The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Church

Post your Errant Story, Errant Road, Exploitation Now, and Babylon Jones fanfiction here. Please note that Poe is not allowed to read it.

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » August 18th, 2015, 11:51 pm

[Tying in a few more Errant Road characters here...]

Chapter Thirty: Ramian and Paukii

As Carson Jeromiel manipulated the controls, the huge golem bent and picked a small tree out of the earth on the side of the valley, as easily and as delicately as a normal-sized human would pick a daisy.

Things were going about as well as could possibly be hoped with getting this tool (for so he thought of it) ready for use, he thought. He was getting well past the brute-force part of using it and reaching the point where some delicacy was possible – delicacy that might be useful, for example, in un-roofing the hideout of a rival guild, while still leaving the place suitable for the Schwarzhammer to use after the opponents were wiped out or simply cowed into submission. Just the threat of that ought to make rival guilds quake in their boots and do whatever the Schwarzhammer wanted them to.

Of course, part of the allure of a superweapon is mystery – just how much damage the thing could do if unleashed. The practice sessions in the valley were good for that, too. The Schwarzhammer had quietly put the word out that it would be a very good idea for members of other guilds to avoid this particular valley, as something in their turf was going on there, although they wouldn’t say what. Most were happy to oblige; there were no human habitations in the valley, it was too rugged to be useful for much, and there were more important bits of real estate to pick a fight over. The few snoopers who’d wandered into the area had been dispatched promptly and efficiently, if messily, but Jeromiel didn’t care about that. What he did care about was that he could go about his practice sessions well away from prying eyes.

Prying human eyes, anyway.

Far down the valley, near its rocky, cliff-armored end at the sea coast, an elven travel platform functioned with a quiet whrrrr, and a pair of elves stepped out of the faint magical glow.

Their names were Ramian and Paukii, and they were Peregins, rangers whose job was to patrol human territories in search of Errants – from their perspective, any half elf would qualify – and eliminate them, preferably with as little fuss as possible. Peregins usually work alone, but they had come together some weeks earlier to work on a lead that sounded like it might be too big and dangerous for a single ranger. Naturally, they’d wound up sleeping together. It would be a misstatement to say they had become lovers – that concept didn’t exist among the elves – but they’d enjoyed the mutual itch-scratching enough that, after their next solitary missions were done, they’d arranged for their patrol areas to overlap. This valley, and the platform, happened to be in that area of overlap, so when rumors started to surface that something unusual was happening there, a hookup became easy enough to set up. They hadn’t gone far from the platform when they saw the golem. (Being over a hundred meters tall, it was hard to miss.)

“Senilis’ Antlers,” Ramian swore. “What the hell is that thing?”

“I don’t know,” his companion muttered, “but I think we better take a closer look. Help me with a Levitate, will you?”

Ramian was puzzled for a moment, but then he understood. This “closer look” was going to be magical in nature; whatever the huge construct was, it wouldn’t do to get physically close to it any more than was necessary. Paukii had a mastery of a distant-vision spell that he himself had never been good at, so she would just gain some altitude to get a good view. Both elves cast, and she rose into the air, not far – even elven magic didn’t allow for long-distance levitation – but far enough to reach the upper reaches of a tall pine tree that would both conceal and support her while she checked out the scene.

<”Hmmm – looks like there’s a human with it,”> Paukii thought back to her companion on the ground; telepathic communication looked better here, for the sake of not being overheard, not that that seemed likely given the distance involved, but it never hurt to be sure. <”Maybe wearing the outfit of one of those silly guilds this country has.”> The fact that elven houses had their own jealously-guarded liveries was quite irrelevant, of course.

<”Human? You’re sure? Not an Errant?”> Ramian thought back, not sure what answer he was hoping for. The last Errant hunt hadn’t ended well, and he was looking for an opportunity to flesh his sword in an Errant body to atone. On the other hand, taking on an Errant that had a magical bodyguard like that golem … well, that might be more risk than he wanted to run, even with another Peregin helping.

The return thought settled that possibility, anyway. <”I’m pretty sure he’s human. Looks short and muscular, rather than tall and thin like most Errants, and probably human features, although it’s hard to be sure at a distance. No Errant ears, anyway, and no obvious deformities. Now help me down from here.”>

On balance, Ramian decided he was relieved at that news. Yes, an Errant with a golem that big would be – awkward to take on. Still … <”Do you think the people back in the Hell Hole ought to know about this?”> he thought-spoke as Paukii alit. He and Paukii were both Sanguen, and their low opinion of Praenubilus Astu was common enough for their race, let alone for rangers.

She thought about it briefly. <”Probably be a good idea. We can’t be sure that’s not an Errant controlling the thing, despite appearances. They’d probably want to know that Farrel is getting weapons like that, too. They’re magically primitive, but advancing fast.”>

Ramian nodded, physically rather than mentally. <”Yeah, sounds right. They may want to arrange for something fatal to happen to that thing, just to be on the safe side.”>

Paukii got an impish grin on her face that was quite out of character for an elf, even a Peregin. <”By something fatal, I assume you mean something like, say, Bauti?”>

It was Ramian’s turn for an impish grin; Bauti was another Peregin who had a reputation for wrapping up Errant problems in ways involving large, noisy explosions. <”Sounds good to me. Let’s report in. I think they won’t mind us coming back a little early for this.”> Moments later, the platform functioned again, all without alerting Carson Jeromiel or his weapons system.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » September 6th, 2015, 6:30 pm

Chapter Thirty-one: Swamp beast


Damn, that’s a big’un,” the guard named “Walker” observed to his colleague.

