Manamancers

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Chapter 17

The Library

Atalen ya Doaka

April 2008

“Hi, Ian!” said Candie as she walked past the burly student hunched over his study crystals. She smiled and nearly closed her eyes as she looked down.

“What?” asked Ian brusquely, coming up from the deepest of thought. He’d been studying all afternoon and through that evening’s dinner hour. He looked up in time to see her open her eyes. He then gave her the once over; she did have a nice body. He looked again, from her heart-shaped face and shoulder length brunette hair to her full breasts and narrow waist. He didn’t see much of her legs as they were hidden by the school robe she was wearing. But, he imagined, boy did he imagine.

“Uh, hi,” he said swinging his legs down from the bench built into the side of the library wall. He slid off, leaving his crystals active. His work was exposed for all to see, as was his sudden attraction for his new friend. He stood beside her. “I’m Ian, but I guess you know that.” They both smiled and laughed lightly. “What is your name again?”

“I’m Candice.” She smiled again and looked down. “But, you can call me Candie.” She put extra emphasis on her preferred name.

“I can see why,” he said. By now all thoughts of his research were long gone. Candie occupied all thought in this boy’s head.

“Want to go out for a drink, this evening?” she asked coyly.

“Uh, yeah, sure. Where?”

“Cafeteria, B-2.” She touched his arm and then sort of glided off. At least that’s how Ian remembered it later.

He leaned against the bench and just smiled for a bit. Then one of the images above his crystals flickered a bit and all thoughts of Candie evaporated. He pushed down on the bench as he leaned his backside against it, then slid up to his former sitting position, crossed his legs and dove mentally back into the pool of his former studies.

In the next two hours, three girls approached him. He fell in love with each one. “Drinks with Candie at nine PM, and Ashley at nine-thirty and Zoë at ten. I hope Marta doesn’t barge in.”


“And I’ll need some of your best ale, from that microbrewery in Santa Fe. Um, the Blue Corn Café. . . ” said Marta, always the chipper one in the mornings.

“Sure thing! You’ll probably want the ’End of the Trail Brown Ale,’” said Sarah, the Institute’s chief cook. She turned sharply and strode to the next room. When she returned she had a wooden box that probably held eight bottles of beer. “Ian loves this.”

Marta took it. “I think he loves any beer. His favorite beer is the one right in front of him. But he’ll try anything new after he finishes the one in his hand!” she laughed.

“Oh yeah!” said Sarah. “That sounds like our Ian! Do you have everything?”

“I think so. Sandwiches, beer, apple pie for desert, a few snacks, and water for me. Maybe you can give me another water. It’s going to be a bit warm out there.”

Sarah handed over a few bottles of spring water. Most of her food would have been in ceramic bowls and the beverages in pitchers, but Earth-Bound plastic-ware was what most preferred for a picnic out of doors. That and a classic picnic basket. Yogi Bear would have been proud. “Now where are the two of you headed again?”

“The Tsin Kletsin ruins. Mostly for Ian’s research, but I thought a picnic would be nice.”

Suddenly Ian appeared, walked up behind her, and slid his arm around her. She jumped just a bit in surprise. She reached around and pulled his hand off of her ample behind and slid it onto her waspish waist. He kissed her on the cheek.

“Well hello, Ian!” smiled Sarah. “Marta has all the fixin’s for your picnic . . .”

“Picnic?” Ian looked at Marta’s assembled goods. “What a good idea.” He kissed her again and the snuggles threatened to become almost embarrassing until he looked down. “Eight bottles of beer? Marta, Honey, if you bring them I’ll drink them all.” He picked up the box and set it on the edge of the wooden shelf before them. He threw down a mana spike, muttered a key phrase and the box divided in two. The three sides and the bottom were made of pale pine wood but the two new ends were made of some kind of a grayish wood.

“Sarah,” he handed her one of the boxes, “could you save these four for me later?”

The two women discussed and exchanged payment while Ian nervously scanned the room. His head swiveled on more than one occasion as some girl or another passed him by. Each time, he glanced at Marta, then back scanning the room.

