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Author Topic: Orphans: The Origins of Everyday Girl and My Whee Fem.
Abin Quank
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Many Years Ago
The Planet Valhalia – The Summer Palace

“The Princess will see you now, Lord Faraway.”

Darden stood staring out the tower window at the lush farmland surrounding the castle. The peaceful and serine countryside belied the fact that Valhalia was a planet at war and worse a planet with almost no hope of winning said war. “Almost,” he thought, watching the stern of a Dragon Ship disappear into the upper atmosphere, “except I’d never count Hrun out in a fight.”

“Lord Faraway…” the servant’s voice again, “Her Highness is waiting.”

He turned on his heel and followed the servant into the richly appointed audience chamber.

Princess Diana of Valhalia sat stiffly at attention on the lowest of the three thrones centered on a raised dais in the middle of the room. Her steel blue eyes focused on a bank of monitors on the wall to Darden’s left. She wore burnished silver combat armor under a lavender cloak and across her knees laid a gleaming silver sword.

“Lord Faraway, Ambassador of the Co…”

“Yes, Yes, we know who he is, Butters.” She cut off the announcement with a wave of her hand. ”Quietly fetch us a bottle of the good port and then vanish. Lord Faraway and I have much to discuss.”

The functionary nodded once turned and left the room. Both Darden and Diana’s eyes followed him out the side door. He returned just a few seconds later pushing a cart laden with two bottles and two long stemmed goblets. As he approached the dais Darden waved him away from the cart and lifted a bottle. Butters hurried out of the room, pointedly (and rather loudly) closing the antechamber door after himself.

“Rothschild’s ’96? Are things that bad?”

Diana’s eyes never wavered from the monitors. Her voice was tense and controlled.

“Yesterday, my father, King Tharl, dissolved my marriage and immediately exiled my ex-husband. Within the last hour the last of Hrun’s Dragon Ships departed the planet.”

Darden poured the wine, swirled it in both glasses then looked askance at the princess. He gestured carelessly. Both bottles and both glasses vanished. A crash of broken glass and a surprised yelp of pain could be heard from the serving room where Butters had disappeared. “Oops,” He muttered half to himself, as an impish smile creased his craggy features, “meant to send that a wee bit farther away.” He reached into his diplomatic pouch and withdrew a pair of new glasses and a larger bottle which he placed on the tray. “Warre’s; founded in 1670, Old Earth,” He stated nonchalantly, “Some say it’s the finest Port ever bottled.” He poured again and presented a glass to the princess.

He raised his glass, sniffed appreciatively, and drank. “I assume your father has explained his reasons for these actions to you?”

Diana raised her glass and peered into the liquid, sniffed it thoughtfully, and took a small sip.

“The King received assurances from Ambassador Mordra that any ‘difficulties’ between the Dark Oval and the Planetary Kingdom of Valhalia were the result of Valhalia’s allying itself with the Barbarian Hordes of Hrun through marriage – my marriage.” She looked again at the glass in her hand, swirled it lightly, and raised it to the monitors, “And that the simple act of dissolving that marriage by royal decree would ‘ease’ the tensions between our governments.”

She looked at the glass again and drained it. As she finished drinking her eyes met Darden’s and in them, he could see the reflected fires of her rage.

“That sow Mordra also suggested that a marriage between me and a prince from one of the Dark Oval worlds, like Bernard of Hykros, would place Valhalia high in the Dark Oval Councils. Provided, of course, that the problem of my ‘illegitimate’ daughter was swiftly resolved.” She stared into the empty glass and then handed it to Darden. “She actually expects me to murder my own child to open the way for Bernard’s future rape brat to gain Valhalia’s Throne.”

“Your father knows all of this I assume, why would he…”

“Orapala” She spat out the planet’s name like it burned in her mouth. “You know what they did to that world… to its people… the lucky ones died slowly. He’s terrified that it will happen here if he doesn’t acquiesce and my father believes in noblesse oblige.” She turned and looked up at the smaller of the two thrones behind her. “It doesn’t help that the new queen is heavy with child. Her first.” A short, bitter laugh escaped her lips. “I have no allies here, Lord Faraway. And only a slim chance to salvage my life, my love, and my kingdom.” She turned away from the thrones and fixed Darden with a steady gaze. “My Lord Hrun has vowed to never again set foot on Valhalia whilst my father lives. But his fleet will guard Valhalia as long as I remain here.”

Darden refilled her glass, handed it back to her and nodded in the direction of the monitors before speaking. “If I know Hrun, and I do know him quite well, I doubt that was all he said.”

“Aside from dubbing my father ‘King Tharl the Chicken Hearted’ and vowing that anyone who harms a single hair on Any Valhalian Princess’s head, shall roast forever on a spit in the deepest pit of the lowest stygian hell.’’ She sniffed the wine and set it on the serving table next to the throne. “He had surprisingly little to say.” She allowed a small grim smile to cross her lips. “But, my father’s elite guard caught the brunt of what he didn’t say. I was able to… intervene. Most of them will recover.”

“…any Valhalian Princess!!” Darden’s eyes flew to the antechamber door as the sudden realization of why Princess Diana had requested this audience hit him. “Where is she?”