An animal had appeared at the edge of the steamy forest below the hill where Cosmo and Shem were held captive. It was a “big’un,” all right; a good twenty-five feet separated its broad snout and the spikes at the end of its stubby tail. Almost a quarter of that was skull, counting the crest that protected its vulnerable neck. Bony ridges ran the length of its snout, protecting incongruously small, beady eyes and making room for the nostrils that were its main sensory apparatus. Tusks protruded from both lower and upper jaws; a mouth like that was unlikely to be picky about what was stuffed into it, whether animal, vegetable or maybe even mineral. Sprawling, reptilian legs supported a body designed for power rather than speed. Of course, given that its present prey was still immobilized by a Binding spell, the thing didn’t particularly need speed at the moment.

Walker smirked at the captives. “You fellas is lucky, in a way,” he said. “Not many Tsoo-rakyans ever seen a real live Anuban swamp beast on the hoof. Not even as many as that lived to tell the tale.” A chortle. “’Course, you ain’t gonna be quite so lucky in that particular way.” His colleague “Bonzie” joined in the laughter.

Bladder control was beginning to be a bit of a problem for Cosmo now. As the beast swung its armored head to and fro, his own eyes, and his magical senses as well. panned left and right, up and down, looking for a way out of the Binding. Damn the Weave, there wasn’t one. If he made it back to Tsuirakushiti (when, not if, he kept telling himself, but he was starting to wonder), his superiors would probably be more interested in what he’d learned about Veracian magic than in the murder. Nothing in his pre-mission briefings had implied that the barbarians had the ability to do what they had, most undeniably, done to him and Shem; quite the contrary, this secure a Binding would have been beyond the power of most kouken. Surely Captain Kitaura would be interested in that – if they lived to tell the tale. It looked like the swamp beast was having trouble figuring out where its prey was; it was still swinging its head back and forth, trying to pick up a scent or a sound – presumably its eyes were too weak to see the humans at this distance. Maybe there was hope that they might get out of this situation after all?

No, there wasn’t. Bonzie had a good set of lungs on him, and a voice that carried, which he now used. “HEY, STUPID! UP HERE!” he bellowed, and the beast’s ears immediately perked up. It raised its head, emitted another loud grunt, and started to shamble up the hill.

Walker smirked again. “Well, guess that’s our cue,” he said. “Been nice knowin’ you boys – well, not really, but y’know, and can’t have you pokin’ about askin’ too many questions about that bitch and her boyfriend we offed. Nothin’ personal, y’understand. We just gotta be gettin’ away from that man-eater. Too bad you’uns can’t join us. Ain’t life a bitch?” Bonzie again joined him in a good laugh, as the Tsuirakuans desperately and unsuccessfully tried to summon magic to strike them down. Then they walked back toward the patch of dirt where the four had materialized only minutes earlier, magic flared, and the Tsuirakuans were alone with the swamp beast.

Bladder control was getting to be a real problem now, and if Cosmo and Shem had believed in a god, they’d have been praying like hell, or possibly even to hell; they were beyond the point of being picky about what force saved them. The swamp beast was coming their way, no doubt about it, and they could already see saliva dripping from its tusks. It had covered about half way to the top of the hill …

… When another voice rang out from down in the forest.

The Tsuirakuans hadn’t put up Translation effects explicitly, so understanding the words in a completely unfamiliar language was beyond them. However, what happened next left little doubt of their intent, which could be translated as

“Rover! STAY! Bad dog! SIT!”

The swamp beast obediently stopped and settled onto its haunches as two oddly-dressed, and even more oddly proportioned, humanoids appeared at the edge of the forest.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » September 10th, 2015, 5:22 pm

[Yet another link to the adventures of Errant Road, this one decidedly weird...]

Chapter Thirty-two: Flight

“Dammit, cut the crap! I’m trying to control these things!” Sister Gail snarled at Annie and Cassie in the back seat of the carriage, as Sister Rose silently cringed.

The impact with the unfortunate Gad Gimiel had slowed the horses’ headlong flight to the point that there was hope they might be manageable again. However, it had done nothing to calm the novice and the mother-to-be in the passenger seat, both of whom were screaming in terror just as they had been ever since the lightning struck the temple and the horses took flight. Rose, for her part, had produced a strangled “NO!” at the impact, but with age and (combat) experience on her side, she’d come to her senses quickly enough to be trying to help the driver – even as she marveled at the young nun’s icy self-control. She’d been in the Special Forces, Rose knew, as she herself had, and that was a branch of the Veracian military that valued sangfroid in perilous conditions even more than most. But still…

The horses were definitely under control now, but Gail was continuing to push them hard. Rose winced and turned to the young nun. “Uh, Gail, I think we should really go back and help that poor man,” she said softly. “He—“

Gail’s snarl was now turned on Rose. “NO, dammit.” The carriage kept going at high speed.

Now what’s going on here? Rose put a cautious hand on the reins and tried again. “Gail, we’re still Veracian clergy,” she said. “If we can’t help him, we at least owe him last rites. We—“

Gail cut her off. “Those bastards are trying to kill us,” she hissed. “We have to get out of here. My duty is to get you to the base. Somebody else will take care of that guy.”

Who is trying to kill us, for Luminosita’s sake? Rose was just starting to object to this speech when there was another flash of lightning, back behind them. Thunder cracked two or three seconds later … and suddenly Rose understood why Gail was in a hurry to be somewhere else. That time lag would have put the lightning bolt at a distance corresponding to just about where the temple was.

