Samhain

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Just Old Al
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Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Tue Oct 30, 2018 4:07 am

Here, again, Gentle Readers, is an offering from the Usual Suspects.

It is a tale of surprises, spirits (both kinds) trickery, deceit and all the things that make life worth living.

Other than a short, abortive start a while back, this was put together over the month of October by all of us. I had the honour of being the one to assemble it, but the talents of all of us are here. I didn't bother breaking out who did what - it's a blender-full of paranormal goodness.

As always, if you choose to comment, please do so in the companion thread.

Now, to the story.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Just Old Al
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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Tue Oct 30, 2018 4:08 am

The nights were growing longer, and outside the air was growing crisp.

The gardens at Alexander house were nearly empty, the only remnants being the gourds and root crops that would soon be taken in for the Thanksgiving feast. The fields were browning, assuming their dun coats with the anticipation of the arrival of the Winter raiment.

Leaves were raked and trotted off to compost piles, and salted with manure to help the breakdown of the leaves. Healthy compost from the year before was raked off and piled, ready to be worked into the gardens come Spring.

Inside the house preparations were taking place as well – as Halloween was near.

As always, there was to be a party at AHI for any of the employees who wished to participate with their children. The athletic facility would be draped in bunting, straw and corn shocks, and parents and children would play games and enjoy treats.

However, plans were afoot at Alexander House as well for a slightly different party.

One morning in early October, Daisy braced her near-somnolent husband at breakfast.

“Dear, I was thinking of having a party.” she said, airily. Al was completely undeceived, however, as that light tone usually belied severe mischief.

“Yes?” he said, cautiously.

“Welllll…I just wanted to run it by you first. It kind of involves your faith, and I didn’t want to offend you.

“I was thinking about a Halloween party for friends and family – nothing huge, nothing like the shindig we had for the Epithemus’ wedding anniversary. Though I wonder if Naked Singularity would be available?

“In any case, I know that Samhain is one of your holidays, and a serious one being the end of the light phase of the year. Would you be offended if we did this?”

Al chuckled. “Certainly not, dear. Samhain (he pronounced it as SOWin) was co-opted by the Christians as All Hallows Eve, but many of the trappings still bear a resemblance to Wiccan practice. I will do what I do to honour my dead as it’s the time to do so, but I have no objections to a big, silly party. To misquote Nietzsche, a good party halloweth any cause.

So what did you have in mind?”

“Wellll….” She set her cup down, looked into his eyes, and began to speak. “This is what I had in mind…”

As she spoke Al began to chuckle. Oh, yes. Oh, yes indeed. This is truly sadistic…and will be endlessly amusing.

The next day, a few dozen invitations went out from Alexander House by various means.

The text was simple:

The Alexander-Richers request your presence at a costume celebration of Halloween.

Costume rules:

Humans and humaniform paranormals may dress as they wish. However, should you attend in feral you are NOT allowed to dress as your species. In short, paranormals are expected to masquerade as another species.

Please RSVP to Alexander House by 10/21 with number attending and any special needs if not already known.

Rosalynd and Al.

Upon reception of the invitation, the inevitable happened. All responded, and the plotting and digging began for costumes. In the Howard household a bellow rent the air.

"Miss Annie, where did that damn Wizard's headgear go? I got the rest of the crap right here...."

"Howard, you are blind! You can pick out a target at over half a mile, yet you cannot see in front of your nose.... look on the shelf above where you are staring..."

"... oh... well what is it doing there?"

"...(sigh)... that's where you put it, grumpy..."

"Howard, you have worn that wretched thing threadbare! And while YOU have fun being a senile wizard doing inept magic, I get tired of the same old lame jokes and stunts." Annie proclaimed.

"I guess you're right- suppose I could do Mark Twain? I would have to shave off my chin whiskers... and my facial hair doesn't grow back too fast..."

"No, don't," Annie stated, "I rather like those whiskers." A sly grin crept across her face.

"Agreed," he replied with a equally sly grin- "but then... hmmm... HERE WE ARE!" Greg pulled out the old First Sergeant of Confederate Dragoons tunic he wore for Civil War re-enactment, "THIS will fill the bill!"

"OOOOH!!!... I am such a sucker for a man in uniform," she cooed.

Neither one understood that it was nearly identical to what Neil wore during that conflict...

Further, in the Glytch household the reaction was much the same, though delayed by time zones.

Glytch awoke early on a fine October morning. He and Brandi had been together for some time now; and as a result, his sleep schedule had shifted dramatically earlier.

If left to his own devices, he usually slept from around 4 in the morning to about noon, but Brandi’s position at the head of MIB required her to be up bright and early. Technically, she didn’t really need sleep, but Mayahuel’s programming focused on preserving the human condition as accurately as possible, so barring extenuating circumstances, she preferred to sleep rather than to take advantage of her Golem nature.

All of this meant that Glytch, being the one whose job came with flexible schedules and a distinct lack of diplomacy with world leaders, had to match his schedule with Brandi’s if he ever wanted to see her.

“Needs must,” as Al might say.

With a groan, he sat up and blinked owlishly at the pre-dawn light coming in through the curtains, glaring in the general direction of the birds that were already making a racket outside.

Curtains.

Before Brandi had started spending nights, Glytch had been content with cheap plastic blinds. His bed also had, in his opinion, an excess of pillows, when previously, it only had two. She didn’t even keep most of them on the bed when she slept over, they ended up in a pile in the corner just like they did when she wasn’t there. It was baffling.

The addition of pillows and a blanket to the couch, however, made perfect sense once they started watching movies or shows in the evening. It was with great relief that Glytch learned Brandi didn’t like horror movies - for one, neither of them could stand the idiotic decisions the protagonists constantly made, and furthermore, they couldn’t help but think of ways to easily defeat the antagonists, further frustrating them.

The fact that Glytch just flat out couldn’t sleep after watching a horror movie was not shared by Brandi. “I guess I have a little more experience in that area.”

Glytch roused himself and re-focused when he felt Brandi stir beside him. He leaned over and kissed her bare shoulder gently, getting a sleepy smile in return, before forcing his rather uncooperative body to get out of bed and start waking up.

A cold splash in the face followed by a cup of guava juice and the smell of cooking sausage and eggs, toasting English muffins, and melting Colby jack cheese... along with some Zomboy playing in the background... was enough to get his brain to start functioning at a higher level than the average fish.

As he finished cooking, Brandi came into the kitchen wearing just her panties.

THAT did the trick.

“Good morning, babe!”

Brandi saw Glytch visibly perk up and grinned a little. “Hey hon. Glad I could help.”

“Better than a cup o’ coffee.” He handed her a sandwich and a cup of juice, collecting a long kiss and his phone in return.

“I’m gonna stop at Tina’s before I head in, you want anything?”

“Hmm,” Glytch chewed thoughtfully, leaning against the fridge as he began to sort through his emails. “If she’s got any of those cinnamon-strudel-encrusted bagels, I’ll take one with raspberry cream cheese.”

Brandi nodded. “Ok, I’ll drop if off in your office if I don’t see you.”

“Thanks. Anything interesting planned today?”

“Some drillers hit a Lanthian ash deposit out west a while back, and one of them happened to have fresh self-inflicted forearm cuts. The moment the ash-infused mud came into contact with their blood, it started to react. By the time agents got there, the arm up to the elbow was possessed and partially and imperfectly golemized. So I’ve got to go visit with Tepoz and Monica to sort that out. May has the arm, it had to be amputated halfway up the bicep. She’s working on destroying it, then she’ll come and help us out with the ash deposit.”

“Yikes. That sounds potent.”

“Eh, not really. It’s just ash in the shape of an arm that skitters around like a bug on crack. It’s an old, failed recipe. Basically just the arm of a budget golem. No powers beyond being able to move and not fall apart due to being bloody ash.”

Glytch nodded and returned to his emails. One, an invitation to a Halloween party from Al and Daisy, made him smile.

Brandi narrowed her eyes at him. “Baaaabe. It’s way too early in the morning for you to be grinning like that.”

Glytch handed her his phone. “I already know what I’m going as.”

“Oh dear. What?”

“You’ll see. Know any good suit tailors who wouldn’t mind working on a costume?”

“I’ll ask around.”

“Thanks babe. Do you know what you’re going as?”

“I’m not sure. Might do something themed with you, if you’ll share.”

“Hmmm. Maybe. Do you mind leather?”

And in a place no normal human would recognize, the same discussion took place in a different household.

"Neil, Darling- did you see this invite?" Phix asked her husband from the computer where she sat.

"Invite? Where to? And for what?" the ancient teenager replied.

Looking over the shoulder of his bride, Neil scanned the text of the page... "Hmmm... you either go human or anything other than Sphinx, eh? Maybe you ought to go as a harem girl and I will be your buyer...?"

Phix threw a quick slap at him that he easily dodged- laughing, he said, "I'll take that as a 'no'. Why not dress like a cow? It's another species, after all..." Neil asked innocently, knowing quite well what the apex predator's reaction was going to be.

Phix thought a second, then erupted with a snarl as Neil narrowly dodged a clawed swipe. "I will NOT dress as prey - and another suggestion like that is going to get you a handful of my claws in your backside!"

Pondering, Phix continued. "You are the most annoying little man at times... (sigh)... I'll just do something human... hm... HEY! You still have your light denim saddle jacket from 1864, don't you?"

"Dearest, I stood 5'9" when I wore that thing... and I was considered tall back then... besides, it's over 150 years old for cripe's sake and really not up to a party."


"Well, it was a common issue back then, right? See if a Civil War re-enactor's supply might have one in your size... I can do the hoop-skirts and crinolines routine..."

"I seem to recall Sgt. Howard and his bride knew of someone that did that sort of work for Shelly when she got married... did a right beautiful job of it as I recall... and really wasn't as pricy...." suddenly, Neil shivered.

"Neil? what was that?" Phix asked.

"Damned if I know... but it's gone now, whatever it was..."

Gone indeed- for Corporal Leroy Jacob Smith... or at least, the ethereal essence thereof... was now in flight back to his commanders. There had been rumors, whispers and other... ghostly... inferences that ONE of the 9th Virginia still lived- but now he had solid intel on the subject.

General Stuart needed to know this immediately... and with the veil becoming thinner, contact would be possible.

He had no time to lose...
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Just Old Al
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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Tue Oct 30, 2018 4:09 am

CHAPTER 2

With the dispatching of the invitations the whirl of preparations began. Along with sourcing the glassware, linens and other accoutrements needed for a successful gathering came the food…and the music.

After receiving an RSVP from Glytch Al made a phone call. The phone burred, and the cheerful voice of Al’s favorite madboy sounded in his headset.

“Hey, Al - what’s up?” In the background Al heard klaxons and people shouting.

“It’s not important - I’ll call you back, as you’re obviously in the middle of something.”

The grin that scared Al to this day was evident in Glytch’s voice. “Nah - the fun part is over - we’re down to cleanup. As expected, caging a fluorine atom inside a nitrogen fullerene results in a twitchier substance than I’ve ever dealt with before. I’ll be sending this data to Dr. Klapötke, he’s gonna love this stuff. So, what can I do for you - need me to come out to B2?”

“Actually - this does not involve high-energy anything so no - I like my building just where it is, thank you very much.”

“Aw, you’re no fun.”

“Oh yes, compared to you, I’m a stick in the mud. Anyway... Can you tell me - are your friends “Naked Singularity” still performing - and are they open to bookings?”

Glytch, always enthusiastic, upshifted - the excitement in his voice even more evident. “I take it back, you can be fun. I’m not sure, but I can ask. I suspect yes, especially for you guys out at Alexander. Want the whole shock-and-awe?”

Al chuckled. “No, my lad... I somehow think that that entrance should be unique. I am quite satisfied with conventional instruments and amplification, though of course hookup to the entertainment systems at Alexander are available. Can you contact them for us?”

“Sure, no problem. Let me get hold of them and see what they can do.”

“Do tell them what they’re playing for, and tell that delectable goddess Xera that a costume is optional as long as she dresses as she did for the anniversary party.” Unable to keep a straight face after that Al broke out laughing, then subsided. “Get back to me soonish - barring their participation we’ll have to find a para-aware DJ or the like - I don’t want to impose on your good nature by asking you to do the job.”

“No problem. I’ll get back to you today. I’ll pop over to the acoustics research lab and dodge a roundhouse from Xera when I’m done here.”

Hanging up the phone after a few more pleasantries Al sat and thought.

Halloween party….what am I going to wear? My dear Daisy will be obeying her own tenet and refuses to tell me what she’s planning, so dressing in character is not an option. I could simply add a bullwhip to my khakis and fedora and do the Indiana Jones thing I’ve done before, or put on my tux and James Bond it.

So boring, though.

In a moment a grin and a chuckle came to his face, and he picked up his phone again.

“Fergus, you old sheep-shagger. I have a commission for you…”

Glytch walked into the recording studio, keeping quiet in a dark corner behind the engineers and testers keeping an eye on the equipment while Xera worked on the other side of the glass. “Ok Sheryl, just stick your hand into this glovebox here and make the motions for the same spell and heat the ball bearing in there, ok?”

The elderly lady looked up at Xera. “The gloves won’t interfere with the casting?”

Xera shook her head. “They’d better not. Unless there’s a touch component, but you don’t need to touch the object for this spell, obviously.”

Sheryl pursed her lips and slid her hand into the glove, her brow furrowing. “Ah, yes, I see what you’ve done. Silver monofilaments encased in carbon nanotubes, running through graphene with... hmmm... alternating layers of helium superfluid, shear-thickening, and shear-thinning fluid, am I correct?”

Xera’s eyebrows shot up. “Uh, Yeah... how...?”

“My favorite uncle was an arcane blacksmith who studied under the Amethyst Dwarf Clan. He used to make all manner of magically conductive armors, and this was the best material composition for helmets when dealing with Sirens back in the day. Complete acoustic isolation, but almost no hindrance of magical power and speed, so magical enhancements to senses or any spell that originated in the head area, especially those generated by Third Eyes, could be used freely.”

“Seems we have the right woman for the job at hand, then. Alright, you know what to do.”

Sheryl obliged, and performed the spell with no difficulty. The incantation, in this instance, had no direct effect on the target object.

Xera looked at one of the engineers, who nodded and gave a thumbs up, then motioned for her to take a break. She thanked Sheryl, who smiled sweetly, and stepped through the door. “Looking like non-musical incantations are primarily concentration aids. Only a few didn’t work right, but that might be because of tube mechanism by which the spell actually works.”

The engineer nodded. “If the spell is using vibrations themselves to heat the material, it works for only half of those casters.”

Glytch stepped forward. “Could be acoustic, or it could be telekinesis being used to stretch and squish the ball, like the tidal heating of Io, Europa, and Enceladus.”

“Oh hell, you’re here. Why, are you gonna borrow my great aunt and try and rearrange her quarks?”

“Nah, not today.” Glytch broke out into an unsettling grin. “Actually, I was hoping to borrow you.”

“Oh gods above. No. Just no. I’d like to go home with all the bones in my arm, Lockhart.”

“Oh, now, that was harsh.”

“Says the guy who teleported me into a room brimming with some of the most powerful and influential paranormal figures to walk the Earth in modern times.”

“Hey, at least you had warning... and prior knowledge of the paranormal. I got picked up by Nudge in a wormhole at the back of my local library and dropped into the Alexander living room after merely agreeing to decrypt a hard drive. You had it easy.”

“Alright, so what do you want, madman?”

“The band. At New Castle Alexander. For a Halloween party.”

Xera’s eyes went wide. “I’ll make some calls. We’ll be there.”

“Awesome. I’ll let Al know.”

Later, in the comfort of Fergus’ workroom the rafters rang with an exasperated shout.

“ARE YE MAD? WHAT SASSENACH MADNESS MAKES YE THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA?!?”

Utterly unperturbed Al sat at Fergus’ worktable, sipping from the mug of tea that Maura had provided him with as he walked through the kitchen. “My sanity may be in question, but the request is not. Can you do it?”

Visibly controlling his temper and his accent Fergus turned to his guest. “Ailean, you simply do NOT realize what you are asking for here. This is dangerous – very dangerous indeed – to the point where it could potentially be fatal.”

“I am aware of this, but in case I am missing something, please do elaborate.”

“The magic is complex but not impossible. I can give you what you ask for. Do you realize what it could conceivably do to you?”

