The temple was busy, as many had come to watch. Creevar’s Killers were there with Azurea’s priestess Falreena. Almost cowering behind were the two acolytes, Falreena’s daughter and her daughter’s best friend. With them floated Deepsix, probably the one most comfortable with floating above the floor of the temple.
At some distance from this group were the followers of Zoratus the sage, a very uncomfortable Dorados Thunderfist and Lantina Featherbright who felt quite at home under the surface.
And all on her own among a group of local children lurked Hellianna hoping against hope not to be spotted by Falreena or Deepsix.
They were greatly outnumbered by Mary’s folk. Facing the crowd in front of the altar floated an odd trio. Alessanndrina the high priestess and two of her bishops, Tomcat and Pete the octopus. Drina grinned and showed off her new accomplishment. Telepathy.
« Welcome to Mother’s first Temple. May you enjoy the blessings of the Mother of Monsters. »
And with that Mary manifested above her altar, and then Azurea appeared on Creevar’s arm. Zoratus the sage arrived next. Mary looked from one to the other and raised one eybrow.
« Welcome to my temple. Creevar this is a pleasant surprise. You an’ your sister do realise this is goin’ to get noticed. Rocks-for-brains is goin’ to be unhappy with the two of you. »
« Teeheehee... Yes I know. But Tarifax is dying and when that happens... well Teeheehee ‘rocks-for-brains’ is not going to matter. Teeheehee... and that description fits... Teeheehee... Oh dear. »
Creevar smiled, « News of this meeting would have leaked regardless. This way Mirabelarque will know I’ll be standing by my sister. Aren’t you calling Ocidon? »
« If I need him, he’ll come. But this is my affair and not his. So Azurea you believe I can help you with Tarifax. What’s in it for me? »
Azurea looked startled. « Saving a whole world. Karma. »
Mary snorted. « Please don’t joke. I’ll save the oceans and the sea folk on Tarifax. Trying to save the land will be too expensive in life energy an’ manna. Not bleedin’ my folk for strangers. »
Creevar narrowed his eyes and leaned forward. « Surely as a goddess you must see that the good of the world is of prime importance? »
« Pot Kettle. My folk come first, second, an third... » Then Mary broke out into laughter. « Good of the world, that’s rich! Only in so far as it affects the wellbein’ of me an’ mine. »
« So why are you expanding onto another world? » asked Zoratus.
« Here I’m the consort. There Ocidon is the consort. An’ we both grow in power. »
« Teeheehee... I can grant you access to some the linked ones on Ambuila, » offered Azurea.
« Take it Ambuila is in trouble too? »
« Yes, unfortunately. But it’s not as bad as Parthia. » offered Creevar.
« So more pullin’ your ... chestnuts out of the fire. Why should I save your hides? Or are you plannin’ to jump ship and leave the New Gods if I get the prime idiots of your back? »
« Teeheehee... That will have to happen at some point. Teeheehee. Oh dear. But not yet. »
Several minutes elapsed as the gods studied one another while their followers looked on.
« If I helped my sister I believe we could allow you to access Fragatta and Diavlo. Though I don’t think there is anything alive aside from some viruses left on Diavlo. »
« Isn’t Fragatta the iceball? » Mary shuddered at the thought. « You sayin’ there’s still some folk alive on Fragatta? »
« Yes, huddled around some volcanoes and volcanic springs, » confirmed Creevar.
« Any of you lot still hangin’ about? »
« No. Even Ice King lost interest. »
« An’ you let ’im come to Parthia and start to do the same? »
Creevar gave a rueful smile. « Well you did point out Mirabelarque has rocks for brains. » Azurea nodded her agreement.
Mary stared at them, and then grinned. « Very well, I’ll lay off you two if you give me access to Ambuila an’ Fragatta. But I give you fair warnin’ I’m goin’ to keep comin’ gunnin’ for the rest of your lot startin’ with Icy an’ Blackbeard. An’ my folk come first. Always. »
* * * PARTHIA – ADVENTURER’S GUILD, GARONMOUTH * * *
Saranas the Assistant Guild Master for the Garonmouth branch of the Adventurer’s Guild was catching up with her correspondenc. She picked up yet another letter, looked at the wax seal holding it closed and stiffened. ‘Well it was inevitable that the drow would be contacting us in regards to their new goddess. Must be from the Balancer’s church.’
She carefully eased a knife behind the seal that showed a coiled whip with a leaping dolphin superimposed. This was the first seal she had seen with this design so it would be going into the guild’s collection in the vaults.
She slid out the letter and scanned it. Really it was almost rude in the way it skipped all the usual flowery greetings and expressions of esteem. Then she read it and then she started again. Finally she finished reading the rather abrupt letter addressed to the guild master of the Adventurers Guild in Garonmouth.
She shoved her chair back abruptly and made her way to the office of Sofos Ironfist. She barely paused at the door, knocking and entering without waiting for a reply.
Sofos looked up at her abrupt entrance and his shaggy eyebrows rose. “Problems Saranas?”
Saranas shrugged helplessly, “You tell me Sofos,” she answered even as she placed the envelope and letter carefully on his desk.
* * *
In a corner of the room, near the ceiling an interested eye watched through a discreet spy hole. Boris the man-rat perked up his ears and awaited events.
* * *
Sofos picked up the envelope first, he hummed in approval. On turning it over he looked up at his assistant to be met with an understanding nod.
Sofos opened the letter, “Mmm, they’re very abrupt. Straight down to business, very dwarven, I approve.”
“To his Excellency the most honourable guild master Sofos Ironfist,
I wish to solicit your assistance for a new foundation of the Adventurer’s Guild.
As I am sure you are aware several of the dungeons seeded by Azurea in this last year hail from a peculiar world. The world is called Earth or Terra by its inhabitants.