Maybe somebody was trying to kill them. Rose hadn’t spent nearly as many years in Lorenzel as the late Gad Gimiel, to know the local weather, but she knew that mountain storms tended to stay in the mountains, and like Gidriel, she found the presence of this storm odd. She looked back over her shoulder to see something even odder: there was blue sky to the west of the thundercloud over the north side of Lorenzel. Storms shouldn’t work that way …

… But there was that one exception.

Stormie, she thought. Elric Kankaniel’s friend, the sentient (or so it appeared) thunderstorm. Rose had thought about her (Elric always referred to Stormie as “she”) a few times in the past months, and had come to the conclusion that she was some kind of defensive system, maybe dating all the way back to the time of the dwarves. Stormie could move about as she liked, to all appearances. Her home might be in the hills, but the first time she’d been encountered, she was bearing Elric to the inn where Rose and the others were staying, on the outskirts of Lorenzel not all that far west of the temple.

But why would Stormie be trying to kill her and the party? What did a living thunderstorm care about human affairs, other than her inexplicable friendship with young Kankaniel? And then she remembered: Kankaniel’s father was the priest whom she, Argus and the others had been pursuing down the whole length of Veracia.

A Millenarian priest.

She was about to say something to that effect to Gail, when a third thunderbolt struck the bell tower, and thunder roared moments later. This time, when the horses took off, she held her tongue, and helped Gail with the reins; other clergy could tend the sad remains of Gad Gimiel, but Gail was right, they had to get out of there.

Yet a fourth bolt struck the temple as the flight continued, but Rose wasn’t watching it any more.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » September 21st, 2015, 10:05 am

Chapter Thirty-three: Trevor redux

The nightingale familiar labored his way north, growing wearier by the minute.

When that particular line of familiars was created, certain accommodations to the natural design had to be made. Intelligence and bonding to the owner-mage required a cranial capacity increased over that of a wild nightingale, although most of that was accomplished by purely thaumatic means. That meant a larger, heavier head that in turn threw the body out of balance. The main consequence, difficulty with flight, had to be dealt with, else why have a bird familiar at all? So the wings were extended and subtle changes to the center of gravity made. In many regards the resulting airframe had more in common with that of a hawk or buzzard than a nightingale; Trevor could soar and glide on the wind in a way that no natural nightingale could, but darting, point-to-point flight was harder for him. There was also an endurance problem. Wild nightingales are migratory birds and reasonably well equipped for long-distance flight, but the more active brain of a familiar requires more energy than a normal bird brain, and that has to come from somewhere. The bird’s body then diverts energy to the brain that has to come at the expense of something else, and that something is the ability to fly long distances without feeding, or at least, without getting any nutrition other than insects caught on the wing, a prospect that no self-respecting familiar relished.

None of this was a problem for most of Trevor’s broodmates. The average Tsuirakuan familiar spent most of its life perched on the shoulder of its mage, or in the mage’s flat, or on the wing for a few minutes at a time in the crowded skies above Tsuirakushiti. It certainly didn’t have to do anything as vulgar as rummaging through the undergrowth looking for bugs and grubs to eat; after all, there wasn’t any undergrowth to speak of in Tsuirakushiti, and when its owner condescended to make a trip down to Tsuirakushita, there was always magically-supplied (and fortified) food waiting. A nightingale familiar therefore had all the hunting instincts of a hot-air balloon, which was about the function that it served, after all.

Trevor’s circumstances, of course, weren’t those of a garden-variety familiar, and he was starting to get hungry – very hungry. A fly that splattered against his beak at least gave him a little nourishment, and it told him what he had to do. The problem was, he just couldn’t do it. The instincts weren’t there. There was also the point that he was programmed to avoid predators. Even Tsuirakushiti had the odd cat or fox at ground level, and his magical defenses against avian predators wouldn’t accomplish much against the larger animals except scare them if he was lucky. It went against all his programming, instinctive or thaumatic, to drop down to the surface anywhere except around his owner … and that owner wasn’t in sight, to put it mildly.

But he was getting very hungry.

Another fly – or moth or butterfly or beetle or something, he really didn’t care – passed close enough for him to snap it out of the air. (Weave, it tasted awful.) As he did, he saw the storm over Lorenzel in the distance. That was bad. He’d been angling toward the southern Veracian city in the hopes that it might have a Tsuirakuan consulate, or failing that, at least a more reliable and accessible food supply of some kind. But flying into the storm … Nightingale familiars were nominally capable of all-weather flying, but he’d been hit by a few hailstones back at the pass, and they hurt. He didn’t want to have to run that gauntlet again … but there really wasn’t much choice.

The storm was starting to break up by the time he reached the city. (Rose, Gail, Cassie and Annie were appreciative for that.) Good; maybe he could drop into a park or empty lot, rest a while, refresh himself with something to eat that he didn’t want to think about, and –

BONK.

As though driven by a Deus Ex Machina spell, one of the storm’s last hailstones homed in unerringly on Trevor’s head. Even though he was all but indestructible by non-magical means, he was out like a light from the impact, and fell from the sky as rapidly as the hailstone that had felled him, landing on something soft with a plop that he could not hear.

--------------

That same Deus Ex Machina must have been functioning at ground level, too.