“I have used such magic before, and to be honest its effects were trivial. In this instance, perhaps not. Please do elaborate.”

Fergus stopped, marshaling his thoughts. He sat at the other side of the worktable, the bright light from the overhead fixtures shining onto his face and leaving craggy shadows.

“First off, the effects of the spell will be a decided shock to your system. Your mind will intellectually know what has happened but your body will have major difficulties. You will need to practice with this – and I do not mean a dress rehearsal – this will require work with a proper teacher. That cannot be me – I have no experience personally with this type of magic.

“The energy requirements will be VERY draining. Your body may not have the resources to deal with the massively increased requirements the magic will impose on it.”

“Other than the rotundity of my waistline I am hardly bereft of stamina. I will daresay that I could well give a younger man a run for his money and far better so than anyone else my age. What makes you think this?”

“Everything requires energy. Portals require energy, and that energy is proportional to the mass being moved. All magic has a cost, and the larger the magic the higher the cost. We dinna violate the laws of physics ye daft Sassenach. This will require much energy.”

Fergus thought again, then began to elaborate. “You will have to charge to your very limits, and only stay within the spell for the time you have energy. If you overextend, this could kill you. I am not joking, here. Were ye not Gifted, this would be absolutely impossible - it would kill you nearly instantly.”

“Understood. Anything else?”

“Yes. This will have a limited lifespan. It is not something you will be able to put on and take off every day – there will be a toll to your system in the long run. I will go along with you, though I would rather not. I ask – is this worth it?”

“Absolutely.”

Some time later, a package appeared on Al’s desk. Opening it he found a leather pouch with a drawstring and a note in Fergus’s firm hand.

”Here is the amulet you asked for. Remember, THIS IS NOT A TOY. THIS IS DANGEROUS. Work with your trainer (and I have spoken to her) and do as you are told and this can work. Barring that please do not use it – I would rather not see you die for the sake of a costume prank.

Fergus”


Al turned the pouch over and over in his hands, resisting the temptation to open it. At that, he sat at his desk, composed himself, and sent a thought winging to a friend he knew well.

Eme! Eme, it’s Al. Have you got time for me at present?

Certainly, Friend Al. I take it the amulet you purchased from Fergus has arrived?

Yes, it has. When you have the time I would like to start training.

Very good – you take the thought of training seriously. I will be there.
A time was set, and Al settled back again in his chair, the amulet’s pouch rough in his hand.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Tue Oct 30, 2018 4:10 am

CHAPTER 3

At the appointed time Al stood with Emerauld in her camp on the Alexander estate. Al nervously held a leather pouch, and Emerauld lectured at him. Both were on a large blanket, spread on the grass and leaf litter under the trees in the clearing.

“Now, when you put this on there is going to be a time where you will be dizzy. Many things changing at once will seem overwhelming, but just keep breathing, slow and sure. Once you have done this a few times, you will understand the changes.

“Do not attempt to do anything. Just stand and breathe – you need to accustom yourself to the changes. The magic in the amulet will…’re-map’ the connections so that you will be able to see, hear, breathe and so on, but the other changes will take some getting used to.

Any questions?”

Al hesitated, then spoke. “Yes. If I faint or lose consciousness removing the amulet will restore me to normal, am I correct?”

“Yes, friend Al – if you lose consciousness I will do that. However, I doubt it will happen – you have eaten heartily, drunk plenty of water and charged from the lines – you should be fine.”

“Very well – time to have at it, then.” He reached to the buttons on his shirt, then looked at Emerauld. “Do you mind?”

“No, I am not concerned – you cannot transform in clothing, after all.”

Al looked exasperated. “I mean, can I have a bit of privacy?”

Emerauld smirked. “Friend Al, you can have whatever you wish.” She crossed her arms and pivoted in place.

“Oh, just get ON with it! We all know about the birthmark on your butt, so this false modesty is HARDLY becoming! You live with damn centaurs…what’s the problem?”

Al scowled, looking for the winged pest that was such a boon companion. “The problem you wretched peeping pixie is that I am a human, and with human companions. That feels a bit different, wouldn’t you think?”

“True enough. However, you’re burning daylight – and your dam is not going to be occupied forever. Get moving.”

“True enough.” Quickly Al stripped, setting his clothes aside. Shivering in the cool air, he opened the pouch, removed the amulet, and slipped it over his neck with a moment’s hesitation at the insanity of it all. As the amulet touched his skin, the world changed – for him.

His first impression was severe vertigo. Colours fluctuated, sounds faded, screeched and faded again. His vision was a kaleidoscope of changing shades, brightening and dimming, then stabilizing.

His skin crawled, exactly as it had when he used an amulet to emulate Edward. However, this time it went on and on – long seconds in which he felt like he was falling into a pit because of his swimming senses.

Finally, it stabilized. The crawling sensation diminished and faded away, and the visual and aural effects faded. His balance was off, though, he kept swaying and stumbling, but that too faded after a moment or so.

“HOT DAMN! WOO HOO!” The pixie flew in front of his face, arm-pumping in glee. “IT WORKED!”

Emerauld, nettled, swatted the pixie aside with an effortless backhand. “Now is not the time for that – we need to make sure he is all right before training can begin.” she said, spearing the pixie with a pointed glare. “You can harass him later.”

Taking Al’s hand, Emerauld looked up into his eyes.

“Friend Al, Ailean, can you hear me? Speak if you can.”

“Waa..Ahhh..Ahh kan heer you.” Speaking in this new form was strange and difficult, though he could tell it would get better rapidly.

Speaking slowly, Emerauld looked at him. “Raise your arms to the side.” Al did, with little difficulty.

“Raise them forward.”

“Now back.”

“Touch them together in front of your face.”

Emerauld seemed satisfied. “Good! Take my hands.” Al reached forward and took Emerauld’s hands, squeezing till he realized he was hurting her, then he held more lightly.

“Are you ready?” she asked, concern in her voice.

“Yeh..Yes.”

“Come with me.” She backed up, walking slowly.

One step, two steps and Al fell, his body thudding to the ground despite attempts to catch himself.

Lying on the ground Al thumped his hand against the hard ground, trying valiantly to corral his temper.

“”Fug! Fug! Fug! Fug!” he yelled, fist thumping the ground. Emerauld just stood back until the storm of emotion faded. Ialin flew down, hovering in front of Al’s face.

“Don’t lose it, you. You knew this was going to be hard. Your time under the amulet is limited – now stop whining and get up.”

Using his hands to steady, he drew his legs under himself and stood, wobbling in place. Emerauld moved forward again and took his hand, standing to one side.

“Again. Walk with me.”

Step by careful step the pair walked around the clearing, Al stumbling and uncertain on his feet in this form, but figuring it out as he went. One round of the clearing, then another – slowly, slowly they walked.

Back at the blanket Emerauld said, "Very good. Now, let us let your body understand itself. You can stand, and watch me. I will show you what can be done, with application of effort.” She grinned wickedly and Al smiled back.

Stepping to the center of the clearing Eme whirled, and in a second she was gone, replaced by a dire wolf. Stretching, rolling over and panting, tongue lolling from the mouth in a predator’s smile she looked up at Al.

Now watch. This is what one can do if one practices. Emerauld said, her voice loud in his mind.

She turned and bounded through the woods, faster and faster. Jumping from tree trunk to rock to flat ground she moved, circling out into the open paddock nearby. Suddenly she stopped and turned back, running to a rock and leaping to it and then from it into the air….

…where she took flight as an eagle. Staring upward and leaning back to watch despite his wobbly balance Al was enraptured.

Swooping, diving, performing lightning turns and diving for the ground on her back Eme cavorted in the air. Suddenly she swooped upward, turned at the crest and arrowed for the grove, until mere yards from the ground she changed again…

..into the elf Al knew and loved, coming to the earth and rolling like an acrobat, springing to her feet in front of him.

Al applauded loud and long, as did Ialin. “Braav! Braav!” Al shouted, continuing to clap. Emerauld bowed low to him, smiling as she stood again.

“Now, you can pay me for your entertainments. Walk around the clearing by yourself as we did before. Watch your balance and you can do it. Go on, now.”

Al began to walk, step by careful step. Behind him Ialin lighted on Emerauld’s shoulder and quietly said “What do you think?”

“He can do this. He has the power, he has the will, and he has the reason to do it. Doubt the old man not.”

Ialin nodded, wings slowly waving as her crossed heels tapped Emerauld’s sternum. “I agree. The trick is going to be stopping him from pushing too hard.”

“True. I expect YOU to prevent that, if he comes out to practice without me, and you know he will. He has persistent determination.”

“Who, me? After you swatted me like that? Why should I help you?”

Emerauld said nothing, and just pointed to Al stumbling along, hope in his eyes and his aura.

“Oh, fine. Keep an eye on the humans, paranormals, trees and every OTHER thing around here…fine.” Ialin crossed her arms and pouted for a moment, then laughed at her own absurdity.

“Will do.”

Al was not the only one preparing for an entrance at the party. The test chamber was silent after Gytch demonstrated his costume - and entrance. Then a pair of hands began to clap, followed by delighted laughter.

"You DO know how to make an entrance!"

Standing, drawing a deep breath and shaking off the effect of the characterization, Glytch swept back his hair and bowed.

"Sooooo, whaddaya think - that oughta do it?"

Brandi pursed her lips and hesitated a second. Glytch, who'd become much more sensitive to her nuances since they'd begun living together, saw this and asked, "Alright, what’s been overdone? I mean, aside from the whole thing, but I can’t pass the opportunity up...”

"Not so much over the top as maybe a little over-powered? Don't get me wrong, babe - I love it. The entrance, the sound effects, the lights and all are just perfect."

"But?..."

"I might turn the sound effects down a bit. Remember the apex predators you're dealing with here - and I don't mean just the feral ones. There's a room with a good sprinkling of combat veterans there, not to mention the Drathmir sisters - ALL of them."

Glytch nodded. "Good point. It can’t be too bad as it is, but I'll step it down a little more - don't want to set anyone off... too much. Though Safyr will likely just smile at it and call it cute." Glytch pulled out his phone, intending to make a note until his forebrain caught up with his hindbrain and he finally fully noticed Brandi’s costume.

"Woah...you look really... really good in leather, babe...”
Last edited by Just Old Al on Tue Oct 30, 2018 4:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Tue Oct 30, 2018 4:11 am

CHAPTER 4

While the mortals and immortals were preparing for their revels, other preparations were taking place on the other side of the Veil.

"Report, Trooper Smith!" came the bored growl of J.E.B. Stuart as he continued his assessments of the unit's pathetic logistics.

"I have located our AWOL First Sergeant Younger!" Corporal Smith replied, "it 'pears he ain't dead yet!"

Stuart looked up into the hollows of Smith's eye sockets … the boy was all of 17 when he fell to dysentery... "Not dead yet? How can this be?"

"Dunno, Suh- but it's sho 'nuff him, there's no denyin'- an' he carried arms under a false name t' boot!"

The General mused, "He MUST be dead after all these decades..."

"Beggin' the General's pardon, Suh-" the Corporal replied, "but he looked t' be th' liveliest corpse Ah ever did see,"

"You are certain it was him?"


"Suh, Ah died 'for Gettysburg- Ah've c'mitted every soul t' mem'ry. He slipped 'way back in 1896- y'all got th' report- Ah didn't get no corporeal visual,"

"No, you won't- not until Samhain, anyways- but you saw his soul?"

"Yassuh- mos' certainly wuz him. He's hitched t' a Sphinx!"

The General was slightly agog at this- "A... did you say a Sphinx?"

"Yassuh. Real name is a mouthful- 'Gayus Corneelius Antonya" or sumpin lake thahyt… over two thousand years old to boot."

"... indeed... indeed... Thank you, Corporal Smith- that will be all- please send my clerk in as you leave, will you?"

Corporal Smith snapped off a salute, which the General returned. With a sharp about-face, he then exited the General's quarters. Momentarily afterwards, Sergeant Winslow entered.

"You needed me, Suh?"

"Yes Sergeant- our one remaining AWOL has been located- it appears he is still flesh and blood- please marshal the troops, I want full uniform formation in fifteen minutes."

"Did you say..." the Sgt. asked nervously.

"Yes, Gabriel- 'Flesh...and...blood...'... as in, 'Not dead yet'... please comply. We have an AWOL that needs to be dealt with and we have between now and the 31st of this month to put a plan into action. Please do not waste any time in this matter." There was a dangerous undertone in the General's voice.

The Sgt. wasted no further time in implementing the order.

"Well, well, well, Sergeant Younger," the General mused to himself, "... we FINALLY get to settle your biscuits, do we? Been AWOL far too long. Ah'm looking forward to this..."

A week later the forest presented a different story. Eme ran alongside Al, coaxing, prodding and ordering alternately as circumstances demanded.

At a trot Eme ran, Al trundling along in his own manner.

“Catch!” With that, she threw a ball, and Al caught it.

“What’s this about, then?” Al demanded, breathing heavily at the exercise and the concentration.

“You need to stop paying attention to what you are doing. If you have to play catch, you are not paying attention to what you are doing. Throw it back!”

Obligingly, Al returned the salvo and they dog-trotted down the path tossing it back and forth. Finally, Al called a halt, chest heaving, bathed in sweat. “Enough for a moment, Eme.” She passed him a liter jug of water taken from the sack on her shoulders and he gulped at it thirstily.

“How is it feeling, friend Al?” she said, with a serious undertone to the light question.

“Well enough. I still forget what’s where and run into things, but the muscular coordination issues are one with the past. Training and toning is in the cards, now, and learning to avoid things.” he noted, rubbing at some scratches from brush on his side.

“Good. Finish your water, and then we have other exercises.”

Obediently, he did as bidden.

Eme smiled broadly, and Al realized he was in trouble. “Friend Al. Old comrade. We are going to play follow the leader, as your children call it here. You simply need to keep up with me. I promise not to go anywhere that you simply cannot, but... I will confess to wanting to make you work for it.”

Al looked dubious. “I have no safety equipment, nor do you. Are you sure this is a good idea?”

Eme reached to the pack on her back and rummaged in it for a moment. “Ah. The perfect thing.” She pulled out a tunic, more than ample to fit Al, in a springy fabric. “Put this on. It will not impede your movements but will keep you from getting scratched or hurt if you…run into things.”

Al hesitated, turning the garment over and over in his hands.

Emerauld grinned impishly. “Are you afraid to play with me, old man? I will be gentle with you. I assure you, you will never manage to follow me, so I am unafraid.”

Al snorted. “I assure you, elf, I am unafraid of following you, and that I will do far better than you suspect. Let us be to it, then.”

Elf laughter echoed in the space as Emerauld said “Brave words, mage. Can you back them up with actions, or are you merely a party conjurer? Pull another rabbit out of a hat for me!” The trash talk had its desired effect.

Al pulled on the tunic, then bowed to Eme, fist held in opened hand. Straightening, he replied with “Long before I was a mage, elf, I was a fighter. I have lost little of my edge, as you are about to find out.”

At a thought, Eme rummaged in her pack again, pulling out a strip of bright-yellow fabric. This she tucked into the back of her knife belt, the tails of the fabric extending down over her buttocks.

“Then find out we shall! Follow me at the count of five. If you manage to keep up and can take the fabric from my belt, you win. If you do not manage to follow me, or you stop in exhaustion before you take the fabric, I win.”

“What do I win?”

“I don’t beat you for failing. Let us proceed.”

Emerauld began a fast walk, and Al followed at the proper count. Initially the path was easy – the same trails that they had traversed before at a trot. Soon Emerauld stepped up the pace, trotting, then shifting to a jog. Al doggedly held on at the five-second distance – he could have darted forward and taken the flag to win, but this was not simply a game – he needed the training.

Faster again Emerauld moved, and then she veered off the path and into the forest. Still at a run she negotiated narrow, winding spaces between the trees, ducking branches and leaping over rocks and fallen timber.

Doggedly Al held on, branches whipping him in the chest and face and brush scratching him as he plunged along. His breath came faster and faster, and sweat poured from his brow and body.

“Come on old man! Catch me if you can!” Emerauld taunted. Keep him moving, keep his fighting instincts stirred up. I want to see how he does as he tires.

Doggedly Al kept up. Emerauld was giving no quarter – some of the places she dove through were barely big enough for Al, but he didn’t hesitate in the slightest as he kept up.

