This is something most humans understand by the time they’re adults, but as it turns out, money opens a lot of doors.
Getting Garth a trip to a city on the Inner Sphere planet Ometra fell under that category. Normally reserved for citizens of high standing, Garth was able to pull some strings and grease many palms, getting him a round-trip ticket to the Best Temple of Beladia in Existance. At least, according to Cass.
It was more expensive than using the portable Gate, for sure, but also significantly more legal. Garth didn’t want to stack up more attention to himself than absolutely necessary, in a legal sense. His life was going to be hard enough when he started getting pushback against his Earth products.
Still, wherever you went, travel was hellacious. At least if you’re flying coach.
“Arms out.” A bored security blob said. Garth assumed he was bored. Who wouldn’t be?
He picked up a metallic wand with a red crystal at the top. Garth could only assume they put a sandwich of mana sensitive materials that would light the crystals when-oh, there it goes.
The crystal on the top lit up with a harsh red light and a grating buzz as he passed it over Garth’s Status band. A fraction of a second later the crystal in the wand cracked and went dark. That probably wasn’t good.
“Sir, are you aware it’s illegal to use a modified Status Band?”
“It’s not modified,” Garth said. “I made it from scratch. It’s legal under the Utility Act. This is a modified bracer with added Status tracking capability. Not the other way around.”
“I see, and do you have any other enchantments to declare above a class C?”
“About four of them in my chest,” Garth said, tapping his collarbone.
“And would you classify them as dangerous?”
“and what is this?” he pointed at Wilson, the four foot lizard standing beside him as they got the third degree.
“He’s my familiar,” Wilson said, pointing at Garth before he could speak. Garth shot him a glare.
“Hmmm.” The blob groaned in a way that made Garth think he was going to be a problem. He didn’t really want to spend the rest of the day answering prying questions that might possibly include why the Inner Sphere had no record of him, so he had to take the guy out.
This called for a targeted strike to the fat folds around where he assumed the blob’s neck was.
Garth unleashed his special move: three ten thousand credit coins nestled between his thumb and forefinger, jammed into the second fat fold. The guard’s eyes widened for a moment, then returned to their placid half-closed stupor.
The blob’s attitude…It didn’t do a one-eighty, but it shifted lighting quick from irritated boredom to complacent boredom.
“I don’t care, move along.”
“Thank you sir.” Garth said, walking out of the massive Gatehouse. The size and scope of this planet’s outpost put everything on Earth to shame. There was a square where species of every conceivable type walked, clopped, squirmed, slimed, flew and blew. Buildings of pure white stone rose up in every direction, sending branches to connect with each other, creating a second layer of foot traffic above them, safely ensconced inside the translucent skybridges.
Garth gawked until someone shoved past his shoulder and he realized he was being a roadblock. Right, gotta get to the temple, re-establish the connection, get home. He didn’t plan to make this a long trip if he could help it, and if someone tried to suggest what he wanted was the prize of some tournament, Garth would punch them.
According to the locals, there was a series of very large, very marble temples where worshippers could go to make requests of the gods.
According to Cass, however, these temples were worth about as much as the gum on your shoe. The influence of each god did have places that they tended to accumulate, but they weren’t convenient enough to all be nestled together inside a carefully planned city grid. Hastia’s energy tended to accumulate at picturesque mountains brimming with fire, eager to kill all nearby life.
Entramond’s power accumulated in back alleys and gambling halls, where wealth beyond petty money flowed.
Gartok, the god of bravery, battle, and natural male enhancement paid most attention to the sites of past and future battles where heroics of epic proportions happened. A few temples were still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And of course, Beladia’s energy created an environment good for farming, building a house, or having kids. She was pro-creation. It was kind of a chicken and egg argument, though. Did her attention come before or after people settled there?
Garth rose into the air above the city, lifting a squirming Wilson as he got a bead on where he needed to go. About one hundred and fifty miles to the southeast of the city lay a no-nonsense temple of Beladia where they could patch up his divine connection. Getting advice from a god was worth the detour.
Garth found the sun, oriented on southeast, and began jetting away from the glistening white spires at a remarkable speed. He should be there in about fourty-five minutes.
About half an hour later, Garth felt something to his left, a magnetic force that seems to draw his flight path and attention toward it. Garth peered into the distance, high above the forest outside the city.
Something about the area just over there reminded him of Beladia’s color scheme. Which was funny, because green and brown were in abundance everywhere he looked, but Garth knew he’d found what he was looking for, a little smudge in the distance that called to him.
He threw up his windshield again and started flying toward it. It wasn’t like it was supposed to be straight southeast, anyway. Garth was glad he hadn’t passed it entirely.
As he got closer, Garth made out farms and orchards carved out of the dense forest, yet somehow maintaining a balance with nature, which defied everything Garth knew about farming. Ripe crops and chubby babies in large supply slid beneath Garth as he approached a wooden trading post that seemed to be grown out of the ground.
He’d found the place.
Garth settled to the ground, getting a few odd looks, and straight up stares from the children that hung onto their mothers’ skirts, drooling or absentmindedly biting their fingers. Garth glanced around, gave a wave and a smile he hoped was non-threatening before turning his attention to Beladia’s temple.
It reminded him of an 1800’s trading post, a boxy little affair at the center of town with a little window, a ramp leading in and a rickety door. Apparently it also doubled as a day-care as an orc girl of maybe seventeen wrangled a dozen or so squealing children in a fenced in area connected to the side of the building.
The other side held a garden filled with plants bursting with vitality, minded by a couple teenage boys who glanced up once before returning to weeding. On the porch was a rocking bench where three women of various species chatted as they breastfed infants, rocking in unison.
“Yep, definitely the right place.” Wilson said, staring unabashed at the breastfeeding mothers.