The horses attached to the coach bearing the three women were finally under control, and Sister Gail was still driving them hard toward the naval base … But then Rose, Cassie, Annie and even Gail jumped as something substantial impacted on the canopy over their heads, then slid down to rest on the floor of the coach between Rose’s feet.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » October 1st, 2015, 9:11 pm

Chapter Thirty-four: Harker

“What’s this?” four voices said in unison, as Rose, Gail, Annie and Cassie all stared at the odd-looking bird that had just dropped onto the floor of the coach. Like nothing I’ve ever seen before, thought Rose. She was hardly an expert in bird identification, but she’d spent enough time in the wilds of Veracia, courtesy of her Special Forces years, to have seen plenty of the local wildlife, and this didn’t look like any of it. Furthermore, it looked – wrong. Birds weren’t supposed to have heads too large for their bodies; surely such a thing would throw off their balance in flight, wouldn’t it? And the markings on its breast almost looked like they were drawn on, like – well, like the Cleiviein family crest that she’d seen on Fayna’s airship. What was this thing?

The answer came from an unexpected direction. “It’s a familiar, toots,” said a familiar (to Rose, anyway) voice from somewhere around where the group’s luggage was piled. The other three women jumped and turned around, causing Gail to pull the reins slightly and slow down the horses – but this voice, at least, Rose recognized. “Hello, Harker,” she half-groaned. “What are you doing here, and how long have you been doing it, dare I ask?”

The luggage rippled, almost squirmed as though a living thing, and then a real living thing emerged from beneath it: a beaver wearing coveralls. Cassie and Annie gaped at this remarkable apparition, but Rose merely facepalmed as Harker smirked. “Ever since Saus, of course,” he said. “The boss said t’ keep an eye on you, so that’s what I’ve been doin’.” The smirk became a leer. “And doin’ some art work, of course.”

Rose passed from one-handed facepalm to burying her head in both hands, no mean trick considering that the coach was continuing to trundle forward. “And concealing yourself by way of an Obfuscation spell, I assume,” she said, already knowing the answer, which Harker gave. “Yup.”

Annie and Cassie were staring at Harker as though he’d been the one to fall from the sky, so Rose felt obliged to at least make introductions. “My husband’s familiar,” she explained, and went on to describe how she had met the bipedal beaver on the road, looking for the man he’d served for years before they were thrown out of Tsuirakushiti; how they’d been together through the weird adventures in southern Veracia and beyond (now was not the time to go into details, nor into the way those adventures had ended in the Far North); even how Harker had played a – well, a matchmaking role of sorts. She did not, however, say anything about his passion for making X-rated art work on the subject of women (and sometimes men) he met. Some things were better left unsaid.

By the time she had finished, the coach was approaching the military base, and Trevor was regaining consciousness. The nightingale twittered softly as Rose returned to the subject with which Harker had introduced himself. “So how do you know he’s a familiar?”

Harker shrugged. “We just kinda know when we see each other. Come out o’ the same background and all – hey, what’s that?” His brow furrowed in a most un-Harker-like pose as he listened to the calls Trevor was making, and then he made an odd set of bird-call-like noises in the back of his own throat. Trevor bobbed his own head and burbled, and another exchange or two occurred before Rose interrupted. “You can understand him?”

Harker nodded. “I’m hard-wired with a Translation spell,” he said. “He says he’s hungry, flew in all the way from some dinky little town down south. You, uh, wouldn’t happen to have any worms on you, by chance?”
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » October 10th, 2015, 5:14 pm

Chapter Thirty-five: Not quite dwarves

Maybe we’re not going to die after all, Cosmo thought, exactly duplicating what Shem was thinking, although the Binding had clamped down on their ability to compare thoughts telepathically. The swamp beast was continuing to regard them impassively, almost placidly, although the saliva dripping from its jaws left no doubt that its intentions were still not completely benign.

The two men who had called off the swamp beast were approaching. At least they looked more human than anything else; certainly not trolls or elves, and not members of any of the other, rare sentient races that either of the Tsuirakuans had ever heard of. A remarkable thought struck Shem: might they be dwarves? He did a quick mental review of what he knew about the race, which wasn’t much. These two were considerably shorter and broader than ordinary humans; more dwarf-looking? Hard to say; the dwarven artifacts that had made it to Tsuiraku (notably those that had been confiscated by Homeland Security from smugglers) shed little light on just what the extinct(?) race had looked like. But the dwarves were supposed to have been non-magical, but to have possessed advanced non-magical technology, which these two rustics showed no evidence of having. No, they probably weren’t dwarves. So what were they? Not that it mattered, of course, as long as they served the desirable function of keeping the two travelers from being eaten by a swamp beast.

One of the two newcomers spoke, in the same guttural, almost growling tone as before, and with the same incomprehensibility to the Tsuirakuans, although not to the swamp beast, which retreated a measured ten steps or so; close enough, Cosmo judged, to devour him or Shem if they tried anything magical while talking to the natives, so they wouldn’t. Might these barbarians somehow speak a language other than the one of grunts and growls? It seemed unlikely, but he tried a quick “thank you” in formal, textbook, almost childish Tsuirakuan. (If he had expressed this kind of “gratitude” to an adult of his own people, he’d have been treated with contempt, if not physically violated.) The newcomers simply stared at him, so he tried the same thing in Veracian. This got more of a response, if not necessarily entirely the one he’d hoped for. The man who had called off the swamp beast merely nodded his head, but his colleague frowned, a thundercloud of black, bushy eyebrow spreading across his entire forehead. “Talk-not,” he said in recognizable if accented Veracian. “Magic-not. If magic-do, haddak man-eat.” He indicated the swamp beast, which was continuing to regard the Tsuirakuans as though inspecting a plate of hors d’oeuvres. So the thing was called a “haddak” in the barbarian’s tongue? That might be something useful for a Translation spell to work with, if they stayed alive long enough to use it.