Slowly, he began to gain – first five, then four seconds behind. A misstep on Emerauld’s part forced her to tumble, roll and get up, and this let Al narrow his lead. Closer and closer he ran, with Emerauld hearing the close approach of her pursuer.

Finally, with a burst of speed Al reached forward and snatched the yellow fabric from her belt, afterward slowing to a stop and leaning against a tree, legs trembling and chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath. Slowing, stopping and turning Emerauld returned, in scarce better shape than the old man.

“How much of that run was mage-powered?”

“None. I summoned no energy before we began. Didn’t occur to me to do that.”

Eme nodded. “I am impressed. You did well. VERY well.” She reached to her pack and extracted two bottles of water. One she passed to Al, who drained it thirstily. The other she drained herself, while watching her charge.

“Very well. Let us return to my clearing, and we are done. You are as prepared as I can make you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Continue your exercises and by the time the party comes about you will be.”

END PART 1
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:19 am

And....the insanity begins.

CHAPTER 5

Thudding quietly the black Diesel van pulled up to the gate. Bob reached down and pressed the button on the intercom, and was greeted with ”Can I help you?”

“Naked Singularity – we’re here to play for the party. Can we get in?”

“Certainly. Please drive through and pull up to the portico. Someone will meet you there.“ The gate irised open and Bob drove through, carefully negotiating the drive to the portico.

Edward met them as they pulled up, two baggage carts at hand. His eyes widened a trifle as he realized what their conveyance was, though as imperturbable as he was no one else would notice.

The van shut down, the doors in front and on the side and back opening. Out popped the band immediately claiming the baggage carts and loading their gear aboard.

“Man, this is a pain. Next time we have to get Glytch to just transport us here – he’s going to be here anyway.” Rachel said, a trifle peeved at having to lug equipment.

Geoff laughed. “I asked him. He said he couldn’t do it – had to be somewhere before the party and wasn’t going to be here in time to do it for us. Lucky for us – VORP always makes me nervous. What if he gets it wrong?”

Xera snorted. “Glytch – get it wrong where people are concerned? Not likely. Not at all. He may be nuttier than an outhouse rat but he’s careful. Anyway, old War Surplus here gets us where we need to go.” She patted the side of the van affectionately, then continued. “Glytch gave me the idea, with him bidding on surplus lab equipment all the time.”

Bob grunted at the weight of an amplifier assembly, then spoke. “Yeah. Thankfully the boss has standing orders that he doesn’t get to take the good stuff home – I’d hate to think of what his basement would look like!”

Within moments they’d completed unloading, and with a “Follow me, please.” Edward led them to a spot in the main hall.

“If you look in the nook behind you there are connection points for power, control and audio for the house’s audio system. You are more than welcome to use those as well as your own equipment. If you require cabling see me and I will have one of the maintenance staff assist you.” With that Edward departed about his own work.

In a matter of minutes the band had unloaded the carts and begun to set up. Bob and his drum kit to the back, Xera to the front and Rachel and Geoff to the center. Each had a seat, a music stand, and the indispensable tablet for sheet music.

“So, when do we start?”

Xera pondered, looking at the time on her tablet. “Let’s do what we need for sound checks, then just play background stuff as the guests start to arrive. We’ll see ‘em, right out here in the hall.”

The others nodded and went about readying their instruments. As they worked Mrs. Alexander-Richer wandered through, obviously checking on preparations. With a word of greeting she continued on to the parlor, closing the door after herself.

After they completed sound checks and tuning, the members of Naked Singularity had taken a moment to change into their own costumes: Xera was Joan Jett - balancing her and the host’s desire for her tattoos to be on display by costuming with a black twist-top and a tight black leather miniskirt. Rachel, whose regular wardrobe would have qualified as a “hippy” costume, decided instead to impersonate Orianthi, while Geoff was Rush’s Geddy Lee, and finally Bob, who drew looks of amusement as an incredibly accurate Animal, of Electric Mayhem.

A few minutes later, a waiter wheeled a small cart across the main hall, with a covered bucket on it. Wheeling it behind the band he pointed to it and spoke.

“Got drinks and little munchies here – Mrs. Alexander didn’t want to see you going without. She said to say there’ll be plenty of time for stuff during the party – you know her and Mr. Richer – but this is just to hold you whole you’re working.”

Xera smiled and spoke for her bandmates. “Thanks – it’s much appreciated. If this party is half as lavish as the last one we played here I’m sure we’ll be fine. Thanks again!”

As they selected drinks the hubbub of preparations was slowing – the calm before the party.
Last edited by Just Old Al on Mon Nov 05, 2018 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:20 am

CHAPTER 6

However, things were hardly still. The students from the Gryphon culinary program hurried back and forth, performing the finishing touches under the capable generalship of Rosalita.

Unable to avoid hovering, Daisy, in costume, was in the main room watching the shuffle, fidgeting. She as was her habit was ready in plenty of time, as Al usually was. Where the hell IS the old fool? Not like him to miss a party – or a chance to goose me in costume.

Her steps clicked as she walked across the dining room again, tables full to repletion, and into the great room. A quick stop at the bar and inspection, then a circle of the room to make sure bowls of snacks, and party favors and props were in place.

Her heels clicked on the floor, and she laughed. Been married to an old paranoid too long.

She was dressed impeccably, yet undoubtedly in costume.

Elven Kevlar bodice under a red, beaded gown was complimented by matching heels (not stilettoes – she still needed to manage the party). While looking sexy and dangerously insecure, it was actually quite comfortable and wasn’t going anywhere even if she was in a hurry.

Her hair was swept back and to the side in a Veronica Lake fashion, artfully secured hair extensions allowing the length and for her eye to be covered in the proper peekaboo style. Her makeup was classic 1940s starlet, with bright red lipstick highlighting her impeccable complexion and drawing the onlooker to that luscious pout.

Hooves clopped in the hall, and the door opened. Daisy turned, speaking as she did. “Cindy, dear, would you please go and find your stepfather? That stupid son of an ape needs to help me greet people, and folks’ll-“

Fully turned, she stared at the vision in the door.

The centaur stallion was glossy black from the top of his head to his hooves, and from his firm abdomen to his long, expressive tail. The body was a classic Morgan cavalry mount, with the regal posture, firm musculature and compact but powerful build of the Lippitt strain of the government cavalry horse.

Incongruously, he wore a fedora, black with a red band, and cut out to fit over his equine ears to either side of the crown. With that he wore a vest, unbuttoned, in a black pinstripe fabric – presenting a quite dapper appearance though askance to the usual centaur custom.

“Oh, hello. Can I help you?” she asked, stunned at this stranger in the house. Suddenly her mind whirled and her vision focused on the face – coal black like his glossy hide, but quite recognizable.

“Hello, love.” The centaur said, weakly. “Surprise.” He held his hands out to the sides and spoke again. “Clever costume, eh?”

Daisy said nothing, then moved. Toeing off her shoes she ran to the door, snatching a chair on the way. Slamming it to the floor in front of Al she stood on it and wrapped her arms around the centaur’s torso, planting a passionate kiss on his lips.

The students stopped, astonished at this display. Hearing the CLANG of the chair legs hitting the floor and wondering at the commotion Rosalita stuck her head out of the kitchen and goggled, astonished at the sight. Edward, drawn by the commotion, looked out as well.

“Is that?...”

Edward nodded. “Yes, it is. He’s been working at training for this for a month or so out at the elf camp and in the back wooded areas – away from the house. He wanted to surprise her with it.

“I daresay it was worth it.”

Meanwhile the kiss went on, passionate and unbridled. Daisy released her hold on Al, holding him at arm’s length and looking at him, then clutching him again in a hug and kissing him passionately.

“Let’s get out of here. I need to be feral, and you need to be beside me. We need to go and walk the pastures, you and I.” Al held her tenderly and laughed quietly.

“No, love, I don’t want to ruin your party. There will be time for this, but that time isn’t now. Our guests will be appearing momentarily and you don’t want to disappoint them, do you?”

Daisy sighed. “When you’re right, you’re right. How did you do this?”

“Magic, and lots of it. I couldn’t have done this before my Emergence at all – and even now it’s a strain. We’ll talk later, love. For now, climb aboard and let’s go for a little walk.”

Willingly, Daisy hiked up her skirt and climbed from the back of the chair to the back of the Morgan centaur. Sliding up to his back she hugged him fiercely. Al felt her shaking, and concerned, turned to her and saw her crying.

“Are you all right? What’s wrong, dear?”

“Nothing is wrong, you idiot! I just never thought…never thought you would…or COULD do this. Let’s go.”

With that, the stallion and his exquisite burden walked from the room, headed for the kitchen. Entering, Al spoke to Edward.

“Daisy and I are going for a quick walk around the paddock – we’ll return momentarily. Please start watching for guests, and route them to the great room.”

“Yes, sir. As you wish.”

As the couple left, Rosalita, clutching her cross and smiling, said “God is dancing again for them - even at this time. So lucky.”

Ever imperturbable, Edward agreed.

Outside, the lovers walked, one happily astride the other.

Daisy’s mind whirled. Afraid to break the spell she hesitated to talk, hesitated to even move as his muscular form moved under her. “What…made you think of this?” Daisy asked as Al made his patient way around the paddock.

Al sighed – obviously this thought had been on his mind as well. He held his hand behind his torso and Daisy took it, warm, in her own.

“One disappointment of mine, love, is that I could never be to you what you are to me. Ah – ah – don’t interrupt!” he said as Daisy wound up for an angry rejoinder.

“What I mean is that you, love, are a centaur. Wonderful, magical and the love of my life – but I could never be a stallion standing beside you. Now, I know this doesn’t matter to you – and I do appreciate that! But…for once I wanted to give you this gift.”

Daisy thwacked him in the head.

“WHAT?!?” Al disengaged his hand and turned to his love.

“You are not and never will be a disappointment to me, you stupid son of an ape. That being said…this is magic – a miracle. I take it Fergus is up to his chin in this?”

“Oh, yes. This is very, very magic based, and I doubt anyone could have handled it as well. I won’t be able to do this often – it is very draining and there are long-term consequences. But, this once…”

She slid his hands around his torso and hugged him, deeply.

“Let’s get back. I suspect our guests will be here any minute.” At that, he turned back to the house, warm and bright in the darkness.

When they re-entered the house Al headed for the living room, but Daisy stopped him. “Drop me off here, love – I need to change.” He made to protest, but she stopped him, saying “I have a much better outfit in mind. Back in a minute, love.”

She disappeared, and Al stood in the kitchen, uncertain. The kitchen staff wisely avoided him, leaving the moment quiet with his suspense.

She returned a few minutes later – and the sight of her brought tears to his eyes and a wide smile to his face.

A trim, snug pair of jeans was topped with a plaid shirt, tucked in under a wide leather belt with a buckle sporting the AHI logo. She was shod in a pair of Olathe boots, and the makeup scrubbed away, leaving her face fresh and pink.

She pirouetted in front of him, smiling as he did. “Look familiar, love?”

“Oh, yes. I don’t think I’ll be able to dance with you like this, though.”

“Oh, yes, you will.” With that she reached up and pulled him downward, and whispered in his ear.

Al’s tail waved enthusiastically, nearly starting a breeze. “Now THAT agenda I can get behind. However – duty calls – shall we go see to our guests, ducks?”

“DO, let’s!” She put her hands on his mid-back and climbed aboard, and the pair trotted into the living room.

Their return to the great room was well-timed. They had barely a minute to settle down when the band started playing background music. Buck and Katherine arrived, having come through the main door and been directed to the main room by Edward. In matching jungle explorer outfits they looked perfect and in character – but their costumes were not what Al was waiting for.

The reaction was perfect. They walked in chatting to each other and then looked at the couple by the tables – Daisy alongside Al, who was standing tall and proud.

“Hi, Momma – who’sHOLYFUCKALISTHATYOU?”

Al snorted and tapped a front hoof on the ground – twice for ‘yes’. He then laughed heartily and said “None other – unless you see any other tall, handsome Morgan centaurs around here.”

Katherine was speechless, jaw hanging open. Al bent and reached, and gently closed her jaw. With this she took his hand, coal-black like the rest of him and stammered “what…how…did…you…” She ground to a halt, and start up supplicatingly at Al, her eyes framing the question.

“Let me guess – Fergus? What kind of nuclear-grade magic did he have to do to get this to work?” Buck, incisively, had cut to the heart of the question.

“A lot – and this is not permanent, or anything I dare do all that often – it takes a toll. However, for tonight, I wanted this.” Al reached to Daisy’s hand and held it.

“Godsdamn Al – as a centaur you look GOOD.” Katherine remarked, eyes roving over his form.

“I assure you that is down to Fergus. His resulting form did NOT take into account either my age or rotundity and changed me to more of the ideal than the paunchy, grey example I would have been. He reasoned, quite correctly, that I would be happier to present a more ideal appearance than one more accurate to my human form. He also reasoned, quite correctly, that a more fit form would be easy to adapt to than one more accurate.”

“Al, you’re in better shape than I am.” Buck said, then pondered. When he spoke again his voice was serious. “Just be careful. This reeks of power, and it can’t be easy on you.”

“It is most certainly not – however I have been practicing, and should be fine unless I do something terminally stupid. By the way, where are the kids?”

“Atsali’s grinding away on the books – so coming wasn’t in the cards or she would have been here now. She won’t go lonely, though – Nadette’s supposed to drop over. Cas is out at a friend’s house for a party – I got something about ‘old people’s party’ and let it go. She’ll regret not seeing this, though.”

“There will be pictures, I have no doubt. The mage squad is on the guest list, and I have no doubt Flash will have something on him. Till then, make yourselves comfortable – you’re the first ones here.”

After Buck and Katherine arrived, a solitary figure made her way through the Great Hall, after doffing her coat with Edward, Stopping at the doors, uncomfortable, she took several deep breaths and then opened the door, stepping inside.

Looking about, she realized she was early, and made to leave before anyone noticed. However, sharp eyes caught her and called out a “Doctor! Over here!”

As she walked over she recognized Mrs, Alexander-Richer, but had no idea who the centaur stallion was standing next to her. Still uncomfortable she came over and said, “Mrs. Alexander-Richer – good evening. I’m sorry I’m so early – punctuality, you know. Where’s Doctor Richer?”

The stallion “Harrumphed” and shuffled slightly. Daisy smiled and pointed upward.

“Doctor Lopez-Viktor, as you have asked me to call you Em and I have asked you at least a hundred times to call me Al, can we please dispense with the formalities for this evening at least?”

Em looked up, and up…and up. Past the vest and under the fedora, she recognized a very familiar face – and that face was grinning madly.

“Al? Oh, my. I….never knew you were a centaur – your biography doesn’t mention it.”

“I’m not. This is a contrivance. I am at present very much a centaur, but it’s an artificial change, not paranormal natural.”

“Very well, then! Lovely bit of work. That being said and this being a social occasion, then yes, I will call you Al.” Em grinned, transforming her face. “This seems like the type of evening where anything can happen.”

“Please don’t tell me you’re going to be stuffy and call him Al and call me “Mrs. Alexander-Richer” all evening, are you?” Daisy said, trying to break the ice further. “You’ve been here before – please call me Daisy.”

“Daisy? Yes. I can. Em.” She extended her hand, and Daisy engulfed the woman in a hug. “The only way I am going to shake hands, dear, is if we’re enemies. Around here, it’s hugs. What is that you’re wearing under your coat?”

“Oh, sorry.” She pirouetted in place. “I had a dig through my lab and closet and decided to have a bit of fun with my ‘costume’.” She said the word like she’d never used it before.

Her outfit was a sight.

A sensible leather labcoat, scorched and stained and mended in places, lined with many pockets. Under it, practical boots, a toolbelt, dark trousers, a soft purple shirt, a pair of goggles pushed up on her forehead, and a pair of stylish ray guns at her side.

And in case I have need of it…” She shrugged out of her leather labcoat, revealing a slim apparatus strapped to her back. Twisting a knob brass wings unfolded, spanning a good part of the room. Elegantly engraved, each feather in loving detail next to its partner, the whole assemblage was a steampunk artifact of exquisite beauty.

Both Al and Daisy “OOOoooh”ed together, as the wings deployed.

"Quite beautiful, Em. However, if you choose to demonstrate them, please do so outdoors.” Al grinned. "Show those in here, and three quarters of the folks here will be wanting a set. Are they functional?”