Garth was a bit hesitant to enter on account of how little he felt he belonged there, when a man in homespun trousers walked past him, his hat in his hand, giving the women a brief hello before heading into the building.
“Maybe they’re Beladian fembot security drones, and they’ll shoot milk beams at you if you cause trouble. The babies are probably high explosives.” Wilson offered.
Garth used Telekinesis to flick a rock at Wilson, shook his head, and headed up the natural wooden ramp, moment broken. He gave the security guards a passing wave, and boldly penetrated Beladia’s sacred place.
“I see what you did there,” Wilson chuckled as he followed behind, but Garth was too busy taking in the details of the room.
A bell above the door rang as they entered.
The lobby was small with a coffee table filled with exotic fruit and cookies, a couch to wait, and a line five deep in front of Garth. It was clean and professional, except for the pictures and totems of Beladia that ranged from master-craftmanship to finger paintings strewn all over the walls. There were more of the latter, of course.
Am I in the right place? Garth thought, glancing around to look at the motivational posters of Beladia represented across many species, and the occasional statuette. Garth was a fan of the corio Beladia, personally.
The smell of good food wafted through the air as a slender red-skinned woman behind the counter dealt with customers.
“Welcome to Bell’s Breed N’ Feed, how can we help you today?” she said merrily with the professional courtesy of a burger joint.
Oh well, if this wasn’t the right place, they could all have a laugh about it later. And maybe he could buy a burger.
“My wife and I haven’t been able to conceive.” An orc man at the front of the line admitted, his head hung low. His wife held him around his waist and patted his shoulder, leaning against him lovingly.
“Down the hall to your right, first door. A specialist will be with you shortly.” She pointed, and they dropped two hundred credit coins into the dish at the front before heading that way. Was it a pay what-you-can affair?
“Next.” She said, giving the approaching pale skinned midget a bright smile.
“Welcome to Bell’s Breed N’ Feed, what can we do for you?”
“My farm’s crops are withering, and I need help before we get desperate.”
“Give us your address, and we’ll send a specialist out to see you as soon as possible.”
The little man gave his address, dropped fifty credits into the pan and left the line, making way for the next person in line, a woman with a baby on her hip who complained of not being able to give enough milk.
Wilting Farm Guy began to walk by Garth, and some strange emotion welled up inside, filling him with sympathy for the poor man. The spirit of giving seized him, and Garth grabbed the man’s elbow. The man flinched into a defensive posture.
Garth felt the irresistible urge to help the guy out.
Ooooh, these guys are good. It seemed like they were using some kind of advanced scrying combined with emotional manipulation magic to identify and motivate the people most able to help each other. Probably. Either that or Garth was more of a softy than he thought.
If it was intentional, and not a side effect of Bleadia’s presence here, he’d have to investigate how they did it.
“Guess I’m the specialist.” Garth grunted, picking through his bandolier. He found what he wanted, a pinch of tiny wafer-like seeds.
“Here, have some potato seeds. I added a bit of avocado to boost the fats and proteins a bit, but not enough to compromise the integrity of its structure. I also added the apple hormone that prevents it from going to seed prematurely.”
He charged the pinch of seeds and dropped them into the man’s hands.
“It’s a tuber, so store them every winter, plant the ones you don’t eat or sell for next year’s crop. It’s very hard to get it to go to seed, don’t even bother. My stuff is blight resistant, parasite resistant, drought resistant, and so on, just don’t let it out into the wild, alright?”
The man was about to leave, staring at the seeds in his had with his mouth unconsciously hanging open, when Garth remembered a little more.
“Oh, and the main plant’s poisonous, so don’t eat anything but the lumps that grow underground, okay? And not the little things that grow off it either.”
He nodded, and left the lobby, the bell attached to the front door giving a homey little jingle.
In the meantime, the line had decreased by a couple people already. Cass was right. These people were fast.
“Welcome to Bell’s Breed and Feed, how can we help you?”
“I don’t have a date to the harvest dance.” A young corio said, nervously playing with his clothes.
“Go ask Gita, Beyard. You already know she likes you.”
“But I was hoping-“
“You’re the only one that can get yourself laid, Tom, and Beladia isn’t going to help with that.”
“I..okay,” the corio teen slumped and headed out.
“Hold up.” Garth said, tapping the corio on the shoulder. He took a bottle of his own cider out of his Status band. “Split this with Gita, and you should be brave enough to ask her out.”
“Is it some kind of bravery potion?” he asked.
“Sure, kid.” Garth waved him away. That was the second nudge he’d gotten in less than a minute, and he was already down a bottle of cider and some seeds. Staying here was dangerous. Maybe worse than being fed cookies or forced to babysit.
“Welcome to Bell’s Breed and Feed, what can I do for you?” She said with a shy smile, looking Garth up and down as he approached the counter. “You’re not from around here, did you come for something in particular? I saw you help Taggart, but Tom didn’t need it.”
“Felt like the right thing to do.” Garth said, focusing on his purpose. “I heard this was a place where an Apostle could get reconnected with Beladia?”
“You’re an Apostle? Of Beladia?” she asked.
“MOM! WE GOT A BIG FISH!” She turned and shouted down the hall to the right.
“This can’t be good,” Wilson whispered beside him.
A moment later, a red-skinned woman emerged from the hall, absentmindedly straightening her deep v-cut shirt that conformed to her breasts, pressing them up and together into an appealing cleavage.
She wore slippers, with bare legs that led up to a short skirt that had been hastily pulled up at a rakish angle around her wide hips.
She cleared her throat and straightened her skirt, running a hand through her disheveled hair.
“What needs my attention, my child?” she said in a voice like wine.
“I stand corrected.” Wilson said, staring up at her. "When's our appointment with the specialist? Can I get the full service package?"
“Cool it,” Garth chided.