“You-come us-with,” the man continued, and he started to walk past the Tsuirakuans toward the top of the hill, where the now concealed travel platform stood. That, reflected Cosmo, was interesting, but there was no way he and Shem were going to be able to comply, being bound head to toe in the magical Binding. Was his Veracian language skill sufficient to make that point to these barbarians, given their own … shortcomings in that tongue? He decided he had to try. “Ah, gentle sirs,” he said, tipping his chin toward his feet, “comply-cannot. Feet bound-are.” Was that warping the language in a way they could understand?

Apparently it was. The one who had spoken broken Veracian stopped, nodded, and answered. “Ah. Wait.” That was good, but what to do about the magical Binding?

The answer to that surprised the Tsuirakuans. There was a quick exchange between the two sort-of-men, and then the one who didn’t (seem to) speak Veracian said something in his own language … and magic flowed from his fingertips.

There was a corresponding surge of magic from the Tsuirakuans’ feet. As soon as Cosmo’s eyes cleared from the magical flash, he drew in his breath. Somehow these rustics had managed to partially release the Binding – only partially, because he and Shem were still bound from mid-thigh up, and he could tell that his capacity for magic was still suppressed, but at least he could walk. (Well, hobble, but better than nothing.)

“Now, you-come,” the misshapen man repeated, now tapping his sword’s sheath suggestively. Cosmo and Shem didn’t need the hint; they fell in between the two barbarians, and moments later, the travel platform functioned again, to their complete surprise … although it had nothing on the surprise that was coming after the platform functioned.

----------------

A later investigation by the elves would reveal that this operation of the platform could have started no more than three microseconds before or after the one that was supposed to take Ramian and Paukii back to Praenubilus Astu from the valley in Farrel … and they were just as surprised as Cosmo and Shem when things didn’t work out exactly that way.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » October 13th, 2015, 5:29 pm

Chapter Thirty-six: Northbound, with soul searching


By the time the airship lifted off from Fort Lorenzel, both the thunderstorm and the comparable growling in Trevor’s stomach had dissipated. Somehow Sister Gail had learned what was appropriate to feed a bird familiar and quickly scrounged some of it at the military base, an accomplishment that impressed Sister Rose considerably. The young soldier-nun was back in nun’s robes as she waved at the departing airship. A remarkable young woman, Rose thought, waving back through a window despite her acrophobia. There were enough resemblances in Gail to her own life that she felt distinct, vicarious pleasure at the way Gail had rebounded from personal tragedy and gone on – pleasure tinged with sadness that, being Orthodox, Gail wouldn’t have an Argus to come along later and help her pick up the pieces. Then again, she might not need one. She buys into the old business about nuns being “married to Luminosita,” Rose thought. How that could be for one who had seen so much, at such a young age … Well, it spoke eloquently in her favor that her faith was that strong, and that intact.

Unlike some other people Rose could think of.

As for the thunderstorm, the airship’s flight path was taking it east out of Lorenzel, away from the storms still hanging over the mountains to the west. The one that had formed over Lorenzel itself, and bombarded the old temple (and Trevor), had simply vanished. That was almost as odd as the storm’s appearance in the first place, yet somehow Rose was expecting it. If the storm had been “Stormie” (which she still doubted), she wouldn’t stray far from her home in the mountains, if Rose had understood Elric Kankaniel correctly. If it was something else, some kind of ancient magical or maybe dwarven defensive system subverted for – other purposes, it would stop functioning as soon as its target got out of range. Rose followed that thought to its logical conclusion: implying that indeed, we were the targets.

Whatever the explanation, they were in clear skies now, and Rose was able to kick back and enjoy the view. The mountains west of town weren’t particularly high, but the cloud castles crowning them towered far above the airship, and with the sun having swung around to the southwest and lowered in the sky, their colors ranged from pristine white through burning orange to inky blackness. It was as Veracian scriptures said, Rose thought: the heavens do declare the glory of Luminosita. That her experiences of the past several weeks had called into question whether Luminosita had created those heavens, as Orthodox doctrine insisted, bothered her not in the slightest; her own Reformed Church chose to concentrate on Luminosita’s love for His people, and His teachings, rather than on creation myths, or so she’d long ago come to perceive them to be. That part of the teachings of the Church was something she could still hang her life on … even as she was coming to question some of the other parts.

A gentle tug on her sleeve interrupted these thoughts, and she turned to see Annie’s fair, open face. “R-Rose?” the other woman said timidly. “Do you have a minute so we can get back to what I wanted to ask you about – well –“

I know what you wanted to ask me about, Rose thought, quashing a mild resentment for this woman who’d done her own cousin harm – and might even have betrayed her country before thinking better of it. Well, at least she had thought better of it, and now she was clearly repenting both (all three?) of her bad decisions. That was all Luminosita could really ask for, wasn’t it? (Not that I … am all that attuned to what Luminosita wants at the moment.) “Brad is fine,” she said neutrally.

Annie looked at her with wide eyes. How had she known? Everyone in the family knew that Sister Rose, or Major Rose Nuria-Lucas depending on how they thought of her, was a powerful magic user. But as far as anybody knew, certainly including Rose herself, her magical powers didn’t involve reading minds. It never occurred to Annie that she was a very, very open book, and any Luminositan nun worthy of the name had had conversations like this one with repentant spouses and ex-spouses and knew exactly what was coming. She gulped and nodded. “I – I feel so bad about it now,” she mumbled. “Back then, when we couldn’t –- make –-“ She ran a hand self-consciously across her gravid belly, the belly that Brad had been unable to fill with his own child.