”Safe, for now, but with every moment she remains on Valhalia the danger grows. She’s my seventh daughter… and the only one left. Court politics are brutal.” That bitter laugh escaped again. “But, she’s Hrun’s daughter, perhaps more so than mine. She looks much like I did at her age but in every other way…”

“Greetings, Lord Fartaway!” Princess Brittany Jarlsdaughter of Valhalia stepped out from behind her mother’s throne. She stood just under three foot tall and weighed maybe 30 lbs. She was clad in a miniature version of her mother’s burnished silver armor (Which to Darden’s practiced eye looked to weigh as much or more than she did) complete with a miniature version of the two handed broadsword sheathed on her back and the lavender cloak. Her jet black hair also matched her mother’s luxurious mane while her twinkling purple eyes and the impish smile that seemed etched onto her face were gifts from her father, Hrun.

“She has her father’s sense of humor, I see,” Darden fought to keep his amused reaction to the mangling of his title to himself as he watched several emotions play across Diana’s face.

“And his temper… his indomitable will… and most of all, his strength. Brittany, please show Lord Faraway the ballet moves you have been practicing.”

Brittany nodded to her mother then raised up onto her toes in the surprisingly supple boots she wore and did a perfect pirouette then gracefully sprinted across the floor into a fully extended flying leap which turned into a tuck and roll that ended with her facing Darden, the two handed broadsword drawn and at the ready. “Defend yourself, Knave!”

Darden found himself staring, astonished by the sheer strength and grace of the girl. “I surrender, Lass,” he laughed, “Your swordsmanship is astonishing.”

“Since you are my prisoner, Lord Faraway,” Brittany proclaimed in a surprisingly serious voice, “Your ransom shall be to take my mother faraway, where she will be safe while my father and I vanquish the enemies of Valhalia.”

“Hrun’s Daughter,” Darden commented, as if those two words explained everything he’d just seen and heard. (Which, to anyone familiar with the High Jarl, they did.) He turned back to Diana, “How soon will the two of you be ready to leave?”

“I cannot leave, and she cannot stay.” Diana looked away from her daughter and Darden watched as a single tear made its way down her cheek.

“NO! I Won’t… I won’t… You Can’t Make Me GO! You Can’t! Please Mommy… Please!”

--------------------
Just an Old, Broke-Down, Drunk, Bum!!

With a Power Ring...

From: Westerly Rhode Island | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Abin Quank
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Darden’s reaction to Brittany’s sudden outburst was the normal flash of embarrassment that we all feel when other people’s private lives are exposed in public. He turned away and focused on Diana’s reaction to her daughter’s sudden tantrum. But her reaction wasn’t what he expected. The sad, misty eyed and sorrowful expression that clouded her features just a few seconds ago was gone. Instead she was staring at her daughter with what appeared to be an expression of furious, murderous, rage.

He glanced back at Brittany who stood trembling, staring in fear at her mother’s expression, trying desperately to quiet her sobs, tears running freely down her face.

Instinctively he stepped between the two and suddenly found himself unable to resist the urge to comfort the crying child. “There, there, Poppet…” he moved to comfort the young girl but found himself frozen in place by a touch of Diana’s hand.

“That will be Quite Enough, young lady!”

“Please send her away, Mr. Faraway, Please, before she hurts me. Please send her somewhere safe!”

“I must protect them from each other,” Darden thought as he struggled to turn and focus his will on Diana. “I’ll send her to Horace, then quiet the child,” Reaching deep within himself he drew every ounce of his will, focused, and unleashed his power.

NOTHING HAPPENED!

Then, with clarity he had only experienced once before –after an experiment with a cup of Klatchian Coffee—the scene before him changed drastically. Diana, her lavender cloak thrown back to expose the now gleaming silver armor of a Valhalian Princess, stood, head bowed with the silver sword held raised in front of her, facing her youngest daughter. Around her and what Darden could only assume was her familiar, swirled a veritable maelstrom of eldritch energies. In front of her stood a huge tawny leopard, its tail lashing furiously as it carefully watched a pair of kittens who seemed to be inspecting the energies surrounding its mistress.

Facing her mother, Brittany stood –somehow not looking ridiculous despite her age and tiny frame— clad in the battle dress of her father’s barbarian hordes, head raised with her tiny sword (which was actually an oversized ceremonial dagger, Darden suddenly realized) held in both tiny hands by its pommel, point down in front of her. Around her swirled a smaller but far more intensely colored sphere of eldritch energy. Smaller spheres of similar intensity covered both kittens. Tears streamed freely down her face as she muttered softly, “Please stop fighting me, Mommy, Please, let me protect you.”

Darden realized at that instant that his power had worked. That what his power had sent far away was the spells that both mother and daughter had worked on him in the past few moments. He was, for possibly the first time in his many visits to Valhalia, seeing and hearing the truth.

And that truth scared him speechless.

--------------------
Just an Old, Broke-Down, Drunk, Bum!!

With a Power Ring...

From: Westerly Rhode Island | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Abin Quank
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Darden moved slowly until his back was against the wall of the audience chamber, directly under the bank of monitors Diana had been watching when he first entered. He was unwilling to risk interfering in the magical battle of wills taking place before him until he understood exactly what was being contested. As it was he didn’t understand much of what he saw. Neither Diana nor Brittany seemed to move at all. If it wasn’t for Brittany’s murmuring he wouldn’t have thought either of them were breathing. The kittens were in constant motion and the leopard’s tail and eyes tracked the kitten’s every move but he had no idea what any or all of it portended.

“And to think she’s only three years old.”

