...(humans can't give birth to seven children safely without major medical
facilities..which they don't have), the mages will temporarily transform
her back into a demifox (and her children), and do to her what they did to
other Astras (accelerate the pregnancy, transform her and kits back to
human). Then..they'll do something about her skin and hair...
AS for the newest kits of Fred 4's group (and the mundane foxes). Nothing like what happened with Rosepaw happened here (thank God for small favors). Therefore, after the foxes are released into the wild, they'll eventually forget about the kits..and move on (it may seem cruel, but it's for the best..mundane foxes can't care for demifox cubs in the long run). The kits will then be put up for adoption in the Pack. This is all for the best.
Back in Walants, the guards and Amazons are hunting for the mad Tarin (who's in a permanent berserker rage..maybe...and extremely dangerous no matter what). This world's Tarin is in jail, for protective custody (the news that his twin is probably in that rage did a real good job at convincing the proud dwarf). Natthias and Probe are there, discussing various things with the dwarf (metallurgy and why Natthias is here.instead of back in Ethiopia).
Nat reveals that he's here because basically it's not his home any longer. It has Malachi as it's protector (and it would be awkward for him and her to be there together). Ethiopia has too many bad memories (burned lands, cities, people dying in fire and plague, his family except for Alicia dead...) Better to be here, straightening things out.so he doesn't have time to brood over it all.
As for metallurgy, Tarin sees that Probe's folk have more knowledge and skill, and hopes that they will share it with the dwarves. It would perhaps get Tarin back into the dwarves good graces, ven.
Meanwhile, the mad Tarin has evade patrols of guards and Amazons, and now all that stands between him and his "brother" are Probe and Natthias.
The new analogs are sent to Ethiopia.
And so the stage is set for a battle.
It is mad Tarin who makes the first move by making his presence known by lodging a knife in the throat of a young guardman. As the young man dies screaming, we see that the Tarrin of Terra Prime is prepared to meet his maker. He knows how formidable he had been when HE had been under the influence of a berserker rage (something he no longer can achieve having finally been cured of his insanity). He figures that his time has come, since the only people who stand between him and his mad brother are Probe and Natthias.
Turns out that Natthias is the nearest
Since Natthias is the nearest, the insane Tarin attacks him irst.
Turns out that Nat isn't easy meat, as the old clich‚ goes.
Nat is a Paladin, a holy warrior, and he was a terror on the battle field. Using his God given gifts, he's able to summon arms and armor at a moments notice. Thus, he met the insane dwarf's flying daggers and flashing war ax with his strength of arms, armor, and strength of faith.
Funny thing about faith in this world is that it can work miracles. It doesn't give insurmountable proof of the existence of one particular Diety-since we see so many faiths on Terra-but it works. Heck, one could argue that all this stuff (including ghostly afterlife), is just a side effect of magic (part of the environment). In any case, it allowed Nat to battle the crazed dwarf for over half an hour (try doing that in real life and you'll find out just how HARD that is)!
Finally feeling the effects of battle, Nat is still able to cut Tarin's ax in half (leaving him with nothing useful). He then, out of a sense of honor and fair play, demands the crazy Tarin's surrender. This demand from a "lesser creature" drive the exhausted loony into a frenzy and he leaps for Nat's unguarded throat (Nat had his sword halfway down due to him being tired...)
Probe, meanwhile, had been doing several things while this fight had been happening. He'd kept asking if Nat needed help (but was refused each time since it was Nat's fight.the way Nat wanted it). He also admires how much Nat's fighting prowess has improved since meeting him last in the desert (the improvement was due to him being cured of his lycanthropy and his insanity). Probe was also, at the time of Nat's demand that the corrupt Tarin's surrender, ready for betrayal.
Probe grabs Tarin before the dwarf can harm Nat, and throws him into the bars of his sane brother's jail cell. It's a lucky thing that dwarven skulls are so dense, else the blow would have killed the loony dwarf. It did, however, broke several facial bones in the corrupt Tarin's face, knocked him out, AND dented the bars of the cell. Probe puts an Alliance approved restraining device (a straight jacket strong enough for use on rogue Avatar units) on the sleeping dwarf, and tossed him into the jail cell after letting the sane Tarin out.
As this is happening, Synizn (the one who could have been called Demifox Synizn 2 easily) has been granted an audience with the Regent of Ethiopia. Even though, in his mind, Synizn is aware that this isn't his Malachi, his heart only knows that it's his long time friend..apparently back from the Beyond! The reunion is a tearful one, and after Synizn composes himself Malachi says she understands why Synizn broke down.