Don’t rub it in, Rose thought sourly. Although… No, that’s a subject for later. “He’s fine,” she repeated. “He met a wonderful girl from way up north.” Now wasn’t the time to tell her that the wonderful “girl” was a half elf from Santuariel, and Rose’s stepdaughter, sort of. “They’re having twins.” This last was delivered with what she hoped was a gentle, if slightly enigmatic, smile.

That caught Annie’s attention. “T-twins?” she gasped. “That’s wonderful! But we – couldn’t – and then – when – we did –“ She patted her baby bump again, and it wasn’t at all difficult to figure out the conversational difference between “we” and “we”.

“Only Luminosita knows why some couples can have children and others can’t,” Rose answered calmly. “What matters is that we love the family that we do have.” Did that sound too much like an accusation? Whatever, Annie gulped and nodded again. “Does he – does he hate me for what I did?” she asked.

“You’d have to ask Brad himself, and he lives up north now,” Rose evaded. “But Brad is a loving person, not a hating person.” It definitely was not the time to tell this woman that when Rose had first re-established contact with her cousin, Annie’s ex-husband, he’d been carrying a gun that he had been planning (to use the word loosely) to use to commit a murder-suicide. Rose had relieved him of that weapon, and she hoped, of the anger that had been driving him to use it … although Lillith had had more to do with that last part than Rose had. At least, what Brad had told her in the highly unconventional confessional made it clear that he certainly didn't hate his ex-wife, so that Rose felt comfortable adding a smile and nod at the end of her summary, even though that confession would remained sealed for all time.

This reassurance seemed to suffice. “I – I still care about him, even if we’re not married any more,” Annie said, “and I want him to be happy.” There could be no doubt she meant that.

Rose smiled. “That, he very definitely is – hey, what was that?”

Her last sentence had been interrupted by a tremor that had run through the airship. That was very odd. Up in the air, airships might turn and twist and rock as they were taken by gusts of wind. But tremors that felt like distant earthquakes – those were a different story. It was as though the air buoying the ship had itself convulsed, quake-like.

And Rose couldn’t be sure of it, but it seemed as if there had been a fleeting but powerful pulse of magic in the air at just the same time.

“Hmmm. I’d better check on that. Excuse me, Annie.” She stood and went forward to the command deck, from which a faint buzzing or beeping could be heard; evidently hers weren’t the only senses that had reacted to a disturbance that had no right to be there.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » October 17th, 2015, 8:40 pm

Chapter Thirty-seven: The workings of warp gates

What happened next would eventually become the subject of quiet, careful, and generally highly secretive analysis by at least three and possibly four cultures.

Ever since the moment, literally at the beginning of time, when the Paedagogusi showed the elves how to build travel platforms, there had been puzzlement as to exactly how the damned things worked. (“Damned” in a literal sense, as far as the most conservative parts of the Veracian Church were concerned; Luminosita clearly hadn’t decreed the use of warp gates, so they must be illicit and sinful somehow.) The elves were never a people comfortable with abstract thinking, particularly thinking about magic; their own magic was intuitive and natural, so why obsess over its mechanics? Tsuirakuans, by contrast, were inclined to study everything, as a matter of self-preservation. Many a thesis had been written at Sashi Mu on theories of warp-gate travel, but the more honest (or at least less self-deceptive) of the faculty would admit that just about all of those theses focused on warp-gate phenomenology rather than coming up with a decent theory of the gates’ operation. The more progressive – “practical” might be a better word – parts of the Veracian Church, and such academics as dared address the subject at Emerylon University, were on the same intellectual path, if a few tens of years behind their counteparts in the sky city. As for the Outlanders, the name used by the people who met Cosmo and Shem in the Anuban Colonies, who could tell what they knew about gates? They resisted contact with other(?) humans(?), and whatever racial insights had allowed them to tap into small parts of the elven travel-platform network were kept secret from the rest of the world.

The best model for how warp gates worked was due to a Tsuirakuan student who lived fifty years earlier and was known simply as “Gu.” Through careful experiments, Gu noticed three important things about gate travel. One was that the amount of thaumatic energy required to effectuate a transfer via gate was not directly related to the physical distance separating the two gates. Second, and more importantly, there was a small but measurable time lapse between the functioning of the transmitting gate and the appearance of the traveler at the receiving gate. This too was not directly proportional to physical distance, but it was much more directly related to the thaumatic energy required to make the gate work. Third, the longer a pair of gates were used for a specific transfer, the less energy and time the transfer took. A newly-opened gate route might take twice as long, and twice as much thaumatic energy to bring about, as would be needed once those two gates and been sending traffic back and forth between them for a year or so.

These observations led Gu to the model that remained the basis for gate operation long after his premature death in a never-fully-explained magical explosion. Gates, Gu proposed, functioned mainly in a world outside the physical one, a thaumatic world that defied direct observation and contact. Its laws of space and time and geometry differed dramatically from the physical world’s; two gates or other objects very close to each other in physical space might be separated by long distances in the thaumatic one, and vice versa. There were other oddities. A transfer from gate A to gate B might take twice as much magical effort as the reverse transfer from B to A. Then again, it might not. Inserting an intermediate gate X in the routing might lengthen the transfer; it also might shorten it, which nobody could ever reconcile with any known geometry. And the intermediate gate might lengthen the transfer in one direction, and shorten it in the other. That didn’t make any geometric sense either.

