Tales of Midbar: Poisoned Well

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Strange Winemakers - part 5

Narrated by Gairlia

Flarmia had me sit on her right and Boantor on her left. Water-Current cheerfully sat next to the hairy parallel universe woman, emitting that ridiculously strong power. I realized the hairy woman did as well. Well Sixteen and the man she was with were just as bad. The cooks gave us drinks. I just had water but everybody else seemed to have something alcoholic.

A small idlan woman came out of a room, dragging a tall, heavily built idlan woman towards the table.

A tall, very striking, faharni woman came through the main door with a tall man who had faharni skin coloring but slanted eyes. They looked around as if they were confused.

The chamber mayor stood up and there was a small explosion above her. “Now,” she said, “Before we start eating, perhaps I should say a few things. Sit down you two!”

“Sorry,” said the beautiful woman, who was still standing with the slanted eyed faharni, “but I think we’re in the wrong place. This is the Winemaker chamber?”

“Yes,” said the chamber mayor.

“My roommate’s here!” said the slanted eyed man and he led the beautiful woman to the tall, strange looking man.

The tall, heavily built idlan had also taken a seat, along with the very small idlan, and was looking at the table in front of her.

“Anyway,” said the Chamber mayor, “my name’s Chaldrinia. If you have problems with any other people here, you should talk to me about it, or if you think they’re doing ...”

“Sorry,” said the beautiful woman. “There are a lot of strange looking people here. Are you sure this is a Winemaker chamber?”

“It’s just hair!” said the hairy woman.

“Sorry,” said the large idlan woman, shyly and still looking at the table in front of her, “but are you the sort of Winemakers who are psychics and magi and things?”

“We’re athletes!” said the tall, fair-haired faharni man with slanting eyes indicating himself and the tall, strange looking man of uncertain race with strong power who was seated beside him. “Not magi!”

“I’m not actually allowed to take part in organized sports because I’ve been modified by nanites,” said the strange looking man.

“I’m not a mage or psychic,” said the green haired girl in a high-pitched, squeaky voice, “but I am from another universe.”

“I’m only technically a Winemaker,” said a tall, beautiful faharni woman with a posh accent, “and I’m not a mage or psychic or anything but does any of that matter?”

Everybody looked at her as if she’d asked where she could see a brown dwarf on a clear night.

“Ancient Truths,” said a smartly dressed bennis man who was sitting beside a similarly dressed idlan man.

“You believe you can get powers by swallowing metals and standing outside during storms,” said Flarmia, cynically.

“Only some people,” said the other Ancient Truths man.

“You get psychics to marry each other because you think it will produce more psychics,” said the smartly dressed bennis. “Except the Universal Winemakers who force psychics to be celibate.”

“We can marry any unmarried, opposite sex Winemaker who’s willing to marry us,” said the man with Sixteen. “But our psychics normally choose to marry each other and, because the alleles are recessive, that does produce more psychics.”

“Which is precisely why we want psychics to be celibate,” said Flarmia.

We’d just started eating when the handsome faharni arrived with a small faharni girl (I’d guess she was about twelve as she had breasts but they weren’t very big) hanging onto him.

“Hi,” he said. “I’ve brought my friend ... What did you say your name was?”

The girl muttered something.

“... Yeah, I’ve brought her to eat with us.”

The handsome man sat down next to me and the girl on the other side of him.

“I didn’t think we could bring girlfriends,” said the tall, strange looking man. “If I had, I’ve have brought mine.”

“He’s brought his wife!” the handsome faharni said, pointing at the man beside Sixteen.

“I art staying here,” said Sixteen.

“This meal is for people to get to know the others in their chamber,” said the cook. “You should know that Chiris?”

The drunk girl gave the cook an angry look, “You’re not the boss of me!”

“But I would say that hurting the dean’s eleven-year-old daughter isn’t a good way to start your academic careers,” said the cook.

“Who has authority here?” asked the man with Sixteen.

“Technically her,” said the cook, pointing at the chamber mayor.

“Fornication,” she said. “We can’t even have our first meal here without trouble! Does anybody have any advice on this?”

“Who the fornication put you in charge?” asked the handsome man.

“She’s drunk and a child,” said Sixteen’s man, “so if we send her away alone and she gets into trouble we could be held responsible but if we keep her here and make sure nothing bad happens to her we’re OK.”

“Do we have enough food for her?” asked Printorac.

“I don’t eat much,” squeaked the green haired girl.

“There’s plenty,” said the cook.

“I’ll keep an eye on her,” said Water-Current.

The meal then turned into people talking to those near them while we ate. It seemed that Eleprin and Printorac had had some rather extraordinary adventures while Water-Current had been living as a “slegmet” and travelling round to some strange places I doubted existed. I didn’t feel that any of them were lying though but then I reminded myself that I wasn’t a mind reader.

When we finished eating, some people started telling jokes and singing. Flarmia left with a grumbling Chiris. I wandered around talking to people. Breeze came back. I noticed the tall, heavily built idlan sitting by herself near a wall and went to talk to her.

“Can you go away please,” she said, looking at the floor.

“I’m just trying to be sociable.”

“I find you rather frightening. You kind of flicker while the others just have this constant glare but I know what you are.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I don’t want to sound korbarist but I’ve never met any of you before and well, you’re scary.”

I decided not to press this. I started walking away from the large idlan and found myself facing the green haired girl.

“Do you find me frightening?” I asked.

“I’ve been shot through a wormhole on a probably one-way trip to another universe. After that, not much is frightening.”

“But you did get back?”

“No, this is the universe I ended up in, not the one I come from.”

Then Tan, the handsome man, staggered up to us. He was clearly drunk.

“Don’t you quippas get fornicated enough?” he asked.

“We’re celebates,” I said.

“I’m not a quippa,” squeaked the green haired girl, “and I’m not sworn to celibacy. You’re pretty but I’ve romanced space explorers and starship crewmen so I don’t find you ...”

“Well that’s where you’re fornicating going wrong!” said Tan, putting a hand on my shoulder and leaning towards me.

“Er, what?” I said.

“Celibacy’s for fornicating losers!” said Tan. “And what the fornicating are you hiding?”

He pulled my glasses off, making everything seem brighter, spun me round and started pulling my sari open. I screamed and tried grabbing at his hands and getting away. Then I got a blinding headache. I lost my balance. There were several screams from behind me and a man, I think Tan, screaming obscenities. I fell to my knees and found myself looking at a bed of strange photoorganisms with Semic labels on them. A cat was crouched among the photoorganisms and stared at me with green eyes. By now the sun had set and the mottled, white disc was providing most the light. The front of my sari was open but fortunately I was wearing a bra. I felt two bursts of energy and two people who emitted lots of power were beside me.

“She’s a fornicating teleporter!” shouted Tan.

“You’ve tried to rape two girls tonight!” shouted a woman with a western mountains accent.

I felt an odd feeling of calmness wash over me.

“Concentrate on your surroundings,” said a woman with a Righteousness accent quietly beside me.

“It art OK,” said Sixteen who was kneeling on my other side. “We’re like you.”

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