“Come, Mi Amor!” She took his hand and led to the doorway. Ian barely had time to grab the picnic basket on the way out.


Ian’s second bottle of beer opened with a satisfying pop. “The lawn chairs were a great idea,” he exclaimed.

“Come on, you should have thought of it. There’s nowhere to sit out here,” she gestured to the arid hillside beside the ruins of the Great House of Tsin Kletsin. “Miles and miles of nothing . . . then this heap of stone.” She looked around. Some of the ground was completely barren, but most was covered in thin grasses or short, woody bushes. The overall coloring was either a gray that was just on the slightly green side or a dusty beige. It extended on all sides to the distant mountains. Calm, quiet, undisturbed for ages.

Not too far off in the distance, a small cloud of dust rose from the dirt road. “Earth-Bounds are coming, Ian,” she said.

Ian looked up and hurriedly sat forward, his hands altering the settings of his mana crystals both those at his feet and those scattered over the ruins. One more alteration and crystals camouflaged themselves. A mage might notice them, but an Earth-Bound surely wouldn’t. Ian just hoped the occupants of the vehicle would not stay to chat; he had lots of work still ahead of him.

“They’re going to notice we don’t have a car,” Marta said. Ian accessed his graphics library and a shiny new, red Subaru Outback flickered into view. “Shadows and dust,” she suggested. The approaching car pulled up beside them as Ian finished correcting those settings.

That car was a red Subaru, too, same year, same model. Three people stepped out, two men and a woman, all in their late 20′s. One man had a small mustache and goatee. The other was clean shaven. The woman gingerly stepped out and glanced around. She nearly stumbled before she bent down and adjusted the laces of her very clean boots.

“Hello, how are you?” asked the first man as he walked up to Ian.

“We’re fine. What do you think of the ruins?” He had on his Happy Face, but his eyes noticed everything.

“I think they’re amazing.” His attention was focused on Ian as the woman approached Marta and the clean shaven man walked toward the ruins. “How long have you been here?”

“Oh, just a few hours. Taking pictures and having a picnic. We haven’t seen anyone all morning . . . until you came.”

The man nodded. “What do you think of the tower? Three or four kivas stacked one on top of the other?” Ian noticed that the second man was now out of sight and that Marta was backing away from the woman’s approach. He also noticed that the three visitors were mages, though they tried to hide their glow.


Ping! a message on his wrist crystal. The flattish, round, glassy lozenge glowed a deep red in the dark and it was pinging. Davic thrashed a bit under the covers as he woke up from a deep state of sleep. His heart was pounding as he grabbed the infernal thing and tapped it.

It was a notice from the chat board he had a trace on. “Lady Morgaine” had responded. He had a bit of apprehension as he flicked his finger through the mana pattern of the link and the following opened:

QUOTE

Lady Morgaine

Apprentice


Online Online

Posts: 4

View Profile Personal Message (Offline)

Re: Big Disappointments

Reply with Quote

I’ve missed you, Khym. It’s been a long time, and all I can think about is this argument and everything that’s happened between us. This seems to be the only place to find you so I’ll tell you here that I’m disappointed in us both for letting it go this far. My heart hurts and I’m in pain. Is there somewhere, some way we can meet?

Report to moderatorLogged

It certainly sounded like Retta’s style of writing. He put his hand to his eye. It was still bruised, but no longer hurt. He just sat and thought about how he felt about Retta. He was conflicted, especially remembering what Johnson had said.

After a bit, he read a few of the other posts in the thread. An older woman was taking the college boy who had started the thread to task for not realizing that soup was a minor problem compared to the loss of family members and other more severe incidents.

He wrote the following:

QUOTE

Lord Khym

Wizard

**

Online Online

Posts: 271

Gryphon Extraordinaire

View Profile Email Personal Message (Online)

Re: Big Disappointments

Reply with Quote Modify message

I know who you are ‘Lady Morgaine.’ I recognize the screen name. It’s from the same author as mine. I’m sure you did that on purpose. But, I’m confused. You left without a word and how did you find me here?

Report to moderator

“And how can I trust you?” he said aloud.

