Testing a Theory
Testing a Theory
The flight back to New Orleans went well, aside from the swords needing special boxes in order to be able to be checked as baggage. After that was done everything went pretty smoothly. They caught a cab downtown and checked into a suite at the Monteleone Hotel.
They had talked extensively on the plane about what their next moves should be. It had been decided that Rent needed to be tested. There were many unknowns in this. The cloud that they had originally passed through in Hordann’s skies could be anywhere, which was the same big ‘if’ that they faced in their return to Earth. Sam had hoped, that with the lamp passing back through to end the conundrum, that the Rent mist would return to its normal state of existing with its other half, which was inside the chamber at New Sky Hold. He didn’t have any idea if that would happen or how long it might take to happen. They had been gone for three Earth days, and that was roughly two weeks or better on Hordann. Surely, if Rent were to make itself whole again, it should have happened in this amount of time, based on the speed at which the mist retracted back to its lamp when so prompted.
Still, a big ‘if’.
After an opulent dinner, and enough wine to brace their nerve, Sam and Genie returned to their room. The plan here was to test the theory as safely as possible. To do this, it was decided to not attempt this alone, but who could they trust with any of this? There was only one name that came to mind, Terri.
They called her and told her that their trip had taken a strange turn. An invitation was made to her to come stay at the hotel with them for a couple of days. Since they were footing the bill for everything, she agreed, but she didn’t seem too enthusiastic; Sam and Genie had been off on a wild adventure for over a month (of Hordann time), but Terri had been left alone in her grief for only a long week. She agreed to pack an overnight bag, and in the morning, Sam had the concierge send a town car for her.
When she arrived, she was very skeptical. How had these two suddenly come up with enough cash to stay at a place like this? What happened to the year in the Alaskan wilderness and a hunting cabin?
They began, at brunch, to tell the tale to their friend. The epic recounting carried through to the afternoon up in the suite. Terri was shown all of the items she had been told about. The Rings of Ingebriggt she had seen in the restaurant. The lamp, armor and swords, gold and gems lay before her on the bed as glorious proof of the outrageous story.
She had begun to get a feeling like there was more to this story. Why was she being brought in like this? So, she asked.
Sam explained that she was already part of the story, and it was time for her to join in for the rest of it. The intention was that she would stay in the hotel room while Sam and Genie once again donned the parachutes and stepped into the mist, which would be released into the bathroom. If they never came back, then, Terry should take the lamp and put it in a safe deposit box or something, along with all the gold and gems, which would then be hers.
The hotel room was paid up for two weeks, which would be over two months’ worth of Hordann time. Surely that would be enough time to sort out any problems short of catastrophic failure.
It was unclear if she was buying any of this really. “I don’t think you should do it in the bathroom,” Terry said, “I’ll probably need to use it during those two weeks.”
“Yeah, and there is a vent fan in there,” Sam said, thinking out loud, “That could be bad.”
“The closet, then,” Genie suggested, “just don’t let the maid go in there. That could also be bad.”
“Y’all are crazy,” Terri said, shaking her head, “You want me to believe you have been talking to dragons and killing barbarians and Wizards on some other world.” She looked at the two of them, flushed with anticipation. “Okay, I’ll do it. I’m going to need a few good books though, if you want me to stay cooped up in this room for two weeks.”
“Fair enough,” Sam agreed. He gave her some money and she and Genie went out to shop.
They were gone for a long time, and Sam had gone slightly crazy with thinking about everything. There was a possibility that when they went through to Hordann that there would be no coming back. Could they really even make it back to Hordann? Even Stephen Hawking couldn’t predict what would happen with this kind of thing. He was satisfied to know that, whatever else happened, Skip’s wife, Terri, would be well-off. Sam estimated, at the known rate of exchange previously determined, that there should be well over a million dollars in their booty. If they failed to return, it would all be hers, and one way or another, it wouldn’t be any loss to them. If they were stuck in Hordann, they were still Lord and Lady of New Sky Hold. Or if they fell into the sea on Hordann, that would settle that. They could end up in outer space in an alternate universe somewhere. Whatever happened, Skip could rest easy, and that was a great consolation to Sam.
The ladies finally returned, and they were loaded down with bags. Terry had bought some books and some new clothes (and shoes, of course as part of Genie’s ‘grief therapy’), and Genie had bags from the drug store full of first-aid supplies and other treats that she felt she would like to take back to New Sky Hold. And extra toothbrushes. She almost forgot those.