The little guy's been through a bit of hell. See, between the stress of failing to being able to protect his friends from Dragoness Moreau and finding he and his friends not only were stuck as demifoxes, but were also the sire's or mothers of even more demifox kits! Synizn had a crushing guilt about his "failing" his friends in underestimating the cunning of Moreau. Problem is, as Malachi explained, was that Moreau was always something of a background player while Minestus was the one up front, in the action. Malachi and the others never really had a good grasp on what she was able to do, because of that.
They also discuss the adoptation of the new kits by the Pack. Synizn explains why he doesn't feel like being a father to his kits. It was because they had been sired while he was under the influence of the fox, and it was too much like when he was a were-bear. See, while a were-bear Synizn had also sired many cubs. He'd always hated being under the sway of the beast (especially when it came to that part). His feeling flowed over to the kits. He knew it wasn't their fault, but he just..couldn't get past his feeling over it all. Maybe in the future, when he finds somebody special that he could have a regular relationship with..
Finally it was revealed that Synizn liked, despite recent events, being a demifox and had no desire to become a dragon again. Becoming a demifox had freed him of many of the banes of being a were-bear. He'd come to see being a demifox as a symbol of his release from those baser drives. Malachi had gotten a similar story from Demifox Synizn, and understood completely.
In another part of the Palace, we see that Rosepaw has just been surprised at seeing Inquirer naked. The Golem/AI had been taking a bath in a swimming pool size and was just exiting the pool when the vixen saw that Inquirer was as featureless as a 20th century Barbie doll! Inquirer, after being asked about that, told the fox that this was typical of the "combat/general counter intel" mode Avatar. She told that the Seduction/Assassination mode had those features, but she never liked the idea behind those models, anyway.
The discussion then turned to a similar track as the one that Malachi Dronocis and Synizn had. Rosepaw revealed that she understood totally why Fred 4 and Astra 4 didn't want to keep the newest kits. Beside the fact that they had been sired or concieved by others (a sticky situation indeed), there was the fact that having so many children around would be too much to handle. Rosepaw could handle it (with the aid of Sigin Vulpine) because of telekinetics and magic! Fred 4 and Astra 4 had no such blessing. As for the mundane foxes, she now had a deeper appreciation on just how different an animal was from an intelligent being (her fellow foxes had recognized her, but not much else...) Finally, we see that the newest kits could be changed into the animal type of their adoptive parents, to make transition easier.
Now, lets go out and see what is happening back in the defunct nation of Allaria. Seems that a certain Castle D'Honaire has been plucked away from it's homeworld and plunked down into the newly reforested lands of Allaria. The inhabitants are puzzled and frightened, but have no idea of why the land is the same, topographically, but uninhabited. They even find the ruins of this world's Castle D'Honaire, but the place is a slagged ruin (i.e. no clues as to what happened that they can see).
The Alliance has seen the appearance of the castle, and finally are able to get in contact with Probe and tell him the news (Probe had been busy with the recent events). Probe tells what has been seen, and arrangements are made to teleport Duke D'honaire, Probe, and Fred 1 to investigate. A small group like this is perfect since it didn't involve the town guards (who didn't need to know about just HOW strange things were in the world..yet). Probe would be very formidable in almost any situation and could radio for immediate teleportation back by Crystallic. The D'Honaires were going since it could very well be THEIR castle, it had the family crest of a black griffin on a black tower.
The guard of the castle are a bit suspicious upon seeing the group approaching (wouldn't you, under the circumstances?), but allow the group to come in enough so questions could be asked. If the group was actually just a magical trick, then the questions would reveal it (the guards asked questions only the true Duke Dredrick D'Honaire could answer). The Duke answers the questions (saying his daughter is Fredrina and her birthday was May 11th). This brings cheers and shouts of joy from the guards and the group was let inside the castle. This was all very happy for almost all there, except Fred 1. See, his Fredrina's brithday was May 12th. Fred 2 was Duke Dredrick's real son, not he.
He finds out later, that this matters not to Duke Dredrick. Dred sees all the Freds as his sons and loves them just like his real son (it helps the analogs feel at home in this mirror world).