After re-swallowing his heart, Darden looked to his left where a tall, slender, black haired man dressed in an old earth motorcycle jacket with strange markings up and down its arms and denim pants, leaned casually against the wall watching the magical duel with clinical detachment. “I’m known as The Iron Rat, by the way.”

“I don’t believe I’ve heard of you, but something tells me you’re somewhat of a Mage,” Darden responded dryly, looking at the arcane symbols covering the Iron Rat’s jacket.

“You come here often?” Iron Rat grinned and swept his arm toward Diana and Brittany, “the shows are amazing.”

“Can you do anything?” Darden asked quietly while looking around the room in an effort to figure out how the man had entered the room without being seen. “And how in the deuce did you get in here anyway?”

“Get in the middle of a contest between two of Bast’s offspring?” Iron Rat almost sneered, “Do I look stupid to you?”

“Then why are you here?”

“I thought you wanted to know how I got in without you seeing me.”

“That also.”

“I came in the same way they are.” He pointed to the thrones where three figures were shimmering into view. “And I’m here to keep you from panicking and doing something stupid.”

Darden chose not to be offended by that remark but he did file it away for future consideration.

A pair of women and a large black and white cat came into view sitting on the thrones. On the king’s throne sat an extraordinarily beautiful dark haired woman wearing the traditional garb of a Pre-Egyptian Pharaoh, in her hands were the crook and flail, the traditional weapons of the pharaohs. On the Queen’s throne sat a voluptuous redhead, clad in a few wisps of nothing much and some strategically placed mistletoe leaves.

“The Goddess Bast,” Iron Rat indicated the dark haired woman, “And her daughter, Pagan Lass.” He nodded to the redhead. “They’ll sort this out.”

On cue, the redhead rose and stepped off of the dais directly between Diana and Brittany, neither of whom seemed to notice her. She raised her hands reaching into the eldritch energies they were using and to Darden’s amazement, the energies simply vanished.

“If I’d have tried that trick, you’d be scraping me off of the ceiling.” Iron Rat commented.

“Mother?”

“Who are you?”

Pagan Lass nodded to her daughter as she knelt down to bring herself to eye level with her granddaughter. “Hush little one, it’s time to sleep now,” she held out her arms and smiled as Brittany accepted her embrace. In seconds the tiny warrior princess was asleep in her arms.

“How did you do that?” Diana asked in a quiet voice.

“A trick I learned dealing with you and your sisters.”

“Anybody else think this family reunion might best be held somewhere else?” Iron Rat asked as the sounds of clanking armor and edged weapons being drawn reached the chamber from several different directions.

Bast waved a hand and suddenly they were somewhere else.


SHAKES

“Interesting choice, Mother,” Pagan commented as the group followed a muscular, skimpily dressed, male android to a private table in the rear section of the luxuriously furnished, but noisy restaurant. “Which world is this? I seem to have lost track over the past few weeks. It feels almost like Earth, but…”

Darden’s thoughts raced as his eyes scanned the dimly lit barroom and identified several older versions of people familiar to him. “I could have sworn the woman at the first table was Princess Crujectra of Pysonia, or her older twin. But how could it be her? I know for a fact she’s on Webber’s World. And the bartender… why would Varalent be tending bar, anwhere?” Then a thought hit him and he muttered under his breath, “What year is this?”

“With mastery of time and space anything is possible.” Bast, who had somehow changed out of her Pharaoh’s outfit and into a sexy nurse’s uniform during the transfer from Valhalia to wherever they were now answered cryptically. “What matters is that we are safe from attack and we will not be interrupted before finishing our tasks in this time period.”

The android opened a curtain and led the group into an alcove containing a large round table and chairs, a loaded sideboard, and a private bar. “My name is Troy; I will have the pleasure of serving your party, today.” He slid behind the bar with a small flourish and began pulling up glasses, “would any of you like to start with a beverage?”

Darden wandered over to the sideboard and gave it a cursory glance. It was loaded with a varied and impressive menu. Whoever was footing the bill for this incursion wasn’t cutting corners.

The Iron Rat walked over, picked up a bacon wrapped scallop and popped it into his mouth. “Danny’s the best chef in this space sector,” he said as he chewed, “and this room is shielded, so don’t worry about asking questions.” He gave Darden a crooked smile, “I think you may have several ready to ask.”

“Okay, I’ll start with an easy one,” Darden paused and stared at the android bartender for a few seconds, “Who is Danny?”

Iron Rat looked over at the Android for a second, then back at Darden with a bemused expression on his face. “If you only knew how incongruous it seems to me, to hear you asking that question.” He shook his head slowly then glanced over to Bast, who had seated herself at the table and was holding the sleeping infant Princess in her arms. “It is time, My Champion; tell Lord Faraway the truth that he needs to know.”

“The truth that he needs to know?” Pagan Lass’s scandalized outburst stopped Darden from asking the exact same question. “Far, if I may use the familiar with you, my mother was worshiped for thousands of years on Earth as the Goddess of Cats. But she’s also the goddess of exasperation and was originally worshiped as the Goddess of Lions, a War Goddess.”

“Feeling a little bitchy today, are we Meryt-Bastet?” Iron Rat asked quietly.

Pagan whirled and faced him, “Shut it STU. If we’re going to start throwing true names around, yours should be out there also. Far needs to know the truth, the whole truth. Not just whatever parts of the truth will convince him to throw in with us.” She turned back to Faraway and looked directly into his eyes. The effect startled him for a split second and it took a small effort of will for him to meet her gaze. Her eyes were sea-green swirling pools of… what? Love? Protectiveness? Sadness? Kindness? Empathy? Power? Ruthlessness? All of that and more appeared in her eyes, but above those things floated a single burning need; the need to protect and nurture her children and their children. She was a tigress in human form, a woman who would lay waste to entire worlds to protect her family and she was a tigress with the power to do that. A shaken Darden forced his eyes away from her gaze. He looked down at his hands and turned away from her, unwilling to meet her gaze again.

“The eyes truly are the windows of the soul, Darden. And your soul is exceptional. Few men have ever looked into my eyes with the honesty and bravery you consider normal. I hope to earn the right to call you my friend and I envy the woman who will be your future wife.” Her voice was low and quiet, but strangely intense.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to find Diana quietly smiling at him. She took his hand and led him to the table where he found a plate of food and a large glass of stout waiting for him. He sat, mechanically, refusing to meet anyone’s eyes, raised the glass of stout and drained it. Then he looked up at the ceiling and asked, “So, what is the truth?”

--------------------
Just an Old, Broke-Down, Drunk, Bum!!

With a Power Ring...

From: Westerly Rhode Island | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Abin Quank
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“The truth is a subjective thing,” Bast held up a hand to forestall a furious outburst from Pagan Lass. “Something my daughter will acknowledge only when the difficult decisions we must make do not concern close family, my direct descendants.” She inclined her head to Pagan, Diana, and Brittany. “I promised you truth, but what I see as the truth, and what my daughters see as the truth, often differ.

My truth is that I love all of my descendants, but these three hold a special place in my heart. Their truth is that they know I love them but…” She let her words trail off and looked at Pagan Lass, expectantly.

“…her love of us didn’t stop her from subjecting us to a selective breeding program. 6000 years she spent searching first the Earth and then the Galaxy at large to find the perfect mates for her daughters and sons, unions carefully planned to produce a single offspring with certain genetic traits.” Pagan looked down at her plate. “And never more than one offspring from any pairing, because the risk was unacceptable. My father died proving that.”

“Your Father knew the risk he was taking,” Iron Rat said quietly, “he accepted it with pride. He wanted his offspring to be at the forefront of humanity’s expansion to the stars.”

Pagan looked up from her plate and focused on Iron Rat, “I know that. But it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t make me less of a… it doesn’t change anything. He still died before I was born.”

The table fell silent and Darden found himself wondering how Pagan could possibly blame herself for something that happened before she was even born. Or if he could even had any reference point to understand her pain.

“Bah, humans,” the cat that had appeared with Bast and Pagan in the Valhalian Throne Room jumped up onto the table and sat facing Pagan Lass, “forget the stuff that happened back in ancient Pre-Egypt. You can’t change any of that now.”

“It Talks?”

The cat turned its head and gave Darden a dismissive look, “It also scratches eyes out, Human.”

“It forgets its place,” Iron Rat growled, “it needs to…”

“Enough!” Bast’s eyes flashed dangerously and everyone at the table, except the cat, froze. “The Stoopid Cat is correct. What happened, happened. There’s no changing it now. We’re not here to discuss MY errors. We’re here to deal with the infant and the problem she creates.”

Darden could feel Diana stiffen next to him at that comment. But to his surprise it was the cat who spoke out first. “Does that mean you’re going to cull the latest failure of your little breeding program?”

“Dakshin Ray! You may be a minor godling in your own right and you alone here have no fear of my mother, but if you goad her into harming the child…” Pagan stood over the cat, glaring down on it, a ring of green eldritch fire encircling her head, “I will END YOU!”

The cat sat staring up at Pagan defiantly for what seemed to Darden to be an eternity, then slowly shrank down to the size of a kitten and rolled over onto its back waving its paws in the air.

“You need not fear for the safety of the child, but you might be worried about the safety of whatever world she’s on.” Iron Rat commented quietly. “She’s incredibly powerful, headstrong, determined, and absolutely un-trainable.” He looked directly at Pagan “In short, she’s you all over again. Only ten times more powerful. You only blew up a few islands before…”

“She’s going back to Valhalia with me.” Diana’s quiet words cut Iron Rat off. “There is one person she’ll listen to, Hrun.” She looked down at the table and quietly continued, “I’ll just have to tell him the truth.”

“And what truth would that be?” Darden was surprised to hear himself ask.

“That I seduced him using magic. That I took away his free will whenever he was with me. That I used him just to have his child because that child might become Bast’s ultimate weapon in the war to come. That I was never supposed to love him, but that I do love him.”

“Wait a moment,” Darden heard himself saying, “We’re talking about the same Hrun, aren’t we, The High Jarl of the Barbarian Horde? The man who stormed the High Mage’s fortress on Krell and took the Skull Crown as a trophy, that Hrun? And you seduced him and held him in thrall for over a year, with a single spell?

“Just think, Far,” Iron Rat commented sardonically, “She’s the weakest magic user in the room.”

Diana glared at Iron Rat while she replied, “And I fell in love with him during that year, That Hrun, Yes.”

“And that’s his daughter, the living ultimate weapon, sleeping peacefully on the War Goddess’s lap. And the choice you face is between killing her or handing her over to him, knowing he’ll use her to conquer half of the galaxy.”

“You catch on quick.” Iron Rat Drawled.

--------------------
Just an Old, Broke-Down, Drunk, Bum!!

With a Power Ring...