The decision was made to make the jump after dinner. They felt they would need to go over lots of little details over the course of a leisurely meal with expensive wine and ending with chocolate confections. In the meantime, they packed up what they needed to carry with them and made ready everything else.
They took their time with dinner and returned to the suite. It would be accurate to say that they were nervous. They had never night-jumped before, but this felt like they would imagine that would feel like, not knowing, in the darkness where to land or how fast the ground was coming up. Nervous. Night-jumping aside, jumping into another dimension, with no way of knowing what would be next, was its own level of crazy, and there was a good case of nerves to go with it.
At last they were prepared. The closet had been emptied, and they were set to rub the lamp. Terri was still skeptical, wondering what kind of mushrooms these two had eaten, but if they wanted to play this crazy game, she would oblige. Whatever else, she had been happy to get out of the house for a while and not think about her sorrows.
Sam and Genie had a hard time fitting into the closet wearing their rigs and other gear, but they made it. The lamp was to remain on the closet shelf. Terri shut the door, and Genie reached up and rubbed the jade vessel. The mist began to flow and became visible in light of Genie’s headlamp.
“Good luck,” she whispered to Sam and they began to fall.
There was a swooshing sound in the closet, and Terri couldn’t help but peek in. The was no mist, but there was also no Sam and Genie. She opened the door wide and gawked at its emptiness. Slowly she shut the door and sat down on the bed.
“Son of a bitch,” she said, “they weren’t high.”
The mist had engulfed them, and the Skadivers once again found themselves falling. There was a sickening sensation in their stomachs as with the start of any fall, and as before, all was deathly quiet. A million second thoughts crossed the pairs minds in a millisecond.
Truly, it was a millisecond, for they suddenly hit a solid surface from what felt like three feet up. They had not expected that, and were not quite balanced when the landed and nearly fell over. The headlamp shone around, and the familiar chamber could be seen around them. They were standing upon the slab that rose above the exit Rent off of the passageway from their chambers in New Sky Hold.
“Son of a bitch,” Genie said, “it worked.”
“I’m going to break down now,” Sam joked. “It worked!” he shouted, sending echoes through the halls.
They hopped down from the ‘landing stone’ and hustled up the way to their chambers. All was quiet. They dropped their gear and got out of their jumpsuits and armor. Now in just their gambesons, they jaunted off down to the Great Hall. There were half a dozen Holdfolk hanging around leisurely, and they just about had heart attacks to see their Lord and Lady appear, after having been gone for a fortnight.
Eric was among the group. “Son of a bitch,” he said, “you’re back. You made it to Earth?”
“Yeah, what a trip,” Sam answered. “I think we have it figured out, but we’ll have to do it again to make sure.”
“First we want to see Vyrna and Hazgorn,” Genie said.
“Do you think you could meet us out there with some wine?” Sam asked, and the Holdfolk scrambled away to fetch it.
The dragons had been alerted through Ringspeak, and were waiting at the gate. Terry was quivering out of control and flew like a shot to Genie when she came into sight.
“There’s my good boy,” she said, “Looks like you missed me. I missed you.” She stroked the little dragon’s neck and there was a lovely cooing.
“Samuel,” Hazgorn started, “You smell like Rent.”
“As well I should,” Sam answered.
“I smell some fish on the Lady Genevieve,” Vyrna said, “of a kind I do not know.”
“You can smell what I ate for dinner?” Genie asked, “It’s called crawfish. I guess it is sort of pungent, but delicious.”
“Our trip has been successful so far,” Sam said, “but it has not concluded yet. We have to go back and test Rent.”
“Do you have to go now?” Hazgorn asked.
“No,” Sam said as the wine was arriving, “I think it can wait a couple of days. Tonight, let us gather as friends and rejoice in each other, for we have missed you all greatly.”
“We are going to need bigger goblets,” Vyrna said, “We had a delivery from Flight Island.”
They walked back to the Dragon Field and inside the little structure (where Gildenhanna and Dorsea had met their ends) were now several large stone casks of their wine. And the evening was passed with celebration, and many of the Holdfolk came out and joined in. Most had never even dreamed of sharing such times with dragons, but now that their Lord and Lady were back, the time was right.