In the meantime, as the group is brought in by the happy guards and servants, Duke Zular is looking on. He's giving the appearance that he's glad to see Fred and Dred back, but in reality he wanted them gone and burried! He'd come by to pay respects to Duchess D'Honaire on the sudden death of Lady Fredrina (he'd actually had her poisoned for getting too close for Zular's comfort in her investigations of him), and had been caught in the teleportation of the castle. He also doesn't like the look that Probe gave him...
He and the others go deathly silent as two new figures enter the room. One is Duchess Champlaine D'Honaire, the other is..Lady Fredrina (apparently back from the dead)! Zular thinks his goose is cooked, and makes a break for an escape.
Fredrina, meanwhile, was about to go and tell her findings to her father and mother about the treason Zular was guilty of and how Zular had adulterated Fred's map. She dropped her notes in shock when she saw Fred standing before her..back from the dead, apparently.
Okay, what's happening here is a bit of the magic of the slipgate. See, the Castle D'Honaire is a patchwork of two Castles. One is from Fred 1's world and the other is from Fred 2's world. In Fred 1's world, Dredrick had accepted the "proof" of Fred's death and had thus been around to be able to block an assassination attempt on Fredrina's life. In Fred 2's world, Dred had gone out and ended up on Terra Prime. The patchwork castle had been so neatly "sown" together that nobody was aware of the fact. To make matters even stranger, certain parts of the castle had time running (in a temporary basis) slower than other parts. Thus, Fredrina had finally gotten to the door of the main room (in a matter of six hours Terran standard)...
Then, things started to go to blazes. The slipgates were entering into the last phase of the "temporary teleport" phase of real estate. At this point, the magical isolation shields had kicked the bucket, and so..in an attempt to keep the Phage from spreading uncheck...those real estates being teleported back home would be turned into atomic dust (thus destroying it, and any life on that real estate).
People and things started to disappear, and only through Probe radioing a burst transmission to Inquirer were a few people saved. Those saved were: Probe, Fredrina, Fred 1, Duke Dredrick, Duchess Chaplaine, two guards, two female servants, and Duke Zular.
Inquirer is able to calm everyone down before trouble can begin (Zular and the guards are..antsy about all this).
They all learn about what happened, and even most of the former castle inhabitants understand it. Probe and Inquirer figure out that somehow Fredrina had been mixed up with her analog.
Fredrina is shocked by all this, but then is happy to find out that Fred 1 is actually her brother. Duke Dred accepts Fredrina as his daughter. Lady Chaplaine and Dred are happy to be reunited. They even teleport Fred 2 in so that he and his real mom can meet again. The event is pretty happy, but is marred by the fact that...the Fredrina of Fred 2's world is dead.
Fredrina accuses Zular of treason and altering Fred's map, but Zular is a cool customer. He argue, successfully, that it was his analog, not he, who did it. He ends the discussion by saying: "I can assure you that I only have the best interests of Allaria and the D'Honaires at heart."
Fred 1 knows that Zular is unlikely to be pure as the driven snow (unless, Probe quips, the snow has marks from tires from Goodyear). Zular bears watching.
While this is happening, Fred 5 and Astra 5 are discussing the possible reason why she's so advanced in her pregnancy (she's bigger than they figure that she should be). Seem that the Cyrstallic has a strange sense of humor, and had kept advancing her pregnancy every time she was transformed. Could have been something else, but...
That's not important right now.
After Zular has left, there's a quick meeting between the group and the queens of Allaria and Ethiopia. Probe is happy to give the gloating Zular the..bad news.
Okay, before we go on here, one thing needs to be said. In the middle ages back on "Earth" there was a custom stating that only aristocracy could were aristocratic clothing. In other words, you couldn't dress above your station (on pain of inprisonment..perhaps even death). Duke Dredrick and friends were Dukes and such because Queen Astra had granted them land and titles (out of kindness and out of political need...the resources represented by the D'Honaires and such was much needed).
Duke Zular was a liability, period. He'd be killed on the spot by any Aqualarian who saw him. That is because Zular looked like the Zular of Terra Prime. Astra didn't like the stories that she'd heard from Fred 2's family, so didn't feel like granting anything to Zular, anyway.
Malachi Dronocis, Regent of Ethiopia, had the gift of empathy from her link with the land. She also had heard stories about this Zular. Either way, she wasn't going to give Zular anything in the way of a dukedom...in the way of anything except for a bit of land for him to work on (as a peasant).