In the years since Gu’s initial discoveries, scholars had assembled “route maps” that worked well enough to help with construction of new gates, and the discovery that elves had travel systems of their own filled in some of the blanks. Yet the fundamental principles of warp-gate travel remained poorly understood. One question in particular continued to intrigue the scholars. Suppose two gate-to-gate routes intersected, not in physical space but in the thaumatic one. Such a thing had never been known to happen; maybe the concept of “intersection” simply did not apply in a world where the concept of location meant very different things than in the physical world. But just suppose it did happen. What then?

This question was about to receive an unexpected experimental test aboard the LAS-15, the airship carrying Sister Rose and her colleagues.

---------- -----

“Intruders! Cargo hold!” came a voice from the command deck, as the horn/buzzer intensified and Rose hurried forward, only to be stopped in her tracks after a few quick steps. She threw herself to one side of the narrow corridor as two heavily armed soldiers passed in the opposite direction and down a ladder to the holds.

That doesn’t make sense, she thought. The ship had been under armed guard from before she’d laid eyes on it, and the crew had given it a careful inspection before it lifted off, as though it would be carrying someone important. (It was: the critical intelligence source that was Annie, or so Rose thought.) Could it have somehow been boarded mid-flight without being detected? To call that idea “far-fetched” didn’t do it justice. So what –

Her thoughts were interrupted by two hoarse screams from the direction of the cargo hold, and then one shouted voice: “OH MY GOD! No no no no no…” Then came the sound of a person, or persons, being violently ill … and then she knew what had happened.

After all, she’d reacted exactly the same way the first time she came across a gruesomely dismembered corpse.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » October 25th, 2015, 3:07 pm

Chapter Thirty-eight: Highly anomalous things

Many highly anomalous things now happened within a few seconds of each other, despite separations in physical space of hundreds, if not thousands, of miles.

--------------

The most normal-looking of the oddities winked into being on a nondescript platform deep inside the Elven Territories. In fact, stripped of context and allowing for the peculiar physique of one of the two travelers, it didn’t look particularly odd at all. Both parties emerged from the platform with their bodies intact, and if their souls (if elves had souls) were traumatized, it wasn’t immediately apparent. The oddity was that one of the travelers was not who was supposed to be arriving at the platform outside Praenubilus Astu. That, of course, was oddity enough.

Paukii didn’t notice at first. <”Weird. I’ve never felt a gate quite like that before,”> she said in elvish to her companion. <”Did you –“> But when she turned to what she presumed was Ramian, and discovered instead a misshapen, rag-clad humanoid staring at her with a mixture of surprise and horror in his eyes, she didn’t finish the sentence.

“Who are you?” both travelers said, in their respective, and mutually unintelligible, languages.

------------

The misgate aboard the LAS-15 was much the most eventful.

Sister Rose did not exactly “sprint” toward the ladder; the cramped quarters of the corridor did not allow that. Nor did she “hurry” down the rungs. Her acrophobia would have seen to that, even if she hadn’t found her body complaining at the contortions needed to negotiate the ladder in the narrow space. (Getting too old for this kind of thing, she scolded herself; for a late-thirty-something woman, Rose was in superb physical condition, but some things were best left to the kids.) Consequently, the retching and gagging had died down by the time she reached the hold, but the sobbing had not. She took a deep breath – whatever was wrong here, she wasn’t going to make it worse by her own inability to handle it – said a brief prayer, and looked around.

The two airmen were goggling, swords drawn but hanging limply at their sides, at the dismembered remains of what had once been a man. (Something wrong about him, Rose thought, but she didn’t recognize it yet.) Another man was slumped against the wall on the far side of the hold. Physically, he looked intact, but his eyes were fixed and staring, and quite obviously mad. His breathing was fast and shallow – shock? – and he was drooling heavily, making incoherent grunting sounds through a wide-open, slack-jawed mouth. And what was the aura of magic that encased him? Rose couldn’t tell, but she wasn’t going to touch it, or investigate in any way, for all the gold in the Patriarch’s vaults in Emerylon.

She felt her own stomach rising in her throat, but fought it down long enough to cast a quick Hygiene spell; at least the mess that the airmen had contributed could be dispensed with, which maybe, Luminosita willing, would be enough to get them out of their own funk. There was nothing she could do for the dead man, though, and whatever was wrong with the other one, she didn’t dare touch it yet. She stood, breathing heavily and trying to figure out what to do next … when a familiar voice called from the ladder.

“ROSIE! WITH YA!” There probably hadn’t been ten times when she was actually glad to see Harker come into view … but this was one of those ten. The familiar stopped at the bottom of the ladder and goggled, much as the airmen were still doing, and swore. “Weave dammit. What happened here? And isn’t that an elf? Or at least it used to be?”

Now she understood what was wrong about the corpse, because Harker was right. The body was too large to be human. The arms and legs would be oversized too … if they were still attached to the torso, anyway. The head had rolled over toward the catatonic man – Rose didn’t want to think about that – and when she looked at it more closely, elven ears were obvious enough. From the color of the hair and skin, it would be a male member of the “Sanguen” clan of elves, if she remembered her history (and what Drusia had told her) correctly. Now, of course, the only clan in which he would claim membership was that of Exitialis. But how?