In the morning, Eric and Derrick caught them up on the happenings since their departure. Since Styric’s actual death, the darkness across the land had ebbed, and the folk were more at ease. Dextmann and Gensonn had gone back north, first to Enverra Hold to meet Hannegelt, Kemann and the Princess and get a grip on the situation there, and then off to Olden, to once again meet with the Xeltic Priests and be deposed about the death of the Were-Wizard known as Styric.
Sam was happy at the way things were progressing on Hordann, but he was anxious to put his theories to their final test. If it worked as he had been hoping, he would need to find a permanent home for the lamp to act as a base. The Monteleone was nice, but risky, and he felt the base would be better off at a place of their own.
The whole next day was spent strolling around the Hold. They were greeted by Holdfolk wherever they went, and Derrick was keen to show them all of the projects he had begun in their absence. There was such a sense of relief in knowing that Styric’s soldiers would not be coming through taking whatever they wanted. That had been a reality for a long time, and this new era was truly a blessing. Cleaning that had been left undone was starting to happen. The carts in an open-air market were coming back in from the countryside. Holdfolk were walking at ease through their city, and people were thinking of starting families again.
It was another peaceful evening, and there was no revelry in particular going on. Sam felt a little at a loss. Not since they had first landed on Hordann, and felt a sense of ennui, a time when Sam had nothing to do, some goal to achieve, some miracle to make happen. He was wondering what was next. Is this how his life would be if he stayed here? In his mind, it seemed ‘happily ever after’ was rather boring. Surely there was something more.
After visiting with the dragons and saying their good-byes again, it was mid-morning when Sam and Genie went back to their chamber and prepared, once again, to make the ‘leap’. Sam went to the vault and picked up another handful of gems, imagining that he would need more funding to buy a piece of real estate this time around. Just to be safe, they once again strapped on their sky diving rigs.
They were accompanied to the Rent chamber by Eric and Derrick.
Eric asked, “If this works, can I go back some time?”
“You have every right to use this,” Sam answered, “Certainly as much as we have.”
“Thank you, I do miss a few things,” Eric said. “Coffee. I haven’t had a good cup of coffee in a really long time.”
“Terri makes good coffee,” Genie said, smiling at Sam.
“The little dragon?” Eric asked.
Genie laughed. “A different Terri.”
“If this works, we’ll do coffee, my friend,” Sam said, “but let’s make sure it works.”
They went down the passage to the chamber. One result of Rent stabilizing is that the wind was no longer rushing through the Hold, so things were much quieter. Those first few days when the Skadivers had departed the first time (and had instructed them to leave the doors open) it had been hard to keep a candle lit. But after the mist came rolling in, which scared the Holdfolk tremendously, it settled in to its place and everything was calm again.
This time, Sam and Genie sat on the edge of the pit, kissed and Genie said, “Vyrna says I’m pregnant.” and hopped in.
She dropped from view into the silent dark while Sam sat there stunned. A few moments later, he followed.
“Did she just say she was pregnant?” Eric asked.
Derrick looked at him. “Yes. I’m starting a new cistern off the Dragon Field. Care to come?”
“I think I’ll pass on that kind offer.”
Terri was just finishing her room-service salad and chardonnay when she heard a bump in the closet. She opened the door, and there was Genie, who stepped out.
“Where is Sam?” she asked in a panic.
“Oh, I guess he’ll be along any second,” she said as Sam thumped into the confined space.
He fumbled out of the closet and shut the door. “It works! Thank God.” He looked at Genie. “You jumped without me.”
“I figured if this was going to work, we should only come one at a time. Closet,” she replied.
“You’re pregnant?!” Sam said as the shock wore off.
“You’re pregnant?” Terri asked excitedly.
“I’m pregnant, or at least Vyrna thinks so.”
Terri stepped back. “Vyrna? Your dragon, Vyrna?”
“Yes, but she really isn’t my dragon. She’s more like a close friend,” Genie admitted.
“I think I’m going to faint,” Terri swooned, but Sam caught her and sat her down. “You guys were only gone since last night. I thought you said two weeks.”
“Well, we got lucky; everything worked,” Sam said.
“So, what now?” Terri asked.
“I don’t know. We will figure it out together. You in?” Sam asked her.
“I’m in,” she answered.
Sam opened the closet and stepped in. “Be right back. Order coffee,” he said, closing the door. There was a whoosh, and then nothing.