Suddenly there was another ping from his crystal. He had a response. “That was quick.”

QUOTE

Lady Morgaine

Apprentice

*

Online Online

Posts: 5

View Profile Personal Message (Online)

Re: Big Disappointments

Reply with quote

Remember that evening after class when I caught you posting on this site, what a year ago? You were embarrassed because no one in AyD likes fantasy novels, just you and me. It took me quite a while to track you and this site down. I’d forgotten which of our favorite authors it was you posted in.

Oh, Khym, I’m so sorry and sad that I had to leave like that, but I was forced to by the Other. He made me come back to him in YnS and FORCED me to stay. I had no choice as he has so much control over my situation. My mother! I need to talk to you and work this all out, but I can’t go to AyD. My feelings need explaining; they are still there and strong. We need to set up a meeting to talk.

Report to moderatorLogged

“Damn!” he said “I don’t want LeDuc finding this! The last thing I need is an open link between schools.” He shoved a finger through the logged off glyph floating in the upper corner of the mana field but kept the window open as he read and reread the post.

“The Other must be LeDuc.” He read it again then placed his index finger through one of the lines. “Is he threatening her mother!?” He sat in the darkened room, lit only by the light of the mana. She must be in LeDuc’s pay or he is forcing her to do work for him. Hmmm.” He stroked his chin, pulling on the beard there. “Who do I believe?”


Professor Johnson sat cautiously on the plush seat offered to him by Sharon Sands. The conference hall in the Lodge had been converted to a War Council Room. She had taken her cues from pictures of FDR’s room in the White house so long ago. There were maps against the eastern wall, covered in red and black pins.

Étuate, the seven foot tall Samoan, stood examining the charts. “What is the green color for?” he asked in his booming voice, pointing at a few places on the map.

“They’re known Mages whose allegiance we’re not sure of,” she said refilling his coffee mug.

“Do join us, my friend,” said the Professor patting the back of the chair next to him. The large Samoan ambled over and sat with surprising grace. He placed his mug before him and nodded to Johnson.

Noticeably absent, was Paul Nukilik. The Professor glanced over at the Canadian Arctic on Sharon’s map and saw a green push pin. “Junior is still in mourning?”

Sharon nodded, as did Fridleif Skjoldsson. “We can heal a body faster than a broken heart,” he said in his noticeable accent as he took a sip of his coffee. “What are we going to do, and don’t tell me we’re going to sit and do nothing. Junior’s loss is our loss. We must take this war to LeDuc.” He paused; the room grew uncomfortably silent. “It is war that we have now with him.”

Sharon stood and refilled the mugs one by one as she crossed the map side of the room, then the south side. The delegates nodded their thanks to her, but no one spoke until she filled the last and sat.

All looked to the professor, whose gaze had not lifted since Fridleif had spoken the obvious. Finally, he raised his head and looked the German in the eye. “Yes, it is.”

The silence was suddenly filled with the sound of gasps and rattling papers and then silence again.

“What shall we do?” Étuaté’s voice boomed in the still of the conference room.

“That is the question, isn’t it?” asked Sean McBane in his Scottish brogue. “Do we go on the offensive or just hide?”

Fridleif made a noise in the back of his throat that sounded like he was trying to loosen phlegm. He shook his head. “I will not stand by and let LeDuc’s men attack my people.”

“We’re not asking you to,” said Johnson quietly. “I came here to draw up battle plans.”

The noise level in the room raised significantly. The German pounded the table with his fist and he slapped McBane on the shoulder. Both grinned fiercely.

A slight coughing noise interrupted the two. “We will not provide any warriors,” came a small voice.

“But, Bronwyn! We need your support,” said McBane.

“Oh, we will support you and send you matériel,” she said. “But no warriors. We will send you as much and more matériel than you ask for.”

“But no warriors.”

She shook her head in answer.

“This is more than we could have asked for,” Johnson pointed out. “We are grateful for the assistance of the Gaian Alliance.” He nodded.


