Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Gift Part Fourteen

After their meeting with the bishop that took up much of the afternoon. Justin made his way to the library. Andy took Dog and Riddick for a walk outside where the three of them could play and get some exercise. Katie joined Andy along with Angel. Allan and Scott headed to the gymnasiums and salles d'armes where they could work out some of the stiffness from their battles. The others took the opportunity to rest and recover.
The library was large and included several maps, a couple of the odd 'reverse globes' that the bishop had to illustrate the world. One had been made long ago by people from the edge of the known world and it showed much of what was now Grossdeutschland. The reverse globe itself had very low relief to indicate mountain ranges, valleys and other features and the curvature was less like a bowl. It was an almost imperceptible curve otherwise it would distort the curvature of the universe all out of proportion. The relief map itself was a work of art. The oceans were a deep blue where they were deepest and a light blue where more shallow. The colors of the map showed the vegetation and gave some idea of the rainfall. Deserts were in red tones, savanna and steppe in light yellow, grasslands in a green and forests in a darker green. Jungles were in the deepest green. Swamps and marshes were grayish yellow. Roads were marked with delicate inlays of golden 'dashes' or dashes and dots depending on their quality. Borders of countries were in silver while the names were in gold. He recognized the names of older nations and others that had endured.
“Not the most up to date on names but it is exquisite.”
A young female sister of the order probably a battle mage or war healer but perhaps a rare paladin smiled up at Justin.
Justin was surprised the girl was new although he was not completely sure he could trust his memories on this.
“Too true,” Justin replied “although territory changes yearly and some nations simply fade away. They are replaced or conquered and then gone.”
“What realm of Faery are you from?”
The girl was nothing if not forthright in her curiosity.
“I am not sure. We had a name in our own language that did not and does not translate into any mortal tongue. I have lived here five centuries or perhaps for only a few weeks. I come from more than one place and time.”
The girl's brown eyes sparkled with interest, “I was called here to this Chapterhouse specifically and it took me more than six months of wandering to reach here. I am learning to be a battle mage but the hardest part is not the magery as I imagined or learning from the dusty tomes but learning to carry a pack all day or ride from light's beginning to light's end. And Good Mary grant me the strength to swing a sword.”
“Perhaps the sword is not for you?” Justin replied, “other weapons may fit your stature and reach better. A spiked club or staff is often popular or a flail that can add to the force of your swing.”
“Why can't I just protect myself with magic? Magic is more powerful than any blade or bow.”
“Because sometimes the other fellow is better with magic than you are,” Justin said with a smile, “Sometimes your magic goes astray and sometimes you have no time or energy left for a spell.”
“I have learned to use the sword and bow as well as a bit of wrestling,” he tilted his head to indicate the dagger on his waist. “Sometimes you need to use what you can. Not what you wish.”
“You sound like my instructors,” she grinned her face framed by her raven black hair.
“Only without demonstrating your point with a wooden sword.”
Justin laughed with her, “Listen to your instructors. They will keep you alive long enough that given time you may never need touch your sword. What is your field of magic?”
“Illusions, scrying, misdirection and detecting deception. Although at home my instruction was rather informal. The village priest knew enough to keep me from harming myself or others or attracting unwanted attention.”
“You're from the Holy Empire?” Justin asked.
Divided hundreds of years before the Empire had the Holy Empire and the 'Empire'. Both sides considered themselves the rightful rulers of all the empire and both sides cooperated for the most part amicably. The last emperor of a united empire had split the empire into two parts. The Christian Holy Empire and the 'Empire'. His oldest son had been baptized and was a Christian. The second son had been a follower of the pagan gods of Rome. Since at the time geography corresponded closely to the growth of Christianity the split was mostly amicable. They remained closely allied and on a couple of occasions ruled by one Emperor. For the most part however the citizens and governments liked the way things were and were content.
“Yes,” she replied, “I had felt a 'calling' and hoped I would be a paladin like Nashira Silver-Arm. Instead I found I could hide better from my friends playing or make my father reach into the wine jug when he thought he was reaching for the cheese.”
“You're lucky they did not send a Witchfinder after you,” Justin replied seriously.
“My mother is a healer and a lay member of the poor sisters of mercy. They tried to claim her for her gifts before she married my father but she wouldn't. They had to take her on her own terms.”
“Brave woman,” Justin nodded approval, “I am Justin.”
“So you've an interest in maps of the world?”