“Yeah, it does that,” Terri said as Genie turned to her.
Eric had turned to follow Derrick out of the chamber, but stopped when he heard the soft landing of leather on stone behind him. There stood Lord Samuel once again.
“I take it the thing works,” he said.
Sam smiled as he took off his parachute rig and set it down beside the side wall. “Come on, let’s go get some coffee.”
Eric was reluctant to jump into the unknown, but Sam strong-armed him over the rim. He slipped away into the dark. He knew he had better wait a minute to let him get his bearings and get out of the closet. When he felt there had been five times that much time, he followed.
By the time Sam was stepping out of the closet, Eric was being helped to a chair while looking around the beautiful suite. He had not seen anything of Earth for what had been fifty years (for him), and now was in a slight state of shock. He was also experiencing the different gravity, like an astronaut landing after having been on the Skylab Space Station for months.
There was a knock at the door, and Sam closed the closet quickly. Terri let the Room-service Waiter in to deliver the coffee cart. She tipped him heavily, and he left, trying not to judge the group he had seen, with one pair dressed like sky divers and another in medieval clothing and a goth chick that tipped well. Had Mardi Gras started without him?
Terri moved to the cart and turned to Eric. “Coffee?” she asked politely.
“You must be the other Terri,” Eric said and smiled. “Yes, please.”
“Other Terri?” she asked, looking at Genie.
They shared a laugh over the story, and Eric savored the dark, rich coffee. Sam could see his entire demeanor ease.
“Does your return to Earth meet your expectations?” he asked.
“Could I get a hamburger?” he answered, “with cheese?”
“You absolutely can,” Sam laughed. “I’ll join you. Anyone else?”
There were calls down for more room service, and the staff was happy to wait upon the generous eccentrics. Meanwhile, Sam began to discuss what was next, as it had been weighing on his mind.
The discussion centered around ‘where’. “Where would we like to go to set up our base?” Sam posed. “Not here because of hurricanes and flooding. I think we need someplace more stable—a place where we can have like a basement.”
“Or a bunker?” Terri asked.
“Sure, like a bunker,” Sam said.
“I mean, I am just guessing you want to keep this under wraps,” she continued, “I haven’t been there, but it doesn’t sound to me like you want to spoil it with too many modern people getting to it. Am I right?”
“Well, it hasn’t been the best of places for me, which is to say my previous experience there,” Eric put in, “But now that Styric is gone, and the Skadivers have taken over his Hold, I think it could become a much better place. Not that it couldn’t use a few modern conveniences.” He stopped abruptly, thinking. “Can I use your bathroom?”
Genie pointed the way, and he got up and labored his heavy legs to carry him in, shutting the door behind him. They could hear him running the tap water and checking out the modern conveniences he had missed for so long. There were giggles on both sides of the door.
“Would you like to come with us, Terri?” Genie asked.
“What do you mean? To this Hordann? Or to this base you are talking about?”
Genie looked at Sam. “Either…or both.”
“I don’t have anything to keep me here, really,” she said. “My folks are in Seattle, and I don’t really want to go there.”
“Where would you like to go?” Sam asked.
Eric emerged from the bathroom. “If we go back to Hordann, we are taking a mountain of toilet paper. Just so you know.”
They all laughed. “Understood,” Genie said.
“Colorado,” Terri suggested. “Sam used to talk about it all the time, and I have always wanted to live there, and there are no tornadoes or earthquake or hurricanes there.” There was a silence while the group considered.
“Let’s book a flight,” Sam said. He turned to Eric. “So, I wanted you to come back here with me for a couple of reasons. We are going to need help trying to set all this up, and I just assumed you would want to be back. You don’t have to stay, if you don’t want to, and you can go back whenever you want, but we could use your help.”
“Let’s have a hamburger first,” Eric said, “After that, as they say, I am at your service.” He bowed.
“And I am at yours, my friend,” Sam answered, bowing back.
“Look at you two Hordannfolk,” Genie said.
There was a knock at the door. A muffled, “Room service” was heard. Eric’s eyes lit up like a slot machine showing three cheeseburgers for the win, and everything was a ‘go’.
There was no particular reason to rush, so the four of them decided to enjoy New Orleans for a couple of days while Eric acclimated again. The hotel was paid up for ten more days anyway.