The journey to the Rutul camp was of necessity a bit circuitous. From his office complex in Atalen ya Doaka, Johnson had taken a portal to Muncie, Indiana where a cousin lived. Then from there to Peoria, Arizona, not Illinois, then to Moscow, Idaho not Russia. From there he portaled to Cairo, Georgia, not Egypt. When he finally left the US, he portaled to Lower Peover, England a tiny community south and east of Manchester. From there, he went to Armagh, North Ireland then back across the Pond to Miami, Florida. Still not certain he was without a tail, he ducked south to Havana, Cuba. Across the Atlantic again he arrived in the exclave province of Cabinola, part of Angola. Finally, he headed north to Kisuma, Kenya on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria in Africa. From there he traveled to Doha, Qatar, and now within the Muslim sphere of influence, he finally arrived at his destination: Junior’s camp in Dagestan, Russia.

The scene was essentially the same: green mountains, green valleys, green pastures. The only change was the blackened ruins at Junior’s encampment.

Johnson had appeared at the fence of the graveyard. Still visible was the fresh earth of the new graves that had brought so much despair to the mage community here in Dagestan. The Professor gazed down to the ruins and spotted two men tending to cattle in a field slightly eastward, about a quarter mile from his position, all down hill. There was a small trail of packed, but slightly muddy soil. The attention of the two men turned toward him. It was surprising how quickly their posture became defensive.

Speaking in Junior’s Rutul dialect, he called aloud. “It’s Professor Johnson. I mean no harm.” His wrist crystal beeped. It was Junior himself.

They were soon standing face to face, next to a milk cow. “It’s a good thing I was expecting you, my friend,” smiled the aggrieved Mage.

“Are you experiencing threats to your security?”

“No, but my men –all three of them-- are very jittery. They expect LeDuc’s forces will come back to finish off what he’s started.”

“I doubt he’ll do that . . . ”

“I agree,” said Junior. “He’s already turned his attention elsewhere to sew dissent among our allies.” He paused and patted the neck of his prized milk cow. “Come. We’re camped in one of the outbuildings, her barn.”

The two trudged the distance. Luckily they didn’t need to slog through as many cow pies as Johnson had expected from his experience with American dairies. Cows were messy and smelly creatures, but mana overrides help keep it to a minimum. On the second level, Junior had them sit by the northern wall. There was a covering and only one battered brass horn. The luxuriant decorations of the main hall were conspicuously absent. Johnson did not comment on the new found poverty of soul he found here. He sat in uncharacteristic silence.

“I am so sorry, Junior,” he barely made a whisper, the shock was so great. Junior reached out, and in the manner of many Muslim men, held Johnson’s right hand in his left. He squeezed it and sat, his head bowed.

Johnson wiped a tear from his cheek and marveled again how easily Muslim men acknowledged their feelings, unlike repressed westerners who felt masculinity meant no feelings at all. “We have made war plans that I’d like to share with you.”

“Finally!” blurted Junior.

“We won’t ask anything of you . . . ”

“You can not stop me.”

“My friend,” said the professor calmly. “I will share with you, our plans. What you wish to do we will coordinate.”

Junior nodded in understanding. “I understand what you meant. I wish to hurt LeDuc as he has hurt me. I lost my mother, all my wives, all eleven of my children. Practically all of my family, but these cousins.” He gestured to the men tending the cows. “I have nothing left to lose.”

“Brownyn of the Gaian Alliance said she would give us aid.”

“In truth?”

“She won’t send any warriors . . . ”

“Well, no . . . ”

“But she will send matériels.”

“That’s incredible,” said Junior. “I had believed she would sit and let LeDuc pick off her membership.”

“I would have thought that as well. But, even she sees the danger. Rather than fragment us, Eric has brought us together.”

“What of the Destroying Angels? Which ever side they land on will win.”

“We haven’t heard yet.” Johnson sat in silence looking at the son of his old friend. “What are you contemplating doing? You seem intent on a Kamikaze mission.”

“You must need some sort of raid on his site?”

“Yes,” he nodded.

“You are right. We should coordinate this or it will do no good.”

“We should plan this out in detail for the most beneficial effect.”

“The Opportune Moment.”

“Yes, exactly!” both laughed and finished their coffee.

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