“OH yes. Indeed. Underpowered and slow, but they do work.” Twisting the knob again, she picked up her lab coat and went to put it on, then changed her mind. “I think I’ll show these off. No one else has seen them. May I go and hang this up?”

Assent given, she headed back to the hall.

“Now I see why you invited her. I will lay odds she doesn’t get out often. Do you think she will be able to handle all of the oddness?”

“Given her reaction when she saw me, I suspect it won’t be an issue. I will mention to Edward to keep an eye on her, however.”

The door opened again – but rather than Em Lopez-Viktor it was one a trifle more flambuoyant.

Wearing a brilliant white coat liberally sprinkled with glitter and crystals Cinnamon stepped in. Her legs were clad in glittery white socks, and her tail was dyed in all the hues of the rainbow, matching her mane and the hair on her head. Perched jauntily on her forehead was a single horn, also coloured as the rest.

Al and Daisy began to applaud. “I have never seen such an application of “My Pretty Pony” in the real world, Cinnamon – Bravo! You look truly HIDEOUS!” Al called out, and with that he began to clap again.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you…” she laughed, heading for the bar and a well-mixed centaur-sized martini. Half-way there her steps began to falter then stopped completely, as the message from her eyes finally made it to her forebrain.

She stopped, she turned….and her eyes bugged out. Walking slowly back to the couple she reached out, the brilliant white of her costume a sharp contrast to the coal blackness of Al’s form.

She touched him, reaching to his hand, then touching his shoulder with a look of shock on her face. Neither of the older folks made a move, allowing her to process but quietly enjoying her reaction.

“Hello, dear daughter.” Al said, as the silence stretched on.

“It IS you! How…” she said, then stopped as she hugged him tightly. Pushing away and holding him at arm’s length, she said “I never dreamed…”. Hugging him again, she whispered in Al’s ear “Thank you, Daddy….this is wonderful!” ,then released him and perhaps a bit ashamed at the strength of her reaction, turned and trotted to the bar.

“What was that about?” Al said to Daisy, as both of them had heard everything.

“She was young when Rock died – seems to me that seeing you like this…filled something. I’ll talk to her about it later – but accept this as a sincere thank you.”

In the main hall the tempo of the music picked up – more guests were on their way.

Outside the main entrance the sound of portals opening and collapsing was heard, and a group straggled to the door.

Edward greeted them all and gave them instructions.

“Al and the Mistress are in the great room. Please go ahead, and when you enter please do so as couples or small groups. They wish to greet you all individually, and this way it will be possible.”

Smiling, Edward thought to himself And this way they all get the full effect of Al’s ‘costume’. However, that is not mine to say, here.

Emerauld walked in, modest kitten heels clicking smartly on the floor.

She wore a tapered A-line suit skirt with matching fitted blazer in an understated tan with cream coloured blouse and dark tie, and to be just fashionable enough, her clutch matched her shoes. The only jewelry she wore was an ornate jade falcon broach on her blazer, and painted deep ruby lips. A smart fedora was angled rakishly over her perfectly coiffed sunset auburn locks to complete the look.

Strangely, the band had just shifted from general background music to the tune of ZZ Top’s “Sharp-Dressed Man” – and Al realized why.

His eyes went to Emerauld’s companion and then he went code red. This was an unknown, and he quietly got the attention of Neil and Sarge, who unbidden, subtly flanked the gentleman, waiting for further signals.

That the man was pretty, there was no doubt, judging from all of the female attention he rapidly got, including from his own family--perfect sunny blonde hair and clear blue eyes set in a model perfect face, perfection right down to the gleaming white teeth.

Dressed to the nines he was too-soot black suit tailored in the Edwardian style, red pocket silk artfully placed, crisp white shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons fastened with cufflinks of silver skulls, blazing red rubies for eyes. His cravat was black silk shot through with fine red silk threads, decorated with an elegant fastener.

Said cravat pin was also a silver skull with the same fiery red ruby eyes. His vest showed a fine silver chain, which one assumed had an elegant timepiece affixed.

Polished black Oxfords peered out from under crisp white spats, a well made Homburg adorned his head, an ebony and silver walking stick that continued the macabre theme with the silver knob top fashioned into a skull with many glittering rubies making up the fiery eyes, and an ornate signet ring on his index finger, also a silver skull with ruby eyes, though this had an intricate calligraphic "D" carved in reverse into the forehead.

From his posture and movements, Al gathered he was not only fit, but fighting fit, muscles complementing the rest of his form. This was trouble. Big trouble.

"Mistress Daisy, so good to see you! Master Grumpy sends his apologies for not being able to attend. I however, did not wish to waste the kind offer of a 'plus one', and brought a familiar friend.

Daisy, gracious as always, took the elf’s hands then drew her into an embrace. “Emerauld, dear – so wonderful to see you! Fantastic to see you and your sister, as always – and with guests as well. Welcome! And who is your friend?”

The too-perfect gentleman spoke. His baritone was smooth, polite and polished, like oil on a sheet of glass. "It is a real pleasure to be here under your blessed roof again, and I thank you for your kindness and hospitality this very special and Holy of nights. I have brought you a gift for your garden, though perhaps it would be better suited for the green-house."

He handed Daisy a lovely potted Rosemary plant, to which he remarked was 'for remembrance'.

Next, he handed Al a small fabric wrapped parcel containing an ornate box of resins, a bundle of fragrant twigs tied with a ribbon, the scents both familiar and soothing, and several tied smudge bundles. The cloth was, as they saw, a small embroidery of the willow grove, clearly made by Emerauld.

"For the hearth and home; Holy wood, cleansing incense, and mementos for when these are gone. Peace and the Lord's blessings to you and yours, Mistress Daisy, Friend Al."

Al, flustered and confused, replied, "Pardon me for my bluntness, but who the bloody hell are you? I have no recollection of ever meeting you before."

Drawing close, his voice dropped to a purring whisper, "In life, I was a defender of the peace, a knight if you will. When darkness fell, we fought to the last, our sole task keeping an unholy bastard from fouling the realms. I fell to his army of serpents, and rose again to service when called..."

He backed away arms opened helplessly, letting the words sink in.

"These days, you call me J'bober."

The conversation in the room rapidly quieted. Al and Daisy looked at each other, then at the urbane individual in front of them. Finally, Al broke the silence.

“Bonehead?”

In his normal clattering voice J’bober replied “None other!” then cackled with laughter. With that all four of the elven party cracked up laughing, with Safyr’s companion uttering a hissing, sibilant laugh which was not-quite-human.

The party, which had gone silent at the revelation, picked up again loudly, with the ROOBAROOBAROOBA of many throats picking up the same conversation.

Turning to Edward (who as if summoned had appeared magically behind him) Al handed off the cloth bundle and Daisy handed off the rosemary bonsai.

“Thank you, thank you for the lovely gifts! They are more than appreciated. Do come in now – I think you know everyone here, and if not introduce yourselves.” Relieved, Greg and Neil backed off and returned to their significant others.

Dr.Lopez-Viktor wandered idly about the room. The array of costumes, and beings wearing them, was simply fascinating. She mulled over the possible ways the effects could have been done non magically, enjoying the mental exercise.

She paused in her thoughts as the band abruptly switched tunes. ZZ Top?

"Hmm?" A casual glance across the room has her pulling out a monocle for a better look. "Oh, my." A sharp dressed man, indeed. Although even shabbily dressed, more than worth a look. Or two. No, mustn't stare, that would be rude.

With a slight smile, she turned away, and reached again to gather a few delectable canapes.

The next pair were almost nondescript in current company, and were missed on the first pass. The lady was on the slender side, with jet black hair tied up in a topknot, with a lithe and lean figure.

The fellow was, if anything, a counterpoint. He was several inches shorter, and many inches broader around the belt, with what grey hair remained on his head also tied up in a topknot, with shaggy sideburns and carefully sculpted beard coming to a brief point and plenty of 'laugh lines'.

They were both wearing what appeared to be identical uniforms, with red breast plate, shoulder cops, and bracers on arms and shins, and a reddish-brown colored silk underneath. On the armor was a stylized symbol, a three-pronged flame in black on a red background. Her face seemed familiar to Al, but it took him a second moment to realize that it was Saf's human guise. With this realization, he headed over to greet them.

"Ahh, I apologize for not greeting you earlier. You slipped under the radar with your costume. Well done, by the way. J'bober made quite the entrance with your sister, half the ladies were reaching for their drool cups. Some of the lads too, now that I think about it."

"It is rare for him to be able to take such a corporeal form, so it would be a shame for him to miss the opportunity. And since the fellow my sister typically brings along to these sorts of functions is half a world away and not particularly capable of taking advantage of most modes of transportation which reach that far, I ceded him to her."

"Indeed. So, then. Might I have the pleasure of making the acquaintance of your companion?"

"I am afraid his guise is somewhat more complex, friend Al, and prefers to keep a low profile. However, I will say from personal experience that he is quite an excellent instructor, even if he does... mutter." Saph's voice was quite proper, but Al was still mildly surprised at the deflection, his mind whirling a moment to pick up the hint. Then when he realized whom she was referring to, his eyes widened.

"Ahh, you flatter me, youngling." There was clearly an audible glamor to go along with the illusion, as the voice which came out was identical to the character he was portraying, but there was an odd hissed sibilant that it didn't quite cover. "But perhaps some tea, yes? I have it on excellent authority that you have some marvelous tea. My student wrote to me concerning this household, you see. One of my other students, that is. It has been some time since I have had a good cup of tea. He left for the Mongolian border quite some time ago, and took his tea with him. He had nothing but good things to say about this residence, and I can certainly see why."

The hands folded into a half-bow. Al returned with a full proper bow, one hand folded over the other in response.

"Certainly. He did leave a supply of his personal blend, and I would be more than happy to personally brew you a pot. Is there anything else you might require? We do have some fresh sushi, our previous tenant rather got us in the habit of ensuring that we stock away dishes for obligate carnivores as well as dishes for herbivores."

"That would be ideal, yes. Thank you for your consideration." There was a slight mismatch between the voice and the lips, and Al wondered if it was just a poor sync between the guise and the audible glamor or if it was an intentional jibe at one of the more common jokes at 'dubbed anime'.

"I shall let the kitchen know, then. I certainly hope you enjoy our little repast, sir." With another bow, Al took himself off very carefully and slowly, not at all rushing about or panicking which would do no one any good, least of all himself in his still slightly unusual form.

Memo to self: Next time vet the guest list for ultimate apex predators.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:22 am

CHAPTER 7

The partygoers were arriving more frequently now. Al had hardly finished greeting Safyr when a vision from an Old West film appeared.

Walking in in loud, clinking steps was Flashburn. Al couldn't help but let out a startled bark of laughter, and another as his brother Aurum followed, silent and almost sneaky.

Brown duster, collar turned up, denim shirt with silver, turquoise and Jet bolo tie, denim jeans and leather chaps over, black square-toed cowboy boots with silver heel and toe caps, and ornate jangling spurs, white wool Stetson topping off the accessory.

"Cannae quite wrap me head around, 'Hoowdy,' and 'Ya awll'." Looking again, Flash stopped and stared a bit, then said "Athàir said I would be impressed with you when next we met. He be right. This..." he gestured, "...this be nothing short of amazing. 'Tis clear what guides you, and you deserve every drop of love and praise. Well done."

Preening a bit, Al remarked, “Yes, a bit of work here – rather unlike your accent.” With that, Al laughed, and Flash glowered.

“I can see where you might have a WEE bit of a problem with that. Smokey is your man for this. Sit with him for a few minutes and you will be linguistically contaminated enough to pass as a Texan...here. Of course, expect to hear endless comments about 'sheepherders' and how cattlemen can't stand them. Until then, be welcome!"

Aurum on the other hand, had knee-length trousers, poet shirt with proper vest, and a leather pouch which he drew a long stemmed pipe from it that he brought to his mouth and "lit" with flint and steel, from which issued perfectly symmetrical smoke rings that smelled to Al suspiciously like incense. Glancing down, he noticed curly hairy feet, and laughed delightedly as he made a proper bow.

"Al Richer, at your service!"

"Well met, Master Richer. Bilbo Baggins at yours."

"I trust, Master Baggins, that you will not be practicing your trade here this evening? Please do let my guests retain their baubles, and the family silver should remain where it is."

Aurum-as-Bilbo bowed again, standing with a flourish.

"Master Richer, I am here as a guest! Would you think me so uncultured as to rob my host or his guests? I save that for the uncultured ones themselves - Orcs, Wraiths and of course, Dragons."

Al laughed and bowed again. "Then be welcome, hobbit. There is food and drink and entertainments for the most refined palate."

Next walked in a couple, both swathed in black.

Al looked, felt himself colouring, then looked again, discreetly.

The lady slinked in, dangerously high stiletto heels clicking on the floor. The Black gown vacuum-sealed to the woman's curves was cut in a dangerously low "v" cut, showing off an impressive amount of cleavage, a dagger adorned belt holding the impossible garment closed. The end of the flowing sleeves were a sort of shredded bit, as was the bottom of the gown with a slit clean up to the hip.

Campy vampy beehive? Check.
Glossy black manicure? Check.
Harlot scarlet lips? Check.
Exaggerated cat-eye makeup showcasing storm-grey eyes? Check.

Al took several cleansing breaths to compose himself.

As she spoke to Daisy, his eyes drifted to her companion and he laughed raucously.

It was Sledge, but what a sight!

Black military jacket with a few neatly pinned medals, a white sash crossing left shoulder to right hip, the sporran was hanging from his hip, stockings not really seen, he was wearing his black beret tilted backward, but oddly enough, properly worn sword and sgian-dubh peeking out of his brown moccasin boots (both discreetly peace-bound Al noted). His black kilt had very messy pleats despite the grey-black plaid that seemed correct for the Black Watch he was attempting to cosplay.

When Al got done laughing, he said, "Sledge, don't let Sterling and her family catch you in that getup."

"Why?"

"They're Scottish. Very particular with how their sheep-shagging outfits should be assembled."

"Y'all 're being funny. Now pull t’other one. Sterling was rather pleasant when she picked me up. Not upset at all."

"Where is she?"

"Behind you."

He turned, got more than an eyeful due to his height, and simultaneously tried to quell his emotions and not laugh as she handed him a pair of Cinderella pumpkins.

"Here Warhorse, have two big pumpkins," she said, humming a familiar tune.

"And lovely pumpkins they are, meduck." Al responded, barely missing a beat, and accepting the pumpkins as the simple offering they posed as.

“And why, mage, have you not done something for yon Sledge’s costume? Sassenach I may be, but it seems to me that there is much lacking there.”

"Oh, Al, just wait for it. I am going to have to have him meet Flashburn. This be something you are NOT going to want to miss." Sterling's smirk was puckish, entirely in character with the screen vamp she was portraying.

"Wouldn't miss it for the world, let me just walk on over and drop these off first." Al replied, making his way over to a convenient table to deposit the gifts.

Meanwhile, Sterling sidled up to her 'plus one', "Well, if it 'tisno a member of the Black Watch itself!"

Sledge just chuckled and shook his head.

"You using a cantrip or just good ol' fashioned duct tape to keep that thing on you?"

"Well, now that would be telling, would it not? Come on, you must meet my cousin Flashburn." as she leaned in closely, an onlooker would say 'seductively' and whispered "He be playing cowboy, and he be about as authentic as you are."

Sledge sighed "That bad, am I? Well, I suppose. Yanks are bad enough at playing cowboy, I 'reckon it might be a sight to see what a Brit comes up with." Sterling collected his arm, and guided him through the crowd, until they came face to face with her cousin.

"How dee, part... er... pard, that is a 'd' right? Pard-ner. How is ye-all doing?" It was clear that Flashburn was trying to fake a Texan drawl. It was equally clear that it was fake to the actual Texan, not to mention anyone else present.

"Och, laddie. Yer a wee off on that that drawl." Sledge commented.

"That supposed t' be a brogue or someone garglin' wi' peanut butter?" Flashburn commented

"Sledge? My cousin Flashburn. Flash, this is Sledge, who Aurum has been apprenticing to since summer." Sterling introduced.

There was a brief pause of utter silence between the two, sizing each other up, before both simultaneously erupted into laughter.

"Och, an' ye call me daft, ye dinna wear..."

"Yer supposed t' be a cowboy, not Dracula..."

Their comments crossed in midair as they laughed, then laughed together again.

"I help you, and you help me. Deal?" Sledge extended a hand.

Flash took it with a grin "Deal. First off, it's a sporran, nae a game bag." Flash commented, as he rearranged it, adjusting the sheepskin pouch to front and center. "It covers yer modesty so's th' ladies can't see you stand at attention.

“Och where tae begin. Yer wearin' yer sash on th' wrong shoulder, lessen yer ma were nae married to yer da. Wearin' it on yer left's called a 'bastard stripe'.” Relieving his shoulder of the sash Flash redraped it properly, tugging it straight.

An' that's no' a cape, th' plaid goes on yer shoulder cop. Th' marine shirt I cannae help ye with, but th' medals are right an' proper, since Black Watch is a military uniform. An' fer heaven's sake, fix yer damn pleats." With a wiggle of his hand and a beneath-the-breath mutter Flash re-draped the borrowed kilt so that its pleats sat properly.

Sledge permitted the actual Scot (for what other nationality could he be with an accent like that) to correct his attire, until finally "There. Now yer all done right an' tight, fit for inspection drill."

Looking down at himself Sledge approved. "A'ight, thankee fer that.

“Now as fer you.” Sledge began to return the favour, rearranging the Scotsmen’s Western wear to something less Hollywood and more accurate.

“Duster comes wi' a half-cape, t' keep th' dust off, not a collar." Sledge flipped the offending section back down, then continued.

"Next, that's a necktie in Texas, not an amulet." Sledge said, sliding the bolo tie back up and adjusting it for him. Sizing him up further, he noted the straps and hardware hanging from the back of his boots.

"Spurs aren't worn inside, you'll gouge the flooring if you keep it up. Just... take them off for now. Oh, and make sure to have something for the blisters the size of flapjacks you're going to be having in the morning for wearing boots without wearing them in first.

“Revolver goes on the right, less’n you happen to be left handed, and only mustache twirlin’ villains were left handed in the westerns. Chaps ‘re more outdoor gear, you only really wear ‘em when you’re actually on a horse, like the spurs. They're designed ta protect your legs against underbrush."

Flassh was impressed, but couldn’t resist a jibe. "An' what kind of underbrush they supposed tae be guarding against? Native's arrows?"

"Might's well be. Mesquite. Has two-inch, that's around five centimeters out yer way, wooden thorns that might's well be stakes for all they feel. Punctures tend to go deep and fester fast. Anyway, you look presentable enough. Leastways you look 'bout like a roper wannabe instead of a damnyank."

"Tha's an improvement?"

"To a Texan, it is. At least somewhat. Enough for Halloween, anyway. Just... what EVER you do, do not answer to the name 'Walker'."

"Why not?"

"Well, Cap’n Walker was the first commander of the Texas Rangers. He commissioned a gun from Colt called predictably the Colt Walker, a .44 revolver typically loaded with notoriously over-charged rounds.”

“And that’s bad?”

Sledge grinned. “That there’s the epitome of 'compensating' to any firearms expert or Texan." He didn't bother mentioning the cross-connection with a certain martial artist movie star, so Sterling 'helpfully' supplied it

"Plus a certain famous Texan martial artist and his show. I would show ye his signature move, but we have nae th' space in here."

"In that outfit?" Sledge quirks a brow at her.

"Ye think I canna do it in pumps? A lady's got her secrets, after all."

"Not after doing a side kick in that dress. And I don't care if you solder that damn top on, there's no way in hell they’re stayin' in place after doing somethin’ like that."

"Aye, about like what would happen wi' you an' you try it in yon kilt. Tell me... is it worn properly?"

Sledge may not have been Scottish, but he'd been working ren faires for over a decade now and knew the proper response to that taunt "Nothin's worn, milady. It's all in fine working order."

Others filtered in – Fergus and Maura, Tal and Kay, all carefully costumed to NOT look like mages except Kay – who completely out of character was dressed as Severus Snape.

“Twiggy and Severus Snape – not a combination I ever thought I would see in even the most demented fan fiction!” Al laughed. “What’s the matter, Kay – had to scavenge the closet for a costume at the last minute?”

“Al! Good look for you – sleek. No wonder my daughter calls you ‘Warhorse”. No, I did not have to ‘scavenge the closet’ as you say – with all these mages trying hard not to be so I decided the field was clear – and Fergus looks more like Dumbledore than Dumbledore, so Snape it was, as I’d look ridiculous as Professor McGonigall.”

Al tilted his head to the side, squinting. “Well, with enough toilet paper in your brassiere and a decent wig…you MIGHT pull it off, but I agree with your choices.”

“Heathen. Wretch.” Both laughed, and Al turned to his other guests.

“Nice to see you Macbeth. Birnam Wood come to visit Dunsinane again?”

“Sassenach. Nay, the forest seeks me not yet. How are you feeling?” The question was not a casual one, Al could tell, as Fergus eyed him.

“I am doing well. As you told me and my instructor as well, I am monitoring my energies and will revert if needed. I do have a favour to ask, though.”

“And what would that be?”

Al hooked a thumb toward Maura. “Keep Lady Macbeth here away from the punch bowl. I would like to end the evening with the same number of corporeal guests as I started it with.”

Maura laughed and slapped him – hard – across the shoulder of his equine half. “Seven-foot stack o’four-legged jobby! Wretch!”

“Put the dagger away, Lady Macbeth. You can kill me later. Until then, be welcome and enjoy the party.”

The foursome nodded and laughed, and drifted off for drinks and munchies.

Al looked around, pleased. Eating, drinking, laughing, his and Rosalynd’s friends were doing what they did best – making merry and enjoying each other’s company. Naked Singularity were still doing what they did best – keeping the spirits high with good music. So far they were keeping the volume lower and the lyrics subdued, letting people catch up. Al knew that would change, but for now through welcoming it was perfect.

The Howards, over per their usual, were chatting with Greg’s father and Phix. Buck and Katherine were raiding the bar, chatting with the mage contingent and their significant others.

Ari wandered over to chat up her gal-pal Sterling, Sledge and Flash.

As expected, Flash and Sledge had resumed giving Sterling grief about her costume – and the bountiful way she filled it.

“Come ON, cuz – just admit ye have used an embiggener spell for those. That is certainly not all you – or have you taken to padding?”

“There be no padding here – just plain, simple, all-natural me!” Sterling replied, breathing in and arching her back slightly.

The costume, predictably, showed marked signs of strain, to the detriment of nearly every male in the room and more than a few females.

Taking up the taunt, Sledge looked at her and flatly stated, “Liar. Just admit y’all magicked yerself up and we’ll lay off. Ah just don’t believe it.”

In response, Ari moved up behind Sterling, reached around and grabbed one breast in each hand, giving a long, slow, solid squeeze, releasing and saying cheekily, "Honk, Honk!"

With that, Sterling reached down and resettled her assets in the dress before a costume issue caused a problem, muttering, "Just knew I should have used a sticky cantrip instead of carpet tape."

“Feels all-natural to me. Want me to check again?” Ari said, smiling wickedly.

"Maybe you had better - they do not seem convinced at all," Sterling added, breathing in again.

Sledge reddened, and Flash began to immediately chant, “Ugly cousin! Ugly cousin! Ugly cousin! Hot girlfriend! Ugly cousin! Ugly cousin…”

Sledge looked over to Flash and said “Thank you.”

“Thank me? For what?”

“Mah sporran. Ah’m glad you set it properly.”

“You’re welcome.”
Last edited by Just Old Al on Mon Nov 05, 2018 8:24 pm, edited 3 times in total.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:24 am

CHAPTER 8

As Al walked up to the group of mages, he returned the greetings of his friends. Maura laughed and asked, “So, what did Rosalynd have to say when she saw you?”

"When first saw me like this she asked me to dance, but I just wasn't up to hoofing it..."

CHUNK. The lights went out, only the spot lights in the corners giving any light at all.

Al immediately went into the closest approximation of a combat-ready stance he could manage in his current form. All around the room, everyone else did the same thing at the exact same time.

Then, there was a sound. Something deep and dark, undulating subtly, and just as deeply unsettling, followed by a soft screeching and humming that gradually became louder, higher-pitched, sharper, and more and more discordant.

From the center of the room, atop the fire pit, came a very soft, muffled vorp. Safyr immediately felt the presence of one of her daggers and instantly knew Glytch had teleported in while cloaked under the spell of the dagger she had given him, and smiled ever so slightly... and made a note to ask about how he was replicating the effects of a Fear spell with no magic. Extending a hand to her sister, she stopped her instinctive response and mind-talked a quick 'hold' message.

“Haa, ha ha ha ha, haa hahahahahahahahaha haa, hoo hee hee aha haa, hoo hee haa, ahaa and I thought my jokes were bad.”

From somewhere in the room, projections of white HA’s with purple or green outlines were thrown against the walls and ceiling in chaotic script, spinning and tumbling on a red and yellow background.

A sense of impending doom bubbled up in the hindbrains of everyone in the crowd.

Everyone turned toward the fire pit now as Glytch threw a small packet of powder down, igniting in a brief flash of purple and green flames just as he de-cloaked and the lights turned on... revealing Glytch in full costume. And in full character.

Caked in white foundation, blood-red lipstick extending over a wide, mad smile and grossly scarred cheeks, black eyeshadow, and slightly long hair dyed green, beneath the hood of a purple overcoat, topping an emerald-green three-piece suit over a clashing yellow dress shirt with a purple smoke-patterned tie, matching pocket square folded in the Bird Of Paradise manner, green leather shoes with purple laces... and, most striking of all, one green eye and one purple eye.

His cheeks weren’t the only things bearing scars - more extended all over his face, though lacking the red lipstick to draw immediate attention to them, and continued down past his collar, implying that his whole body was similarly covered. A tie bar took the form of a tiny vegetable peeler, and his lapel pin was a bright yellow flower, matching his shirt. A silver and emerald Venetian Poison Ring adorned one white hand.

“Good even-iiing, ladies and-a gentlemen! Tell me... did I scare anyone... out of their minds?”

On the other side of the wide room Ari was enjoying her Minotaur costume being admired by a few wide-eyed culinary students when, having long since been in the habit of listening when Al spoke, she heard him utter a pun not worth repeating. She looked over to roll her eyes at her boss when the lights and the background music suddenly cut out.

Her claws came out, responding to instinct as she heard a new noise coming through the speakers. It hardly qualified as a song.

Then a sinister, drawn-out laugh sounded from the center of the large room as barely legible HA’s lit up the walls and ceiling.

Her wings popped out now, extending and reaching back, preparing to hurl her up and forward toward the source of the voice. A flash of unnatural chemical fire finally revealed him. She could feel the madness rolling off of him in crashing waves. After addressing the crowd, he spotted Ari out of the corner of his eye and spun toward her, pointing a finger and cackling. “Look! Ha, HA! It’s a holy cow!”

Unfortunately, at this point Ari’s forebrain had almost entirely shut down. The combination of Glytch’s acting and the sense of doom permeating the room worked in concert to throw her fight or flight response into full gear.

Also unfortunately, her being an Apotropaic Sphinx at her core meant it wasn’t so much a “fight or flight” response as it was a “Kill it to death right now” response.

The fact that she forgot about the Minotaur costume and some small part of her thought she had just been called a “cow” certainly didn’t help matters.

Wings flexed and she was overhead in an instant, talons and fangs out in all their glory, a fierce war cry tearing from her lips.

There was a very chaotic flurry of activity that followed.

Glytch’s eyes went as wide as dinner plates as he stammered “W-WOAH WAIT NO AAH I MEANT THE ANGEL AND THE MINOTAUR” as he stuffed a hand roughly into his pocket and clicked all three buttons on the side of his phone. Before his panic VORP protocol could take effect, however, May, Jin, Bud, Monica, and finally Brandi (who had appeared in response to the panic button) all poited him to different places in the room, before finally Glytch VORPed one meter up and one meter forward, with the same momentum and spin as a running jump and front flip would give him, as per his panic button program.

The end result was Glytch appearing to pop in and out of reality in five places in extremely quick succession like an online game character with worse ping than a Mars rover before ending up in a sixth place, careening up and away with a flip.

Six rapid teleportation can be extremely disorientating, so Glytch only barely managed to land with proper form, finally ending up tumbling directly underneath Al.

Ari’s brain struggled to keep up with what had just happened as well, and she landed and froze mid-pounce as her eyes tried to follow Glytch’s random relocations. This gave Glytch the needed milliseconds to roll to his feet and hotfoot it for the nearest exit before Ari began to move.

Wildly the pair hurtled through the room - the ersatz Joker being pursued by a wing-bedecked, irritated, two-legged pot roast.

"Oh bugger, bugger bugger FUCK!" Al galloped after the pair, getting into line just after Ari.

“GANGWAY!” Glytch shouted, his voice jumping up an octave, as he crashed through the door to the kitchen. Many of the staff, having had experience as wait-staff, were able to dodge Glytch, the rest of whom Glytch was thus able to dodge on his own. Spinning and ducking beneath trays, he caught sight of Ari mere feet behind him and knew he would not be able to employ subterfuge. As he completed his spin, Glytch found himself facing the kitchen’s island, with one person carrying a stack of plates and cutlery on one side and someone else carrying a full stock pot on the other

And Rosalita bearing down on him. “Wuh-oh!” Glytch put everything he had into his next motions, propelling himself up to the pot rack above the island, grabbing hold and swinging himself, bending like a pole-vaulter to clear the island, several culinary assistants, and a cursing Rosalita before hitting the ground with another roll and sprinting outside.

Behind him, Ari and Al made use of the path formed by the very para-aware staff who knew when to get out of the way of a chase. Ari half-flapping her wings to boost her speed on foot, Al taking full advantage of his current form to keep up.

Out the back into the thin snow, and Glytch instinctively headed for the large tree overhanging Alexander, scampering up with a vertical run and not stopping till he was 20 feet up. Ari immediately took off and began to circle the tree, her predator’s gaze searching for a good path through the branches as she roared with primal rage.

"ARI! ARI! IT'S ME, GLYTCH! PLEASE DON'T EAT ME!" Glytch shouted down, his voice hopping up another two octaves. After two or three repetitions Ari began to slow, a hint of puzzlement showing up in her eyes.

Al, sensing the proper fix, wiggled his hand and flipped the hood of Glytch’s overcoat up and over his head. When she saw this Ari came to a hover before alighting on the roof, her wings retracting along with her teeth and claws. "Glytch? WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO IN THERE?"

“I’M SORRY I DIDN’T MEAN TO CALL YOU A COW!”

“GLYTCH. Stand down, now. Please get a hold of yourself.”

“GYIEE... AG... BUT... WHA...” Glytch looked between the mysterious Byronic centaur and the very irritated but not murderous Ari and took a few deep breaths. “What just happened when I hit my panic button, I felt like I was a bugged npc... how did that happen... who the hell are you...” Glytch paused as his eyes went wide again. “Oh crap, am I still in one piece?” Here he looked down and took a quick inventory. “Ok, nothing looks missing...”

"Get down here. NOW. You and I need to talk." Al turned to Ari and said "Go back inside, dear. This isn't your fault, and we'll talk about what happened later. Right now our Mr. Glytch and I are going to have a little talk."

Ari, more than a bit confused, hopped down from the roof and headed back to the house. Glytch, waiting till she was well away, slid back down the tree before staring up at the coal-black centaur that was addressing him in an English accent - a very irritated English accent.

"Subliminals?"

Glytch nodded, beginning to shake from the adrenalin. "Yeah. Audibles, and subliminals... I isolated the signals that triggered doom and fear and panic from the.. uh... the Discom... that’s, uh, classiii... How...what... Speaking of, I’d better turn it off now...” he got his phone out and tapped the appropriate button.

Al held up a hand. "You NIT. You popped into the middle of a room full of apex predators of nearly every conceivable species and DELIBERATELY stimulated their fight-or-flight responses? I won't ask what possessed you - I know better."

"But, I turned it down! Twice! At least...I thought I did, the second time.... Anyway, why did Ari go for me like that? I’d be dead a thousand times over if everyone came after me... I specifically tried to avoid that...”

