Dan Melson: March 2021 Archives

You'd think there'd be more for a god to do.

Alexan and Petra have become Eternals - minor gods, binding themselves together in their divinity. According to most stories, that's where 'happily ever after' would start.

However, there's a divine ecosystem, as red in tooth and claw as any other part of nature, competing for power and worshippers and other divine benefits. There's also the diligar deity Klikitit, who's appointed Alexan his personal enemy for having dared defend himself against one of Klikitit's Sons. Then there is the question of how do they achieve the next step on the divine ladder? All of this while dealing with divine curses which bind both of them - for all divinities are cursed.

The Connected Realms are certainly more complex than they appear at first glance!


Catharin was most appreciative of my efforts for the next half hour, until Petra called me. Milord husband, I should like to hold our daughter, if you will permit. Playing submissive and subservient - two things she was not. I was definitely going to need to spend time elsewhere until she forgave me for being right about threats to Catharin.

Milady wife, your happiness is my most important goal. I considered asking her about Roni's issue, but in her present mood, I foresaw nothing but trouble in that line of inquiry. She'd tell me if she wanted to. We are returning to the salon, but I can teleport if you would prefer more speed than walking.

To Catharin, Mother is not pleased with me at the moment. If you feel any tension between us, it's nothing you should be worried about. We'll work it out in a few days.

What's wrong, father?

That's between your mother and I. A good husband does not air marital conflict with anyone other than his wife.

So what's your excuse? Her mother had not stinted Catharin's education in that regard. Catharin was more advanced than a lot of twelve year olds in terms of sarcasm and repartee. She'd learn discretion later, I hoped. Then again, she might know how thick my skin was with regards to her.

Shh! I 'whispered' lightheartedly, even if it's all an act, if I break character I ruin the play!



You're hopeless!

I prefer to think of it as adaptive, like some animals who change their skin color to blend in to their environment.

They do that? Catharin was surprised and intrigued.

Yes. There are more things to learn in the universe than anyone will ever know. I think of it as a guarantee of endless wonder and surprise, if only I will look. But a goodly number of the lurking surprises are dangerous if you are ignorant. Some of them are dangerous even if you are not, but learning will give you the opportunity to avoid the danger. If you keep looking, you never know when you'll discover something useful or something wonderful. Your mother was one such surprise.

Perhaps there is something to your curiosity fetish.

That had the sound of something Petra would say. Speaking of which, I re-entered the salon about that time. "Milady wife, you requested the return of our daughter."

"I humbly thank thee husband. Poor wretch than I am, I would have been too distracted to care for her."
That was about as likely as the moon giving birth to the sun, but I did not snort in derision. There was no winning the game when Petra was in one of her white mutiny moods. All I could do was to be as solicitous of her desires as possible. She'd decide she'd taunted me enough in a day or two.

What if the Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court was a real wizard?

Alexan is exiled from his home for reasons of politics and health, sent to a primitive locale to guard against the misuse of the massive power coursing through the fabric of reality. He discovers that he is what the locals call a wizard. Unfortunately for him, there are many other wizards and even gods connected to this power, and they tend to be unfriendly to those they fear might rival or replace them - people such as Alexan.

And what about this demigoddess that keeps popping up with obscure hints about her divine curse?


My brother been right; the antigravity stopped working as soon as I was through. The pallet collapsed heavily onto the two axles I'd just installed.

The surface I was on was hard rock. Despite the fact that all I could see or perceive of this place was flat or at most gently sloping, all of the rock appeared to be igneous. Granite, basalt, pumice, etcetera, and all the variants, but absurdly rich in uncommon elements. Crystalline minerals glittered upon the surface in profusion up to the size of my hand or so, and my perception informed me that this was the case below the surface as well. Many of those crystals were precious or semi-precious stones. Pools and puddles of water ranging in size from nothing on up to perhaps a couple ifourths across speckled the landscape, the markings of small streams flowing out of them. This place broke all the rules of planetary geology. At least the rules we thought we knew, and the Empire had seen trillions of planets and planetoids.

Smaller rocks and loose soil were practically non-existent. Nor did there seem to be any sort of indigenous life. No plants at all. I wondered where the oxygen-rich air was coming from.

True to the warning, the dimensionality here was roughly three point twelve. Due to higher dimensionality, material borders were somewhat more difficult to traverse - the fractal surfaces generated more friction with the cart's tires than a strictly three dimensional surface would have.

It seemed that the most recent rain couldn't have been too long ago. I didn't see signs of significant evaporation from the natural limits of the depressions sheltering the water. But what my perception 'saw' was completely unexpected - the water was charged with an energy that reminded me of quantum foam, but tangible in the macroscopic universe, the richest source for matra I'd ever seen, or been told of for that matter. The water literally shone in some of the larger pools, merely glittering in the smaller ones. Perhaps the difference in intensity was a clue to how long it had been?

A trail had been worn onto the rock nearby, and people were following it. How had a trail become worn in a place seemingly devoid of plant life, which by all the rules I knew would have also precluded animal life?
Around me were several different sorts and even different species of what were obviously sentients, although even on the trails, there was plenty of room between individuals or groups. Humans I obviously recognized. There were also human variants, like a group of tall pale white stick-thin people with bright blue or violet eyes and hair that ranged from white to pale blue to pale yellow. It wasn't the thin of starvation or inactivity as they had excellent muscle definition, instead it seemed to be what was natural for them. I did a quick scan; genetically they were as human as I was, which is to say human with a few additions. As I walked, I discovered that there were also an amazing variety of nonhumans, from anthropoid to saurian to insectoid and just about everything else imaginable. As I said, this place appeared to break all the rules I thought I knew.

The general situation is that the three people portrayed here have been shot down and are trying to stay ahead of a demonic wave invasion. This will be the fourth and final planned book of Preparations for War, about the Calmena Advancement Mission, a charitable initiative meant to help the local Calmenans advance their society and give them a chance to survive the oncoming war between the fractal demons and the Empire of Humanity


"How did your generation ever survive?" Ghent wanted to know. He kept putting one foot in front of the other, though.

"A lot of us didn't. Especially here near the Gate. Even today, the people near the Gate are always prepared, and they're tough, but a lot of them still get eaten." Choosing to live near the Gate was a calculated risk. Land was cheap and fertile. There was mineral wealth for miners, too. You could make yourself wealthy in a few years - if you didn't get eaten. It seemed like every family out here was about to lose that bet.

There was an addition to one of the big trees. A likahn had tried to meld itself to the trunk for camouflage, but my perception picked it out. Since they were more than three dimensional, they stood out like a blazing beacon to perception. The catch was we hadn't really told the locals about perception, except as an aid to what limited healing we'd shown them. So I had to wait for the moment the shapeshifter began to return to its normal shape before acting. Soon as it did, draw-aim-fire, all in one smooth motion. Four shots left in the pistol, a second dead demon.

"Damn you're fast, especially for someone as old as you are!"

"No virtue of mine. Agaani can make themselves react quicker." Guardians could move a lot more quickly than agaani, but I had to keep my visible abilities down to what the locals could match. If I deployed full undertime, I'd have to kill any surviving witnesses. Since I didn't want to do that, I was limited to reflexes about half again as fast as a natural state human. I didn't stop to admire my handiwork, but kept walking.

About forty paces further on, we abruptly came to a cleared area - a farm, perhaps thirty hectares. You could see an area off to our right where they were clearing away more. That was the general way it was here - you owned what you could keep clear of jungle and work. An older tractor sat next to a small farmhouse and somewhat larger barn, and an older Calmenan version of a pickup truck, basically a small flatbed, was in front of the house. The buildings looked no more than a few of the short local years old. But I didn't see any people.

The likahns would have been better advised to circle around the edge of the farm and pick us up on the far side, but that's not what they did. Instead, the four of them tried to rush us from behind perhaps eight or ten paces after we'd broken cover.

This time, Ghent had plenty of warning, so he was able to take his own weight, and even draw his revolver and kill two himself, although it took him three shots. Makis drew, but was in no hurry to fire. I presumed that meant he wanted to let them get close so he'd be sure of hitting, but I'd killed the other two with one shot each.

This time I did change magazines. Since I now had one in the chamber, that left a single round in the old one. "Likahn problem solved!" Ghent crowed, re-loading his revolver. I handed him the leftover round - three rounds in his reloader now instead of two. There were advantages in designing many weapons around the same round.

"Probably," I conceded, "But that's not our only problem. Where are the farmers?"

"I think we have our answer," Makis pointed. Two manesi corpses between the barn and the treeline off to our left. Which was strange. Manes would eat each other, almost as happily as anything else. Why were the corpses still here? Unless...

Two more manesi emerged from behind the barn. Even from here, you could tell they'd been eating meat. Which meant the farmers were beyond help.

The big mis-shapen blue monstrosities bellowed, and four more came into view.

This was not good. Generally speaking, manesi were the equivalent of old-time heavy cavalry - shock troops. Heavy enough that momentum and numbers were expected to allow them to wash over enemies like a wave. But they were capable of wielding firearms as well as melee weapons. If they had rifles and decided to use them, both Makis and Ghent were toast, and I'd have to execute some fancy work with matris to survive.

Aescalon is the cavern linking the 165 major Connected Realms and all the trillions of lesser ones. It is also the portal by which mass-energy penetrates into them. One of the original titles I played with was "Blowing the Bubbles of Creation" (and I'll likely use that title eventually) as that is what Aescalon is: The focal point of the creation of new universes.

Aescalon and to a lesser extent, the Connected Realms are far richer in energy of all sorts than the place Alexan, the major viewpoint character, is from. Alexan is something like a revenant, as he was a detached part of someone whose soul departed. His original was one of the strongest of a group of humans with mind powers. Competition between the families is fierce, and as a result, they have a large amount of knowledge about what works, what doesn't, and how.

The second most important character is Petra. Petra was inspired by Circe from the Odyssey. When first we meet her, she is cursed as a seductress who punishes the men she successfully seduces. She's been stuck in this role since she was created, having never had parents, childhood, or anything like a normal development period. She was originally supposed to be a minor character appearing only twice, but she ended up hijacking the story (twice!). She realized Alexan might be the man she was looking for, able to help her break her curse.

King Edvard I of Treemount is a former military man Alexan persuades to take up the crown after Alexan defeats the former wizard-king of the area in an improptu duel. He's in his fifties, but Alexan rejuvenated him to the appearance of mid-twenties. He's a good, conscientious king.

Queen Veronia is in her mid-twenties, a minor wizard and daughter of a magical mother who used Veronia's power to help herself. But she hit it off well with King Edvard when Edvard was searching for a bride, and Edvard was old and experienced enough to realize what he wanted and needed in a bride was someone he could trust who had her head on straight. It wasn't quite a love match, and yet they're growing closer as time goes on.

Lady Yusidree is a wizard who runs a restaurant in the capital of Treemount. She does not wish to become an apprentice or beholden to anyone, so she insists upon paying for instruction she receives from Alexan.

Our takeoff roll was barely twenty ifourths before Ghent gave me the signal that meant we'd achieved the speed necessary for flight, and I pulled back on the yoke. The plane's nose lifted in response, and we were airborne. Since we had no particular reason to climb high I levelled her off at a height of a thousand paces or so and headed for the area of the Yalskarr Gate. Once I eased off the throttles, it was possible once again to shout above the noise of the engines.

There were pretty much always a few demons around the Gate, manesi and likaans and similar nuisances. They'd try to sneak through, eat a few humans and livestock, or maybe kidnap them for slaves and eventual meat, and run back through. I was hoping to find some live targets. The Guard kept a permanent presence in the area of about two sixty-fours, and the local residents had a reputation that would have compared favorably to most Texans and southerners back home. They stayed alert and kept weapons ready. The major difference was nobody barbequed manesi or any other demons - there was no way to make the meat palatable.

It took about half an Earth hour - neither the Swass, Nhadragh, or the C-130 they were based on were fast airplanes. Their usefulness was in other areas. Ghent tried checking in via radio with the local Guard contingent, but received no response. Not too out of the ordinary, even if everything were all sweetness and light near the Gate. Radio was vacuum tube-based here on Calmena, and much less reliable than anyone would like.

Meanwhile, I spotted what looked like a whole squad of manesi - Eight of the big ugly blue beasts. Maybe more hidden in the vegetation. The original Spectre had the guns controlled by the pilot, but developing the automation would have taken time and people we didn't have, so the Nhadragh's weapons were manned. I gave the crew a yellow light, and ten seconds later they sent back the 'ready' signal. I pointed the left wing at the area and got ready for the fireworks.

It took them a few seconds to find the targets, but then the area around the demons began erupting, explosions sprouting all around the ugly misshapen brutes. We'd never introduced tracers here in Calmena, precisely because tracers didn't have the same flight path as 'ordinary' ammunition. Earth had fought two world wars and smaller wars for decades thereafter before someone actually figured out that tracers were a good way to insure that your fire wasn't going where you really wanted it to. Not repeating that mistake had been a no-brainer.

In the Nhadragh, our gunners had the feedback of watching where their bullets and grenades hit. If their first rounds missed, they could 'walk' the aiming point on to where they wanted it, which was what happened here. That was what happened here. The first few rounds failed to compensate for the motion of the plane, but they rapidly figured out where to point the guns to achieve the desired effect, and the manesi disintegrated in a hail of bullet and grenade fire. "Not bad," Ghent admitted.


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