The two airmen were emerging from their own shock, and one of them skittered back up the latter while the other one raised his sword tentatively. “D-don’t m-move,” he stuttered at the other man in the hold. “Y-you’re u-under arrest.” He stole a quick glance at Rose, a “help me” message etched on his features. It didn’t matter, though, as the stationary figure was showing no signs whatever of awareness of his surroundings, even of the elven head that now lay at his feet. But then came a sound from the direction of the ladder that was half bird call, half scream, and at this, the catatonic man’s eyes finally focused and drifted in that direction. Rose’s eyes followed suit.

The strange bird was perched on a rung of the ladder, taking in the carnage. Harker was listening intently as it produced another set of calls, and when it finished, he turned to Rose. “He says that’s his honcho,” Harker announced, tipping his head toward the deranged man. “Trevor, that’s the bird, he’s the guy’s familiar, the way I am with your main squeeze, y’know? And he says the guy’s name is Kazuo, and he’s in trouble.”

Well, duh, thought Rose, as she turned back toward the human, now blinking and starting to show some signs of recovery.

----------

As for the other travel platform, on an island somewhere beyond the Anuban Colonies, silence prevailed; the silence of the grave, appropriately enough, given that both Shem and the other Outlander had arrived there very, very dead.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: The Further Adventures of Rose, Nun of the Veracian Chur

Postby Graybeard » November 2nd, 2015, 11:50 am

Chapter Thirty-nine: Diplomacy


Cosmo, or Kazuo as Trevor had revealed his real name to be, was still in his semi-catatonic state as the airship reached a mooring in Saus – not its original destination of Emerylon, but the Veracian Church’s sensitivities caused a diversion once it was realized that an unexplained Tsuirakuan and an elf were on board. (Well, pieces of an elf, anyway.) To Rose’s surprise, Cassie had turned out to be fairly adept with forensic magic; amazingly so for a fifteen-year-old, actually. (What other magical capabilities might be lurking undetected, or even beaten down by peer pressure, among the younger generation of Veracians? That seemed a question worth pursuing at some point, but not now.) She had diagnosed the magic enveloping Cosmo as simply a standard Binding spell cranked up to eleven, which made it easy enough to dispose of, although the mystery of who had cast it remained. The airship’s healer had given the Tsuirakuan a going-over, and again to Rose’s (and his) surprise, found nothing physically wrong with the man’s body. His mind, however … it was as though most of it simply had been left behind when he somehow appeared in the ship’s hold. There was nothing to do about that.

As for the elf’s remains, the problem they posed was diplomatic rather than medical; there could be no talk of reassembling a dismembered body. Being a military vessel, the airship was equipped with a body bag or two. The pieces of elf were just swept into one of them along with the rags used to mop up his … fluids, magical preservation was applied, and that was that. Understandably, neither Cassie nor the healer wanted to look too closely at the remains to see what had happened to him. As best anyone could tell, he’d simply materialized in those pieces, in whatever strange process had brought him and Cosmo to the airship, and he’d been beyond hope from the moment the intrusion alarm went off. The only thing that could be done for him was last rites, and nobody on board, including Rose (would Drusia have wanted something like that if she’d been fatally wounded in the combat with Arsoro Kurou? Probably not, she thought), was sure whether those were appropriate for an elf, so they were skipped.

The diplomatic problem, however … that was more vexing. An emergency call had preceded the ship to Saus, with the result that a Tsuirakuan party was going to be standing by to receive what was left of Cosmo. (Probably including our old friend Captain Kitaura, Rose thought, accurately.) Some delicate handling of that was going to be required, considering that relations between Veracia and Tsuiraku had never recovered completely from the Mage-Priest War, but it would get done; the powerful in both countries knew better than to inflame the passions of the crowd about such things. The elven remains, though … just how did one approach such a subject with foreigners who had no standing diplomatic presence in Saus (and certainly not Emerylon) and insisted on choosing the time and place for official meetings strictly on their own terms?

Little did Rose or anyone else on the airship know that barely two years later, the Veracian authorities were going to have to confront that question, in spades, in the ruined center of Saus.


Rose was talking with Annie, continuing her debrief on what “Brother Elgin” or “Lieutenant Bindiel” – Annie’s second husband, anyway – had been up to (sounds like we interrupted a real live insurrection, thought Rose; the Cardinal Inquisitor was going to have his hands full in Provatiel … but without me…), when an airman brought a message to her from the bridge.

She almost didn’t have to read it. Kitaura was indeed waiting in the terminal, and had requested a private audience with her “at your earliest convenience” – in other words, immediately. That was hardly a surprise, and Rose really didn’t mind. She’d gotten along well enough with the man after Argus’ status as persona non grata in Tsuirakushiti had been remedied. Besides, not only in the mission in Kiyoka but also during her special-forces days, her job had required “skills in diplomacy” – she thought of it as simply treating others with decency, tact and respect – and she’d always enjoyed that part of the work. Working with Kitaura to resolve the mystery of the catatonic man wouldn’t be a problem.

The other part of the message, however … the more she read, the less she liked it, the angrier she got. And by the time she got to the end, she had made a decision. “No,” she said, crumpling the message up.

The airman who’d brought the paper looked at her in puzzlement. “Uh, ma’am, are you all right? The captain said –“

She didn’t wait to hear what the captain had said. “Dammit, no.” She threw the paper aside, and in a most uncharacteristic state of temper, stood and stomped back to her quarters, leaving the airman, Cassie and Annie watching in bewilderment.
----
Image
Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
User avatar
Graybeard
The Heretical Admin
 
Posts: 6720
Joined: August 20th, 2007, 8:26 am
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

PreviousNext

Return to Fanfiction

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron