surprise that it wasn't actually made from a bubble. At least not a regular one. Were there bubbles that had thicker skins? She sat and breathed slowly and looked at bubbles, big and flimsy, small and tight, shiny, dull, spinning fast or slow, floating slowly and moving with considerable speed. Some weren't even roundish, there were cone shaped ones, and a few cylinders. She looked back at the gate, looked past it at the other gates. With a bit of distance she could see that they were made out of the cone shapes, two each, with the large ends against the colorful crinkled up wads of paper that were Worlds, whole universes, and their trailing tails tangled together.

She was experimenting with how to grab a fast spinning cone when the pain ripped her right out of the meditation trance. She struck out and hit the big draft horse that had nipped her, scrambled away and then nearly collapsed as another contraction hit. She'd wet herself. No, her water had broken. She staggered down hill to the corridor, panted through a contraction and crawled through. She staggered out of the house, and ran straight into Arrow.

"Hey Falchion! You missed seeing the panic with seven babies born practically all at once. Epee and Becca both had twins . . . Old Gods! Smokey! Falchion needs you right now!" Arrow grabbed her arm and pulled her along faster than she really wanted to go.

Then she was sitting on the birthing stool they'd made after Arrow's delivery, and she was pushing as hard as she could, while everyone kept telling her to breathe. Three more practically continuous contractions later and she was holding her daughter. "Are we up to Pike? Welcome to the World."

Then another contraction hit.

She panted and pushed and delivered the afterbirth.

Rocked her daughter and ignored the older witches alternating between criticizing her and turning on each other.

She finally caught her breath and looked around. All the witches closer, the men a respectful distance away, pretending to ignore the witches. But Rior was closest, and within hearing range.

"I think I just figured out how they make gates."

Chapter Ten
Summer 1398 px
Embassy World



Xen watched apprehensively as all his old mentors lost their collective minds.

"I should never have rounded them up for the water system." Q chewed her fingernails. "I . . . really should have just done it myself. I think they're drunk . . . Maybe just on power."

Xen winced as the oldest and strongest Mage Compass of Rip World lined the hole they'd excavated with black basalt and kept going. Walls rose, big, blocky angular . . .

"It needs some interior walls in the basement, for structural strength." Q peered worriedly at the hole. She winced as huge slabs of rock lifted off her pile and sailed over to meld themselves to the growing walls. She raised her voice again. "Floors! Don't forget . . . " She sliced off a chunk of granite and levitated it into the basement herself. First some interior basement walls, hopefully she was remembering correctly where to put them . . . Melded thick walls to the foundation and the outside walls. Then another slab for the floor above, thinning the slab a bit so it stretched out to the nearest interior basement walls. And another.

Xen hopped anxiously about, trying to watch the construction, and make sure Q didn't get squashed. "Remember the big courtroom in the middle. Smaller meeting rooms around the sides." He yelled, with not a clue if they could hear him, or would heed him if they did.

"Offices upstairs? Please?" He tried not to whimper.

But interior walls started going up, and Q trotted up from the basement.

"Drunk on building magic is fun, but I'm trying to avoid joining in the fun." She shook her head, as if clearing it. "But I've got your jail ready. Shall we start by putting these maniacs in it?"

"It wouldn't hold them." Xen shrugged and backed up to see a third set of walls going up. As far as he could tell they were getting everything stuck together solidly. With lots of big blocky parts sticking out.

"Well. It's certainly going to be large." Garit edged over to look inside.

Q nibbled more fingernail. "Maybe I shouldn't have collected so much basalt. I just thought, it would look serious."

"Oh. It's serious, all right." Xen raised his voice. "Windows! I need windows!"

"I think they're mostly following Q's plan." Garit waved the roll of paper they'd shown the mages. "They are listening. Here come the windows." Then retreated hastily as smaller blocks started sliding out of the wall and taking wing.

They backed further as big cubes of rock started thumping down in some insane artist's version of a staircase.

"But I certainly don't rule out drunk. Where did they get these ideas?" Garit looked a bit aghast at the irregular steps.

"From a book on Earth Art Styles through History. You have no idea the jokes about Cubism they made!" Q shook her head. "Xen, let's just thank them effusively and send them home, before we fix it, Okay?"

"Yeah. And we sure as all get out will not invite them back to build the Comet Fall embassy. Should we try it, Q?"

"No. I think Never and Dydit's style, with columns and curlicues and fancy stuff might be about right. I'll get plenty of nice white and gray marble for it. Or would granite be better?"

"Either, but please, white granite, not pink. Something in the style of the King's Palace would be appropriate." Garit edged forward again. "It certainly is . . . black. It sort of . . . looms, doesn't it?"

They all looked at the angular black building lurking on the corner lot. Laughing voices from around the back. Rock girders swooped up to form a pyramid in the middle of the top.

"I hope they glass that in, and is that courtroom of yours two floors tall?"

Xen eyed it. "I'm not brave enough to go inside while those maniacs are still working on it, to find out. But I suspect my forum of worlds is going to have a large pyramidal glass roof."

"Well, at least they didn't start playing with triangles until they were done with the main building. Triangular rooms are a bitch to furnish." Q stiffened her shoulders and strode up the weird steps. Peeked inside. Stepped in.

"Oh . . . maybe I should make sure . . . never mind." Xen relaxed as Q trotted back out grinning.

"Entry, with stairs up to both right and left. Corridors leading off to the back on both right and left sides, both levels. Dead ahead, doorway to the big forum room, slightly courtlike, but actually pretty good. Two floors tall, with the pyramid on top. Open balconies on the second floor. It may actually be a useable building." Q headed around the corner, where whoops could be heard.

Xen followed, with Garit flanking him, out wide, away from the building.
Born slightly magical, with accidental genetic engineering adding some more functional power genes. Garit's well advised to be careful around drunken construction.

Xen shook his head. "I thought, since they'd spent a week making giant pipes all the way from the mountain that they'd be tired, and I could just show them the sort of thing I was thinking of. To build sometime in the future. I thought they might have some suggestions."

"A grotto! They need a grotto!" Zip's voice.

Xen hustled around to the back.

"Yeah, a big long scoop thataway . . . " Ech waved his hands and huge chunk of dirt flew off to form a small hill to the side.

"Make the sides irregular, we need little nooks of privacy, maybe a cave . . . " Cor was suiting action to words, as the whole group focused on the hole—easily thirty feet deep and several hundred feet long.

"Now, wait just a minute here. I don't think we really need whatever a grotto is, and if you mean this long ditch, it'll just be a mosquito swamp after the first rain . . . " Poor Q, trying to argue with the a merged collection of powerful men.

"Q, come away." Xen hovered at the edge of the activity zone. Quick, divert them! "Hey, Q, do you think we'll have enough witches for cooking contests? We need a restaurant with a big kitchen up here by the road."

"Xen! They need to stop! Don't give them any ideas."

But the mages were looking over where Xen was pointing, and wandered that direction.

Havi nodded. "Yeah, must have a kitchen and restaurant . . . "

Xen backed away. "Umm, and food. Umm, wouldn't dinner be great, right about now?" He kept talking, as walls rose, weird pointy corners, an irregular fat star shape . . .

He backed off and started pulling stuff out of bubbles. Tables, chairs, big covered pots of hot food . . .

The smell did the trick, the guys' heads turning, the magic slowing, stopping as they reeled apart, suddenly looking weary and headachy.
Not nearly as tired and headachy as anyone sensible would be. The old guys know a trick or three, don't they?

Garit looked around with a grin. "And, do you know, I think we ought to schedule the work on the Comet Fall embassy for when we've got observers from both the Earth and the Empire here. If that doesn't impress them, nothing will."

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