From: Westerly Rhode Island | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Abin Quank
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Legion World – The Mountebank Institute for Young Ladies

The man shifted uncomfortably in his seat. It had been almost twenty minutes... how long was this guy going be?

He looked around the room again at all the diplomas and certificates hanging on the walls. If there was one thing these types liked better than being educated... it was making sure that you knew how educated they were.

Just then the door opened, as the administrator walked in. The man turned around to look at him, but the administrator just shot him a quick look, frowning. He walked around to the other side of the desk, sitting down and opening the file. He turned a page and then sighed.

"Ahem... all right, Mr. Stanton... it seems that..."

"Stilton."

"I'm sorry?"

"Eddie Stilton... you know, like the blue cheese?"

"Ah, yes... apologies, Mr. Stilton, but... well... the information you've provided doesn't seem to be supported by the child's medical records."

"There some kinda problem?"

"Not a problem, per se... it's just somewhat difficult to reconcile her genetic profile with the background that you're claiming."

"Claiming? What... you calling me a liar?"

The administrator coughed, and readjusted his position in the chair. He turned another page. "It says here that the girl was..." he paused for a moment, then continued, "...discovered in a refugee camp in the Zhuang Viet district of the planet Earth. That - as part of a relief effort - you were tasked with her transport to Legion World."

"Yeah... that's right."

The administrator regarded Eddie for a moment. He cleared his throat.

"Mr. Stilton, you have to understand the position of the Institute. While we do put the welfare of the child above all else, there are certain protocols which we are required by law to adhere to. We don't simply 'take in' random children that anyone walks in with. Apart from your word, we simply have no way of validating this background. Even if diplomatic relations between Earth and Legion World were cordial - which, I'm certain you're well aware, they are not - the Zhunag Viet district is not part of the Terran Alliance. Their records are not publicly available."

Eddie tried, not entirely successfully, to stifle a grin. The administrator closed the file and continued.

"Be that as it may, the initial medical scan on the girl indicates a genetic profile incompatible with a Zhuang Viet origin. To a degree of accuracy of 92 percent, the child genetically scans to a profile of half Sino-Koreapolian and half..."

"All right, Doc... let's just cut the crap, huh?"

"I beg your pardon?"

Eddie stood up and walked to the window. With his back to the administrator, he continued.

"Look... you know as well as I do that I ain't no relief worker, OK? I tried to play this on the level to make things a little easier for you, but - if you want to start pulling this 'medical' stuff on me, then, OK... sure... she ain't no refugee."

"I... I'm not certain I..."

Eddie turned around and looked at the administrator again. "You're a smart guy, Doc... you read the news holos. You happen to read about a certain guy outta Sino-Koreapolis that got bumped last month? Guy called... My Yeol Min?"

The administrator's eyes widened. "The Terran mafioso? Surely you can't be suggesting..."

"I ain't suggestin' nothing. I'm telling you something straight. That little girl out there just lost both her mom and dad. Now it coulda been in some camp... or it coulda been something else. Long story short - that girl ain't got nobody. There's a lot of stuff that's gone down... stuff a little girl like that ain't got no business knowing... stuff she never should know. Alls I'm asking is that you give her a place where she can just grow up like a normal little kid."

"Mr. Stilton, the Mountebank Institute is not in the business of playing safehouse in middle of some mafia turfwar! Are you actually implying that the child is the daughter of My Yeol Min?"

"Listen, Doc... whatever she came from... that don't have to be where she goes, OK? There's a lot of people who would pay a lot of money to hear what I'm telling you here. But - you play ball here and my boss... well... he's prepared to pay you a lot more so nobody does hear it. He's prepared to pay you pretty... 'Handsomely'... if you get what I'm saying."

The administrator raised his hands to his face, rubbing his eyes. "H... Handsome? As in... oh, good lord."

Eddie cracked his knuckles.

"It seems to me you got a choice to make here, Doc. I get where your mind's at - I really do. I know this is all a lot to take in. You're a professional guy... you don't want to get mixed up in nothing. But - trust me - you give that little girl a home, and that's the last you're gonna hear from us. Now... you could pick up that com right now... call the authorities... do whatever you think the 'right' thing is to do. But, then, this Orphanage would lose a good administrator... instead of gaining a new wing."

The administrator looked up, his eyes a mixture of reticence and fear. "That doesn't feel like much of a choice at all... does it, Mr. Stilton?"

"Heh. I knew you was a smart guy, Doc. Hey... you got all these diplomas to prove it, right?"

"So... w... what does Mr. Handsome want?"

"Just treat her like any other little kid. That's what she is, right? So... we got an understanding?"

The administrator nodded silently, with a reluctant acceptance.

"There's a good guy. So... uh... Doc... you got another door outta here or something? Not for nothin' but I just figure it'll be better if she doesn't see me again. Just give her a clean break from the whole thing, you know?"

"You... uh... yes, please... you can use this side door. It will... uh... bring you out to the hallway... just take a left to the exit."

Eddie grabbed his hat and, grinning at the administrator, exited through the door.


After a moment, the administrator swallowed and pressed the internal com button. Leaning forward, he said, "Please send in the girl."

The door opened, as a nurse walked in holding the hand of a small, hesitant Asian girl - no more than five years old. Forcing a smile, the administrator walked toward the pair, taking a knee in front of the child.

"Well... hello there, My Whee. So... tell me... how would you like to meet some other little girls?"

--------------------
Just an Old, Broke-Down, Drunk, Bum!!