I wish to inform you that several of us retain links to our former homeworld through our alter egos. I for instance am now the proud owner of powerful dungeons on three worlds and hope to expand onto at least one more world.”
Sofos looked up at his assistant, his eyes wild. He licked his lips and returned his attention to the letter in his hands.
“Earth was, until Azurea’s meddling, a world almost totally devoid of magic. Science and technology ruled, as in fact they still do. The System is now establishing itself on my former homeworld and it is changing rapidly.
One of the first true adventurers on Earth; a Mr. Jacob Hennessy has established the first branch of the Adventurer’s Guild on Earth. He and his Assistant Guild Master, a Mr. Carlos Mendez are in need of knowledgeable assistance. I have informed them of the information available through the System but as you are no doubt aware, it is badly organised and worse explained.
If you wish to help this new and no doubt struggling guild master I will be happy to deliver to him anything you wish to send to Earth along with an appropriate language skill crystal.
Wishing you a long life and success,
Mary Silvestre and Trisha, Blue Lagoon.”
Trembling Sofos placed the letter in his out tray. “Three worlds, three Blue Lagoon dungeons. It’s three times larger than we thought even in our worst nightmares.”
* * *
Up near the ceiling in his rat sized passage Boris grinned and struggled to contain his desire to laugh at the sight of the old dwarf’s agitation.
* * *
“What are we going to do about that?” Saranas asked pointing at the letter.
“We kick it upstairs to the world council. And we prepare a pack, you know, everything we would send to a new branch office. I’ll dictate a letter. Then we can wait a couple of days before handing it all in to the temple of Ocidon.”
“To allow the council time to stop it, right.”
“But they won’t Sofos. They’re more likely to stick a whole load of tracking enchantments on it so as to learn more about Blue Lagoon.”
“True. But it might work Saranas. I don’t think it will, but it might.”
* * *
Boris grinned and rubbed his hands with glee.
* * * EARTH – MARY * * *
Mary was watching the news with her mother when the presenter introduced Dr Leolani Kuno, a child psychologist that consulted for various children’s organisations.
“... and further all the subjects I or my colleagues have met and spoken to have the vocabulary and cognative ability of a bright five-year-old. These little ponies are not just animals they are people. Loving people who bond strongly with their partners and playmates. They need our help and protection, just like any child. We will have to recognise their needs. They can’t just be sold or given away; there will have to be some sort of adoption service... Slavery is against the law, besides it’s immoral ...”
Mary grinned with satisfaction. “Have to do somethin’ nice for you Dr Kuno. Good luck with your attempts.”
Mary’s mother glanced at her, “What are you up to dear, you didn’t seem to really care for the ponies.”
Mary lifted one shoulder in a half shrug. “Not really, they can defend themselves. They are good at illusion magic and will soon delight their little friends with sparkles, rainbows and the like. They can hide their charges with illusions and scare any aggressors. Then they have minor healing magic. Kids with ponies will tend to be very healthy. I want them recognised as people but only as a precedent. It’s my octopi, my Hapalochlaena sapiens I really want recognised.”
* * *
Mary had just settled into her Jeep when she felt the intruders. A group of three scuba divers had just entered her domain. She settled her avatar and returned to her core to better examine things. These guys screamed “furtive”, well, except for the camera.
‘So who are you? A camera, a bang stick an’ an overconfident one. An’ you are goin’ far too close to my second test plantation. Well I showed ’em my sea serpent for a reason. Time for Kaa to hunt.’
Kaa stirred. He felt satisfaction. He was going to help his mistress. The muscular fifty meter long water breathing sea snake picked up speed as he headed unerringly for the intruders. The massacre was soon over, the divers had no chance against Kaa. The only survivor of the group was their camera that slowly floated towards the surface.
Mary thought about it for a moment. If left alone the camera would soon drift quite a way on the current. But it could be traced and that could be problematic. So she had one of her sea wyverns grab it and take it to a point off Big Island’s coast. From there it would surface and be washed ashore. No point wasting the film.
« Good work Kaa. Now take one of your friends and the two of you show yourselves to a couple of excursion boats around Big Island. Just briefly mind, then come home. »
* * *
Mary reached again. The Far Voyager was finally ready and her captain Hawaiʻiloa the Navigator was itching to go exploring. The reinforced liftwood planks had been tested and they worked, not greatly impeded by the thin skin that the Far Voyager needed to maintain atmosphere. The crew had been an headache. Mary, both of them had tried crustaceans only to admit defeat, then they had tried to modify some of the beast folk, but hadn’t been able to make them vacuum resistant. The solution had been to merge the crustaceans exoskeleton to one of the smaller beast folk and creating a hybrid crab man capable of living in vacuum for half an hour while holding his breath or longer if an air supply was added. Mind you they needed a special helmet to protect their eyes and ears.
The storage devices had fuel for the emergency thrusters, and air, food and drink for the crew. The recycling arrangements had been copied from NASA.
Tonight was the night. The Far Voyager would be off to visit the moon. Hawaiʻiloa had insisted on a space suit for himself and he already had an avatar courtesy of Moriarty and Lewis. If he wanted publicity and fame Mary was sure something could be arranged that kept her out of it.
Now if she could establish a portal on the moon, Lewis would be happy. And he was welcome to it.
* * *
Mary’s avatar stretched, and started the Jeep. She backed carefully onto the road and went to collect her protection detail. Not that she needed to for they were already prepared. Time to pay another visit to Pearl for more lessons.
‘Mmm Tod’s getting’ closer. Suspect he still has a few months. Now Dave’s ready to root. He’s only still mobile ’cause of his globe trottin’. If he stops anywhere for more than a week he’ll go dungeon. Got to get in touch with that girl Tammy O’Hare Dave mentioned.’