"Not far enough, obviously." Al thought for a moment. "Glytch, what you saw there was youth. The apex predators are nearly all long-lived immortals and think before they attack. Ari is long-lived as well, but is at the beginning of a very long life. While she has been mentored she still has all of the kill-instinct and no experience to temper it. You and your entrance triggered her guardian instincts. To be honest, if Atsali had been here you'd have had TWO of them after you - count your blessings that she's at school in Tokyo.

"I need two things from you. One, don't EVER do this again. Two, once she settles down, you owe that young woman a very big apology."

Glytch nodded. "Oh... yeah, uh, oopsies. Yep, I messed up bad. I can promise both. One question - you’re... Al, right? Not some cousin of Blossom's visiting? What...how...?" He leaned to one side to get a better look at Al’s distinctly not-human form.

Al laughed. "Yes, it's me, Glytch. Let's talk inside - you must be freezing."

“Oh I’m not cold at all, not after all that... but we’d better get inside. I need to say sorry to Rosalita, too...” Glytch huffed a bit, catching his breath as he took off the overcoat, draping it over his arm.

With that, the pair headed back for the kitchen.

As they entered the cursing began – loud, strident and Spanish.

Al, trailing, enjoyed with a somewhat malicious glee the sight of the lady of the kitchen heading for Glytch, her assistants and the waitstaff parting like foam at the bow of a speeding clipper.

“YOU! Yes, YOU!” She bellowed, right arm outstretched, right index finger pointing at the hapless madboy.

“WHAT POSSESSED YOU TO COME CHARGING THROUGH MY KITCHEN, SWING OFF MY POT RACK AND JUMP THE ISLAND!” Here the Spanish cursing began again, Rosalita waggling her finger at Glytch.

Glytch, to his credit, tried to begin to apologize.

“Miss Rosalita, I really-“

“You really WHAT! WHAT? OUT WITH IT!”

Every time Glytch began, Rosalita interrupted, in whatever language she was going on in at that moment. Al stood back, silently appreciating the show, sensing that Glytch was in no distress over the tongue-lashing and silently a bit amused though thoroughly chagrined.

After a few interruptions, Glytch clasped his hands behind his back and waited. Only when Rosalita ran down and had begun to repeat herself did Glytch finally manage to wedge in a word or two that was not interrupted with more invective.

"Miss Rosalita, ma’am, I am very sorry for wreaking havoc in your kitchen. This entire situation was my fault, and I accept full responsibility. Was anyone hurt or anything damaged?”

“Well, no. My people got the hell scared out of them, but no one was hurt.”

“Good, I’m really glad to hear that much, at least. I know I’ve thrown you behind, so if you’ll give me a moment to apologize to Ari, I can come back here and wash dishes or peel and prep ingredients, if that’s alright by you.”

Rosalita stared at him, her black eyes impassive. Within a few seconds Glytch began to fidget, as did Al (who had been the recipient of her ire before). A few more, and he took off his green suit jacket and began to roll up his sleeves - not only because he was getting hot under Rosalita’s glower, but also to show her he wasn’t bluffing, and really was ready to work off his debt.

Seconds more ticked by, and she said, sternly, “No, that won’t be necessary. The NEXT time you have to make an exit from the house in a hurry because you’ve annoyed someone, kindly do NOT do it through my kitchen! There are many doors in this house and my kitchen is not a sanctuary! ¿LO ENTIENDES?”

“Sí, señora. Perfectamente. Muchas gracias.” With that Glytch, followed by a relieved Al, headed for the door back to the party. Behind them Rosalita spoke, “Well, what are the rest of you staring at? Back to work! ¡Hazlo!”

As the pair skulked out of the kitchen there was dead silence, then the band struck up an altogether too recognizable country-western song.

"Won't you give me three steps
Gimme three steps mister
Gimme three steps towards the door?
Gimme three steps
Gimme three steps mister
And you'll never see-a me no more


As the chorus ended, the assemblage shouted “Show me the back door!” and began to applaud.

Behind Glytch Al began to clap as well. His empath’s sense showed a complex mix of emotions bubbling off Glytch – serious chagrin, embarrassment, enjoyment at the reception and more than a little pride at how well his entrance had worked. As the applause continued the chagrin and self-recrimination faded – which was just fine as far as Al was concerned.

Holding his hands up Al waved for attention.

“Ladies and gentlemen, that was as notable an entrance as I ever want to see at one of our gatherings. I will assure you Glytch has promised me he will NOT turn on his bag of tricks again, and we are safe for the evening.”

Walking over to where Arania stood with Daisy, Al took her hand, raising it high over her head. On the other side Daisy, sensing his intentions, did the same.

Pitching his tone like an announcer Al shouted “And the WINNAH and STILL CHAMPEEN winning in ONE ROUND! ARANIA!”

The crowd broke out in laughter and another thunderous round of applause, Glytch joining in heartily.

Releasing her hand, Al said, quietly, “Ari, none of this was your fault and is all down to that madman and his bag of tricks. Don’t worry about it – I am thrilled you reacted so quickly. Had this been a real threat, you’d have had it before anyone else.

“Bravo, lass, and thank you.”

“But-“

“No buts, dear – you didn’t kill him, and he got the scare he THOROUGHLY deserved for that trick.” Al noticed Glytch heading over, and began to disengage, signaling Daisy. “Here comes yon madboy – don’t be too hard on him. I think he wants to apologize.”

“Okay, Al. Thanks.”

“No, Ari – thank YOU – for being the guardian you are.”

With that the elderly couple peeled off, heading for different corners of the room.

Fergus looked at Al, visible in his glory over the crowd. Disgusted, he hunted down Maura and Tal.

"Yon Sassenach is burning energy at a furious rate. I can understand why, but by damn he's not paying attention."

Nodding, Tal agreed, as did Maura. "We need to boost him."

Fergus asked, "Do we want to do that? Serve the daft git right to keel over in the middle of his own damned party."

Maura scowled. "Haud yer weesht. If ye think that is a good thing I question yer judgement. He's doing this for someone else - let him enjoy it - and let her enjoy the gift. Don't be such a stick in the mud."

"Ah, well, ye're right. He's still daft, and he and I are definitely going to talk about this - and I'll have that amulet off him if he doesn't listen. "

"Fair enough - but that's a battle for another day. Let's be at it, then."

The three mages worked their way to the side, out of the path of the revelers. Holding hands each with the other, they concentrated, their hands at the join glowing golden for a moment. At that, Fergus said, "I'll be right back."

Walking through the crowd he was careful to touch no one and nothing. Coming to Al, he slapped a hand down on his barrel-shaped chest, startling the old man. As he did there was a flicker of gold as the power was shunted into Al's system.

"And you are slapping me for what reason?" Al asked, turning from the conversation he was having with Jet and Monica.

"Just admiring my handiwork - and reminding you to monitor your energy levels better. Be careful."

"I will - and thank you for the reminder." Returning to his conversation Fergus turned back to his companions.

"Done. Now I am more than a bit peckish - wonder if there's any more of the roast beef?" Fergus said, as the three headed for the dining room.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:25 am

CHAPTER 9

At the other side of the room Sledge and Sterling stood. Sledge, sipping a stein of beer, asked “Parties here always this lively?”

Sterling snickered. “No, not just the parties. Was here for dinner a few years ago and nearly got mugged by an infant Sphinx. I will say that this is one of the livelier parties, at least so far.”

Sledge thought, taking another pull at his stein. “Good. Like a lively party. Should we walk ‘round? Figure there’s folks here y’might want me to meet.”

“Good point.” With that she took Sledge’s arm and they made their way into the crowd.

Al and Daisy noticed a figure that had come in under cover of the foofaraw.

Tall, as black as Al and clad in a skintight leather catsuit, the figure sported a set of cat ears and a set of high-heeled boots to finish the look.

Al held out his arms and smiled, saying “Brandi, ducks, welcome!” Brandi blinked, looking from the curvy red-headed human to the black stallion and back.

“Al? Damn. Good costume – I’d have never recognized you. You look great! Daisy, you’re looking wonderful as always – life with this madman can’t be getting you down too badly.”

“It’s certainly never dull. That reminds me – did Glytch talk to you about the little entrance he just made?”

Looking sheepish, Brandi nodded. “Yes, he did. I did warn him to turn it down.”

“And how loudly did you say that – and were you wearing what you’re wearing when you made that warning?”

“Normal voice tone – and yes.” Brandi chuckled. “He might have been distracted at the time.”

Daisy laughed. “Blood loss – does it every time. Come, have a drink and something to eat. There’s plenty, and Glytch is going to be a while yet I suspect.”

“Dear, could I speak to you before you two wander off?”

Daisy stopped. “What do you need?”

“I’m going to wander outdoors for a bit. Things seem to have settled down, and I need to go pay my respects.”

Reaching to his join she gave him a hug. “Go. Give them all my love to go with yours. They should be remembered.”

“Thank you, love.” With that Al wandered back toward the kitchen, but found the doorway temporarily blocked by Rowdy, who was costumed as a mid-18th-century merchant seaman - and apparently thoroughly soaked, with a stray bit of seaweed across one shoulder, but oddly not dripping.

"Hey, Al, did I miss some excitement? I just got the water out of my ears."

"Just Glytch, up to his usual madboy stunts," Al replied.

"Anybody hurt?"

"Not to mention."

"Good. Is Dawn here yet?"

"She's changing into her costume," Edward said. "It's quite unsuitable for school, she claims."

"Oh, it certainly is." Rowdy did not notice the green-scaled arm reaching from the doorway behind him. It grabbed his collar, and he feigned a struggle as he was dragged back out of the room. Al took advantage of the opportunity to proceed, and chuckled as he disappeared toward the back door.

Several minutes passed, as the crowd turned their attention elsewhere.

A mermaid sort of floated into the room, sitting on the edge of a large mottled-gray rock over ocean-blue fabric with streaks of seafoam printed in it, which rippled as the rock moved forward to the sound of muffled hooves. The mermaid's tail and some of her skin bore shiny green scales. The traditional seashell brassiere was sensibly inverted, to prevent her substantial breasts from floating upward or getting scraped as she swam. Behind her on the rock was the soggy sailor, one arm around her waist.

"I hope I'm not the last to arrive?" Dawn asked.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:26 am

CHAPTER 10

Al stepped from the back door, hooves thudding on the frozen ground as he walked.

His mind whirled. So much had happened this evening – Glytch and his near-evisceration by Ari (Al chuckled at that memory and hoped someone had filmed it) and of course his own entrance – and Daisy’s reaction to it.

However, he had business to be about – serious business despite the number of legs he wore at present.

He carried his ritual tray – candles, fruit, flowers, a small plate of soul cakes. The edibles would be given to the littles afterward and the flowers left as well, their purpose fulfilled.

Lighting the candles, Al spoke the words of his ritual at the beginning of the dark time – the entrance into the winter of the year.

As always, Al thanked and remembered his dead, and left the offerings of fruit and soul cakes for them, bidding them be welcome. The light from the candles, reminiscent of the bonfires older practitioners of his faith would have lit, flickered in the starry darkness.

Ritual complete Al stood, letting his mind wander, utterly at rest. Faces came to him, and names, some consciously remembered, some floating into his consciousness like wraiths.

Battle comrades gone because of happenstance or the fates of war, friends gone too soon, the few family he remembered at all (none fondly) all came to mind. He greeted each one with a kind word or a touch to the forehead of apology. None were truly there – this was his way – ensuring that his friends and comrades would be remembered until it was his time to slip behind the Veil.

Suddenly, a deep, resonant voice spoke to his left.

“You have a tremendous load of gall to come out here – especially like that – and especially tonight.”

Startled Al opened his eyes and turned to face the speaker.

A centaur – for a moment Al thought it was Buck, but realized quickly that it wasn’t. If anything this centaur was bigger, yet softer. Age showed in grey around his head and in his mane, and a bit of lightening in the white socks at his front hooves.

Mind whirling, Al realized who stood before him – and shivered involuntarily.

Rock.

The voice spoke again, this time much less sternly.

“Sergeant-Major Richer, I presume.” The centaur laughed, a short merry sound. “It is good to be able to speak with you, finally. It’s the night, I suppose. I must confess though that I am rather startled to see you as you are.”

“Mr. Alexander. What can I do for you?” Al was somewhat stunned. While he knew this was the time when the Veil was most permeable, a visitation like this was a shock.

Al began again. “While I do apologize for the masquerade, I did it with the best of intentions. You know what I am, and I know what Rosalynd is. I wanted to give her the gift of seeing me like this. I do apologize if it offends you.”

“Sergeant-Major, relax. You and I have no business – this is for want of a better term a social call – and a chance for me to make a request of you. More the point on your appearance, though – I am pleased to see the efforts you would undertake to please Ros.”

“Al. Please call me Al, Mr. Alexander.”

The centaur laughed again and broke out in a smile. “Al, enough! Please stop calling me ‘Mr. Alexander’ – you’re family after all. Rock will do.”

“Rock... I will confess to being a bit confused. I know you’re not of my faith – and this visitation is hardly typical of Christian faiths.”

“Al, don’t let my faith confuse you. Things on the other side are nowhere near as dogmatic as you might consider from over here. Anyway, haven’t you ever heard prayers asking the souls of those gone to look out for those still here? You were raised Anglican – I know you’ve heard them.

“If you need to put a label on my being here, think of it as a manifestation of that – or the guardian angels that both of us had our heads filled with in Sunday school.” Rock laughed again and continued.
"My own congregation would brand me a heresy were they to know the truth... a "non-existent creature of superstitious Greek folklore"- but that doesn't affect my faith.

“Anyway, none of this matters. I am here to thank you, and to ask a boon. My time is short – may I continue?”

Al waved a hand. “Please do. I am sorry I interrupted – please continue.”

The big centaur shuffled a bit, then spoke again.

“First off, thank you. Thank you for being what you are for Daisy and filling her life again. She was lonely, and it was hurting her. There was nothing I could do, but when you appeared…it was right.

“Also, thank you for being friend and comrade to my boys. Boys, hell – they’re men, strong and handsome, and I am so proud of them. The same with Cinny – she’s grown to be so beautiful – just like her mother.

“Your being here with them and for them is a blessing – one I never expected. Thank you.

“Now, I have a favor to ask.”

“Ask it. If I can grant it, I will.”

“I doubt you’ll find it hard to do. Please continue doing what you’re doing.

“Be here for them, and protect them. Ros needs you, and loves you – probably more than she ever loved me.” Rock shrugged, and continued. “I could have been a better husband at times, but hindsight is 20/20.”

Al interrupted. “Then you have a surprise. Rosalynd knew I was coming out here, and her words were ‘Give them all my love as well.’ I suspect that, were she here, that love would all be directed to you, old chap. I may be here and you gone, but she misses you and loves you dearly.”

The big centaur stood silently for a moment, then spoke again, softly. “Thank you, Al. It is hard to remember, sometimes, the love our families hold for us. Correction happily accepted.”

Shaking himself a bit, he resumed where Al had interrupted him.

“As much as you can, be there for the boys, and for Cinny. They all look to you, and look up to you as a father though they hardly need one at their ages.

“I need this. I can’t be here for them anymore, and I need you to take care of them for me. Can I ask you to do that?”

Al answered, his voice sure. “You don’t need to ask it. I will, and I will protect them to my dying breath. I will love them, cherish them and protect them forever.”

Rock stepped forward and held out his hand. Al reached for it and as he took it, the moment broke, and his hand grasped empty air. Confused, Al looked about to see nothing but the silent meadow, the shadows of the trees and his own hoofprints in the snow.

Turning to the ritual table he realized the candles had burned way down – some time had passed since he’d lit them. Shaking his head, he took the fruit and the soul cakes, breaking them up and scattering them on the snow. The small vase of flowers was left on the outdoor table, and the candles extinguished and returned to the ritual tray.

She paused, hesitant, unwilling to disturb Al as he finished distribution of a feast for the littles. She'd soon miss her chance if she didn't speak up.

"Ailean? A word if I may?"

Oh, my. Nothing but surprises tonight. Slowly he turned at the voice, still hidden in the shadows.

"Certainly Ialin. You've been scarce again. I do have to ask you, though – did you see anything here, a few minutes ago?”

Nothing I will admit to, old man. “I saw you at your devotions. Was there something else…”

“No. No, nothing.” Interesting. Yon dryad is a poor liar but this is a discussion for another time.

Silent, she moved into view with an unearthly grace, her gown a mottled riot of reds, yellows, oranges, and browns with the ends of her sleeves and bottom of the gown ending in a snowy white. Her hair was a waterfall of colours flowing down like silk, with a hint of white at the ends. Porcelain and pale, her skin was the only thing without colour.