With a Power Ring...

From: Westerly Rhode Island | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Abin Quank
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SHAKES

Darden started laughing uncontrollably, within seconds tears were rolling down his cheeks and his sides were starting to ache. Predictably, it was the cat that reacted first. It strolled over to Darden and began batting at him with one of its front paws, “This human you selected is defective, Diana. Its brain is wired wrong. It thinks that handing an unstoppable weapon to a potential conqueror is funny.”

“No,” Darden wheezed, trying to catch his breath, “I just think you lot are hilarious. This production you’ve put together is so over the top it’s amazing.”

“Why do you think it’s a production?” Bast asked in a mystified voice.

Darden picked up his glass, took a big swallow of Stout, and smiled. “I have been in the U. P. Diplomatic Corps for many years, I am an experienced negotiator. I know a ploy when I see one.” He took another drink and set his glass down with a thump. “The question I have now is; what did you hope to gain with all of this?”

“Your cooperation, obviously,” Iron Rat snorted, “but being who we are, we couldn’t just come out and ask, you might have said no.”

“What gave you the idea we were… is ‘ploying you’ the right term?” Pagan Lass asked quietly.

Darden paused for a split second of internal debate and then just nodded, “Close enough.”

“I didn’t put it together until you presented me with two options which clearly weren’t on the table,” He replied, “especially after I had a look into your eyes.” He paused for a few seconds and looked around the table. Diana was staring sheepishly down at her plate, Pagan and Iron Rat both looked away when he looked in their direction, only Bast returned his look directly. “And yet you had me right up until that last bit where Diana professed her undying love for Hrun.” He laughed lightly, “Not only is that Bastard one of the single most unlovable people ever born, but, when I arrived on Valhalia, she didn’t shed a single tear as she watched Hrun’s departure. In fact she was very careful to ensure he was off planet before starting this little charade.”

“It’s no charade, Lord Faraway, The two options you mentioned ARE the only options open to us.” Bast gestured to indicate herself, her daughters, and Iron Rat.

“That’s it, isn’t it? The only options open to you. But I’m guessing there is something I can do that you can’t.” Darden watched Bast’s face as he spoke, “specifically something that provides you with another option, a better option.”

“Tell me, Darden Coulthard,” Bast purred, “Have your travels taken you to the Cackle Dimension?”

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Just an Old, Broke-Down, Drunk, Bum!!

With a Power Ring...

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The Cackle Dimension 2993

“Just close your eyes.” Bast had purred when he’d agreed to act as her emissary to the Royal Court of Cack. “Everything you need is available through that clever tesseract in the bottom of your diplomatic pouch.”

When he opened his eyes he saw the wall and the marvelous sparkling city beyond the wall. A magical miniature city designed by Escher, or maybe Picasso, and built by fairy artisans out of spun silk, molded starlight, and gossamer strands of mithril silver. It was set in a broad valley between a mirrored pair of sheer granite cliffs. Everything was built to ¼ scale; the correct size for a race of beings that uniformly stood 18 inches tall.

The biggest incongruity was the five foot high rock wall that spanned the entire mouth of the valley, with seven foot tall towers equally spaced all along its five or six mile length. At what appeared to be the center of the wall were a pair of towers with a portcullis protected doorway between them. The doors were a relatively massive four foot tall and appeared to be solid oak. The heavy portcullis, closed Darden noted, appeared to be black iron.

He stood about fifty feet away from that gate in a carefully cleared area that extended the entire length of the wall and about a half of a mile back to what looked like a very densely wooded old growth forest. The ground was a mix of gravel and clay packed into a flat, almost concrete like surface. Dark stains littered the area in front of the gate, bloodstains.

A floating pram in which Princess Brittany slept peacefully bobbed slightly, just in front of him.

He started walking toward the gate but stopped after just a few steps and pulled a small set of binoculars out of his pouch. A quick scan of the wall left him confused. Why did a race that could fly need a wall? And why did about a third of the males look like either Eryk Davis Ester of Touston, or Cobalt Kid? And why did all of the females look like either Space Tart or Thriftshop Debutante? And how did he suddenly know who those people are (or were) (or whatever)?

“And who might you be?” a mini Space Tart yelled from the top of the right hand gate tower. “Don’t just stand there gawking you human twit. Come to the gate so I can process you in before something big and nasty comes out of the forest and decides you’re its next meal.”

He glanced back at the forest, “So that explains the wall,” he thought as he grabbed the pushbar of the pram and began walking toward the gate at a measured pace. Coming nearer to the wall he began to hear scraps of conversations:

“A human and it just appeared out of nowhere.”

“What’s a human doing here? Is the Earth gate open again?”

“What’s it got in that cart?”

“Come on seven! Pappa needs a new X-Box!”

He reached the gate and looked up at the little blue warden who stood, fists on hips, watching him, “ID, Passport, & Travel Documents, Pilgrim!” She demanded with a smile.

He reached into his pouch, withdrew a tiny envelope and handed it up to her. She opened it and scanned it quickly. “A letter of introduction from Bast isn’t going to put the Queen in a good mood,” the 18 inch tall Major-Domo commented dryly, as she looked down her blue nose from the top of the Guard Tower. “Still it’s been a long, long, time since we had a human here. I would offer you a seat, but…” She brushed a wild strand of blue hair out of her face and unleashed a dazzling smile, “as you can see our world is… smaller than yours.”