“Yes, I do. My name is Hypatia,” she replied, “Justin is not a normal Elven name. Do you have another that your human friends normally mangle?”
Justin laughed, “Yes but that is not why I prefer Justin. I was Justin first, it is my true name.”
“I'm sure there's a story in there,” Hypatia said, “this is one of my favorite saucer map. It shows all of the known world and much that is truly unknown or had been until the expansion of Grossdeutschland.”
“Yes, it appears to have been made with the help of magic. The accuracy is uncanny for areas where nobody has been able to survey from the air or from the ground.”
Hypatia snorted a strange sound for such a delicate looking girl, “You're a wizard and surprised at the effectiveness of magic?”
“I have been a wizard since your Emperor Gaseric the First was a child five hundred years ago. I know the effectiveness and the limitations of magic. What are the Four Principles of Magic?” he asked her as a teacher to a student.
“The principle of contagion, things that have been in contact remain connected. The principle of similarity, things with similar properties are connected, the principle of action and observation, when you act or observe a phenomenon you open yourself to being acted upon or observed,” she paused thinking.
“I'm sorry,” her brown eyes embarrassed, “I do not remember the fourth principle.”
“Never call up what you cannot put down,” Justin said, “It is not an official principle of magic but it is true and just as important as the first three none-the-less. A good Christian mage should not be calling upon anything they have no authority over or that is inimical to God's will in any case.
            "Only those trained specifically to deal with those dangers should try that and never alone. That is the gravest mistake many make. By nature, we are a solitary vocation but that also makes us vulnerable and attractive targets to Powers and Principalities that prowl ceaselessly seeking our destruction.”
“You sound like Father James,” she said accusingly but her eyes were twinkling, “all he tells us is don't do this, don't do that. You would think the world was nothing but a trap for our bodies and souls.”
“And what makes you think that is not true? Yesterday before the sun rose I was rescued from hags and their allies. We are dependent upon God the Father, the Son, his Mother and all the Angels and Saints to protect us. Never forget that.”
Hypatia was wearing the garb of a novitiate and seemed to deflate into her black tunic a bit sobered by the thought of what Justin had barely escaped then her eyes widened in understanding.
“You must be Kantrus, the companion of Nashira the Paladin!”
“Yes, please call me Justin though. Kantrus was another name from another time.”
“As you wish, although I have heard stories of Nashira and her companions since I was a girl.”
Seeing this young girl not much older than his eleven-year-old human self made Justin chuckle to himself. She was still a girl and would be in high school if she had been in his world.
He suddenly wondered, had she been in high school as his dad had explained it people from as far away as Seattle were translated into the new world. Was she someone he knew? How many people were already part of this world and where had they been before Sally had brought them here inserting them into the history and life of this universe?
Hypatia suddenly realized who she was speaking to and became afraid that she was annoying this powerful and famous wizard, “I'm sorry,” she apologized unnecessarily, “I didn't mean to take up your time.”
“No, stay please,” Justin replied. Let me ask a few questions.
Hypatia appeared distinctly uncomfortable. The prospect of being questioned by a childhood hero was more frightening than being drilled about the laws of magic by a powerful Elven mage.
“I'm not going to turn you into a newt,” Justin laughed which further embarrassed the young girl who flushed from her neck to her cheeks.
“I'd like to know how you came here to this Chapterhouse from the Holy Empire.”
“Oh that,” she visibly relaxed and almost sighed.
“I was born in a little village about two days from Alexandria,” the village priest did his best to teach me what he could to control my gift as well as my mother. Between the two I had a rather unremarkable childhood, I had normal friends, I even had a boy who was interested in asking my father about me but about that time I realized I had the calling.”
“So then you set out here?” Justin asked, “This is far from Alexandria and there is a commandry there in Alexandria. Why come here?”
“The Poor Sisters of Mercy wanted me for themselves. They do good work,” she added hastily, “But there was conflict with the Bishop and the Abbess and I have proved I am truly given a martial calling.” She added the last earnestly perhaps trying to convince herself as well as Justin.
Justin looked at her appraisingly and she looked back defiantly, “I can keep up with the other novitiates in drill, riding, and march. I might not be the first but I am not the last in anything either.”
“Well, that is a definite sign,” Justin agreed, “as long as the commandant and your instructors agree you are probably correct. Keep your heart open in case you find yourself guided in a different direction through prayer and your training.”
She gave the tall elf a stubborn look and he saw her objections and determination in her mind perhaps better than she did.