Looking up, her eyes reflected the Forest, and Al knew what her unease was from--the colours fading from her.

"You have been so busy with training and preparations, and I was trying to steer clear as I had promised, but I thought you might like to see me like this before Winter takes hold."

Al smiled, the gesture invisible in the darkness. “No matter the season you are clothed in glory, my dear dryad. The Lady treats you well with new outfits to suit Her moods.”

Al’s appreciation was genuine, despite the flowery language. Ialin and her appearance were a source of wonder and joy to him – and he truly appreciated her sharing it with him.

"If I have been remiss in saying, I wish you to know I appreciate your kindness, care, and acceptance of me, the land, and all the littles. Beannaichte a bhith Ailean. An toir tionndadh a 'chuibhle dhut sìth, gràdh, toileachas, agus a h-uile rud ùr.(Blessed be. May the turning of the wheel bring you peace, love, happiness, and all things new.)

Al bowed from the waist, an incongruous gesture for a centaur. “How can I do anything else, given my beliefs and the evidence of my eyes? You and all of this are manifestations of the Lady, and that I would never do anything but hold in reverence.

“I am being a poor host. Would you care to come in and join us? There are many wonderful things and people there and you would be most welcome.”
Ialin shook her head. “No, I am not really a party type. I just saw you here, and thought to let you see my changes before they faded. Come and see me soon, and we will chat. Until then, you have guests. Blessed Be, Ailean.”

With that she faded, a tinkle of her laughter on the cold, still air.

Smiling, he took the tray and turned toward the warmth and light of the house, hearing the music of the party.

Stepping gingerly into the kitchen he deposited the tray on a table and wandered through, being unobtrusive as possible lest the already-aggravated Rosalita begin to get annoyed with him.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:28 am

CHAPTER 11

Back in the main room the party was still in full swing. Guests chatted with guests, and Naked Singularity had taken to lively, more upbeat music to keep the partygoers dancing. At the moment, Xera had returned her violin to its case and was doing her utmost best to channel Joan Jett with the song “Bad Reputation.” According to the enthusiastic dancing as she belted out the lyrics with everything she had, she was doing an excellent job of it.

Walking to his wife, Al bent to her and hugged her deeply. As always when he did this, time stopped for both of them. Even with his discomfort at the angle Al enjoyed the solace of his wife’s arms, and she his.

As he released her she asked “Everything all right?”

“Everything is perfect. I passed along your love to them all. Anything happen in here while I was out?”

“Not a thing other than the usual hijinks this crowd gets up to. Glytch is being THOROUGHLY sedate, and Ari has taken to following him around…closely. I think she is having a little fun at his expense – every time he turns around she’s.RIGHT.There.

Al grinned. Good enough for him. “Next time he does something insane it might make him realize that poking the stick through the bars only works if the cage is locked.”

Daisy laughed. “Do you honestly think that will happen?”

“No, dear – I think not, but I can hope. Until then I hope our young friend keeps up his parkour skills – as he’s likely to need them. Bit of dinner?”

“Sounds wonderful.” Daisy hopped up to his back, riding him bareback, hugged to his torso. “I just LOVE riding you bareback.” She said saucily, eyes twinkling.

“Play your cards right, ducks, and you might get a chance to do it again…later.” Al quipped, as they headed for the dining room.

Once there they took a turn of the room, Daisy mounted and Al her obedient mount. Greeting friends, admiring costumes and being admired took up some small time, and they finally made it to the banquet.

“Al, you might want to stay vegetarian on this.” Daisy suggested, as they selected plates.

“Oh, why, dear? I am as you know a completely unambiguous omnivore, so I don’t have the cultural aversion to meat you do.”

“No, but you have the digestive system of a plains animal. Either stay vegetarian, or turn back and eat.”

Al nodded. “Far too true, dear. I do forget that while this form has its amazing powers, it also has limitations.” Grabbing a large bowl of greens he anointed it liberally with vegetables and a bit of olive oil, and they headed to a table.

Sitting at another table and also enjoying the bounty of the dining room, Em Lopez-Viktor thought.

Mr. Richer-Al-she mentally corrected herself, is certainly showing dedication to keeping in character tonight. Even getting a bowl of salad! What a costume! Amazing the illusions magic can bring forth. You'd swear he was a real centaur!

And so nice of them to invite her to what's obviously a gathering of old friends and family. Even with knowing so few people here, she's having a splendid time.

She went back to her plate, smiling.

Fork in the air Al gestured to the room.

“So, what do you think of our soiree, dear? It seems to be a success, especially given the excitement earlier.”

Daisy laughed, a wonderful sound to Al’s ear. “Love, with those crazy friends of yours and mine it will never be dull. Thankfully I don’t see that changing much.” She gestured to the room of people and by extension to the other rooms.

“Look at the people here. Young, old, paranormal, mundane, species of all sorts – and all having a great time and enjoying each other’s company.” She pointed to the buffet table they’d just vacated, where Monica and Jet were stacking plates high with the bounty of the banquet.

“There’s an example of the luck we’ve had – the Jaguar Girl and her consort. Not to mention the Librarian and hers, the MIB contingent…” she waved her hands almost helplessly. “It amazes me – we know all these people.”

Al nodded while stuffing himself with Boston Butter lettuce and vegetables. “I know, dear. And here come two examples now.”

Hand in hand Glytch and Brandi walked in. Al waved, and they headed toward the older couple’s table.

“We were just looking for you.” Brandi said, as primal in her tight leather as the panther that was her animal aspect. “Wanted to thank you – this is a great party!”

Beside Al, Glytch, momentarily unsupervised, yielded to his impulses. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a BANG pistol, pointing the end toward Al’s hindquarters.

As he went to pull the trigger, however, something made him look up.

Stony-faced, Al stared down at the hapless madboy. Glytch stared back – their eyes locked. Behind Al there was a muffled guffaw, as Brandi watched.

Deliberately, Glytch pulled the trigger, eyes still locked on those of his intended target. With a HONK, the flag popped from the barrel of the pistol and unfurled, striking Al in the buttock.
“OW! Is there some particular reason you felt the need to shoot me in the arse, you madman?” He turned back toward Brandi. “I THOUGHT we discussed housebreaking him!”

"You may have, but I surely did not agree to try. I got tired of whacking him on the nose with a newspaper." With that Brandi went back to laughing, not bothering to muffle her mirth.

Glytch stopped, staring at the centaur. “Wait, you FELT that?”

“OF course I felt it, you moron! That’s my ARSE.”

Glytch was stunned. “Ok I know you aren’t crazy enough to integrate a cosmetic prosthesis into your spinal cord, but the alternative is potentially far, far crazier.

“What. The flying. Fuck, Al!
“ I wouldn’t rearrange my body for a costume party, and I’m a complete nutter! It takes a visit to a world forever beyond the reach of humanity to make me even consider it!”

“I mean no disrespect, it’s just... this is the body I have, I’m just more than a little nervous about rearranging my guts and bones like that. That’s... a big deal. This is a big deal. Just... holy crap, Al!”

“I say again – and this gives you the right to shoot me in the arse for WHAT reason?” Al twisted quickly and swung, attempting to smack Glytch in the back of the head. Glytch, however, was quicker, and easily dodged the first blow.

However, a second later he was smacked unceremoniously in the back of the head by an irritated redhead in country wear. “And THAT is for assuming he did this as a parlor trick!”

Speaking quieter and trying hard to make herself understood, Daisy continued. “Glytch, while this was done at Halloween, this isn’t just a parlor trick. Had it been that a simple illusion spell would have done.

“This was a gift for me – Al giving me ‘Al the centaur’ as a memory. Do you understand?”

Glytch thought hard, then nodded. “I know Al’s always been aware of the differences between you – and the fact that you could cross to his world while he couldn’t be part of yours. This is why?”

Al spoke, gentle in his tone – obviously speaking as much to his love as he was to Glytch.

“Absolutely. I have always regretted it – Daisy could step back and forth, being herself with two and four legs, but I could not share that world with her. Now, for a little while, I can.” He shuffled over a bit and took Daisy’s hand in both of his own, bending to bestow a tender kiss on the back of it. “And it’s worth all of the work I did.”

Brandi had walked over behind Glytch during the discussion, and slipped her arms around his neck from behind, hugging herself to his back. She whispered in his ear “That’s love – above and beyond the call of duty.”

Glytch answered in a whisper “I know. It’s amazing.”

“That being said, young lad, you poke me with a stylus again and I will kick your arse, and I assure you, I CAN kick!” he laughed, no rancor in his voice. “Anyone care for a drink?” Al reached down and helped Daisy to his back again, and the foursome wandered to the bar.

Tal approached her daughter, nodding acknowledgement to her companion.

Sterling heard in her mind, Ailean be not paying attention to his energy levels.

Mathàir, a moment.
She sent messages to her cousins, and to Sledge, then returned, a full round-table assembled.

"Just keep an eye on that fool Sassenach. He be not paying attention, and letting his energy drop."

Flashburn added, "The foolish things one does because of love, Auntie. They are bonded, he and Rosalynd, so he be this reckless in order to give her this moment, this memory."

Aurum chimed in with, "He has a kind heart, and gives his all for others, because now he has those who give of themselves for him because of who he is. Let him have this moment."

Sterling added, "Chr...Emerauld says he trained hard, and stayed within her impossible limits while training so he could have this day."

Sledge, ever pragmatic, said, "One thing y'all haven't considered is he's the host, and is probably a bit preoccupied making sure we have fun, and his staff is well.

“Two, he really seems to care about the help, and has been making them take breaks to enjoy the party too.

“Lastly, as this was clearly a surprise for his wife, she doesn't know he's supposed to be recharging. She's not a mage. We are. If I remember right, he's new to this, so treat him lahk a white at the Dojang, and give him pointers.

“Y'all reckon he'd notice a boost? We can feed him a bit now, and each of us can prod him at intervals to go and recharge."

"He didn't notice earlier, or at least is not saying such. I agree."

"Okay, Paintpot, draw!"

"This one be all yers Flashbulb."

Linking hands, they concentrated, their hands at the join glowing golden, then Flashburn made his way towards Al. Slapping him on his chest, only a brief golden glow to show the transfer of energy had occurred.

"And why pray tell, is your family obsessed with slapping me tonight?"

"Well, hoow...dee thar part...er...pard...ner.

“Well, there were two choices, back or flank. I slap yer flank, and would get justifiably kicked into the rafters, or the sensible one, your back. I need a fencepost to reach up there, so chest it was."

Al scryed, and noted with glee the lie, stark and obvious; replying, "Minotaur shit. What are you really up to?"

Recovering, he went for the obvious reply, doing his best to mimic Sledge's easy drawl, "Well, truth is, with all these good-looking fillies here, I wanted to fill my camera with images of these tall drinks of water. I reckon the polite thing was to just ask."

Al cringed, then chuckled at his frank response, which did nothing to hide the lie before replying, "Remember jeans aren't like kilt and sporran, they freely out all your sins."

"In all seriousness, Athàir said you wanted professional photographs and a video clip of your costume, as well as a general set of the event and folks in costume. I have me cameras at the ready. Also, how are you feeling? Do not forget to replenish your reserves."

Al noted a shift to genuine concern. Chagrined, he answered, "Have fun, you are a guest. If you feel up to photographing this, I will be grateful for it, and WILL PAY YOU if you do so.

“I greatly appreciate the reminder. Now, off you go."

Paintpot, mission accomplished. Pass it on.

After giving Al his recharge Flashburn wandered the room. His gaze was never still – composing, snapping, recording the evening for memory’s sake.

A glitter, a flash of bright metal attracted his attention. And what might that be? he wondered, the photographer’s eye wandering the room in search of the metal.

A moment later he caught it again.

Ah, THERE!

Walking around the room and enjoying all of the bright costumes was a tall, slim woman. A near-contemporary of Al and Rosalynd, she showed the same dignity and bearing of movement.

Her back turned to him again and he saw the bright metal – an intricate device strapped to her back.

Enabling his camera again, he headed across the room. As the lady made her way o the bar, Flashburn caught up with her.

“Beggin’ yer pardon, dear lady, I do not believe I have had the pleasure of your name.” Flash bowed, camera on a strap over his shoulder an incongruous note against his cowboy gear.

“Doctor… Emily Lopez-Viktor. Pleased to make your acquaintance. And you are?”

“Flashburn, ma’am. That’s the name I go by.” He proffered one of his business cards, handing it to Emily.

“Flashburn Studios. Are you photographing the party for Al and Mrs. Alexander-Richer?”

“No, ma’am. Like Al, I am a mage, and also a guest here. However, as me cameras are a part and parcel of me life, I will rarely be seen without one. And this brings me to why I was so forward as to introduce myself.”

“And that would be, young man?”

“That would be the assemblage you wear on your back, ma’am. Unless I miss my guess, those are wings – and fine, beautiful ones no doubt. And a lady like yourself – I have no doubt that they have a party piece to do.”

Em pursed her lips, looking at Flash. “It is hardly a ‘party piece’, young man. They do deploy, and yes they do work. However, the Sergeant-Major has told me not to deploy them in here – to quote him “three quarters of the people here will want them. Why only three-quarters?”

“Well, the other quarter have wings of their own, or like Glytch, other means of moving about.” Flash grinned and turned on the charm taps to full.
“Now, dignified lady that ye are I am not sure if I might be able to get you to pose for me? It seems to me that that would be a picture that the wee Sergeant-Major would love to have for his album of the party, d’ye not?”

Em thought hard. Normally a very private person, the exhilaration of being out and about and accepted, nay welcomed by these fascinating people had had its effect.

“Yes, I would…love to. We’ll have to go outside, though – Al was not shy in telling me that.”

Flash waved his hand. “I have a better idea. Let us be out to the entry – he is in here harassing his guests, and willnae notice if we borrow his hall.”

Heading to the center hall Flash picked a position against a wall with columns, and told EM to “do her party piece.”

Releasing a latch or two and twisting a dial on the harness the wings deployed, nary a creak in the display of their golden radiance against the natural wood of the columns and the light-painted walls.

“Magnificent! Can ye arch them?” Flash called out, snapping madly.

Another dial was twisted and the wings assumed an arch, like a swooping raptor. Shutter clicking madly Flash continued. “Wonderful! Wonderful. Foot forward, Doctor Emily – Stride out with your plumage!”

Posing as demanded Emily blushed – the admiration of the photographer was almost too much.

Calling to Flash, she said “Watch!” Snapping switches and twisting several knobs the wings began to work, beating downward. One, two, three sweeps and she was airborne, rising slowly.

Flash snapped madly – this was AMAZING!- as Emily rose, hovered, then returned to the tiles.

“Did you get that?”

“Aye, I did! I didnae know they actually worked! Magnificent!”

Twisting the knob and setting the latches again, the wings restowed into the compact package on her back. Flash applauded. “Bravo! Bravo!”

Overcome by the moment Em snatched Flash up in a hug, crooning “thank you, thank you, thank you…” in his ear. Suddenly realizing what she’d done she quickly relinquished her hold on the flustered cowboy and set about rearranging his duster and hat.

“I’m so sorry – I have no idea what came over me…please accept my apologies….”

“Doctor Emily, apologies be not needed. I do need to know, though – where can ye be reached? I will have to print a few of your pictures and send them to ye.”

Having reeled herself back in, Emily said, “I can be reached at RE Building Two – I consult with Al there on occasion. No doubt he can forward them to me.”

“No doubt he can. And thank you, dear lady, for posing for me, and for trusting me with seeing a flight from your wonderful machine. Thank you.” At that Flash took her and bent over it, almost but not quite kissing it.

“Shall we return to the party, then?”
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:29 am

CHAPTER 12

After midnight, Greg was approached by a fellow in Confederate grey with yellow trim, bearing the rank of Captain. It dawned on him that he did not recognize this fellow. He quickly spotted Neil and Al- and gave them both a cocked eyebrow with a glance at the newcomer.

The Captain spoke, his manner as sure as authenticity of his garb. "Well Marty... you haven't aged a day... tell me how this is so."

"Excuse Me? I don't believe I know you... Captain...?" Greg queried. Before the Captain could answer Neil did.