A almost gleeful Probe stopped Zular and told him that he's dressed above his station, and must change into the clothing of a peasant. Zular laughs in Probes face, but is cold cocked by Probe's fist. Probe strips Zular of his clothing and equipment, and dresses him in the clothing of a peasant (which is magically "bugged" to keep track of him).
For the nest few days, Zular is living a nightmare. He's blocked from participating in any important talks or events, and is blocked by guards or Probe himself in listening in. Finally, a steaming Zular is granted audience with the Regent.
Zular nearly loses it when he finds out that the Regent is really a dragoness. He's even more dismayed to find out that the Regent is NOT going to stop "this sick joke." Zular would be given a parcel of land down in Ethiopia to work upon, and nothing more. His needs were being looked after, and that's that! Zular's face was also going to be magically altered for his protection, since he wasn't very popular with Aqualaria (who would probably kill him on sight..so a face change would be a good idea). The Regent was kind enough to give Zular a few hours to pray, meditate, or otherwise prepare himself for this stuff.
Of course, the Duke went and escaped by slipgate...
Of course he sought revenge on those who'd humiliated him so, and went to the only place he knew of that somebody might be able to help him do this. He went to Stonehenge , the rumored meeting place of Turoc-Kith in his world and a few other strong (and vile) mages. He hoped to find this world's version of Kith there, also. He hoped to be able to pay for the ghostly mage's services by taking over his analog's position in the Black Market and providing anything the ghost wanted. He was right about the meeting place, but wrong about everything else.
The ghosts of the paranoid Dr. Vincent, the spirit ofTuroc-Kith, and the much living Zerm the Unspeakable (looking like an 18 year old, but towering at 7 « feet tall, and thousands of years old) were NOT happy about being interrupted in their meeting by Zular. Zular got maybe ten words out, being oily and smooth about it, before Zerm knocked him out magically and whisked them all to his hidden lair. There, they magically interrogated him to get the truth about who he was, why he was there, and such. Being that Zular had been kept out of earshot and kept in the dark about almost everything that Probe and the adventurers were doing, he didn't have any information that was of value to the malicious mages. Zular did find out one thing, that since Zular moonlighted as the leader of the Black Market Cult (under the disguise of a middle aged, balding man called the "Crimson King") that anything that he (Zular) could get, Zerm could get a hundred fold.
Zular was in BIG trouble! He had nothing to offer up in payment to these mages. Nothing to appease the annoyed magic users except one of two things. Zerm didn't feel like taking Zular's life, because that would be too easy and...no fun. The only other coin that would appease these mages was entertainment.
Zerm the Unspeakable is VERY old! He was born in the land of Atlantis and watched it destroyed by people just like Zular. Zerm has no morals beyond loyalty to friends. He doesn't believe in a higher order of things. He doesn't believe in conforming to "lesser people's" mores. But he'll be d**ned if he'd tolerate Zular!
Zular is one of the last living Atlantians, and as such knows the ancient arts of transmutation. Being a member of Lord Tesla's family, he had access to spells that altered the matrix of a living being. His spells weren't as quick in firing off as a person using a Crystallic, but he could alter somebody just as neatly and permanently.
Zular screamed in pain as the magical sigils that Zerm formed in the air appeared on his body and burned their way into him and his soul. Zular awoke to find himself in another place. He screamed an eagle's scream upon seeing his new form in a nearby clear stream.
Zerm the Unspeakable had changed Zular into a black griffin. Zular was going to wear that body that bore a remarkable resemblance to the family crest of the D'Honaires of his world..for the rest of his life!
Dextrous claw/hands (the part that fade to bird on what would be forepaws of a lion) shake as they feel the beak and face of the black eagle head he now wears.
Zular eventually finds that he can even speak, but he sounds nothing like a human being. He has a tendency to give off bird like squakes at odd times, mixed with hissing the "s" and rolling the "r" in every word he speaks.
Now Zular has another set of people to plot revenge upon.
After the scene fades in the magic mirror of the new griffin examing himself, we see the plans that Zerm and the others have on stopping the adventurers from curing the Phage.
It's simple, really. Zerm has studied the Phage, and has unlocked the secrets within (comes from all that knowledge of magic he learned over the years). He doesn't plan on "stopping" the Alliance from killing the Phage. He just plans on releasing another Phage that is resistant to the cure they come up with.
Good plan..if that was what the Alliance had exactly planned for the Phage..
That's a bare basic account of what has happened..so far.
1/12/2000 3:31:55 AM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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