Darden looked at the top of the five foot tall castle wall where the squad of armored soldiers nearest to him was milling about smartly, weapons at the not so ready, as they alternately gawked at him and continued a game involving dice, cards, and raucous wagering.

Now that he could see them clearly, he shook his head and then looked further down the wall in both directions. Storm Troopers, Star Trek Red Shirts, Orcs, and every other cannon fodder stereotype manned the various sections of the wall. Each group was isolated in their own area and each area was apparently under the command of either a mini EDE or a mini Cobalt Kid.

“Hey, human, you’re gawking again,” The Gate Warden flew into his field of vision, “Her Majesty wants to meet you and your God-Daughter, Pronto. So I’m opening the gate. A word of warning, human, it is called the accommodation gate for a reason.”

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Just an Old, Broke-Down, Drunk, Bum!!

With a Power Ring...

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Legion World, The Scary Forest, 3005

“You ask much, Bast” Mearl Dox passed a cup of tea to Diana as Bast and Pagan contemplated the plate of cookies the Supreme Ruler of the Universe had placed in the center of the table, “and offer precious little in return.”

“What more do you want from me, Mearl?” Bast selected a small cookie and munched it thoughtfully, “My first born Daughter died defending her husband’s kingdom from him. I would rather not lose any more family members to his insane crusade.”

“You are aware that your Queen Yah-Hoo’s opposite number, the Queen of Darkness, has chosen to accept his protection?”

“All the more reason for you to shield her and her people when he arrives.”

“You’re positive he will come to Legion World?”

“I muddied the trail through time and space as best I was able but… Yes. His dragons will be able to find her.”

“Brightbody Blackheart,” Pagan muttered half under her breath, “I convinced Sir George to spare it… I was foolish enough to think I could turn it away from his path. Sir George believed in me…” She took a sip of tea, “I never dreamed… I suppose it will be up to me now to correct that mistake.”

“No dear,” Mearl reached across the table and patted Pagan’s hand, “I’m afraid I cannot allow you to do that.”

“I was afraid you would say that,” Pagan looked Mearl dead in the eye, ‘But unless you are willing…”

The room suddenly grew cold and dark, a chill, fell wind extinguished most of the candles in the room with the notable exception of a twin candelabrum located directly behind Mearl. At the same time Pagan noticed that everyone else in the room except for Mearl and herself was frozen in place.

“There are far greater powers in the universe than your mother and your family,” Mearl stated flatly, her eyes glittering dangerously in the reflected candlelight, “do not forget that, Meryt-Bastet.” She stirred her tea absently for a second then continued, “Your mother, for all her pride and arrogance, came here today on bended knee. You have no idea how humiliating it is for her to come to me for help. Yet, she did so, willingly, out of love for you, your daughter, and your granddaughter. And yes even love for her champion, STU. She knows what I must do and why I must do it. It galls her far more than it galls you.”

“MEOW,” the black and white cat leaped up onto the table, “Are you counting yourself among the Great Powers of the Universe, Coluan?”

“Dakshin Ray! How Delightful!” Mearl smiled, “and how does a Hindu Tiger God find himself attached to the retinue of a Pre-Egyptian Lion/War Goddess?”

“I lost a bet. You gonna answer my question?”

“Knowledge is power Dakshin, but… No. I don’t count myself among the great powers of the universe. I simply wear the mantle those great powers have bestowed upon me.” The room suddenly went entirely dark with the exception of a single spot of light shining on Mearl. “I am the Supreme Ruler of the Universe. I… and I alone… maintain the balance. Good cannot exist in the absence of evil. Evil can never be allowed to entirely overwhelm good. That is the balance I am charged with maintaining.”

Pagan blinked.

The room returned to normal.

“No dear,” Bast said thoughtfully, “I believe the dragon must, and will, fall to a mortal champion. Someone with as much… or more… desire to protect your granddaughter as any of us.”

“Hrun!” Diana exclaimed, “You must be speaking of her father, Hrun!”

“Possibly,” Bast said in a low voice, “or it could be someone none of us has yet met.”
“A new player in an ancient game?” Mearl smiled, “I wonder how this New Kid will fare in all this intrigue? Will he even be aware of the many levels of gamesmanship going on around him?

--------------------
Just an Old, Broke-Down, Drunk, Bum!!

With a Power Ring...

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The Cackle Dimension 2993

“Get into position, human,” the little blue gate warden yelled, “place the pram right up against the portcullis. Once the gate starts to open they’ll be coming fast and furious. You’ll only have two minutes, tops, to get through.”

“Now hold on there a minute, Missy,” Darden held up his hand and looked at the gate. “Just how long does it take to open the gate? And what exactly will be coming?” He turned and scanned the edge of the forest with his binoculars. Nothing! No movement, no animals, no birds, not even a breeze.

“It only takes a few seconds to open the gate but going through the gate is another matter.” She yelled down in response. “Bad Things will be coming, human, Bad Things.”

He heard the creak of the winches as whoever was inside the towers started the process of opening the gate. “Are you Daft, Woman?” He yelled up, “Stop this!” He shoved the pram hard against the slowly raising portcullis, “I’ll not have you endangering the child!” He glanced down at the little girl sleeping peacefully inside the pram, the enchantment still holding her fast in the grip of Morpheus, then turned to face the forest. He swept the tree-line with the binoculars. Dark shapes and odd shadows were appearing at its edge but nothing had ventured out into the cleared area yet. He felt the bottom of the portcullis move up past the front of the pram and risked a glance back over his shoulder. The way was clear for the pram to start moving through the gate. He started walking backwards, pushing the pram into the gate with the small of his back.