"His name is Hanrahan- and he is dead, Greg..." Neil said with a neutral expression on his face. With that, the Captain spun around at Neil's voice,

Neil continued in an inquiring but firm voice. " … pray tell, Suh, what brings you to the land of the living? You DO know that the war is concluded, am I right?"

The Captain had a bewildered look on his face- "Oh, THIS is not right, not right at all!...YOU are Marty?"

"I am," replied the Centurion, "Among other names..."

Safyr went to battle-ready, as did J'bober with Emerauld, who had summoned her bow, all moving closer to the scene.

At a touch, a soft, slightly sibilant, "Unfinished businesss thisss isss, ssstand down; thisss isss no time for rash decisionsss," which they all deferred to with a respectful hand-over-fist bow, and a "Yes, Master..."

As the elf contingent was being stood down to one side, Al clopped over to examine the newcomer as Sledge started in the same direction from further away.

The newcomer caught the attention of several others who had no clue who or what he was, and they drifted in his direction. It looked as if the Captain was about to be overwhelmed... when suddenly they were surrounded by a squadron of Confederate Cavalry with drawn sabers! At that Al, reaching under the vest he wore, drew his Webley and headed for the group. From the other side of the room Slege began shoving his way in and Al could feel the energy charge building on him – and on the Civil War soldiery.

The initial shock was enough for the whole lot, Father and Son included, to disappear completely! Annie let out a fierce war cry while Phix gave a mind-numbing howl... but to no avail- they were gone without a trace.

At that, Al bellowed "What in the pits of festering Hades just happened?"
Sledge, who had been shouldering is way through the crowd, answered. "Spirits. At this time of the year this can happen. One of them had unfinished business. Unfortunately, there's no way to know where they've gone or what's happened."

"That is not quite true, 'Highlander', as well you know," Safyr said coolly, "But as dear 'Uncle Iroh' pointed out, hasty decisions can have dire consequences."

After the shock of the disappearance wore off Neil found himself astride a rawboned cadaver of a horse at full gallop- to his right, Greg was in similar circumstances, his obviously cadaverous mount galloping alongside. Surrounded by howling troopers on more skeletal mounts, they could not rein in their charges... they were bound wherever these specters were headed.

"NEIL!! WHAT THE HELL?!?" Greg roared over the din.

Standing up in the stirrups, Neil got his bearings.

It wasn't good.

"We're halfway between Gettysburg and New Oxford on the Old Lancaster Turnpike- we're charging right into cannon of the 7th Michigan!!!"

Greg scouted around- they were surrounded by charging Confederates. 7th Michigan was Custer's old unit- Union.

"WHOAH YOU SUMBITCH!!!" he bellowed at the horse while pulling the reins... which promptly broke. The horse never registered the command but continued to run at its headlong pace.

Suddenly, Greg and Neil had specters alongside them, effortlessly keeping pace as they charged.

"Whalp, since BOTH y'all look lak Top Younger, then BOTH y'all kin rad wif us!" hollered a blank eyed Corporal on Greg's right.

"Yup!" replied a Staff Sargent to Neil's left, "We's about to scalp us sum Michiginites so's we kin decorate our saddles!!"

"WHAT IS GOING ON, NEIL?!?" Greg bellowed again, as he held onto the careering corpse between his knees.

His answer waited little time before appearing. A remarkable Commander on a fine steed... one could only call him a 'cavalier'... pulled back between the two and began to shout.

"Nice of you to join us, First Sargent," he calmly said to Greg, "But why is your son with us? In fact, I did not know you HAD a son..."

To the left of the Commander, Neil protested, "General Stuart- AH am th' man you're looking for! That fella over there wasn't even born until well after the war! LET HIM GO!!!"

The General was unimpressed. "Really? Pity... too late now, we're on them. CHARGE!!!!"

The thundering hooves became louder, drowning out all thought.

The retreating column of Union Cavalry split left and right... exposing the 4.65" bores of two 1841 Mountain Howitzers. There were two flashes... and two bellowing reports.

Neil's mount was cored, breast to butt. It had just enough chest left to give a weak scream before it dumped Neil unceremoniously to the dirt. Greg's mount had just turned slightly to the right- something walloped Greg's arm hard. It turned out to be the head of his animal.

The emaciated body tumbled to the ground minus its head and half of its neck, splattering Greg with black blood. Both men sheltered themselves with the dead horses until the rest of the troopers passed... then the General walked his horse up to them, followed by Confederate AND Union Troopers, all smiles and laughter...

"WHAT! THE! HELL! WHAT WAS THAT ALL ABOUT?!?" Greg was now in full fury, " YOU TWO-BIT SHADOWMUFFIN, STEP OFF THAT DAMN HORSE AND I’LL..."

"SERGEANT HOWARD! STAND DOWN!!!" Neil barked.

"THE HELL I WILL!!! THIS ECTO-PLASMIC EGO JUST SHOVED YOU AND ME THROUGH A 19th CENTURY 'HAMBURGER HILL' AND IF I WANTS TO CALL HIM A CROSS-EYED SON OF A WHORE..."

"DAMMIT SARGENT HOWARD, STAND DOWN!!!"

THAT time it worked...

"Cross-eyed son of a whore?" J.E.B. Stuart mused to himself, "Ah must admit, Ah've not heard THAT one before... do tell, First Sargent (here he addressed Neil)… and Ah am assuming you ARE First Sargent Younger, am Ah correct? Who IS this... rather AMUSING fellow.. you have in your company? He might not be YOU, but he was most certainly a Sargent at one time, given fine manners and all..." several of the specters found this rather amusing.

Greg was winding up, but Neil put up a hand to him.

"He's a ghost, Greg... you cannot harm him... “

To the General Neil spoke deferentially. “Suh, with all due respect... I was mustered out, and THIS man wasn't even there... "

The General was unrepentant. "And just how CAN this be YOU, that Ah see right now First Sargent Younger? You wuz in yor forties when last Ah saw you... an' right now you have a cheek much like a girl... an' yor tellin' me theyt this fella (Nod at Greg) AIN'T you? Ah am a bit bewildered… "

Neil tried to explain as best he could. "I am much older than you... any of you... this man (looks at Greg) is my son... "

The General snorted, laughing, slapping his knee with his hand. "Whelp... he most certainly IS of your bloodline...", and there was much appreciative laughter from the surrounding troops. "NOBODY ELSE would cuss out a General like that... so how do you do it, Marty? What is your secret?"

Neil began to explain- "... I have found a means to rejuvenate (there were some gasps of astonishment from the troops) and have been doing so for a while- as I said, I am much older than any of you."

General Stuart leaned over in his saddle towards Neil- "How MUCH older, First Sargent?"

There was a brief pause before Neil confessed, "I first served Imperial Rome in the first Century before Christ."- there were more startled gasps.

The General studied him intently- "You cannot possibly be lying to me with that... your phenomenal instincts on a battlefield... you were a soldier the whole time, am I right?"

"Yes Sir- but why am I here? This battle ended over 150 years ago... and Sargent Howard here had nothing to do with it."

The General broke into a broad grin- several of the other officers and enlisted dismounted their horses (the horses immediately turned into a POOF of dust once they did so) and approached Neil and Greg.

"First Sargent Younger, you have been AWOL for far too long- we figured you'd gone to Hell...or Purgatory... " the General replied.

"I thought you had gone to Cleveland," chimed in Captain Hanrahan, "Pretty much the same thing..." - more laughter from the ghosts.

"When Ah saw yew, Ah couldn't b'leive mah eyes," Corporal Smith added.

"We figured you wuz good fer one last charge- an' the boys from th' 7th wuz kind enough t' jine in!!" Sargent Winslow said as he pointed out a fellow in tattered blue.

That fellow was General George Armstrong Custer. With a broad grin, he remarked, "Well... it really was one of my finer moments... I couldn't resist, really..."

"It went finer than Little Bighorn" came a voice in the back.

"WHO SAID THAT?!?" demanded Custer, his grin gone in an instant, "If I ever find you out..."

"Oh leave it be, ya damn fool," Stuart chuckled, "You STILL get upset when Sitting Bull beats you at chess!"

Laughter was now chorused through the ranks- but the next moment a bugle sounded 'recall'- all the specters stopped laughing and looked to the source.... then faded.

Greg and Neil found themselves back at Casa Alexander, surrounded by confusion.

Their sudden incursion brought an alarmed response that was broken when Phix screamed "MY CENTURION!!!" and scooped up the hapless man in a bone-crushing hug.

Annie immediately went to hug her husband until her nose caught the smell of burnt sulfur and long-dead blood. Looking over Greg and seeing the stains, she backed off and intoned, "I am not hugging THAT! I Love you, but DAMN you are foul right now! Get a bath and see if they can loan you a robe..."

“Sergeant, report!” Al said, still holding his Webley as only seconds had gone by since their departure.

Greg looked up at the consternation in the face of the centaur. “Neil had a close encounter with some spectres of his past – literally. That discussion can wait – do you have a shower I can borrow and a plastic bag for this uniform?”

“From the smell of you, lad, I suggest that uniform has seen its last wearing. I’ll send Edward up with a bag, but the fireplace seems a better spot for it.”

Dawn bustled into the discussion – her tone brusque and no-nonsense. ” How do you feel?” she said, grasping Greg’s arm and placing fingers to his pulse. A few seconds at that then she looked into his eyes, pulling back the lids.

She spoke again, the healer and doctor strong in her aspect. “Go shower. When you get done I want to examine you, to be sure there is no aftereffect to whatever happened. Miss Annie, would you go with him and not leave him alone? Shock can have a delayed onset. I am going to get my jump kit and I will be up momentarily.”

Annie nodded. “No problem. I’ll keep an eye on him.”

Al spoke. “Do you need an escort? You know where the guest rooms are here in Alexander, or the old house is only paces away. Whichever suits you. You’ll find robes and such in the closet – help yourself, of course.”

Dawn turned to Al. "And you need to watch your diet more carefully - you've put on quite a bit of weight in your butt." Then she headed off to fetch her medical bag, muttering to herself about the power draw Al was undergoing.

Officially ignoring Dawn's comment, Al then turned to Neil, still held in the crushing grip of his spouse.

Al spoke calmly and quietly. “Phix, dear, if you continue to hold him like that you are going to asphyxiate him…”

Phix started. “Yes. Oh, right…” She set Neil down, recoiling from the smell of long-dead horse.

“Centurion? What happened?”

Neil took a deep breath, his own nose wrinkling at the smell. “Essentially, Greg was right. It seems that General J.E.B. Stuart was quite un-nerved at my survival at a certain battle – and that my being alive was the equivalent of being AWOL.

“He and his troops took advantage of the time of year and paid me a visit – and poor Greg got caught up in the mess. I really need to apologize to him.”

“Neil, that is neither here nor there at present. Go get cleaned up and have Dawn check you over, then please come back down.”

Neil saluted, the old Roman one, and replied “Ave!” with a twinkle of amusement in his eye. Phix left with him, nuzzling him as he walked to ensure herself he was there and well.

Al turned. The rest of the guests and the band had all fallen silent, watching the outcome of the spectral kidnapping. Al clapped, a sound loud in the room, and turned up his own volume just a bit.

“OI! YOU Lot! Am I paying you to play music or to gawp at the proceedings? Get ON with it!”

Xera shook herself, emerging from the spell of what she’d just seen. With a wicked grin she paged around on the tablet in front of her until her grin got wider.

“THIS! On Three!”

“Are you NUTS?” Geoff shouted back.

“Shaddup and play! On Three!”

Geoff hurriedly dove for his bass and Rachel for her Les Paul, both of them tossing the straps over their shoulders and settling down to play.

Xera yelled “One, Two THREE!” and Rachel began picking out a recognizable tune, with Bob accenting it with glissons of cymbal work, then a thunderous drum crescendo. Geoff on bass came in, and Rachel hurriedly changed up her settings to a much harder electronic sound.

Xera took up the tune, her growl perfect for the lead.

An old cowboy went riding out one dark and windy day,
Upon a ridge he rested as he went along his way.
When all at once a mighty herd of red-eyed steers he saw,
Plowing through the ragged sky and up a cloudy draw.
.
.
.
He saw the riders comin’ hard, and he heard their mournful cry.


Here the whole band joined in the vocals.

YIPPIE YI-YAY! YIPPIE YI-YO!

And the last line was to Xera alone.

Ghost Riders In The Skyyyyy…
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:31 am

Chapter 13A:

Al and Daisy stood in the middle of the great room, watching the activity.

The waitstaff were tidying, picking up what plates and cups the guests hadn’t dealt with themselves. The room would soon be clear, under the able command of Rosalita and Edward.

Passing into the main hall, the situation there was the same. The fireplace was out, and other than the abandoned drink cart against the wall there was no indication Naked Singularity had ever been there. Through to the dining room, and much the same there. The table and sideboard were clear, with the temporary tables and bar long gone. Everything was ready for the next day, with no sign there’d ever been a party.

“Did you tell the staff that breakfast was cancelled for tomorrow? They need their rest.”

“Yes, dear, I did. Now, I think getting to bed ourselves is the best idea – it’s been a busy day.” With that, Daisy took Al’s hand and they walked toward the stairs.

Al looked to his love. “May I convey the lady to her chambers?”

Letting go of his hand, she curtsied, a strange action in the jeans and shirt she wore. “Prythee, sirrah, I would most appreciate a ride on the handsome charger!”

“Very well, then, climb aboard.” He reached down and she took his arm, swinging up and onto his back. They walked across the hall, and Al ascended the stairs, very slowly.

Daisy was alarmed. “Do you want me to get down, dear?”

Al waved her back. “No, dear. I’m just tired – as you say it has been a rather long day indeed. Here we are – home again home again, jiggety-jig.”

Walking into their suite, Al helped Daisy down from her perch and then said “I’m going to nip into the spare room for a minute. Before I do can you hand me a robe? It’s time to take off my costume, and I’m told it’s not a pretty sight.”

Wordlessly, Daisy handed him a robe and he went into the other room, closing the door. Relieved of her partner, Daisy toed off her boots, then sat on the edge of the bed and began to undress. As she unbuttoned and took off her shirt she heard a THUD from the next room.

“Al? AL?” When an answer was not forthcoming Daisy rose and opened the door.

Al was sitting on the floor. The amulet was on the floor, and he still wore the fedora and the vest, both ridiculously large for him.

“Al? Talk to me. You’re making me nervous.”

He turned toward the voice, slowly and with difficulty. “Dear, could you help me to bed? I’m afraid I overextended myself a bit.” Within a second Rosalynd was there, helping him to his feet.

His skin was cold and clammy, and there was a notable palsy to his movements, a feeble trembling completely unlike his normal vitality. He looked gaunt, pale and bloodless.

Partially supporting him, Daisy got him to bed and tucked up. She then went to the closet and grabbed extra blankets, doubling them over his side of the bed. As she did this he protested, weakly, but she ignored him till he was swathed and snug.

With him tucked in she quickly stripped, crawling in next to him and spooning to his back. As she did she was shocked at the coldness of his body.

Wrapping her arms around him she drew him close, passing along her body heat. Slowly the palsied shaking stopped and he lay still in her embrace. Once he settled down she began to talk, voice low and soothing, but firm.

“Tomorrow you are sending that amulet back to Fergus, old man. I love you, and I will remember what you did for me, but this is too dangerous to ever think of doing again. Another hour and you’d be in the hospital – or worse.”

“But dear, I can be more careful-“

“NO, love. It goes back. This is too tempting, and while I would love to have you that way again…it’s not worth your life.”

“Yes, dear.” With that he snuggled back into her embrace, sighing with contentment.

Rosalynd reached to the light control, and tapped it off. Settling back down into contact with the wonderful madman she loved, she said, “Goodnight, dear.”

“Goodnight, my love.”
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Samhain

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:43 am

Afterword:

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
-William Shakespeare

Here you go, folks.

Lots of wrangling and discussion went into this tale - more so than usual. There was a lot of give and take,and some things that showed great promise nearly ended up on the cutting-room floor. This was all meant as the holiday offering it was intended to be - the EW's version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying 'Boo!'

We all sincerely hope you enjoyed it. More will be along shortly (the last volume of the Sterling trilogy is nearly complete) but the issues of RL for all of us, and the time constraints, have made our pace slow somewhat.

Thank you all for reading.

Sgt. Howard
Dinky Inky
Shneekey The Lost
GlytchMeister
Warrl
ChicGeek
Just Old Al
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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