“Trust your instructors. If they say you are getting it, you are. If they say you need to work harder, you do. And if they say you need to seek a different path, seek it,
“However, it sounds from what you have told me that there is a place for you whether it be as a battle mage, a war healer, or even a paladin, as unlikely as that sounds now you'll find your way.”
“So you took a ship from Alexandria, I presume?” he brought her back to the subject.
“Yes, it was an Atlantean ship,” she gave a sigh.
“You were impressed by the ship?”
“Oh, it was amazing. Everything they make is. Only a Sea Elf ship would be more exciting.”
“A sea prince might have swept you off to his hidden keep,” Justin laughed, “No, I am just joking.” he assured her when she looked angry.
“I know you are dedicated and will maintain your vows even if one day you decide that you are called to be a wife and mother as we`ll as a knight. I am sure you will handle it with grace and obedience, just as Mom, uh, Nashira did.”
“Well I took a ship to Bridgetown. Although we stopped at Utica for a day or two, then Thessalonica,
“From there it was just two days ride here. I came with another boy from Bridgetown, he is so good he just glows. He doesn't appear to have any great powers but he is unstoppable on the field.”
“I imagine being his confessor would be a boring life,” Justin laughed scandalizing Hypatia.
“No, no,” Justin waved his hand to dispel her anger, “I mean no disrespect. I value the sacraments with all my heart, all my mind, and all my soul.”
“I understand that others might not find them a suitable subject for humor,” Justin reminded himself that most of the people in his new universe took their religion very seriously indeed.
“Did you see any ships from Grossdeutschland while you were sailing?”
“There were a few merchant men of that new steel-hulled type they have been introducing. Steel hulls! How can you sail a ship with steel hulls?”
“We saw one of their warships I think. What they call a frigate,” Hypatia looked thoughtful.
“They gave us a wide berth,” she used the unfamiliar word carefully.
“Thank you for your company,” Justin would have liked to stay and speak to this girl who obviously was bright and shared several of his interests but he needed to find the place where the Nazis were trying to find a way to open a gate and conquer both worlds.
“I need to keep looking though.”
“Oh, I am sorry,” Hypatia said mortified she had disturbed the important elf.
“No need to worry,” Justin replied. “If I get a chance I'll mention to Michelle, excuse me, Nashira that you'd like to meet her. She would be happy to say hi.”
The girl blushed and mumbled thanks while striding off as if she had a purpose. She probably did Justin reflected. Novitiates had little spare time.
The rest of his afternoon was spent in studying the books and the saucer maps of the world. Through his reading he became convinced that the greatest part of the Grossdeutschland army was made up of Orcs or more properly 'Half Orcs'.
True orcs or orcneas were undead much like a vampire who inhabited the bodies of the dead. In the case of orcneas they were reanimated corpses of drowned men. They then would then kidnap human children and through foul magics and diabolical rituals they would change the children into what most people called Orcs although most scholars referred to them as half Orcs. Once transformed the children would remain that way for the rest of their lives (absent a miracle).
They had the skin tone of a drowned corpse, often an odd greenish cast, slightly pointed ears, eyes black or white with a cloudy appearance. They were also mostly large, strong, and extremely hardy. They formed communities around their horrific orcneas creators and acted to expand the orcneas territory and influence.
Somehow the Nazis had conquered their territories and expanded using Orc troops. Had the Nazis allied with the orcneas or with orc communities? Had they conquered the orc tribes? More importantly, if they were using orc troops to guard their staging or research areas, how would they be able to infiltrate if they could not blend in at all?
Justin worked so long that he lost track of time and Andy came and found him to bring him to dinner, “Time to take a break.” Andy was smiling.
“We've got a roast duck and a joint of beef with mashed potatoes and gravy!”
“What about rice? Any rice?”
“Yup, it's the brown kind though. Nobody makes the white kind around here,” Andy replied.
“Brown rice is better than no rice,” Justin replied.
“I miss Dad's cooking, Mom's too,” Justin said wistfully.
“Me too,” Andy replied, “Granddad and Grandma are good cooks. They haven't had a chance to cook since we've been here. Grandma GlaidiĆ³las cooked most dinners with grandma Magdalene helping along with I don't know how many cousins and aunts. Even uncle Denis made lunch the one day and it wasn't bad.”
“Tuathe De are good cooks or we've been raised to appreciate their cooking,” Justin agreed.

“Let's eat before it's all gone!” Andy told his friend and the two ran down the corridors towards their suite of rooms.  

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