“Nice choice, human,” a voice sounded from just behind him. “Not many of your kind would choose to face an unknown fear and thus hold it at bay.”

“You’ll excuse me if I don’t turn around, I presume? In light of what you’ve said…”

“But turn you must, Darden Coulthard, walking backwards through the Accommodation Gate Would not be wise. My brother and I will stare down the bad things, so you and the girl may enter the land of Cack.”

Darden turned and found a mini Cobalt on his right side and a Mini EDE on his left side, both of them were keeping their eyes on the tree line. “And whom do I have the honor of addressing?” He asked as he gripped the pram’s push bar and started through the gate.

“I am Prince Nobody…” Mini Cobalt Started,

“And I am Prince No-One…” Mini EDE Continued,

“Our cousin on the gate is the dowager Duchess Spinsterette…”

“Which explains her unforgivable lack of hospitality…”

“Which we shall deal with post haste…”

“And forthwith, after delivering you and your…”

“Precious charge to the Queen.”

Darden shook his head slowly, “Do the pair of you always talk that way?” he asked after the whipsaw explanation had concluded (he hoped).

“Only when…”

“We are together…”

“Which is…”

“Always.”

“OY…” He focused on the gateway and ducked unnecessarily to pass under the arch. The wall seemed taller and thicker, what he had assumed was a simple doorway opening into the courtyard beyond the wall instead led to a fairly long tunnel with a brightly lit silver pedestal at its far end. On the pedestal sat an assortment of objects.

“When you reach the end, take the babe in your arms before touching the pedestal, she must choose first, then you, then both of you. Your choices are irreversible, so choose well.”

“What do you mean our cho…” His question was cut off by the sound of the gates closing behind him. Beyond the gates he could hear the portcullis coming down. “Damn it!” He muttered to himself, realizing that he had been ‘ployed’ as Pagan said earlier, yet again. For a second he considered sending the gates and portcullis away and stepping out to face whatever waited there. But as fate would have it, the sleeping toddler chose that moment to stretch and roll over in the pram. He looked down at her, shook his head as if to clear it, and began walking toward the pedestal.

With each step forward he took, the pedestal seemed to retreat two steps, and the tunnel seemed to grow taller until what had seemed to be a cramped and narrow passage opened out into a broad hallway. The packed earth and gravel floor gave way to polished hardwood and the stone and mortar walls morphed into painted plaster, hung with rich tapestries showing eerily lifelike scenes from dozens of different worlds. Interspaced with the tapestries were portraits of historical figures, including he realized with a start, some from his home world, on his right Sir Winston Churchill’s face glowered from between a tapestry depicting Buckingham Palace and one of the Summer Palace on Valhalia. On his left, Lady Margaret Thatcher smiled enigmatically from between a view of Webber’s World from space and one of someplace called Founder’s Park. He stopped and looked back down the tunnel. The heavy gates were nowhere in sight, in their place was a wall with Bast’s portrait hanging in its center.

“Magic, why’s it got to be magic?” He thought as he turned back and began pushing the pram forward again. “I don’t know the blinking rules, so how am I supposed to play the game?”

“The rules?” A voice, syrupy sweet, female, and richly accented came from a brightly illuminated portrait on his left, “They be simple, easy to follow, and deadly to those who lack the wit to follow them properly. Best of all they apply equally to gods, mortals, and those of us somewhere in between.”

He glanced up and down the hallway. None of the other portraits were lit up in the same manner. The portrait was titled “Titania, Queen of Summer,” the woman it depicted was an ethereal beauty with flaming red hair, flashing green eyes, a brilliant smile and pixie ears. She wore a diamond and silver crown and held a golden chalice in one hand, while the other rested on the pommel of her sheathed rapier. Her green and gold gown was diaphanous yet oddly demure.

“Fae?” He wondered aloud. “Am I dealing with the Seelie, the summer court of Fae?” Memories of fairy stories; fabulous tales and dire warnings from his childhood rushed into his mind.

“Names have power mortal.” The voice seemed to come from the portrait. “And those names were used ages ago by my brethren on your world. But we are not they and they are not we, in the here and now we choose the name Cackle, and our home is the world of Cack. But make no mistake, by whatever name and no matter the world, the rules are the same.”

“And the rules are?”

“First, be true to your nature and to your cause. Second, speak only the truth against your power. Third, nothing is ever given freely, everything has a price. And lastly, Your Word Is Your Bond. Speak thrice and be bound. The oath-breaker shall be outcast and its powers shall be stripped… Those are the rules that apply to all.”

The illumination highlighting the portrait vanished, signaling to Darden that the conversation was at an end and a thousand questions died unspoken on his lips.

They reached the end of the hallway without further interruptions or revelations. Darden stared for a second as a bewildering assortment of objects winked in and out of sight on the pedestal. A crown, a dagger, a gold embossed scroll, a bejeweled scepter, and a golden sextant all caught his attention amidst what seemed to be thousands of artifacts which whisked across the surface of the pedestal.

He picked up the sleeping girl and stepped up to the pedestal. He stared at it for a second and then reached out and touched the front of it.

--------------------
Just an Old, Broke-Down, Drunk, Bum!!

With a Power Ring...

From: Westerly Rhode Island | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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