First Draft Excerpt from Gifts Of The Mother

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"Is Julie at the Courthouse?" It was John on the phone. "There's a riot!"

"She's not supposed to be there, but I'm going to call her and find out!"

I cut him off before he started to reply, and hit autodial for Julie. It was barely after noon, but that was no guarantee she wouldn't be there early. No answer. I pulled up a local TV station on the computer, and saw a scene of complete mayhem as seen from above. Fires burning, smoke rising, people running amok in clusters; some dressed in prisoner orange, others in suits, a few in law enforcement uniforms, but all taking part. It took a moment for it to register that this was a recording - their helicopter had evidently crashed or been shot down, and everyone trying to record from ground level was missing.

"Lost 'er!" A voice from behind alerted me to the presence of Zeb, holding the rabbit's foot he'd given us to contact him the previous week. "Got th' signal, but was 'n th' middle o' somethin'. Took me a cupple minnits, 'n' when I got there, all I found was this. Sorry."

"Without you, there wouldn't have been any way to find her or even know where she was for sure. What's going on, and what can we do to find her?"

"'s The Mad God, a mind 'fect. 'm not much good with mind magic. Barely got m'self pertected 'fore it got me.'

'"How can we find her?"

"Sym-pa-the-tic magic," When he had to, Zeb enunciated carefully. "Easiest if'n she's still got 'er ring. Can use yers to find its mate. Harder person to person, but th' two o' yas 'r' a match, so I think I could help yas. Gotta pertect ya from The Mad God's spell, though."

"We're not protected by our obscuring spell?"

"Not if'n it's an area effect. Don' need ta find ya, jes blanket 'n area. Ever'one inside gits hit."

"Oh. Can you do that?"

"Yeah. Not much differ'nt than pertectin' m'self. Only good fer so much, but the thin' 'bout area spells 's 'ey're spread out so's nobody gets too much o' em. Spe-cif-ic pertection 'gainst area spells works better'n 'gainst ones cast on one pers'n. Good thing, 'cause I caint fight The Mad God on pow'r."

"So you're going to use two spells to enable me to find her in that chaos?

"Three. Also gotta gitcha a 'not 'mportant' spell. This 's a man-i-fes-ta-tion o' th' Wild Hunt. 'Ey'll kill ya's if'n they notice ya, so ya's don' wanna draw notice. Only oth'r chance 's ta join 'em. Give the rabbit's foot a rub when ya got 'er."

"You're not coming?"

"Nope. Ah'd like to have a cupla 'prentices and a cupla so'cerers helpin' me, but not enough to risk the Wild Hunt. Best if'n ya's kin git out yerselfs, but if'n ya's need 't, rub the foot 'n' I'll pull ya's out."

That convinced me more than any lecture or statistics would have that what I was about to attempt was insanely dangerous, but I couldn't not do it. This was Julie. So, "What else do I need to know?"

"She's either hidin' better'n anybody I ever heerd o', or she's joint 'em. Ye'll have ta git 'er 'lone somehow, then slap 'er outta 't."

"Slap her? Zeb this is the twenty-first century! I know it was acceptable sometimes when you were young, but here and now men aren't supposed to hit women - ever! Especially not pregnant women!"

"It's that 'r take 'er chances 'til the riot burns out. Not a choice I'd like to be facin', but this time ya gotta!"

"What about a protective circle?"

"Good 'gainst conjured critters. Don't do a thin' 'gainst spells that already gots ya."

"Isn't there a spell to clear her head?"

"Yabbut ya ain't ready ta larn 't!"

"Try me!"

"''lright. Watch m' fingers," and they went through a dance I couldn't hope to follow.

"Can you slow that down?"

"Nope. Th' speed's a part of 't. Then there's the chant."

"Okay, Zeb, point made. I'm not ready. Any other ideas?"

"Ya kin try throwin' water on 'er, if'n ya got any."

All I had in the office was little narrow-mouthed half-liter bottles, stacked next to the mini-fridge for drinking. I picked on up. "This enough?"

"Ya kin try. But ya prob'ly need more'n 'at. Two might do it, specially if'n ya got somethin' t' make it all hit at once."

Well I could put a couple of the bottles in my pants pockets. Better than hitting my wife, no matter the justification. Extra bullets wouldn't hurt, either - one of the three classic things that never helps is 'ammunition you don't have'. I had no intention of shooting anyone I didn't have to, but I couldn't go buy more ammunition in the middle of what I was about to try, either.

"'lri, one more thin'. Do ya want me ta tie 't all up in one spell?"

I considered. The holster re-appearing would be a useful mark of the spell disappearing. But the holster being visible would also be a red flag to any cop who happened to see me, and would probably get extra attention if there were any video cameras left. "No, leave the holster out of it. I know there's plenty of power there to keep the holster hidden, but if something leaches it all, it's automatic trouble. You can tie the rest together if you think it's a good idea."

"'llri, ah'll tie 't ta the 'cain't find ya' spell. All o' it of'n th' same pool o' pow'r. Pro'lly wanna let it leach out after this, les'n ya wan' yer people to fergit 'bout yas. But this way, ya kin add pow'r if'n ya need ta."

I nodded. "But make the spell to find Julie one that finds her directly, if you can. Maybe something got her ring. But if they have, I can replace it later. I want to find Julie, whether or not she's still got the ring. Even if it's just her body. The ring isn't what I'm looking for. Julie is."

He nodded. "Ya's gots a soul link ta each oth'r. But it gets kinda fuzzy, 'n 'count o' bein' sen-si-tive to where she's plannin' ta go. If'n she's close, might be a big blur all 'round ya's."

"I understand."

"Then hol' still a minnit." Zeb didn't have to chant or make the passes for his magic to work - one of the major differences between sorcerors and true mages. His magic was something his brain could work directly. But he still did it for spells he found difficult, to aid in concentration. I didn't understand a thing he said, but he made some passes with his hands, a circular motion about himself and a meeting of two index fingers were the only thing I really caught. But about ten seconds later, I got a sense of which direction she was in. Then he started something else, moving a lot faster, but I didn't feel anything directly with that one. Finally, he simple stood still for about ten seconds, and I got a feeling like seeing the world in a smoky room, or like maybe when you know there's a fog because you can see it out in the distance, but it's not enough to obscure things close by that you're actually paying attention to. "'kay, yer ready ta go 's yer gonna be."

"Thank you, Zeb. I'll try and get all your apprentices and helpers out safe."

Copyright 2022 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on November 14, 2022 7:00 AM.

Excerpt from Empire and Earth was the previous entry in this blog.

Gifts Of The Mother (Gates to Faerie 2): Over The Hump is the next entry in this blog.

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